What a difference a couple of years make. Two years ago the mood in the printing industry was rather bleak and it was just a matter of time before ink on paper was no longer but a museum artifact. Not saying that these are the 90’s again, but I feel much better about the industry’s prospects. I actually have a few of my clients that went back to 2nd and 3rd shifts. Machines are going up on the floors again. Some jobs that seemingly were lost forever toChina and India are actually coming back to the States, and I know this for a fact.
From where I look at the industry (our company services printers and converters), I get a sense that it has only strengthened, and the work that commercial printers are now providing is yielding organically more value. Times of sub-par quality and lack of professionalism that were often giving the industry a bad name seem to have quelled.
Yes, digital printing has taken a bite out of main stream, but it has become clear that it can only carve a niche that still cannot compete in high output sectors with conventional sheetfed and web. Specialty coatings, difficult substrates, package printing and other odd situations still bestows conventional lithographing a right and purpose to exist, at least until the end of my lifetime. However, those in that segment that is being taken over by digital printing must learn to adapt very quickly or their demise is only a matter of a short time.
Printers have learned, but still have a bit to go, to do more with less. They have learned to invest in capital equipment more wisely. They seem to go back to bending backwards to keep a customer happy. One unfortunate trend of the high-tech competition is that it has dummied down the operators, requiring more of them to bring in outside help to resolve printing problems that were at one time normal currency for a pressman. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a few trade pressmen out there that know their stuff, but by and large it is no longer the rule. That may have to change in order to keep that level of quality distinct from digital.