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How Digital Technology Is Killing Innovation

(October 2011) posted on Tue Nov 08, 2011

Times of change can be roads to revenue or ruin. Coudray describes how you can evaluate your situation and aim for growth.

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By Mark A. Coudray

That all changed forever as soon as accelerated, disruptive, digital technologies appeared. Driven by Moore’s curve, processor density doubled every 18-24 months while the price of new technology dropped like a rock. If you invested early, or took too long to implement, you were dead. Your competitors would watch you struggle with early or beta versions. Hardware and software reliability were poor. In their tech-driven schedules, products were rushed to market before they were ready.
Both the vendors and your competitors would learn from your struggles. So when version 2.0 was released, you were economically done. Being in early was not necessarily a good thing unless you were an exceptional implementer with lots of savvy. I know. I’ve experienced the bleeding edge too many times.

It gets worse. When the technology vendors weren’t strong enough, you risked them going out of business before the market was mature enough for them to sell sufficient volumes to stay alive and profit. Think of the early days of DTG.

So, stepping back from this for a minute, I can see that the majority of innovation for screen printers peaked in about 1998 or thereabout. Digital technologies have maintained their relentless march forward, so much so that now we are having a convergence with the other printing disciplines like litho and flexo.

Competition and elbowing for marketshare is getting more and more intense. As bleak as this appears, all is not dark. We still possess one of the most fundamentally viable imaging technologies in the world. All of the perspectives I’ve just outlined are seen from the rear view mirror. Let’s start looking ahead. What are our options?

Creating new business
As much as I love imaging technology, my focus and attention have shifted. It’s now zeroed in on markets, opportunities, and the application of technology to them. There are new ways to define value in the market. There are more opportunities in front of us today than ever before, but we just aren’t recognizing them.

We’re trying to apply our old ways of looking at the game to a whole new game. It’s as if we’ve spent the last 100 years playing baseball and now the field has been changed over to soccer and we don’t know the rules, strategies, or the plays.


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