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Seeking a competitive advantage drives an outsourcing trend in the printing industry

Innovation in printing has never been greater, with the growth of digital technology replacing much of the traditional processes, moving through low volume specialist markets to higher volumes, offering increased volume flexibility and special finishes are key.

Value-added solutions are realised by applying the latest technology to target very specific problems, allowing machinery to run at optimum capacity with the minimum of downtime. Printing equipment, alongside specialist machinery for inspection requirements, and feeding/separation systems are typical of the automated machines designed and built within the sector.

Despite the pandemic, the print market is expected to exhibit stable growth over the next 5 years, registering a CAGR of 2. 24% during the period 2021 – 2026, as stated in a recent Reportlinker forecast. This blog takes a deep dive into market trends and the opportunities for machinery builders in the sector to gain a competitive advantage.

Print is dead

It’s a term that’s been banded around for some time already and not an outlook that covid-19 accelerated, like it did so many other industry trends. Instead, the notion comes from the evolution of digital alternatives to publishing magazines, newspapers, and books to name but a few applications.

On the contrary, the steady demand for physical books is actually a factor driving the growth of the market. Although e-books and e-journals are gaining traction among consumers, paperback books and magazines are widely considered to provide a comfort and convenience that consumers still seek, which can’t be replicated by digital alternatives.

Growing advertising needs of businesses across the globe, along with extensive technological escalation are also representative of factors driving market growth. Commercial printers are more cost-effective and efficient for bulk printing and this fact contributes to the steady increases in demand. Furthermore, widespread use of high-quality printed and branded packaging materials acts as another growth-inducing factor for the market.

Print is not dead, it’s evolving. Green initiatives for example, are part of this evolution and a driver for a more sustainable industry. Eco-friendly paper, inks, coatings and chemicals, and machine builders that facilitate reducing and reusing waste, are projected to be adding another factor of growth over the coming years. It’s a competitive space showing no signs of slowing down.

The competitive landscape of print

The presence of many global and regional players fragments the commercial print market, and therefore faces challenges due to overcapacity and pricing pressures. An extremely competitive market in nature, machine builders are looking for ways to optimise designs, improve speed to market and sales lead times, and reduce fixed costs. Furthermore, with acquisitions, partnerships, and innovations in printers, rivalries continue to intensify.

PP Control & Automation (PP C&A) has worked within the industry as an outsourcing partner for decades, fine-tuning the outsourcing model to add significant added value. The value derived is represented by several benefits to outsourcing and ultimately satisfies demands from machine builders to find a competitive advantage.

Seeking a competitive advantage drives an outsourcing trend in the printing industry » 2019 11 PP Pneumatic Vacuum 3 » PP Control & Automation

Understanding the constraints of machinery and ways in which designs can be optimised is one of the critical first steps PP C&A evaluates and implements in any partnership. During such discussions, it can quickly become apparent that a more value-added design would be beneficial. For instance, allowing for a modular, configurable, and pre-wired solution could impact assembly efficiencies and become more cost and time effective during production.

With involvement in the design phase, PP C&A has developed print machinery with modular control systems, plug and play style connectivity, and standardised power distribution; all of which aid efficiencies and cut production and sales lead times significantly.

The rapid acceleration of growth in several geographies has also created a meaningful export opportunity for many UK manufacturers involved in the printing technology sectors. One such market is North America where demand is high and is forecast to continue to grow for many years to come. Understanding the legislative requirements associated with the relevant standards and compliance needs (such as CSA, UL and NFPA) are of vital importance and PP C&A, along with some of its strategic partners, can offer a comprehensive design, build and certification solution.

Win more, scale and compete

Print machinery builders will also be looking for ways in which they can go after new business safe in the knowledge that production can be ramped up quickly to cope with new demand. Again, outsourcing unlocks the capacity required to make this a reality.

Sales growth potential is very rarely a constraint, and all manufacturers strive to increase sales to increase revenues and profit growth. Increased sales means increased production accordingly. But maximum production capacity can easily occur without an outsourcing partner, and inevitably that would mean longer lead times. Outsourcing will mitigate the potential risks of increasing customer dissatisfaction and losing out on orders.

When operating in markets as competitive as the printing industry, generating revenues sooner and getting technology adopted faster, creates real competitive advantage. Gaining additional technical and manufacturing knowledge and skills, whilst ensuring awareness of the many technology platform options available through knowledge sharing are unique benefits to PP C&A’s outsourcing approach. Having a strategic outsourcing partner will deliver scalability from prototype through to production volumes.

Furthermore, printing machinery builders are looking to reduce fixed costs and improve cash flow as the challenge to navigate several variables associated with overall volumes, batch sizes and fluctuations in material costs are ever-present. An outsourced solution clearly creates a fixed cost of ownership. The capability and skill level needed to inherit, manage, and develop the associated supply chain is a key indicator that an outsourcing partner can unlock maximum benefits.

There are also the often-overlooked hidden costs of over-production, excess inventory, scrap and waste that are all eliminated when an outsourcing solution has been designed and implemented successfully.

An increasing number of OEMs are choosing strategic outsourcing as part of an overall production and supply chain strategy. Partnering with a strategic outsourcing arm is allowing machine builders in the printing market to delegate non-core activities and gain sought-after advantage in what is an extremely competitive space to play.

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