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Is This a Good Time to be a Printer?

Some might argue that considering the ongoing pandemic the premise of this question is rather ill-funded. Ok, let’s ask the question in a different manner. “Is this a good time to be in any business?” with exception of Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and few others, the pandemic and the economic and political uncertainty have wreaked havoc across entire industries and most of businesses, so it is fair to say that entire industries went sideways due to pandemic and they are still struggling. So how printers are doing? In a video interview Carey Sherburne of whattheythink.com asked Graphco President Chris Manley on how he handled the challenges of the pandemic. Graphco, is distributor of RGMT and Horizon equipment, spare parts, supplies, and consumables in parts of US. He shared his experience, which personally I believe is quite interesting. Graphco helped its customers to do in-depth maintenance since their machines were working 24/7 during past two years and they never really had time to do proper maintenance. Graphco also provided aggressive pricing on the equipment and easy and extended payment terms. It worked out perfectly. He is happy with sales figures and his customers also are happy. He also said when recession hits the economies printers are the first ones who feel the pinch and are adapting to the situation faster than anybody else. They are also the first ones who reap the benefits when economy rebounds.

In a nutshell during past two decades specially with the advent of digital printing and Internet, printers are kind of got used to bad news. They learned how to embrace unfavorable situations and use them to their advantage. Although the situation is more complicated this time around but solutions are the same. In my interview with Claus Bolza-Schünemann, CEO, Koenig and Bauer I asked him about their product mix and how it is possible to focus on so many different branches of printing industry and he enlightened me. He said: “Well. You know I’m an engineer and I think it’s joyfully to deal with all these different baskets and you know at the very end, and I said this many times, the core concept of what we do is to apply the ink on a substrate.  It doesn’t matter if it is a banknote or a beer can or flexible packaging or folding carton or a corrugated box. They are not identical but many process are extremely similar and therefore if we build paper web transport system or a transport system for flexible packaging, there are not too many differences. In the processes, yes, there are many, but from the engineering, the machine building, the software, and the drive technology aspects they are very similar.  Therefore, I think it’s very good to have all these applications in the printing industry.  Because if one segment doesn’t perform well in the market another one can replace it. So I think we have a good product mix.”

This is a lesson also for printers as well. whether you are printing a box, a book or an ID card the core concept of what you are doing is the same. So maybe it is time to jump on packaging or security printing or web to print wagon. Some will not be able to adapt and unfortunately have no other choice but to leave the printing industry scene. However, most printers are able to diversify into more relevant and lucrative fields. The important thing is to go back to basics and ask why you entered printing business in the first place. If you were intrigued and amazed by the core concept of putting ink on paper, then you most probably overcome Coronavirus challenges. Now to my original question; is this a good time to be a printer? Well, it is as good as any.

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