I’m now getting hate mail from sales reps and CSRs. OK. I understand the concerns – but I used to get hate mail from typographers and strippers when I suggested that their days were numbered. I’m not saying sales reps and CSRs are going to go away – I’m suggesting that we need to do things differently. With today’s workflow and movement of files, do we really need sales reps holding a customer’s hand? Do CSRs really need to be running all over the plant chasing down jobs? If you look at our industry’s more sophisticated operations, they’ve integrated their MIS systems with their production workflow. So, why aren’t more companies doing so? As always it gets down to money – and vision.
The software technology exists to truly have a Management Information System and an integrated production workflow. But it takes a capital investment in “non-production” equipment AND re-training our team to work differently. And if you think about it, our front offices still operate very similar to how they did 15-20 years ago. Not true for our production folks.
Do I have an answer? NO, each company is different, but the need to squeeze costs out of our traditional workflow in the front office is necessity for all companies.
Here are some thoughts to consider: Does your sales and CSR team still operate the way it did 10 years ago? What have you done to reduce the touch points between the estimating process and order entry? Are you estimating from a price list? Why not? Are you still having production meetings every day? Why? What can you do so that these meetings are not necessary? What can (must) be done to simplify the process? It’s not going to be easy and it’s going to be painful. So put on your Big Boy/Girl pants, and get after it!
The WSJ reported this past weekend that print advertising sales in magazines were down. As was reported in the article, we are not seeing a reduced size of pie being spent on advertising, we are seeing our slice get smaller. This is problematic for many in our industry who are seeing continued downward pressure on pricing being driven down by online print providers and print management firms.
So, does that mean we need to stop being a printer, as many gurus suggest? Let’s be honest with ourselves, many in our industry don’t have the genes to be Marketing Service Providers (whatever that means), and there are still a lot of clients who just want to deal with a printer. Yet, to survive as a print provider and achieve respectable profits (9-12%), a company must develop a unique niche or continue to drive costs out of their operation. Let’s talk about costs.
Firms have production equipment which make ready in minutes and runs at blazing speeds, but we still have a horse and buggy paperwork process. Pre-manufacturing workflow (sales, estimating, order entry, production management) is an area which has cost reduction opportunities. The least amount of touch points we have in our workflow, the higher the probability to reduce variable operating costs and speed up the process. To quote Peter Drucker, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
Yet, this is not a simple solution. It requires extremely IT centric thinking and a different mindset regarding capital expenditures, along with re-thinking how we go about selling work. The company who embarks on this journey will need to totally re-work the traditional sales/customer service model. It has to look different. More thoughts to come.
A recent GreensheetBiz newsletter was focused on packaging with articles focused on equipment and market opportunities, and it got me thinking. Since this is the only part of the printing industry which will not face major attrition over the next five to ten years, the focus on this sector makes sense. Yet, success is not as simple as perform the right market research or buy the right equipment, which is the focus of articles by Sid Chadwick and Aaron Kiel.
Over the past several years, the packaging industry’s profit margins have been eroding because of competition and it’s a market which tends to be dominated by very large players and companies who understand the intricacies of packaging. It’s not just about printing.
For most general commercial printers, the path to success in packaging is strewn with major obstacles many are not equipped to handle. And I’m not talking about equipment or market research. It’s commitment to process control and documentation. Playing in the packaging world also requires a different mindset in sales and customer service and more importantly pricing. I don’t disagree with Sid that there are opportunities, but it’s not as easy as “build it and they will come,” which too often is the mindset of many in the general commercial printing world.
Row 11A at 37,000 feet. It’s a beautiful spring day and I’m off to another meeting. And thinking. Forty-one years ago when I first started working for a living, the world was very similar, yet very different. You could travel across the U.S. in hours on a jet aircraft – but the experience was a bit different; the ability to fax a document existed but it took multi-thousand dollar equipment – and six minutes per page; we were still fascinated with autos, but gasoline was about $0.30 a gallon and there were no such vehicles as SUVs with built in GPS and Bluetooth. Closest vehicle to a SUV was a VW Transporter – and you were more than likely a Hippie and had “turned-on and dropped-out.” What’s really changed is telecommunications – or should I say mobile communications?
The ability to instantly communicate with anyone at anytime and anywhere in the world is amazing when you think about it. We are seeing a communication revolution which is similar to what happened when Johann Guttenberg developed print in Europe. The tsunami of ideas which engulfed the world over the following 150 years was due to an invention which easily allowed ideas to flow to anyone who wanted them. With today’s mobile media, we are just scratching the surface of possibilities. Some are fascinating. Some are down right scary. Yet, it is truly remarkable how many of us “boomers” have easily made the transition to this new world. I don’t think I want to go back to the ‘70s, but I’m really curious as to what communication will be like in about 10-15 years. And yes, print will still be around. Beam me up Scotty.
Well the first round is over regarding the Affordable Health Care Act. To the surprise of many (including the author), there is now a possibility that the whole Act could be overturned. And I might have to agree with some of the justices on this one. There are so many moving parts to the Act that hang off of each other that by deleting mandated health insurance the Act doesn’t create the necessary funding. Yet, I’m a bit concerned about the legal precedence that action would create, which could really open a can of worms for many other existing and future laws/regulations.
Personally, I didn’t have a problem with mandated insurance – that’s the only way we can make a “capitalistic” health system work. It’s similar to the German and Canadian model. The issue I had with the Affordable Health Care Act is the first word – affordable. The public was being told (implied) that health care costs would go down with this law. That’s just crazy talk. I don’t think that a universal health care plan is a bad idea, but I don’t think AHCA was the right approach.
Well, that might all be moot in a few months. I just can’t wait!