All sorts of new trends are happening in the communications arena: variable data printing, QR codes, cross-media campaigns, internet marketing and more. There’s plenty of buzz, and the farther it all is from traditional printing, the more printers feel they need to know more about it.
So is there anything new to talk about in traditional print? You bet there is! Some of the most powerful trends developing right now are all about putting ink on paper in completely new ways.
Ever-Shorter Pressruns: OK, this particular trend may not seem new, but the implications of short pressruns change the dynamics of printing in surprising ways. Now it is more important than ever to have tight process controls in place, to be aware of any color shift trends on press, and to have a concrete plan for dealing with these changes.
The old attitude of “This is a short run, we don’t have time to get up to the numbers” has been turned on its head. With ever-shorter pressruns, getting to the numbers quickly is the only way to make a profit.
High-End Commodity Printing: Printers often complain that customers now regard printing as a commodity; that price is everything and quality doesn’t matter. Well, that’s over. Now customers want quality and price: High-end commodity printing is here.
Can a printer make money given this seemingly impossible equation? Printers who understand the model will do better than ever. High-end commodity printing means that the printer will manufacture printed product to industry specifications, and the customer will base OK’s on meeting these specifications.
Notice that I said manufacture. Craft and artisanship (the old models of print) are notoriously more expensive and inefficient than manufacturing, so printing to this new model means that it can be done less expensively while maintaining quality.
BPO organizations: BPO’s, or Business Procurement Outsourcing organizations started out by providing turnkey support services for companies that wanted to focus on their core competencies and buy out the rest. Now some BPO’s have focused their efforts on print buying and many are doing it with the high-end commodity model in mind. To some buyers, BPO’s wear the black hats, but to the printer who knows how to meet their specifications, they can be very important customers.
What these three trends have in common is that they all place a strong emphasis on the role of measurement in print. The old methods of pulling tricks out of a hat and of “seat of the pants” printing have reached the end of their useful lives. Printing now requires the same measurement and process control based approach that all other manufacturing processes have always used, and the printers who succeed in achieving process control through measurement will benefit from these new trends in print.