My upcoming retirement is prompting me to reflect on what’s transpired during my career in the graphic arts industry. Considering I started in the print industry nearly forty years ago, I’ve witnessed some major transformations and have been an active participant in forging new futures. Here are some key takeaways on my time well spent in the changing world of print finishing:
- Continued demand for the printed book. While certain media like newspapers and magazines have seen their readerships migrate online, research continues to reinforce that reading a printed book enhances the experience, independent of age or objective (e.g., education, enjoyment, etc.). As a Solutions Manager for Hardcover Systems, that’s reassuring news particularly since many predicted that tablets would become the medium of choice. Not so. Although they certainly provide a convenient complement, tablets will not supplant ink on paper any time soon.
- Advancements by digital print production. In addition to its unequalled efficiencies in short-run, book of one, and variable print production, digital print manufacturing has also redefined book inventory, particularly with regard to extending the lifecycle of best-sellers and backlists alike. Today, almost any book can be printed and made available to interested readers, while still providing profits for publishers.
What’s more, digital technology is now entering traditional offset markets, e.g., yearbooks. And, we’re beginning to see digitally-produced product co-existing with traditional manufacturing processes like sewing, not to mention growing use of customization and personalization in ultra-short run production.
- Industry consolidation. It’s somewhat disheartening to state the obvious, but, unfortunately, I don’t see an end in sight. Consolidations, acquisitions and mergers sooner or later impact all major industries, causing painful professional and personal disruption as lost jobs, relocations, and the demise of once stalwart brands often breed lingering uncertainty and doubt. However, in order to continue to compete, every industry must initiate business-building strategies that exploit the benefits and advantages found on new playing fields.
Muller Martini is no stranger to this mission, having made several acquisitions in the past five years in order to ensure that (1) our print finishing portfolio remains both innovative and relevant to ever-changing market demands, and (2) customer confidence continues in the years ahead.
To quote Greek philosopher Socrates who truly understood the significance of change all those thousands of years ago, “The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” As I retire, I can offer no better advice for print finishing and our great industry.