Positioning Your In-plant For The Future

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Thinking of your in-plant as only a print shop may not be the best survival tactic. As communications move beyond print, you must reposition your in-plant and expand its expertise.

WE LIVE in a multi-channel world where print is just one component of customer communications. As an in-plant printer in difficult economic times, you should consider how you can provide additional value to your organization. This may be through mailing and fulfillment services or a greater focus on applications that go into the mail stream—like direct mail, transaction and transpromo—using a personalized (1:1) communications strategy.

Where do in-plant operations land on this topic today? A recent InfoTrends/In-Plant Graphics survey of 521 printers in North America gives us valuable insight into what in-plant printers need to do to be successful in the future. The survey results allow us to see how in-plant operations compare to print-for-pay operations in terms of the equipment they have and the applications they serve.

Survey participants were asked which term best described their operation: “print-for-cost” (in-plant) or “print-for-pay.” Of the respondents, 198 came from in-plants and 323 came from print-for-pay businesses. Slightly more than half of the respondents came from companies with fewer than 50 employees.

All participants were asked about the breakdown of their total annual print volumes. In-plant printers reported 21.2 percent of their volume is attributable to direct mail. About 13.6 percent of that volume comes from transaction documents and 65.3 percent of their volume comes from other sources (e.g. brochures, letterhead, business cards and other office documents). Print-for-pay respondents had comparable volume splits, with slightly more volume aimed at direct mail and less toward transaction document printing.

Survey participants were asked about the services they offered. Figure 1 highlights a few of those services and how in-plants compared to print-for-pay facilities. A much higher percentage of in-plants have high-speed black-and-white printing capabilities, and yet the two environments have virtually the same level of digital color printing capabilities. In-plants fall behind print-for-pay establishments for other services, but not that far. The trend is clear that both environments are moving toward more personalized communications, involvement of direct marketing efforts and the handling of electronic assets.

Jim Hamilton is group director responsible for InfoTrends’ Production consulting services in the areas of production digital printing, wide-format signage, labels and packaging, functional and industrial printing, production workflow and variable data tools, document outsourcing, digital marketing and media, customer communications, and business development. Hamilton is responsible for conducting graphic arts market research, market forecasting, custom consulting projects, and creating editorial content for product and market analysis reports.

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