How Digital Printing Continues to Distinguish Itself as a Go-to Production Option
Since we appear destined to continue to live in an I-need-it-yesterday world, companies must rely on excellent hires, shrewd marketing procedures and well-chosen means to produce goods exactly to end-users’ liking. While the first two elements have long received attention since they involve analyzing individuals’ commitment and competence, the last often survives on the crumbs they leave behind because it does not seem as inviting to discuss.
That’s not so, though, with printing methods, which command as much attention as personnel decisions and promotional strategies. After all, looks are a vital part of an item’s presentation, and a solid print job can make a task that much more noticeable, rewarding and, well, lucrative. Because of the aforementioned frantic pace of business dealings, digital print has made considerable gains in recent years, proving itself to be a reliable way to address projects efficiently and appealingly.
Print+Promo connected with Jeff Holder, president of Palmetto Digital Trade Source, Greenville, S.C.; Scott Sharp, director of trade sales for A&B Printing, Fort Loramie, Ohio; and Adam McNeill, president of CE Printed Products Inc., Carol Stream, Ill., to see where the process is heading and how its benefits can net you steadier business.
Naysayers have long enjoyed proclaiming that print is dead, but print loves giving an unabashed “Excuse me, but I’m right here” response to its detractors. While the medium has needed to make space for other communication channels, it still warrants respect, especially as it has benefited from the talents of people who value upholding the reputation it has acquired over centuries of implementation. The digital world, many argue, has confined print to has-been status, but there is no convincing our sources of that assertion, and a counter, in many ways, to that claim comes thanks to digital printing.
“Like many other suppliers, we are working to keep costs down and turn jobs fast, and the versatility offered by digital printing provides us with ample opportunities to provide our customers with exactly what they want, when they want it,” McNeill said.
His company has been offering digital printing services since 2013, doing so in large part because of market demand from customers. Their outreach to the CE Printed Products Inc. family yielded inquiries on shorter runs and quicker turnaround times. With print-on-demand enthusiasm and inventory reduction on their minds, clients expected the supplier to cater to the calls. Since McNeill and staff anticipated that envelope- and stationery-hungry programs would migrate from shells and imprint to print-on-demand, the leader knew they would need to be prepared for the swell. The uptick has thus become a boon for not only his business, but also companies with the digital printing wherewithal to thrive.
According to IBISWorld, the U.S. digital printing industry’s market, on average, has grown 3.6 percent between 2014 and this year, with 2019 expected to represent a 3.1 percent hike. Coupling those statistics with the group’s note that, measured by revenue, the market size of the digital printing industry is $11 billion, those who are making their mark within the digital printing community are eager to see what else their efforts will bear and which businesses will join them in thriving.
“Digital is the present and the future as more and more clients are wanting specialized [and] personalized pieces,” Sharp offered. “Don’t get me wrong—offset [printing] still is a very important part of our operation and an important part of printing, in general, but every year, digital is becoming more and more important.”
What is instigating that increasing clout, and how can businesses situate themselves in the rush to be more digital printing-savvy? Part of the answer to the first question resides in Sharp’s mention of offset printing, which, one could say, long ago claimed the limelight that digital printing has begun sharing in earnest. While many people might seek to pit the types of printing against each other, McNeill contends that while having each option is vital, locations need not stress emphasizing one’s services over its counterpart.
“I don’t see digital production as a replacement for other production methods,” McNeill assessed. “It’s clearly a viable alternative [to offset printing], but, at the end of the day, it matters that the customer and the end-user get what they want. I see my position in that decision-making process as one to provide information and options to achieve the desired result. Customers look for the most efficient and cost-effective products to meet market demand. In the market I support, with shorter runs and quicker turn times, digital printing can bridge that gap.”
In looking at digital printing’s ascension, he, Sharp and Holder gave nods to the flexibility that the digital printing cycle entails, with McNeill explaining that automation in workflow and customization of variable data have eased the task of uniting print, data and online considerations.
“When you add the variety of die cutting, coating and finishing [that is] available, I think more and more projects fit digital production,” McNeill opined. “In our core product line, automation and short-run demand are what feed digital growth. We can streamline production, keep costs low and provide data back to our customers’ e-commerce portals easily. That helps the customer experience and keeps our distributor competitive and viable versus other online options.”
The last point by the CE Printed Products Inc. executive reminds us that every industry breeds and fosters a push for supremacy, and with that striving comes the need to map out a plan to reach that goal. This article opened with a mention of employees and marketing concepts, but the superstars, one could posit, in an increasingly visual world, are the printing tactics that businesses call upon to give clients their shot at glory. Like with all financial considerations, then, equipment must undergo the risk-versus-reward treatment, with the production of certain effects being among the chief digital printing aspects to scrutinize.
“The main development,” Holder said with respect to digital printing techniques, “is the introduction of large national and international digital gang run [through which] companies have driven down the margins.”
Regarding equipment and its advances, he added that the ability to print white ink has given his company the ability to print sharp images on clear materials, such as labels and acrylic, and that the only inherent challenge is learning how to lay down and register the inks. In making purchases, McNeill, who lauded soft-touch lamination and coating, raised and textured UV, spot and floodcoat UV coating, embossing and foiling, and die cutting as reliable finishing options, warned against making impulse buys that show little more than a desire to secure membership in the in-crowd.
“For our fastest-growing areas, we no longer buy equipment that will sit on our floor for 35 years,” he said. “The technology changes so fast, so if you don’t judge the market right or build the right business, you’ve invested in a piece of equipment that will sit idle and be outdated before you have paid for it.”
Digital printing is still, relatively speaking, a new kid on the block in the overall history of printing, with digital printing presses having hit the market not even 30 years ago. Founded to offer wholesale digital printing, Palmetto Digital Trade Source has prospered as “an early adapter,” according to Holder, and, therefore, he led our sources in calling for distributors to give the printing method its due.
“Wake up; it’s not the 1970s anymore,” he declared when addressing how he would react to someone who feels that offset printing should go unchallenged. “Digital printing is on par with offset and allows you to print smaller runs and combo run multiple jobs.”
For McNeill, who spoke highly of the chance to run heavier stocks that speedier printing and increased substrate grams-per-square meter weights make possible through digital printing, digital production has come a long way. Though, like with any press, there are limitations, digital can become a consistent source of customer satisfaction and, therefore, lead to better standing in the commerce community for those who appreciate its applications.
“I would say you are falling behind and will not be successful if you don’t at least have a digital presence,” Sharp said. “[If you add that], I would say you’ll see your business improve and you will retain more client business as you’re offering them more options.”