I believe that this year will prove to be positive for the both the print and print management sector as I see a number of beneficial trends emerging. We also look forward to 2013 seeing the evolution of print management in South Africa with the biggest outtake being a marked improvement in satisfying clients printing needs as efficiently as possible.
- Clients demand greater efficiencies
The print industry is in transition with clients demanding - and able to achieve - far greater efficiencies. Print companies that respond well to this in the way that they operate and align with clients' needs will do well in 2013.
At the moment the print industry in South Africa is polarized in terms of scale. Scale, not just in terms of size, but also from a technical point of view. What we have noted is that the big printers are renewing their machinery on an ongoing basis because they are able to invest, which really drives mechanical efficiencies. However, one of the problems with this is that if you are not removing the old machinery at the same time, you end up with big operating expenses and major over capacity in the industry. This can be avoided, and we've seen printers enjoying successful reinvestment through doing away with the former machinery and therefore not increasing their capacity to such an extent that it harms their business and the industry.
This successful reinvestment coupled with process efficiencies will mean even better results for clients who are demanding more in every business sector. By streamlining the process to ensure highly efficient timing, application of materials, waste reduction, planning, cost and staff utilization, clients get the best result and the print industry benefits.
On the other end of the spectrum, smaller printers who are adaptable and willing to specialize for clients are starting to do well. For example, we work with a small start-up printer in Cape Town who - while using older machinery - has modified its offering and has effectively met an ongoing and very specific print requirement for Old Mutual.
- Better understanding
Print management will become better understood this year with more companies considering the utilization of print management and its benefits.
In the print management space itself, the South African business community is really starting to see the benefits of the service and I think 2013 will be a year where many people in procurement and management seriously start considering using print management specialists. The reason I say this is that while print management is a very well established sector internationally, it has only been around for seven or so years in South Africa. However in the last three years, I've really seen growth in client understanding of the industry as the bigger players have started to enjoy the value and return achieved in their businesses.
What you will also start seeing now is companies that have less print spend also starting to adopt the offering and the view that even as mid-range print spenders, there is a huge amount of benefit for them.
- A rise in efficiency based purchase decisions
Print managers are proficient at identifying suppliers who will not only provide a competitive cost but who are the most apt for the specific job. While relationships are of course important, we will see an evolution of relationship based production to purchasing decisions based on a holistic approach looking at relationships as well as overall adeptness at meeting all the requirements on each particular print job.
- A move away from generalists to specialists in the field
As mentioned, there is a growing understanding that specialist knowledge in print management is worthwhile, whether it be in house or through a print manager. Most companies buy print through marketing people or a procurement department. However these are professions that don't necessarily have specialist print knowledge. While a procurement person has good knowledge of procurement practices, they may not necessarily have specialist print knowledge. Thus the trend is a move away from print being purchased by people without specialist print understanding to greater specialisation in print purchasing.
We are entering a new phase in the print industry this year where efficiency and realistic cost savings make for a better industry model. Companies have a great opportunity in 2013 to utilize the print management offering, while printers have a great opportunity to capitalize on meeting clients tailored requirements.