Refocus on what’s truly important
While trade shows such as Drupa offer a pathway of choices for the future of print, they also offer a real plethora of dead ends
From time to time, I’ve crossed paths with several industry observers and advocates; and in the crossing, my thoughts often drift to the comment widely attributed to the British literary giant George Bernard Shaw that runs along the lines: “Those who can, do – those who can’t teach.”
Now such an observation would suggest that I am making a not very veiled criticism of such experts, who I have widely admired for their observations on the printing industry and the way they can succinctly point to trends and almost invariably reinforce their observations with data, statistics and industry wide observations.
Sure, they are right to suggest that Drupa offers a pathway of choices for the future of print, but Drupa, like any trade show also offers a real plethora of dead ends. The skill of course lies in being able to distinguish the difference. This is important for the printing industry in the Middle East, which is very fragmented. Some print houses appear to be successful, equipped with high-quality machinery working feverishly, while round the corner, an artisan type of printer, possibly with a couple of Sormzs, a GTO, and a platen for die-cutting, stays just as busy.
Yet all business, large or small, are on the cusp of change: print has always been that way. Competition means margins are generally small and receiving payment often extends out to 90 days. Firms buying print see their print spend as a cost or overhead. Think about it – brochures, banners, magazines, and stationery forms are a cost to winning sales; so any reduction in the cost of printing will be mercilessly pursued. A printer who allows one client in particular to be responsible for 25% or more of monthly sales is taking an enormous risk and eventually is certain to go out of business. This is an axiom of print; it applies as readily to the big printer as to the modest provider. The problem is twofold – not reading a trend and/or having too many eggs in one basket.
Drupa probably had the answer to conundrums such as this, but it wasn’t specifically offered in the halls housing KBA or Heidelberg or by the showman Benny Landa, although each would have provided answers to virtually all the challenges facing the modern day print house.
No, the challenge lies in your head and it is this.
As the main decision maker or owner of a print business, on any given day, could your business be capable of throwing up the type of data that answers the following questions: at the click of a finger, could you show how much revenue is generated per employee or how long is it from the time a client places an order until the money is in the bank. Could you, using the Occam’s razor principle, slice each operating task within your factory down to the point where you can identify the revenue and contribution to profit each slice makes?
Probably not, yet many will have gone to Drupa or read the coverage of Drupa, prejudiced with the wrong search questions buzzing in their heads. The most common one is: what machine will do the main production tasks faster so I can increase my throughput?
Going to Drupa or studying the coverage should be from a perspective of what business information system can be installed that quickly provides the best trading information, where potential profit is coming from, and where are the weak points capable of either bringing a business down, or conversely, solving a weakness that will lead to many years of increased profitability.
Sort that out and then go on an investment spree.