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Wake-up call: the print industry is sleepwalking through the disruption taking place in our industrial society

Print entrepreneurs want to be considered as playing highly effective role, a part of the next industrial revolution because of the suggestions coming from the manufacturers of their latest printing presses. Nevertheless, reality does not come as they expect, many print providers still regard “Industry 4.0” as a milk-ordering refrigerator, “online print” as an invention of those villainous Americans and the “Internet” as a temporary phenomenon.

A short time ago, I got a phone call from a print entrepreneur asking for a quick piece of advice about printing online: whether he should enter such a dense market with a lot of online print providers and whether he could make profit in that segmentation. I tried to explain him about current situation in approximately 20 minutes. However, in such a time, through his questions, he showed me that he could not absorb what I was saying – disruption? Analog-digital transformation? Consultant’s bullshit – he gave me to understand. He promised that we would see each other at the one or other event at the end of conversation


I can see where he is coming from. The media just loves spinning yarns about “Industry 4.0”, about the brave, new digital world – an issue which most mid-sized print enterprise owners have not yet latched on to. The reason for this is that these print providers either regard themselves as boutique manufacturers or as a kind of artist, who enhances and finishes paper. They are even not aware of the fact that they and their counterparts lost their “ communications distribution ” monopoly many years ago. They still receive order but not as many as before. The reasons do not come from the change in our society, the buying behavior of companies and consumers; the current price war is all the fault of those “nasty” online print providers.

In some aspects, he may be right. It is obvious that many online print providers can simply produce jobs more cost-effectively because they operate on a bulk basis and can pass this price benefit on to customers, in order to attract more customers (…which in turn however causes offline print providers to outsource “unwelcome” jobs to online providers). However, he almost neglects the big change in our society

Consultant’s bullshit? Not really. Why don’t you see the change in everyday: banking, insurance, passenger transportation, TV, newspapers?

I usually avoid talking about studies compiled by major consultancies like McKinsey in public, but the book “No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends” by the trio of authors, Manyika, Dobbs and Woetzel makes sense in this case. Reality and forecasts for the near future to a harsh extent are tackled by authors. The medium of radio required nearly 38 years (!), to reach 50,000,000 people during the last millennium, TV around 13 years and online channels like Facebook just barely a year. The book provides a description of how   technological progress is accelerating at such an incredible speed that ultimately more than 3 trillion US dollars’ worth of sales will be generated via the Internet of Things by the year 2025. The forecast for knowledge work (Example: Google), automated of course via KI, is 5 trillion dollars and for mobile Internet is 4-11 trillion dollars per annual. Author predict that one trillion appliances will be interlinked in 2025 (am impression number along with 12 ciphers)

Along with our environment, the way value added also change: iTunes ousted CDs – or YouTube became more powerful than some TV channels.

About the print industry, they still consideration whether to apply digital print or not, whether to employ an Internet “wizard”. Even with the largest print providers, they still confuse using the Internet as infrastructure or not. It is believed that utilizing the Internet still means having to establish an online-print store in order to compete against Flyeralarm. Most print providers have never heard of procurement portals or B2B portals for maintain relationship to customers.

The suffering is pretty severe just because “young people don’t appreciate what the printer’s profession is all about”. It is supersizing that majority of online print providers have these problems to a certain into a modern IT-driven business and make sure that your employees desire to work for you. Organizing a strategy discussion about the way to use the Internet as customer communication infrastructure and you should cooperate with other print providers, who often suffer the same problem as you, and develop new business ideas as a team. Figures for 2014 show that those print entrepreneurs in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, who have grasped this, have on average generated 8% MORE sales than their colleagues.

New machinery is not your only possible solution; it does not play the most crucial role. You should focus on skilled employees, who regard online as being more than just a TV platform, and using of the right software above all, which are more important factors. So what matters are online portals or stores, fit-for-purpose MIS and CRM mechanisms and not the next 8-colors plus varnish!

Although the online print market is dense, it is not yet saturated by any means and still contains a lot of attractive opportunities. You just have to take the plunge immediately, if you would be so kind – because the Internet is not going to wait for anyone who does not ready for changing.

Source: beyond-print.de

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