Outsourcing in printing industry and your business

22/12/2006

Outsourcing is squeezing many printing businesses out of the market. It is just one the pressure factors a printing business is facing these days. Some people say there are always two sides of the coin and other people say that one’s loss is the other’s find. Let’s look into the obvious.

Outsourcing is a hot issue in other industries too. ICT was all abuzz a couple of years ago about Americans loosing jobs to their Indian colleagues. Nothing changed, really, but the world got used to it and I think it’s good. I’m proud to employ people from all over the globe. I say thank you to people from all over the globe who gave me jobs in the last few years.

Aussies got worried

So, printing is heading to Asia. China listed printing industry as one of its priorities. Rightfully so! Printing is not very commodity-dependent and is not too energy consuming, if compared to other industries. Printers around the world got worried. The doom and gloom reached Australia to the extent that they dispatched a “reconnaissance mission” to find out what kind of threat China is to them.

PrintNet, a website for Australian Printing Industries Association published a report with the results of the trip. It’s not all gloom and doom any more. They say there are as many opportunities as there are threats.

Outsourcing benefits

1. Cost
2. Cost
3. Cost

Critical outsourcing difficulties

1. Four to eight weeks between the sign off and delivery

Mitigated outsourcing difficulties

Time zone difference, language barrier, cultural barrier, proofing are all easily overcome by agents and print brokers that reside where the customers are. There is not difference to the customer between the local agent and a local printing business.

What can be outsourced

– anything that can wait a few weeks, no matter how small the run is.

What cannot be outsourced

– products that are needed NOW

What can be done about outsourcing

There are thing that an individual printer can do and there are things that only industry bodies can do.

At the individual business level the best thing is to diversify into products that cannot be outsourced effectively. There are just too many of them to list here. Every printer knows what kind of products customers need “yesterday” and what kind of products can wait for weeks in pre-press without the customer calling back.
The key to success here is turnaround time. If you can print a job on the same day or overnight while still being more or less competitive in the pricing then you are a winner.

Printing industry bodies can help their members in many ways, but they can’t stop outsourcing. It’s a waste of time and will only delay the agony:
– help printers understand if their particular business is at risk and how soon the risk may materialize
begin to advocate for less printing …….?????? !!!!!!!!!! Did I say that?

Less printing is better

This may sound ridiculous, but no, it’s just cynical. The point is to start beating the drums as soon as a big printing contract goes overseas. Take for example some government department issuing a big tender that is likely to be won by a large print-buyer / print-broker and end up in China for the bulk of it. Fine with us, but we’ll ask you a question: Why do you need so much stuff printed? Can you deliver the information in a cheaper and more effective way? Can it be simply published on the website or emailed?
The answer depends on the amount of pressure you put on them. Most likely it’s YES, but some printing is still required. You’ve just scored a win, because the smaller run is more likely to be done locally and ON DEMAND.

Greenies are printer’s best friends

At least this is true as far as outsourcing goes. A printing lobby advocating for less printing is a very strange and suspicious thing to happen. Leave it to the greenies. There are 101 reasons why printing should not be done at all and they are the best people to advocate for it. It may sound cynical, but it can be the only way for survival of smaller pockets of printing industry when that mighty outsourcing wave comes.

Print ON DEMAND / Print NOW

Printers that move into ON DEMAND and NOW area are going to survive if they enter the market early and build a good reputation.

Time to act!

And if I didn’t make you worried with this post I’ll hit you hard with an overview of electronic paper. Book publishers and sign makers beware! :-)

For now, take a break, look on the funny side of it

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_uHlXji0do”]

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