It was probably one of the industry’s best attended top management conferences in years – if not decades. Over 400 attended last week’s Vision3 Summit which was the first time Printing Industries of America, National Association of Print Leadership (NAPL), and The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies (NPES) all joined together. Although the venue (Palm Springs) always has one asking “who is really going to attend,” the programs were all very well attended and chock-full of information which is not readily found in many association programs or industry magazines.
The conference had a nice blend of “experts” such as economist Dr. Lowell Catlett from New Mexico State University and ITR’s economist Alan Beaulieu along with a variety of industry speakers covering transformation, marketing, and strategic issues. What were the take-aways? There were many, but here are mine:
MSPs — The concept of becoming a marketing-services-provider may not be “the” solution. Yes, there are some successes, but the needle is moving very slowly (because customers are not readily adopting). Also, if a company is going to take that route – they MUST be channel agnostic. Thus, if the customer’s marketing solution is not using print, that must be the solution. Many firms who have made an investment in print technology may find this path un-acceptable
Economy – 2011 is going to be an OK year, but don’t expect a lot of change from 2010. 2012 and 2013 will be much better BUT inflation is going to change the way we think and behave over the next 2-3 years. Globalization will continue to have an impact on our economy and industry as the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) will continue to grow at rates much faster than the U.S. This will provide challenges as well as opportunities.
Digital vs. Litho – Yes, the change is happening, but the experts don’t see a “tipping point” for decades, but expect the total number of pages printed by the industry to continue declining.
Strategic Planning – More than ever before the need to strategic plan is crucial. Yes, being an MSP is not necessarily “the solution,” but neither is staying the course. Digital print technology will continue to grow and provide solutions for many companies. Providing customers with solutions, not “just printing,” becomes important for firms to grow in our industry. More than in the past, the rising economic tide will NOT raise all boats. There will be winners and losers and that will be dictated by markets served by the company and its ability to focus on the customers’ marketing/print requirements.
Workforce – Over the next five years, as we start adding employees, the type of individuals hired will be very different than in the past. Individuals must be flexible and have an ability to learn. The concept of someone being a “pressman” or “cutter operator” for decades will not represent the employee of the future. Our industry will also have to compete with many other industries for top talent.
Of utmost importance, this conference provided the ability to share ideas with one’s peers and industry thought leaders which was unparalleled. Not only were there many of the owners/CEOs from many of the top commercial printing firms (of all sizes), but the top executives from KBA, Kodak, Heidelberg, Komori, HP, FUJI Film, Unisource, EFI, and many other industry suppliers were represented.
The Conference was rated as very successful by many of the attendees I spoke with – printers and suppliers, as well as the sponsoring association’s executives — Ralph Nappi (NPES), Joe Truncale (NAPL), and Mike Makin (PIA). Next year’s conference will be held February 19-22 at Marco Island, Florida. It may well be worth the investment.