Strong Inspiration for Successful Growth
In the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing and profiling some of the top companies in the printing industry. In two different articles, I focused first on companies that, based on the input of a team of industry consultants and experts, typify the positive benefits of innovation. The second focused on companies that had shown the highest level of sales growth from 2020 to 2021.
While there is no one “type” of successful business in the printing industry – many models and approaches point to success – there are some key similarities among the businesses profiled. Among them are strong approaches to efficiency and automation; careful consideration of what it takes to truly grow a business; and an ability to think outside of their own boxes, seeking success instead of identity.
Improving the Process
Printers of all stripes are looking into automation as the solution to many of their challenges. In basic terms, an investment in automation – if well executed – can bring faster, more efficient production, which can lead to a higher potential for profitability. It can also minimize “touches” in production and minimize increments of time within or between process steps, which can allow for increases in capacity (to a point) without the need to add an additional press or other technology. Finally, amid the recent, COVID-driven labor crunch, which served to exacerbate existing challenges in finding and keeping qualified workers, automation strategies are being sought to increase per-worker productivity, thus minimizing the reliance on labor.
Building the Business
The successful growth strategies undertaken by today’s top printers all tie back to two key commonalities: careful consideration and effective execution. In one article, a wide-format producer carefully queried customers and researched his competition to determine the positive potential of adding wide-format dye-sublimation inkjet printing to his business. Just a couple of months later, this same business owner shared that, looking ahead, he could see his company adding additional dye-sub capacity in the near-term. His careful research showed strong opportunity, and his execution – carefully aimed – brought success. Other businesses shared how bold efforts to grow a business through, in some cases, multiple acquisitions, have allowed companies to expand customer base, scale the business, and acquire technologies and capabilities, through the purchase of existing businesses.
Flexibility of Self-Image
While printing, in all it guises, is the hub around which our broader industry segment revolves, I believe it is less of a defining factor than it used to be. In the interviews I conducted, I came across a handful of companies that have moved away from their commercial printing-focused core, instead following opportunity in direct mail. While they still print, their model changes, and they bring formerly value-added services forward: data management, marketing support, and omni-channel communications approaches. Their company names often sound more like tech companies (lots of “data” and “comm”) than printers. In another example, one company that offered fulfillment as a value-add now finds itself making 70% of its annual revenue in fulfillment. In these cases, the companies profiled are not protecting print by seeking to preserve what was. They instead are protecting their businesses, following opportunity to access growth.