COVID-19 and its consequences continue to impede our vision of what is to come. However, what we can see indicates continued growth for commercial printing in 2022, as well as material and labor shortages that created problems in 2021. The key to excellence, according to the commercial printers we surveyed: capital investment that boosts productivity, automation, product diversification, and readiness for a post-world the pandemic.
Every quarter, PRINTING United Alliance and NAPCO Research survey the state of the printing industry. Nearly 150 companies who consider commercial printing as their core business participated in our latest survey. They include both general commercial printers and product specialists (direct mail, books, point of purchase, etc.), which range in annual sales from less than $500,000 to more than $400 million, and are located throughout the United States and Canada.
Addressing the shortage of supply and employment
Throughout 2021, our research group has reported crippling supply shortages, delivery delays, and labor shortages stretching “from the front office to the back curb and everyone in between.” Shortages restrict production and greatly increase operating costs. Comments like these capture conditions on the ground:
“Truck lines are now worse than any other time I can remember. You can’t get any delivery time commitment whatsoever!”
“The cost of doing business — the cost of goods sold and people — crosses the line.”
“If I can’t find people to work, I can’t take on more jobs.”
There are no quick fixes for any of this. We have shut down the US economy to limit the spread of COVID-19 and have enacted exceptionally expansionary monetary and fiscal policies to prevent a recession from turning into a recession. Now, we’re learning that it’s easier to shut down the economy than to reopen it, and we’re re-learning that the economy has a supply side as well as a demand side.
When supply cannot keep up with demand due to supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, regulatory policy, tax policy or anything else that dampens production, inflation is the result. If the defect is temporary, the inflation is temporary; If it continues, then inflation continues. What worries us is that inflation has already gained a foothold in the economy by raising energy prices, which touch every business and household, and “fixed” prices, such as rents and wages, that will persist even as supply chains recover.
Persistent and embedded inflation eventually slows the economy by eroding real purchasing power, consumer spending, and consumer confidence. It is impossible to predict the exact timing of the slowdown, but we expect it to be noticeable by the second half of 2022.
As the economy slows, commercial printing slows. Our initial forecast is for overall print industry sales (all sources) to grow 8.0% to 9.0% during the first half of 2022, 2.5% to 3.5% during the second half, and 5.2% to 6.2% for the full year. Expect similar results for commercial printing.
Our industry research also looked at where commercial printers would like to invest in the next year, diversification trends, and where they see growth potential.
We asked about the sought-after investments because, with so much uncertainty, many of those surveyed had yet to finalize their investment plans for 2022. More than 20 investments, ranging from direct inkjet to clothing to 3D printing, made the most sought-after list. The most frequent are in Figure 1. Ensuring that efficiency and speed gained in the press room are not lost due to bottlenecks in binding/finishing, and expanding commercial inkjet capabilities, is a top priority.
Other approaches include e-commerce to boost virtual sales, mail to deepen relationships with customers, workflow software and digital infrastructure to reduce steps and touches, and print optimization (digital optimization, paint, varnish, foil, etc.) to create a fantastic customer value factor.
Increased productivity, cited at 79.9%, is by far the main investment objective. This will be especially important in 2022 because, as customers have generally accepted price increases this year, resistance will intensify next year as persistent inflation threatens their margins. Cost inflation that is not matched by productivity gains must be accommodated. Expansion into new markets by 48.5% and automation by 44.8%. Less than one in five will invest to compete more effectively on price. (See Figure 2.)
Approximately 79.0% of our research group has diversified beyond commercial printing. Sixty percent added graphics and sign production, 26.1% packaging printing/transformation, 14.4% apparel decoration, and 9.6% functional printing. As Figure 3 shows, they see growth potential in products as diverse as folding cartons, wall/building graphics, direct mail, and banners/flags.
During our research, I asked commercial printers how best to prepare for the post-COVID-19 world. Experts agree that three steps will be necessary.
future of sales
Commercial printers will build remote/virtual sales capabilities. Stephen Bookbinder, author of “Three Ways COVID-19 Is Accelerating the Future of Sales” and “How to Craft a Compelling Social Selling Person: 5 Key Considerations,” writes that COVID-19 has driven B2B sales forces to virtual/remote selling with “unsolicited speed and scale.” preceded by.” He cites statistics like these to prove there will be no turning back: “Two thirds of B2B decision makers surveyed believe that [remote] The model is as effective, if not more so than the previous model,” and “B2B companies expect digital interactions to be two to three times more effective for their customers than traditional sales interactions.” “
Then Bookbinder shows you how to build virtual/remote sales capabilities step-by-step. Key steps include teaching the sales team to master the full digital sales process, helping each salesperson develop an effective social selling persona, basing sales decisions on data, and creating a rigorous virtual sales operating model.
They are also preparing for the data age. In “6 Ways Small Businesses Can Become More Data-Driven,” Larry Alton quotes Tom O’Neill, Chief Cloud Officer at Sisense, who describes data-driven businesses as maximizing the “potential benefits of their data” by developing “effective data-to-data processes” Actions, returning actions to data. He says it reduces risk by “developing rigorous decision-making processes and promoting evidence-based cultures”. They treat data as a business asset, recognizing its value in revealing intelligence, such as how customer preferences have changed, what marketing campaigns appear most promising, and whether capital investment is meeting expectations.
Data and digitization
Alston and Tony Secina, author of “11 Tips for Becoming a Truly Data-Driven Company,” detail key steps that include aligning data strategy with business goals, teaching employees the importance of making decisions based on data, and encouraging quick and honest reporting of results, even when they are disappointing For the hopes.
The last strategy is the digital transformation of the business. Agnes Teh Stubbs, author of “5 Keys to a Successful Digital Transformation Process,” defines digital transformation as “finding ways to integrate digital technologies into your operations in order to help your business provide products and services more efficiently.” Examples include creating a chat capability on your website and introducing a program to evaluate the efficiency of the key production process.
Stubbs stresses that successful digitization involves much more than buying technology. Other steps include a “360 degree” assessment of existing processes and technologies; Determine which parts of the work will benefit most from digitization, and how digitizing one part will affect other parts; link digitization to business goals; and accurately define the desired results. As digitization will change the way employees work, it is essential that you explain in clear language the ‘why of digitization’ and the ‘pain points and challenges that the technology aims to solve’.
Legendary business guru Peter Drucker said, “In business, one does not start with the answers. One begins by asking, ‘What are the questions?’ And what do we do to understand how the preferences and behavior of customers, employees, and other stakeholders will change in the wake of COVID-19? The right answers can To make a huge difference in the next year and beyond.