Trends suggest that digital imaging helps print providers meet new customer demands, add value to existing services, and expand into new markets.
By Tim Greene
The wide-format-digital market remains a growth business. Growth comes from two major sources: the conversion from analog to digital and expansion in digital-printing applications.
It used to be said that digital printing was applicable for short runs based on the cost advantages versus screen printing for short runs. The average run length getting shorter is just one of the many customer-demand trends that is driving the conversion from analog to digital print. What we have found in a recent survey, wherein we asked hundreds of wide-format-print-service providers (PSPs) about what they are seeing in terms of customer-demand trends, is that many job characteristics and buying patterns contribute to the digitization of print.
The most prominent trend among print buyers is actually shorter turnaround times, with up to 60% of wide-format jobs needing to be turned around in less than 48 hours. There was also an increase in the use of versioning in order to improve the effectiveness of signage and graphics campaigns. PSPs are seeing an increase in the demand for online ordering and Web-to-print systems, which we believe is related to the issue of turnaround time, because customers want to submit orders when they know they need them, not wait until business hours when they can call their sales representative.
Another trend that we think has a huge impact on the entire market is that print buyers are asking for just-in-time production. Because this is the case, we know that many PSPs are embracing lean-manufacturing principles in order to reduce inventory costs. This likely goes back to one of the fundamental changes in the signage business, where historically sign companies would stock dozens of different colors of vinyl. The change to digital meant that now they only had to stock white, which in turn meant they had less cash tied up in inventory.
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