The market is tough, where is the profit in print?

The print industry has faced many adversities through the ages. The recent demonetisation which was announced on 8 November ensured that many print CEOs decided to err on the side of the caution. This, plus GST in the pipeline is keeping many printers on their tax-toes. Returns in our jobs are extracted with difficulty for both big and small players; they are jittery and seeking profits. But where is the profit?

27 Mar 2017 | By PrintWeek India

I was present at PrintPack in February, and was delighted to see our printer community showcasing some "animal spirits". At the show, I heard banks are offering loans at a shorter turnaround. This meant healthy order books which is what makes PrintPack one of the very good fairs being held in India.

But testing economic conditions are causing much strife among printers.

Even at PrintPack, some printers mentioned that profits have been impacted since November 2016. In a market update for 2017, print volumes in January and February had been “materially behind” the prior year, although business is subsequently picking up.

Intense price competition in the crowded trade printing sector has also resulted in reduced margins.

Analysts are predicting a dip for 2017, and results could be "significantly behind market expectations".

As the trade print price war continues, the print industry needs to remain competitive and not expect margins from the sale of printing to improve.

And so, printers are mulling about what next? Whenever we communicate, the common refrain is: "Ab sab theek hain, but business is dull". Then they add, We don’t know what will happen post-April!

It seems we are collectively expecting the worst to knock on our doors? But is that true?

Yes, customers nowadays are much-more demanding, the rate for the job is often fixed even before it is given to us! So how does one transition one's business towards growth? And more importantly, how does one tap profit?

Profit is already with us! Yes! It is very important for us to work backwards ...

Why? You may ask?

Well, take labels. Anyone who watched the recent National Geographic series Inside the Factory will no doubt have been awe-struck by the footage of the giant Heinz factory near Wigan, which produces three million tins of baked beans every day. And every one of those tins requires a label.

Simultaneously, we are also in the age of the artisan producer, be it beer, foodstuffs, soap, or other products all likely to require some sort of label.

It’s this variety that makes the label opportunity available an enticing proposition. As a label manufacturer, you could be producing hundreds of thousands of labels, or just 4,000 for a small batch of craft beer.

A glance at the vast range of label types in a retail store makes it abundantly clear that the world of labels is a diverse and complex business.

Which is why, a few simple steps can help you understand about how to make profits on the humble print job.

For start, reducing your production cost, simple!

• Plan efficiently

Organise daily meetings to discuss job planning. Try to anticipate problems and be prepared with solutions.

• Increase productivity

Create short-term targets for your production team in terms of productivity.

• Focus on quality

It is very important that your production team understands the importance of quality production. Include your staff not only in problems but also to provide good feedback.

• Colour management implementation

Getting the right colour all the time is the key to quality and production. Therefore understand and then implement.

• Reduce turnaround time

Work on reduced turnaround, monitor each job closely and work for betterment. Create a responsible team which can work under pressure.

• Emphasize on first time right, on time and one time delivery

Key to success is we do everything right the first time and our delivery has to speak for itself.

All the above is not new, as the print industry has been practising this for many years. And yet the importance of these simple steps has to be re-emphasized to your core team and shopfloor personnel.

Two Takeaways

Takeaway One: Technical Acquaintance 

Ability to understand your technical processes and improve the same; awareness or understanding will not only open doors for your quality; but it will also end up in boosting your productivity and provide and edge over your competitors. Customer now needs not only his job done, but also needs the same thing done with variance.

This technical acquaintance can be attained through practical experience which may take years, attending seminars and fairs. Or alternatively, hiring an expert to do your job. Whatever it is, don't procrastinate. Do it, now. Since timing is the key, if you do not do it immediately, it will be too late to reconsider. By then, somebody else would have already taken up your job and moved on.

Takeaway Two: Technological Acquaintance 

Ability to understand and adopt newer technology which will improve your quality and productivity. Even though it needs some investments, it is important you do it at an appropriate time in order to exploit the market and a growing customer demand. This requires much-more investment, plus work on ROI etc. But always stick to the basics as to whether this technology will reduce your process issues. And if it can sustain your company for two to three years. Finally, if the technology is user-friendly for your team to learn and implement?

How are you going to do an technical audit?

The day where we use to do our investment based on a gut feeling are over. Today, a wrong decision will lead to greater difficulties and it is very hard to bring the organisation back to normalcy.

Technical audit is a process performed to understand the above elements clearly. A technical audit will provide an insight on where you, your company, and your team stand as of now? And what are your targets? Reports with data and stats will help your organisation take the right decision at the right time.

Here it is very important that owners share their plan for next five years, as to where they want to be, this will lead to a good outcome.

A technical audit will be formed with the data’s available, like our type of jobs, customers, print runs, wastage analysis, productivity, quality, workforce and delivery details. Furthermore, it includes rejections, shortage of prints and deliveries, reprint and job recovery details etc.

We can understand from the above that technical and technological knowhow is what will enable you to achieve your desired profits. And a technical audit will provide you the details of your present status and how to move towards future targets.

So what are you waiting for? Do start your quest, ASAP!


Srinivasan G, is an Outcome specialist, a certified G7 professional. He has been involved in technical audits, consulting, colour management and being a specialist in Outcome-based solutions.

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