Reston, VA- Among a commercial printer's 'critical core technologies,' topping the list was information technology (IT), along with the effective use of Management Information Systems (MIS) and print buyer interfacing via the use of Web-to-Print software, in a three-way tie identified by the Selection Committee for the PRINT 09 MUST SEE 'EMS technology/product recognition program.
According to the Committee, today's print production operation is a computer-centric manufacturing process, built around interfacing with the print buyer, that handles content material, controls manufacturing and distribution operations, and also provides information used as the basis for managing a print business.
In today's evolving print business, the computer is frequently the entry point, starting with print buyers placing inquiries, receiving quotations from the printer and placing orders over the Internet. Web-to-print utilization is, with the exception of well established MIS-based estimating, the number one application for printers' computer use.
Whether a printer-created approach, or via CIP4's Job Definition Format (JDF), computers and MIS are the key components of integrated automation. Production floor feedback to MIS offers a wide range of information that, if acted upon, can improve operations. However, often lacking, the Committee notes, are the analytical software skills and computer savvy to turn available data into actionable improvements by utilizing the data in follow-on applications such as statistical process control. Other functions that benefit from IT competency are, for example, addressing/mailing and digital asset management operations.
After IT competency, Web-to-Print and MIS, all in a three-way tie for first place, digital printing was cited as the next key technology for commercial printers to embrace. Printers whose mainstay output is sheetfed or web offset are finding that the lack of digital printing capability, even if only for addressing and brief messaging, puts them at a competitive disadvantage. According to the Selection Committee, in the longer term-three to five years-digital printing will have infiltrated the majority of printing operations and, as one member commented, "You won't want to be without it."
Several Committee members noted that if, or when, the ink jet equipment demonstrated at drupa comes to market, increasingly longer run work will start to gravitate to both sheet and web ink jet digital printing. Several Committee members commented that the key to moneymaking with digital print is mastering variable data printing and mining the markets where personalization and one-to-one marketing pays off; which leads back to the top technology selections.
While no single technology secures a commercial printer's place on the road to profit (it takes a grouping of technologies working together to best serve specific markets) the Committee noted one exception-the fifth technology pick, workflow-since efficient applications workflow is critical for any printer.
Color management, and the ability to provide cross or multiple media products, tied for sixth place on the list of critical survival technologies. As black-only work is on the decline, few commercial printers can exist without color capability-and the key to quality color lies in color management, agreed Selection Committee members.
In 2009, because advertising and information markets have become fragmented, multi-media capability provides printers with a diversification opportunity. In the short to medium term, the Committee predicted cross-media will transition from being an "opportunity" to a required customer service.
PRINT'S TOP 10 TECHNOLOGIES
1 Information Technology*
* Tied for 1st place as a critical technology
** Tied for 6th place
The "best in show" examples of the products and services chosen by the Committee, will be identified by the MUST SEE 'EMS product and technology recognition program, which spotlights PRINT 09's most unique, innovative and compelling products and services for printers to see at the global exhibition and conference. MUST SEE 'EMS recipients will be announced at the conclusion of the EXECUTIVE OUTLOOK Conference to be held in McCormick Place the day before the show opens on Thursday, September 10th.
WhatTheyThink is the global printing industry's go-to information source with both print and digital offerings, including WhatTheyThink.com, WhatTheyThink Email Newsletters, and the WhatTheyThink magazine. Our mission is to inform, educate, and inspire the industry. We provide cogent news and analysis about trends, technologies, operations, and events in all the markets that comprise today's printing and sign industries including commercial, in-plant, mailing, finishing, sign, display, textile, industrial, finishing, labels, packaging, marketing technology, software and workflow.