Propelling Your Business Forward—Part 2

noelward

Well-known member
Propelling Your Business Forward—Part 2
Enhancing In-Plant Product & Service Offerings

By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

One of the more interesting points in the latest Canon USA study is that the most successful in-plant operations seem more like well-run commercial print shops and may even compete with them. This is hardly a coincidence because the processes used in each environment involve putting words and pictures on a page and the technology is open to all adopters. Each type of shop measures success as much by customer satisfaction and repeat visits as by the numbers showing up as profits or surplus beyond expectations. Although focused on in-plants, the study’s findings contain some valuable lessons for both commercial and in-house operators.

A new study by NAPCO Research on behalf of Canon USA shows the key challenges in-plant operators face—all of which should be familiar to anyone whose presses run work for any customer. Although I was not involved in the research Canon again provided me access to data that highlights how in-plants are taking advantage of new technology. The study provides a terrific basis for deeper thinking about how various processes can help in-plant managers build operations that add value for their parent companies. Making the study’s information more valuable is that it includes responses from 123 in-plant managers and 53 communications buyers, providing both sides of several key issues.

Key Takeaways
The upshot is that in-plants remain an important part of the print industry and the best ones can be on a par with some commercial print shops. The study provided several more points but some takeaways: that stood out to me include
  • Eight in ten in-plants offer wide-format inkjet printing and variable-data printing.
  • Most in-plant respondents offer prepress services, graphic design, and online ordering.
  • About a third of in-plants have or are adding high-speed production inkjet capabilities. A similar share plan to add packaging to their mix of offerings.
  • While only about 40% of in-plants have right of first refusal on print jobs, ongoing efforts by managers are focused on showing the value an in-plant can provide its parent organizations and convincing non-users to select the in-plant over outside print providers.
  • Communication buyers with access to in-plants choose print based on the value of the product or service associated with the communication effort. They see print as a better tool for customer acquisition than other media and like the tangible nature of printed materials.
  • The top reasons communications buyers with in-plants choose external print providers include print quality, range of services offered, reliability, responsiveness and turnaround time, and online ordering capabilities.
  • Organizations with in-plants say they would end a relationship with a print provider due to price increases, sub-par quality, a need or desire to reduce suppliers, and inadequate customer service.
  • In-plants are challenged by finding new work to replace declining volumes and getting approval from their organizations to add new equipment or services.
  • As is the case for for commercial printers, keeping an in-plant shop fully staffed is a challenge for many in-plant managers.
  • Following industry trends, about a third of in-plant respondents still print some jobs on offset presses. Others outsource offset work and some no longer offer offset printing.
  • Most in-plant shops are retooling operations to increase automation and productivity.
  • Over half of in-plants have automated job submission, estimating, prepress makeready, preflighting, color management, press makeready, and job reporting. While many of these functions are presently done on site, in-plant managers expect increased migration to the cloud.
Three Things Stand Out
Within and beyond the key takeaways are three points worth mentioning or expanding on. First, it’s important for in-plant managers to fully understand how their organization and its communication buyers view and value print as part of the communications mix. Some see a relationship between the product or service being promoted. Others consider print to be a better tool for customer acquisition than electronic media. Some prefer the tangible nature of printed materials over electronic communications. The choice varies by product within an organization. Understanding the rationale behind each preference helps in making the best recommendations for each customer.

This understanding raises the second point: it is essential to add value beyond print. Better commercial shops have been doing this for some time and the ones that prosper are those that continually add value for customers. Providing services that complement and enhance print helps create stronger bonds within the companies in-plants serve. Adding value or services may also make internal customers less likely to outsource work, especially when encountering minimal cost differences. And, because users of in-plant print services talk with one another, offering services deemed important can create opportunities for building new and recurring service streams across an organization.

The third point I saw is that print quality matters. While not unexpected, this highlights that communications buyers know what they want and will turn elsewhere when they don’t get it. In fact, the study showed that dissatisfaction with quality is a top reason in-plant communications buyers go to an external print provider. There are few good excuses these days for not offering print quality that at least meets customer expectations. The leading digital presses all offer excellent print quality and prepress can ensure colors match. Likewise, accurate finishing and binding can be done cost-effectively on affordable machines. And don’t forget that the standard paper a shop uses can affect print quality. It can be very important to offer higher quality options than the papers that usually live in the input trays.

To get a broader and more specific view, in-plant managers should do their own research to identify the specific points where both users and non-users say expectations are or are not being met and address any shortcomings immediately. It may be that the solution begins with a better understanding of customer needs, expectations, and putting the appropriate controls in place.

The Value Opportunity
The in-plant shops contacted for this study consistently provide their parent organizations with digital and variable-data printing, bindery, and wide-format printing. Many plan to expand their capabilities with production inkjet printing and expand into labels and packaging. Close relationships with internal customers are common, often helping in-plant staff learn about new services their customers need. In-plants often add these capabilities so they can bring new value to their parent organizations.

Despite competition from commercial print providers in-plants are dedicated to their parent organizations’ success. Committed to pursuing strategies and services that can help them succeed, many in-plants are investing in equipment, technology, workflow, and people, often drawing on a range of operational data and analytics to guide their decisions. In-plant print operators see a future of opportunity in which they can select the technologies that will serve the customers they know best while delivering value for their parent organizations.

Download the complete report here
The first part of this series report is available here.

Watch for Part 3 of this series coming soon:
High Growth Print Applications
 
Last edited:

gordo

Well-known member
Could you specify what you mean by "quality" in your third point? How is it defined, what are its parameters, who defines it?
 

noelward

Well-known member
Print quality. And I have edited the copy to reflect this. Thanks for catching this. I should have seen that before I uploaded! I have not gone into a detailed definition because it would get too far into the weeds and is actually a subjective topic.
 

gordo

Well-known member
Print quality. And I have edited the copy to reflect this. Thanks for catching this. I should have seen that before I uploaded! I have not gone into a detailed definition because it would get too far into the weeds and is actually a subjective topic.

IMHO, one of the main barriers to actually achieving quality in printing is the use of the term "quality". In the context of printing it has virtually no meaning. While "quality" is usually considered to be subjective - it doesn't have to be. It can be made objective if, wherever possible, it is be replaced by the criteria the user is meaning. Translating the subjective into the objective helps define the parameters that enable the printer to satisfy their client's needs.

With all due respect, here is an edit of your third point to illustrate my point:

The third point I saw is that defining and meeting customer expectations matters. While not unexpected, this highlights that communications buyers know what they want, can articulate it, and will turn elsewhere when they don’t get it. In fact, the study showed that dissatisfaction with meeting their expectations is a top reason in-plant communications buyers go to an external print provider. While the leading digital presses are all capable of delivering on the printer's promise for meeting client expectations, prepress can help ensure colors align to targets. Likewise, accurate finishing and binding can be done cost-effectively on affordable machines. And don’t forget that the standard paper a shop uses can affect presswork so, it can be very important to offer alternative paper options than the papers that usually live in the input trays.
 

noelward

Well-known member
I agree that both quality and customer expectations can be objective but without sufficient research data in the report I was writing about I cannot back up that perspective with any data. My job in this case was to report on the data provided, not editorialize or make assumptions about respondents' answers .

Meanwhile, I am increasingly hearing and seeing that outside of brand colors "good enough" quality is increasingly acceptable in many cases. I predicted some years ago that "pleasing color" would come to be OK, and it is for many applications. Is this a shift toward mediocrity? Yep. But that is how a lot of things are going.
 

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