Francois Martin told printers to team up with each other to create production platforms to rival online print operations and ensure a robust future in a keynote presentation at the Ipex Print in Action conference.
The former global marketing head of HP’s Graphic Systems Business is now a consultant, advising brands how to use print and printers on how to survive as the challenges mount. And the way for independent print businesses to survive will be to team up in alliances that create production networks with equipment shared for mutual benefit.
He pointed to the cost of a Scodix machine, which is unsupportable for all but the largest businesses and impossible to justify for a business that cannot operate it 20 hours a day. However, were that asset shared between a handful of printers in a mutually owned central production hub, the cost would be bearable.
The successful printer of the future will not be judged on the equipment it operates but by how successfully they engage with brands to help them engage with their customers. “Sometimes they will do this online, sometimes not. They want to reduce complexity and so save cost and they want to keep themselves safe in terms of the regulatory landscape.
“If printers are capable of doing that, they will be in business for a vert long time. The digital revolution is forcing companies to change from a business model based on products and services to new models leveraging networks and platforms.”
Martin suggested printers need to be aware of what is happening in other industries, citing transportation where the sector is divided into logistics, international hauliers, national transport businesses and strictly local businesses. The logistics company need not own any vehicles, but works with major customers to manage distribution involving land, sea and air if necessary. It will engage the services of the different tiers of haulage business.
As a consequence of this shuffling, the transport has regained some equilibrium after years of disruption. “The printing industry must follow the same pattern,” he said, explaining that with companies divided by how they offer consultancy as well as production; the specialist service provider; operation excellence (most printers today fall into this category, he said); end to end logistics and cost management. Few will be able to deliver all, nor should they.
However, there is a need to split the production platform of equipment and skilled operators from the front end networks of sales and marketing. Printers can retain the latter and their distinct identities while sharing production equipment in a mutually owned company. It will protect each business from unwanted acquisition and provide each with access to scarce resources, whether expensive production equipment like digital enhancement or skilled personnel.
This is what a business like Cimpress is already doing, using the network power of its various brands to feed the centrally located production beasts, likewise Gelato’s model of creating local printing for distributed teams.
Printers should think about building a network with companies sharing interests ad culture, perhaps based on a proximity, a Scottish Printers’ Network, Martin suggested as an example. “Printers should not try to do everything themselves, they can’t buy everything because they would go bankrupt. Instead they should create a platform to share the equipment and focus on selling the print to be produced by that machine. This is happening in other industries and it will happen in print.”
Francois Martin was key note speaker at Ipex this year, predicting that printers will need to adopt new businesses, taking a leaf from the network and platform approach of tech companies and looking at how other industries have adapted.
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