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Industry Insight

Canada’s Printers Confront “An Industry Redefined”

A new study of Canada’s printing sector declares the industry to be in a state of heightened competition—

By Patrick Henry
Published: September 4, 2009

A new study of Canada’s printing sector declares the industry to be in a state of heightened competition—with itself. The study, produced by the Canadian Printing Industries Sector Council (CPISC), reexamines data about industry segments and processes to arrive at what it believes to be a more accurate and comprehensive definition of “printing.” It also analyzes workforce issues that bear upon the ability of Canadian printers to remain viable as service providers and employers. The study’s core question is, “So what exactly is a printer?” “It is clear that the traditional definition—that of an individual or organization that operates a printing press—is no longer adequate. Its narrow scope neglects the thousands of enterprises that produce comparable products on sophisticated copiers and printers, as well as companies that exclusively offer prepress, finishing and bindery services.” CPISC says that the standard classification of print and its related support services now also includes converted paper product manufacturing; newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers; graphic design services; business service centers, and packaging and labeling services. The study maintains that these segments, far from being separate and distinct, frequently overlap competitively with one another because technology makes it easy for them to do so. “Already equipped to tackle virtually any job, printers in one industry segment need only make relatively minor adjustments to their processes to produce the products characteristic of another segment,” the study asserts. “There are now no longer firm lines to distinguish a copy shop from a quick printer, for example, or a specialty printer from a package printing company.” According to the study, nearly 50% of a company’s services typically fall into second, third, and even fourth industry segments. The result: “Canada's commercial printers—the 8,345 Canadian companies that specialize in printed and related support services—are now in direct contest with the 17,636 firms active in these new market segments.” The study’s human resources section addresses labor market trends of perennial concern on both sides of the border. These include “an aging Canadian workforce, too few training opportunities for new and existing workers, and a lack of awareness among young people and other job seekers about the career possibilities in the printing industry.” Canadian printers will need to replace roughly 50% of their 274,134 collective workers,” the study warns. “But with whom? A shortage of skilled labour compounded by an aging workforce and a lack of awareness among young people of jobs in the sector threatens the productivity and sustainability of the entire sector.” Four related papers, available here, propose remedies. The Canadian Printing Industries Sector Council (CPISC) is a national not-for-profit collaborative forum that receives its principal funding from the Canadian government. Its general objectives are “to enhance the industry's public image; make the industry a workplace of choice; and, maximize the career potential of every employee.” Comment: What would be wrong with having a governmental counterpart to CPISC in the U.S.? America’s printing industry needs accurate classification, image enhancement, and workforce development as much as Canada’s. An office for print industry affairs at the federal level wouldn’t be a cure-all, but it might serve as the national focal point for change that the industry lacks.

Patrick Henry, Executive Editor for WhatTheyThink.com is also the director of Liberty or Death Communications, a consultancy specializing in research, education, promotional, and editorial support services for the printing and publishing industries.

Patrick Henry is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us here.

Please offer your feedback to Patrick. He can be reached at patrick.henry@whattheythink.com.



By MichaelJ on Sep 06, 2009

Patrick, I think your suggestion of having this same conversation in the States makes sense. But I have to ask myself whether any census category can really make any sense in a world that's changing so fast. I think the problem with getting a clean bin for the "printing industry" would be the same as if there were a classification for the "electrical" industry. The point is that print is an information infrastructure industry. Much as electricity is an infrastructure "industry." It points to the inappropriateness of using categories that emerged during an industrial economy to clarify what is going on in a user network society. The most useful I've seen so far is the classification of "business service." But even that doesn't capture the important role of print in the government, education and health space.


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