Three tips for growing mid-sized commercial printers in a world of change

By Vaughan Patterson, product marketing operations manager for Production Print at Ricoh SA
Political, economic, social and digital changes combine to create a complex environment for today’s print service providers.
Political, economic upheaval and digital disruption, as well as the skills gap, remain key issues around the world for commercial printers, as well as other businesses.
But, while they are ambitious and keen to meet the evolving needs of their customers, many medium-sized commercial printers face specific barriers that prevent them reaching their potential. Stymied financial resources mean they have to pick their investments wisely. Digital technologies are evolving rapidly and escalating disruption at unprecedented pace, resulting in increased pressure to respond quickly. And employees as well as customers expect them to be able to not just offer new products and services but also to work in new, more efficient ways.

1 — Digital Workflows
Digital processes cut the costs of producing, distributing, and managing critical documents, so you save money where it counts. Digitalising processes, including production workflows, improves productivity, frees up employees’ time and can give scope for responsiveness. And, when it comes to actual production, digital colour presses are flexible enough to manage most needs, including full integration with multichannel campaigns — and they deliver exceptional quality. PrintWeek reports that Whitehall Printing, a Bristol, UK-based commercial printer, has weathered marketplace pressures by investing in Web-to-print solutions. Its large clients make regular use of its Web-to-print portals. And it has invested in e-commerce to support more than 100 products via its website. A key benefit of workflow software is that it converts Adobe PDF, PostScript, and Metacode into native AFP for flexible, multi-threaded output management. The command centre, meanwhile, maximises productivity by providing a combined view of all jobs and assets. And more advanced workflows can integrate third-party systems directly via the Web through improved application programming interfaces (API).

2 — Mobile-enabled Workers
The workforce increasingly wants mobile solutions because of the many beneficial changes it brings to the ways they work. Cloud technologies help. Salespeople with remote access to management information systems (MIS) can produce accurate estimates while they’re in the field. Senior managers can then approve those estimates remotely. People can also send print jobs via Google Cloud Print, which improves employee mobility. And production managers and operators can remotely monitor print jobs via workflow management programs with associated smartphone apps. App-based workflows can even enable third parties to automate job acceptance, job routing, and even the preparation and final shipping arrangements.

3 — Virtual Collaboration
Virtual collaboration helps employees from across your operation connect and share ideas, work together, and help customers quicker and better. It fosters a cohesive culture and innovative spirit. For example, virtual collaboration tools and technologies, anything from a smartphone and an app to an electronic whiteboard with integrated artificial intelligence (AI) for translating meetings on-the-fly, help people not only meet with other people, but actually collaborate to complete work too. Electronic whiteboards also help people collectively develop, share, and record ideas and work. Compact short-throw projectors enhance visual impact in boardrooms, welcome rooms, and other public areas.

Digital disruption remains a key issue and affects the production printing realm in different ways. The key to weathering it successfully is overcoming barriers that thereafter leave companies in a stronger position.

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Ricoh is a global technology company specialising in office imaging equipment, production print solutions, document management systems and IT services. Headquartered in Tokyo, Ricoh Group operates in about 200 countries and regions. In the financial year ending March 2014, Ricoh Group had worldwide sales of 2,236 billion yen (approximately 21.7 billion USD).

The majority of the company’s revenue comes from products, solutions and services that improve the interaction between people and information. Ricoh also produces award-winning digital cameras and specialized industrial products. It is known for the quality of its technology, the exceptional standard of its customer service and sustainability initiatives.

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