The once-perennial number one challenge—“economic conditions”—has dropped way down the list. The new number one—“pricing”—was selected by 44% of respondents, up from 26% a year ago. As the shift to digital printing continues, how to price these items, and in a way that market will bear, becomes an ever-greater issue. This is also due to the high number of 1–9-employee shops responding to our survey; this tends to be a bigger issue for them than for other size classifications. Still, it does indicate how difficult that marketplace is.

The number two business challenge moves up from number three: “increasing plant productivity,” selected by 33% of respondents, up from 31% a year ago. Remember our earlier commentary about jobs/orders outpacing revenues and profits? Here is evidence of that issue (as is pricing). Shops have to aggregate as many shorter-run jobs as they can and get them through the workflow as quickly as possible.

WhatTheyThink’s Printing Forecast 2018 report provides detailed analysis of the most recent Print Business Outlook Survey, the latest industry economic data and macroeconomic trends, as well as industry and cultural technological trends to look out for in 2018.