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Preparing for 2013

Though the economy is slowly recovering, parent organizations continue to focus on reducing overhead. In-plants must remain vigilant for ways to decrease the cost of manufacturing, measure improvements and respond to customers' changing needs.

December 2012 By Howie Fenton
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The state of the in-plant printing market is healthier than it has been in the last few years—not because of any projected growth in in-plants, but because in-plant managers are reporting that they are under slightly less scrutiny. Don't let that lull you into a false sense of security, however. It does not mean you can relax. We are still suffering through a maddeningly slow recovery that will likely continue into next year and result in keeping you—or putting you back—under a microscope.

In this article we'll look at industry trends, including what we saw at October's Graph Expo 2012: the unrelenting drive to reduce costs, the importance of keeping your customers happy, and a renewed focus from industry leaders on strategic planning.

As many others have reported, this year's Graph Expo was noticeably different than previous shows. Most obvious to anyone who walked the floor was that it was quieter because fewer offset press manufacturers brought equipment. On the other hand, there was an increase in the amount of digital devices, such as the toner-based presses, inkjet presses and large-format inkjet devices.

In addition, there was a general consensus of opinion that large-­format printing was a growth opportunity. It was discussed by several manufacturers of both roll-fed and flatbed devices. In one presentation I attended, I heard a manufacturer say that if you can bill for just three hours of work a day, you could make more than $100,000 a month in profits.

We're not sure if this is true; our general rule of thumb is that it takes longer or requires a higher utilization rate to make profit. But that's based on digital printing, which is priced more competitively. And remember, just because there is market research that shows growth potential for a specific product, does not mean everyone will succeed with it. (See sidebar.)

In-plant Recognition

Not only did Graph Expo give in-plants more opportunities to meet and talk, but in-plants had a much more visible presence at the show. There was a dedicated networking hub for them on the show floor, and The Graphic Arts Show Co. (GASC) organized educational seminars focused on in-plant issues. There were at least six seminars designed for in-plants. I had the chance to participate in the IPMA lunch-and-learn event, which had about 125 people in attendance, and offered a presentation for GASC that drew about 80 people.

About the Author
NAPL Senior Consultant Howard Fenton works with commercial and in-plant printers to measure and benchmark operational and financial metrics against industry leaders and coach them on how to join the leadership ranks. For more information, call (800) 642-6275, extension 6328, or e-mail:


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