The global response to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the world’s economy to contract significantly, and print shops have not been immune. Though print shop performance has improved since the depths of the pandemic in March, business is still down by nearly one third.
The economic depression caused by COVID-19 represents a real threat for print shops, especially given the tight margins found across the industry. But savvy print shops will use this time to their advantage, to contemplate recovery strategies that position shops for growth beyond their historical performance at the pandemic’s onset. How your shop reacts to the slowdown — and the plans you put into place now — will greatly influence the speed and strength of your business recovery.
There are three things that you can do now, while your print shop is in the midst of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, to position your business for a robust return.
Action 1: Audit Your Operations
When your print shop is running at full capacity, it’s hard to take the time to document your operations. All too often, when print providers take the time to complete a workflow audit, the findings reveal that how things actually work is markedly different from what was expected.
A good starting point for a workflow audit is the tasks that most print shops target for automation, ranging from order entry and web-to-print, all the way through the print process to finishing, shipping and invoicing. Creating a “day in the life” snapshot of your workflows will quickly uncover any disconnects or breakpoints within your print shop, and will give you a good sense of where your shop can gain efficiencies — and improve job profitability — by simply re-configuring your systems to work together as they should.
If completing a workflow audit sounds daunting, it doesn’t need to be: Avanti’s automation experts can help you complete a workflow evaluation, putting their years of experience to work for you.
Action 2: Evaluate Your Technology
It’s one thing to uncover the breakpoints within your workflows; fixing those disconnects is another matter entirely. This is a truth that one of our customers, Sull Graphics, learned first-hand when it completed its own workflow audit: “Our customers have always gotten our very best work, but producing it was much more costly and time-consuming than it needed to be,” said Keith Sullivan, co-founder and owner of Sull Graphics. “We were in danger of becoming mired in a process that couldn’t adapt to our growing and changing business.”
After identifying various disconnected processes through a workflow audit, Sull Graphics realized that it needed to unify its disparate platforms with a Print MIS. However, the installed MIS was outdated and couldn’t support the shop’s existing software and equipment. Even though Sull Graphics had everything it needed on paper, in reality, its Print MIS wasn’t equipped to achieve the goal of streamlined, automated workflows.
Before you dive headfirst into evaluating your technology, take some time to learn about Job Definition Format (JDF), and how JDF certification can help your print shop equipment and software talk to each other. If your Print MIS has JDF certification, you can likely solve any breakpoints with your existing solutions; if it doesn’t, it might be worthwhile to consider a Print MIS upgrade.
Remember: every manual handoff you eliminate saves valuable time for your staff and reduces the opportunity for errors to be introduced into each print job. As business picks up, your shop can produce more orders in less time and simultaneously improve the profitability of each job, which means better results for your bottom line. This was exactly what happened for Sull Graphics: it was able to increase business by more than 25 percent without adding new staff or equipment, thanks to streamlined workflows unified by the Avanti Slingshot Print MIS.
Action 3: Plan to Differentiate
A new research report authored by NAPCO Research and sponsored by Ricoh identifies ten key trends that will influence profitability for print shops in 2020. One of the trends the report identifies is the need for print shops to take a proactive approach to educating customers.
Print shop customers have more information available to them than ever before, and many are well-versed when it comes to pricing, features and capabilities. In other words, your team has to do more than just explain what your print shop offers and how much it costs; customers are looking to print professionals to demonstrate how to derive greater value from the print that’s purchased. They don’t want you to tell them what they already know; they want you to show them what they didn’t even know was possible.
For some print professionals, transitioning to consultative sales and delivering business advisory support isn’t too much of a stretch. For other sales representatives, though, this approach represents a seismic shift in how they think about and engage with their customers. While sales volumes are down, your business has a window to train (and re-train) your staff to dive deeper into your customer accounts to find and deliver greater value. As the demand for print emerges from its slump, your team will be well-equipped to exceed customer expectations and deliver new value that was previously undiscovered before the COVID-19 pandemic.
When you look at these three actions — actions designed to help your business make a strong COVID-19 recovery — the common thread is clear. This period of slowdown, while economically damaging and painful for all businesses, has provided a unique opportunity for print shops to examine operations, technologies and staff practices. Now is the time to implement new processes and tools, while your print shop has the time to work out any bugs with minimal disruption for your customers.If COVID-19 recovery is at the top of your to-do list, our latest Trend Sheet, A First Step to Recovery for the Printing Industry, can help you focus your efforts on the three top strategies to implement to accelerate your business as we emerge from this pandemic. These tactics, when customized for and applied to your print shop, can help you regain some control in your business and prepare for better, more profitable days ahead.