By Ed Crowley June 28, 2004 -- Increasingly, many large corporate and government organizations want to move from high volume centralized printing to distributed printing which is close to the end customer. The reasons for this transition are many, but in generally, they are driven by one of a few basic needs: Providing better customer responsiveness by bringing production closer to the end user, Improving the security of the document distribution process by eliminating postal mailing or courier delivery, Lowering logistical (shipping and distribution) costs; and/or, Leveraging existing technology investment. Several state governments are considering moving from a statewide centralized print and distribute approach to a distributed printing approach at the county level. An example of this is a recent customer visit I made to a key government ministry in an Eastern European country. This ministry would like to move from a process of printing driver's licenses at a centralized location (one national center printing over 6 million drivers licenses a year) to distributed printing at local drivers licensing bureaus. This process would greatly reduce the waiting time to receive a new drivers license, and, at the same time, greatly reduce the chance of the driver's license being intercepted and stolen. Closer to home is the printing of birth certificates for state governments. With the advent of new home security regulations and the need to improve the security with which these documents are delivered, several state governments are considering moving from a statewide centralized print and distribute approach to a distributed printing approach at the county level. So what does this mean to the traditional printing company? And what are the limitations to accomplishing this today? In my view, this shift actually represents an opportunity for the innovative printing company. Specifically, in many cases, distributing printing out to a remote office requires the use of new equipment, new processes, and new media (i.e. secure media imprinted with a UV watermark) with which the remote office personnel are not familiar. An innovative printing company could provide the equipment, training, and (for higher volume locations) even the personnel to support this distributed printing. Today's high-end color laser printers are capable of not only printing the document, but also remotely managing the printing activity. This makes it possible for a print provider to support multiple remote sites from their location. The net result is a substantial business opportunity for the printing company by leveraging their experience in document production, print job workflow management, and dealing with unique print media. Today, the underlying technology exists to accomplish this task. The key is piecing together the right software components, printing platforms, and training programs to create--from the customer's perspective--a seamlessly integrated document flow. In many cases, the customer may use a legacy mainframe application to generate the data, so it is important that the print provider has or acquires personnel with some system integration background and capability. The biggest challenge is to change the paradigm. It's been said many times before, but instead of thinking of yourself as a 'printer', think of yourself as a document solutions provider! A document solutions provider who leverages his expertise in document printing, workflow management, and job costing to generate a complete solution for the customer.