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Commentary & Analysis

Where’s the Workflow?

Despite all the talk about the need for automated workflow, printers are still not rushing to invest in these solutions. How long can they hold on to fractured and inefficient workflows without this becoming a serious liability?

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: May 22, 2017

The printing industry is in trouble—again. We know that competition is fierce, and even as shops are expected to crank out higher volumes at top shelf quality, there is little to no give in pricing. Most competitors have the latest technology capable of producing the same quality as everyone else, and they are all going after the same accounts.

At some point, printers will have no choice but to look to internal efficiencies to save their bacon. Yet, instead of making the kind of serious investments they need to do that, most are still trying to squeeze the last bit of life out of the systems they have.  

Here are some surprising (or perhaps not so surprising) data from InfoTrends/Keypoint Intelligence’s “U.S. Production Software Investment Outlook InfoTrends 2017”:

  • 62% of printers credit expanding their service offerings for their growth and 52% cite purchasing more efficient equipment.
  • Printers spend an average of $35,000 per year on software. This is half what this industry’s European counterparts spend.
  • Overwhelmingly, printers are still relying on point solutions, which makes automation impossible. In eight of the 13 workflow components studied, the most common approach was a point solution. In two categories, it’s a DFE.
  • Printers have not increased their level of automation in two years.
  • In 2015, 9% of respondents had automated their operations. In 2017, 8% of respondents had.

Despite all the talk about the need to automate the industry's workflows, which are weighed down by inefficiency and waste, much of the focus is still coming from vendors. On the printers’ side, this is still an industry trying to squeeze the last bit of life out of existing systems and hoping it’s enough.

So here is a question that printers need to ask themselves: If your growth is going to come from adding new services and equipment, creating new and increasing demands on the increasingly outdated workflows in your shop, how it this going to happen without upgrading and maintaining the workflows to support them?

Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”


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