Commentary & Analysis
If You Were a Specialty Imager
By Dan Marx
Published: January 23, 2013
Using information from a number of surveys conducted by SGIA during 2012, I’ve put together a snapshot of a “typical” specialty imaging company. While the specialty imaging industry is highly diverse, with lots of companies doing lots of things, it is both interesting and thought-provoking to create a typical company using trends and high points from the data we’ve received.
Here We Go…
If you were a specialty imager, you would be most likely to identify your core business as “digital printer.” You might also identify yourself as a “screen printer” or “sign shop.” Over the course of the year, your business has operated on firm ground even given shaky economic times. Your sales and production levels have remained relatively steady—and strong. The number of employees in your business may have increased, but not by much. You have strong confidence in the specialty graphics industry, but not as much for the broader U.S. economy.
Your business would have a median annual sales revenue of $1,600,791, and you would have expected a 12.6 percent growth rate for 2012. Your company operated at around 65 percent of capacity, and you had roughly 14 days of work in process.
Your most essential tools for reaching new customers were referrals and your company Web site. If you sought to improve competitiveness in production—your “go-to” step against a soft economy—you were most likely to add new product lines, reduce operating costs and add imaging capacity. To improve competitiveness in sales and management, you were likely to increase your Internet presence, develop new markets and maximize the value of your current customers. Your main business concerns were sales growth, pricing and the national economy.
While digital imaging technology was your technology of choice for the graphics and sign community, a large number of your competitors were multi-technology shops favoring digital solutions. If you also use an analog process it was most likely screen printing. Your company primarily served business-to-business accounts, and there is only a thirty percent chance that you worked with print brokers.
Retail and corporate branding were your company’s strongest market areas, and they have been for some. For strong future markets, it was likely that your company is look at the health care industry and interior design as growth markets. Banners, window displays and point of Sale/POP were the products your company is most likely to produce.
It is likely that your company purchased equipment, and odds are strong that you bought a graphic imaging presses or wide-format imaging device, likely to add production capacity. There is a one-in-four chance that you purchased finishing technologies. When you purchased equipment, cost was a critical factor in your decision.
If you had wide-format inkjet equipment in your facility, it was likely that you have between two and three wide-format machines in use for production. If you have a solvent-based inkjet system, it was most likely a machine with a print width of less than 96 inches. If you had a hybrid system—capable of printing in both roll-to-roll and flatbed configurations—you were most likely to use a UV-curable inkjet system also less than 96 inches in width. Finally, if you had a true flatbed unit in your facility, it was a UV-cured inkjet system. You may have been one of the one in five companies that had a high-production inkjet system, capable of printing more than 1000 square feet per hour.
Your company used finishing to convert the print into a product. It is highly likely that grommeting and cold lamination were part of your finishing workflow, and that you used a variety of finishing systems in your facility. Your company also used numerous media types of products in its workflow. Among the flexible materials you used, banner vinyl and pressure-sensitive vinyl were used most. Among the rigid materials used for printing, you were most likely to use one of a variety of foam boards, rigid plastics or corrugated. If you printed on fabrics, it was most likely to be synthetic.
The information presented here attempts to describe the “typical” specialty imaging company in an industry where diversity is the name of the game. In many cases, being “typical” in the specialty imaging industry is to lose your competitive edge, which today is differentiation, whether it be through market or product areas served, technologies or materials used. That said, the information above presents not the company that yours should be (straight-and-narrow, bread and butter, no surprises), but perhaps the company it should avoid becoming, instead moving toward innovation, carefully selected niches and something different. The choice is yours. Here’s to a great 2013!