Trends to Explore at PRINTING United Expo
The thousands of attendees who step onto the Expo floor to discover the offerings of nearly 700 exhibitors, all have one thing in common: the success of their businesses. Success today is about more than just gear. It requires a knowledge of industry trends, profitability strategies, and what businesses are doing to maintain their edge. Here is a view of current, key considerations.
The quest for qualified workers had a strong presence before the pandemic, but has been magnified. As the work stoppages of 2020 morphed into hybrid work, then into something resembling business as usual, workers were in the driver’s seat, seeking better pay and jobs that more closely aligned with their needs. This led printers to explore more flexible staffing models, and to seek employees from overlooked communities.
While there are still pockets of the US where traditional outreach will gain the employees companies seek, Adriane Harrison, VP of human relations consulting at PRINTING United Alliance, says many employers find themselves trying much harder to find employees. To locate candidates, she suggests seeking referrals from current team members, and building an incentive system that awards them not only for helping find a hire, but also when the hire stays on staff. Another strategy includes seeking candidates through veterans’ groups and immigrant communities. She also recommends creating a marketing strategy for attracting employees. “And use TikTok, because that’s where your candidates are.”
While You’re Here: Meet the next generation of graphics arts professionals Thursday, which is Student Day. On Friday, sit in on a Workforce Development Panel Discussion: 9 am in room N110.
The drive to automate production is motivated by a few factors. First, automation reduces reliance on labor by requiring fewer hands. Another factor is the necessity for higher quality and faster output. By locking down color, minimizing set-ups and makeready times, and streamlining the process, printers can enable additional production opportunity without the need to invest in additional capacity.
While You’re Here: Whether you’re seeking mechanical systems to move work through your processes, or software to improve workflow and integrate systems, PRINTING United Expo has something for every business. Search for the solutions you need using the PRINTING United app.
Supply Chain Strategies
The supply chain disruptions have profoundly affected the ability of printers to accept work with confidence and expand amid a resurgence in orders. For many, taking orders requires first securing supplies — paper, softgoods, or plastics — and then dealing with increases in supply prices. Additionally, supply chain challenges have led some printers to explore the benefits of automation. By tightening their processes, they can put more materials into profitable work and not into makeready waste or spoilage.
“The only way to really get ahead of supply challenges is to over-communicate up and down the supply chain,” says Marco Boer, VP at I.T. Strategies. It is imperative for printers to chat with their customers to understand their needs well ahead of time. At the same time, printers must also communicate with suppliers what they will need in terms of volume. “There are all these dominos that are making our lives unpredictable,” he says, “We need to pay closer attention to the global economy than we ever did before.”
While You’re Here: Supply chain challenges are hitting some, but not all areas, leaving printers the opportunity to explore new materials and directions. With nearly 700 exhibitors, there’s plenty to discover.
Printers are seeking ways to increase their reach, adding a wider range of choices, expanding into underserved areas, or reaching through the boundaries between segments. This last part — convergence — led to many commercial printing operations adding wide-format inkjet, thus accessing the sign and graphics segment. It led to corrugated package printers moving into graphically-rich stand-up displays. Diversification means seeking access to a broader range of opportunity.
According to Eric Kahle, CRO of Visual Marking Systems any company looking to converge into a new area should, “expect some ups and downs, and to prepare not to be profitable right out of the gate.” This desire to grow led the company to branch into apparel decoration — a move that was done with forethought: whether to acquire a company or purchase equipment, how to staff the new initiative, and which product areas to address.
While You’re Here: PRINTING United presents an opportunity for attendees to discover the possibilities. Take time to explore the hands-on training and networking pavilions.
Differentiation for the Win
There are many opportunities for differentiation in the marketplace — a look around the PRINTING United Expo floor will show you thousands of opportunities your company could undertake. But what is the right opportunity for your business, and what is the mix of materials, products, and technologies that will set your business apart from its similarly-focused competitors? To answer these questions, a strategic approach is absolutely essential.
“The name of the game these days is ‘diversify or die,’” says Josh Carruth, managing director, Decorated Apparel at PRINTING United Alliance. “It used to be that every town had a sign shop, a trophy shop, and a T-shirt shop,” he says, “but now that’s likely to be the same business.” While the concept of diversification is easy, some owners or managers may be confused about the right direction, among many choices, to take their businesses. The strategy involves listening to the customer and following the opportunity.
While You’re Here: One of the strongest benefits of PRINTING United is its diversity. It shows you the whole printing industry. Top to bottom. Opportunity to opportunity.
Given the industry-defining trends outlined in this article, it is easy to see one undeniable truth: business today has become complicated. Those who are operating at their peak efficiency and/or peak profitability have thought deeply about their business today and their path forward. That said, PRINTING United Expo is huge, and its exhibitors present a tantalizing array of tools, materials, and technologies to help printing businesses perform, expand, and ultimately succeed. Your goal, during these three days in Las Vegas, is to find what is right for your businesses and to move forward with purpose.