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Commentary & Analysis

Shrink-wrapped skill

By Frank J.

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: June 28, 2004

By Frank J. Romano It came home to me the other day when a printer said he would not send his people to a training seminar because “[he] would only be training them for his competitor.” June 28, 2004 -- Most of the skills of the oldprinting industry are in a box. They exist as software sold and shipped in a small box with a compact disk in it. On that CD, you will find the accumulated knowledge of generations of printers whose abilities are computerized and automated. We are not shipping out print-industry jobs to India; we are shipping them to bits. Color separation, trapping, imposition, color calibration, workflow, and other skills are yours at the click of a mouse. A few people use these programs to do what legions of people used to do. This is one of the primary reasons for productivity increases in the printing industry over the last decade. Those few people are now what is left of your pre-press department. Next, we will “shrink-wrap” customer service. We invest in new equipment, systems, and software to improve productivity; yet, we still do not invest in our people. Printers that I visit give lip service to training, but few really do it. It came home to me the other day when a printer said he would not send his people to a training seminar because “[he] would only be training them for his competitor.” I understand why some printers may agree with this, but it is a part of the old world of printing. If you hire from other printers, they will hire from you. You will not grow a business in that manner. Some of the best-run and most profitable printing companies hire raw recruits right out of high school and invest in their continual training. Wake up, it's 2004. All the presses, printers, systems, and workflows are useless without competent people to make them work. We all know that. But some of us prefer to hire people who already have the skills, which means that we are hiring them away from other printers. This vicious cycle results in the lack of training of existing workers. Yet, some of the best-run and most profitable printing companies hire raw recruits right out of high school and invest in their continual training. As a result, they develop a loyalty and work ethic that makes that printing company more efficient and more profitable. It is that simple. I am always impressed when a group from one printing company attends a seminar together. The owner of that company is showing his/her employees that they matter and that their continuing education is important. The dollars are well spent. The employees get a different perspective, learn new skills, get new ideas—from both the people presenting the seminar and also from the other people attending the seminar. The relentless drive for higher and higher productivity will naturally reduce the number of industry employees. And the employees who are left will have to be smarter and more flexible. They will have to think through problems, not work through problems. The printing employee of the future will be computer savvy, workflow cognizant, and possess the ability to adapt to new methods and new systems and new ideas. Both PIA/GATF and NAPL surveys show that printers who invest in training their employees are the most profitable. Training and education are the foundation of our industry and every penny you invest in your people will return to you many times over. That is our lesson for today. It will be on the final exam.

 

 

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