Challenges and opportunities for the printing industry in the next 12 months

Written by Colin Gillman on Thursday, 08 December 2016.

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colinIt's no secret that many firms in the industry have been struggling, and demographic data shows a great deal of turmoil that continues relatively unabated. Yet, there remain very successful businesses in the industry. Cultural changes in the way people access media are having profound effects on the demand for print, particularly among advertisers, marketers, and publishers - all of whom are, not coincidentally, printers' biggest customers. How has the explosion of new media affected the print markets? What can the industry do to effective cope with these trends? And what will 2017 bring?

In 2016, digital printing; personalised, customised, variable-data, and other targeted printing applications; "Web-to-print" applications and use; wide-format printing; and interest in and implementation of production workflow solutions are progressing rapidly. But, do not forget business models, which will increase the `bottom-line`! Plus, experienced and skilled people of `any` age are a major asset.

2016 has seen marketers and advertisers steadily distancing themselves from print, and yet, given the effectiveness of print, they do so at their peril. Regardless, "cursing the darkness" won't help; printers need to develop a cogent strategy for responding to this trend. What the industry needs is an emphasis on seeking out new business models, niches, and applications for print. This is 180 degrees from how the industry tends to operate; but the need to do so has never been greater and will only become more profound in the year(s) ahead. Research and plan ahead, do not put your head in the sand.

The biggest challenges facing those who produce and distribute content are not necessarily production or workflow issues, but rather involve navigating the seas of new and newer media. The key is to `strategise` successfully and understand how each medium-whether it's old media like print, new media like the Internet, or newer media like podcasting and mobile media fits into a given marketing or advertising campaign. For publishers, the situation is even more crucial, as they need to understand and adapt to changes in the ways that people obtain content.

The past two years have seen a resurgence of business for these markets, and at the same time a veritable explosion of new ways to disseminate content. Cultural changes in the way people access media are having profound effects on traditional advertising and publishing models. Easy-to-use desktop publishing software has made it easy for business and individuals to do their own graphic design work. How have these societal and technological changes affected the creative markets and what will 2017 and the future bring?

From reports business conditions for design firms were strong in 2015/16, although they were slightly below what they had been a year earlier-although they expect business to continue to be strong through 2017. 

From worldwide surveys the following information was made available:

In Summer 2016, 40% of publishers said that e-mail promotions and e-newsletters would become more important for them in the next 12 months, while 27% said Web advertising will.

In Summer 2016, 55% of graphic designers cited "customers doing their own desktop publishing work" as a business challenge.

In Summer 2016, 35% of design and production firms expected business in the next 12 months to be "excellent, better than the last 12 months," up from the 33% who said this six months earlier.

In Summer 2016, 74% of publishers cited "printing costs" as a business challenge, the highest this challenge has ever charted in 10 years.

In Summer 2016, 58% of Web design and production firms cited "database development projects" as a sales opportunity, the highest this opportunity has charted in six years.

In Spring 2016, 29% of printers cited "design/creative capabilities" as a sales opportunity; an all-time high and a sign that print customers may be increasingly competing with their printers.

In Summer 2016, 45% of design and production firms said that "jobs designed for colour digital printing" were increasing, while 29% said that "jobs designed for traditional offset printing" were decreasing.

The Printing Industry is a major communications tool and is viewed as a `bellwether` of trends in the economy as a whole. This has always was the case from writing on stone up to the present day technology. There will always be history, change and the future.

The key issues continue to hamper the Print Manufacturing organisations that do not change in this global trading environment. These organisations need to wake up to the reality of life, listen to experienced/skilled successful people who can help, take on board business models to help them operate more efficiently and manage the management of change. To be successful in this global trading environment you need all these business tools to survive, so they need to take them on board and find success or not survive!

Take on board the benefits from a Non-Executive Director who will add value through independence and experience to raise your `bottom-line`. Yes, this is a must if you wish success in the future.


Learn to avoid management without vision

Written by Colin Thompson on Thursday, 08 September 2016.

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Col summer effectedA lack of management commitment to change and a failure to hold a compelling vision of the future with their employees is holding back mature print manufacturers when they attempt to make a move towards `lean manufacturing`.

But addressing the attitude and behaviour of an organisation – in addition to the operating system and management infrastructure – could boost production by at least 20%, and improve stock, lead times, quality and capacity. The organisations with skilled and experienced people of any age and training programmes with business models will be the winners.

There are at least 12 major pitfalls which companies must avoid when making the journey towards lean production.

The pitfalls are:

1 Lack of management commitment

2 Lack of shared vision and objectives

3 Failure to lead by example

4 Initiative fatigue

5 Constant fire fighting

6 Employees`lack ofunderstanding

7 Middle management not engaged

8 Stagnation after pilot

9 Failure in deployment

10 Lack of clarity over the future state of the organisation

11 Failure to build on a change which has been achieved

12 The understanding of managing the `Management of Change`

All too often failure to make a lean transformation stems from a superficial, piecemeal approach. Lean manufacturing requires a holistic approach, transforming not just the technical production system but also the organisations management systems and a comprehensive approach to change which addresses mindsets and behaviours as well as formal processes and structures.

Most common faults are a lacklustre approach to change by a divided or uncommitted senior management and an unwillingness to properly consult and communicate with the workforce. This is why some European companies claim to have tried and failed to implement lean production systems. Communication of the requirement and a `buy-in` programme by `all` people is necessary for change to be successful.

Lean manufacturing is now almost universally regarded as a panacea for European print manufacturers (also, all UK manufacturing) to improve productivity but, UK owned manufacturing companies are typically less productive than their UK-based, US - owned competitors.

McKinsey & Company study showed that on average US manufacturing companies deliver a 22% annual return on capital. While UK companies return only 7.6%! (before the recession).

McKinsey & Company experience reveals that middle management and front-line staff are adept at spotting half-hearted support for production process improvements and adopt a `just-enough` attitude to tide them over until the effort is abandoned. Also, senior management (directors) were complacent to act due to lack of knowledge of `management of change` process.

typical scenario might be of a UK company undertaking a lean programme. Sooner or later, after considerable diversion of company resources, they admit defeat and settle for a few small improvements here and there rather than a lasting and marked performance improvement. This type of company will not survive. Having seen the `writing on the wall` for their business before being spurred into a lean transformation attempt, such businesses frequently join the list of statistical failures.

Alignment around `shared` objectives must begin with the `top` team and cascade through the organisation. It must also be seen to go hand-in-hand with visible commitment by `all` Directors/Senior Management so those staff sees their `leaders` are serious about change and play a full part themselves. Middle management are very good at spotting lack of commitment and respond in kind by supplying just the amount of effort they judge expedient until the latest initiative withers and dies. People know what they are expected to say and duly say it. But, it is meaningless if they are just going through the motions. Again, this type of company will not survive.

Failing to lead by example resulted in middle managers and production staff failing to `get onside`.

This most often happens where senior management is `out of touch` with all the employees. Top management must get close to the reality of the `people` to understand the issues the frontline staff are living with, and then take the lead to resolve them as part of the `change process`.

At the same time, management needs to be aware of initiative fatigue, the `been there, done that, did not work` attitude. Change targets must be precise and stretching, but realistic and some early successes will galvanise the rest of the effort.

The tendency to firefight constantly must be stifled and while some managers thrive on fire fighting and build a successful career on it, this only deals with symptoms and not with `long-term solutions`.

Just telling employees what to do is not enough. They must be involved at all levels in solving issues in the change process. All staff expect to see their line managers directing change, so these middle managers must be engaged from the outset.

Even when a successful pilot implementation is over, there are still several more pitfalls to trap the unwary. One is stagnation following a successful pilot as the focus shifts away. Another is the failure to deploy lean manufacturing to the wider business. Never stop looking to improve.

Conclusion – Lean manufacturing requires a holistic approach transforming not just the technical production system but also the company’s management system and a `comprehensive` approach to change which addresses mindsets and behaviours as well as formal processes and structures. The `right` trained and skilled and experienced people manage companies, and these will be the winners in the future.

Colin Thompson

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The future of print is you

Written by Colin Thompson on Wednesday, 04 May 2016.

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Colin 011The printing industry will continue to evolve into new and exciting `electronic imaging driven by digital technology`. Digital technology, economic restructuring, global competition, market changes, emerging new media and other market forces are combining to `dramatically` change the operating environment of the printing industry.

The traditional printing industry is very mature with overcapacity in the established countries and also suffers from very poor training of personnel and very few people entering the industry. We are in the `emerging information society` driven by technology, where by the very nature of the role of the printer is changing rapidly, driven by `customer demands`.

The major drivers are first, technology, particularly the digitisation of data, which is reshaping the communications industries. The rapid experience of the convergence of computers, telecommunications and television, plus the use of `multimedia` and the speed of change in the `information superhighway`.

The second major driver is the changing macro environment, particularly the rapid restructuring of the world economy and global competition.

The consequence of these two major drivers is the movement in print markets worldwide. The emerging `new` countries who invest into the print/communications industries with the latest equipment are global players whom will significantly drive down prices by the economies of scale.

Print companies are redefining their business (or they should be) to one of identifying customers changing communication needs brought about by the digital processing and storing of information and delivering it through the most effective distribution channel. Since printer’s are/should already well be established in `imagery`, they are well positioned to participate in new channels as they develop. If print companies do not take on board new technology, they will not survive in this rapid changing environment.

Over the last 40 years industry profitability has moved in cycles roughly corresponding to industry investment cycles. With the current need to invest in `new digital technology` coinciding with a slowing of market growth world-wide, printing companies profits will be `squeezed` further in there remainder of the decade as structural change continues on a global scale.

The implications for the printing industry structure and profitability in the future are:

• The number of large printing plants is declining. (Costs out way benefits of net profit)
• Large printing companies will become larger by acquisition, at the expense of less well-managed large companies and medium sized companies.
• The less innovative companies will face serious issues in a slow growth business environment.
• The rate of failure for less well managed small companies will be high. This is the majority of the industry globally.
• Medium size companies particularly those without well-defined speciality niches will continue to be squeezed by larger companies.
• The impact on the printing industry profitability will be a continuation of the pressure on overall industry profit margins.
• The profit leaders will continue to make attractive profits by acquisition/cost controls/economies of scale/skilled and experienced personnel in `all` areas.
• The impact of `Print Management Service` programmes on the manufacturing sector that does not participate in this customer driven environment.

The future has many challenges to be successful and to survive, so wake up now or there might be no future for you and your business.

Colin Thompson

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We are only in business because our customers allow us to be

Written by Colin Thompson on Monday, 21 March 2016.

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Manage your clients payment expectations to get paid on time

Did you know that relationship selling is the core of all modern business/selling strategies? Think about it, your ability to develop and maintain long-term customer relationships is the foundation for your success as a business person/sales person and your success in business. Relationship selling requires a clear understanding of the dynamics of the business/selling process as they are experienced by your customer.

For your customer, a business/buying decision usually means a decision to enter into a long-term relationship with you and your company. It is very much like a "business marriage." 

Before the customer decides to buy, he/she can take you or leave you. He/she doesn't need you or your company. He/she has a variety of options and choices open to him/her, including not buying anything at all. But when your customer makes a decision to buy from you and gives you money for the product or service you are selling, he becomes dependent on you. And since he/she has probably had bad buying experiences in the past, he is very uneasy and uncertain about getting into this kind of dependency relationship.

What if you let the customer down? What if your product does not work as you promised? What if you do not service it and support it as you promised? What if it breaks down and he/she cannot get it replaced? What if the product or service is completely inappropriate for his/her needs? These are real dilemmas that go through the mind of every customer when it comes time to make the critical buying decision.
Because of the complexity of most products and services today, especially high-tech products, the relationship is actually more important than the product.

The customer doesn't know the ingredients or components of your product, or how your company functions, or how he/she will be treated after he/she has given you his/her money, but he/she can make an assessment about you and about the relationship that has developed between the two of you over the course of the selling process.

So in reality, the customer's decision is based on the fact that he has come to trust you and believe in what you say.

In many cases, the quality of your relationship with the customer is the competitive advantage that enables you to edge out others who may have similar products and services. The quality of the trust bond that exists between you and your customers can be so strong that no other competitor can get between you.

The single biggest mistake that causes business people/sales people to lose customers is taking those customers for granted. This is a form of "customer entropy." It is when the sales person relaxes his efforts and begins to ignore the customer. Almost 70 percent of customers who walked away from their existing suppliers later replied that they made the change primarily because of a lack of attention from the company.

Once you have invested the time and made the efforts necessary to build a high-quality, trust-based relationship with your customer, you must maintain that relationship for the life of your business. You must never take it for granted.

First, focus on building a high quality relationship with each customer by treating your customer so well that he comes back, buys again and refers you to his friends.

Second, pay attention to your existing customers. Tell them you appreciate them. Look for ways to thank them and encourage them to come back and do business with you again.

Remember, we are only in business because our customers allow us to be.

Colin Thompson
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The Cavendish Academy


True talent shapes business - True knowledge finds it

Written by Colin Thompson on Friday, 26 February 2016.

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Tips for improving business survival and success

In order to be ready to lead a growing company, you need to have the foundations in place. Just as a house or a factory needs to be built on solid foundations, so do business leaders. Business leaders seldom arrive fully formed. They learn that leadership has at least three levels:

  • Leadership of self
  • Leadership of teams
  • Leadership of businesses

Leadership of self
In my view, personal leadership comes from taking responsibility for your own development and behaviour and most importantly, from taking action. Action is the step that achievers take and dreamers do not. Once you have begun a course of action, it often seems that the resources you need have a habit of turning up just as you need them.

Our beliefs may provide the impetus to take us forward into action but just as often (if not more often) it is our beliefs that hold us back. Limiting beliefs lead to limited action and limited action leads to a lack of achievement. Coaches often ask the question, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” Too often we look at action from the opposite point of view – we expect to fail and therefore never try.

Goals are very useful in this context, so long as they are SMART, that is they are `Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Based`. The more you work on each aspect of the goal, especially on being realistic and setting target dates for each goal, the more you will begin to develop a winning habit of making and delivering goals. They must also be consistent with your own values if you are to commit fully to them and to go on and achieve them.

The consistency comes from your own inner compass and allies with the values that are central to your own spiritual values. These are moral and human values, sometimes but not always derived from religion. Operating at odds to these deeply held values can lead to stress and, in the long term, to failure.
Self-leadership is a continuing process and is unlikely ever to be complete in your lifetime. So achieving perfection at this level before moving on is not an option.

Leadership of People and team
Teams are an essential element of leadership in business. Without them, little that is worthwhile can be done. So, armed with your own direction and goals, you can begin to build your extended team, finding the right people to perform roles that complement your own skills and, thus, extending the capability of the unit over the individual. Not everyone in your team will be directly employed by you, indeed in today’s business very few may be direct employees. Thus communication and motivation are important elements in creating a high performance team. Recognising the style of leadership needed by each individual, in each situation, is also a key skill and one that is never fully learned in my view. Getting the most out of the team needs clarity of goals, acceptance of input and clear decision making.

As the team leader, one of your roles is to provide the inspiration that helps the team to overcome adversity. Communication is crucial and making the most of meetings, whether with individuals, groups or the whole team, is vital. The more that team members feel responsible for their element of the outcome and for the overall performance of the team, the more likely it is that the team will achieve their outcomes.

For a developing leader, and which of us isn’t developing, achievement is crucial, though there is likely to be failure, too, in the journey to business leadership. How you handle failure as well as success will be important in determining where the journey ends. Learning from our failures creates resilience and character.

Leadership of Businesses
When an entrepreneur sets up a business, the team may be small and easy to control. As the business grows, there will be a time when the team becomes too large to manage as a single entity and the business becomes a team of teams. The bigger it grows, the more teams there are within the business.

They may become divisions and even business entities in themselves. The business now has many leaders at many levels within it. Someone, however, carries the responsibility for leading the whole business and is accountable to shareholders, to staff and to customers for the performance and ethics of the business.
When things get complex, decisions taken within the business can have major, often unforeseen, effects on other areas.

Getting the chain of decision making right is the responsibility of the leader. Decisions need to be delegated to the appropriate level within the business, with clear procedures for escalation and with controls in place to ensure that any likely issues (problems) can be identified and mitigated. While the design of such systems is the day-to-day role of operational team members or consultants, it is the leader’s responsibility. Leading a large and complex organisation requires the ability to understand issues across the operation of the whole business and being able to make sound decisions based on that information.

Developing business leaders who can aspire to reach this top level whilst still remaining human and true to their own internal values, is the purpose and passion that motivates me and keeps me striving to improve my own performance.

What is your purpose and passion?

Colin Thompson
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The Cavendish Academy

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How can you win more customers for your printing business

How can you win more customers for your printing business

Anybody who has run a printing business for any time will at some stage ask themselves the question “How do I get more customers?” The trouble with this is it’s a perennial question that has no right or wrong answer. You could always start by learning to think differently and...

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