By Frank J. Romano Printers are looking for a solution or program that would take them out of the bid process and put them on the front end of the document creation process August 9, 2004 -- The typical print business functions as a hybrid operation, partly analog (relating primarily to offset lithographic presses) and partly digital (with new print engines). These print engines are capable of accepting a digital file and instantly converting it to print output. It is the digital side of the business which will factor into future growth, and so long as that growth exceeds the shrinking analog side of the business, a print company can remain healthy. There are issues that we are all dealing with: Overcapacity and “barbaric” pricing Declining print volumes Unpredictable revenue streams Smaller orders with compressed delivery times Increasing costs, especially health insurance Necessity to achieve digital transition and total business (internal) automation Ability to get on the “front end” of emerging client projects resulting in later captive business. A company called PrintShift says it has the ultimate killer application which will put it (and its network of printing companies by extension) at the “front end” of the document creation process. They say a vast majority of printers spend most of their marketing and sales efforts focusing on a current or recent client list, looking for projects on which they can bid. These printing companies find themselves at the end of the creative cycle, finding out about a project long after it was conceptualized and designed. If they are fortunate, they will get a chance to bid on the job, the ultimate winner being the printer with the lowest bid. This is a true reverse auction in action. Printers are looking for a solution or program that would take them out of the bid process and put them on the front end of the document creation process, resulting later in an automatic commitment for the actual printing and fulfillment. Barbara Pellow, Chief Marketing Officer for the Graphic Communications Group at Kodak, stated at the June, 2003 FSI Convention for Sir Speedy and PIP owners: “In my view, the absolute “killer application” is one where a total marketing program featuring variable-data printing can be implemented to support agents, franchisees, dealers, branches, and remote sales people. In other words, an advanced digital, accurate, without-a-hitch mailing program that is dealerized, personalized, and localized—for any number of users, anywhere they may be—all implemented over the internet using simple templates. This is an application that will bring new business and a return to profitability to digitally enabled print shops.” We like the idea of printers being involved as early in the marketing cycle as possible, and if PrintShift, or any other company, has a plan and the technology to achieve this, they may have a “killer app” indeed.