State of the industry during a pandemic
The Enfocus Virtual Safari 2020 opening session was an informative hour. The roundtable discussion included industry panelists: Wim Fransen, Managing Director, Enfocus; Richard Romano, Chief Editor, WhatTheyTh!nk; Timothy Freeman, President, Printing Industries Alliance; and Jos Steutelings, Managing Director of VIGC.
As it was the first session, the topic was that which is on everyone’s mind as much as we don’t really want it to be. What is the state of the industry? What are printers doing to survive? What can printers do to prepare for recovery? The panel was in relative agreement in regard to the perspective from each global region.
Where do we stand?
There are reports taken from surveys across the printing industry that indicate a 10% to 60% reduction in the number of jobs being processed. This number varies so wildly due to the fact that some sectors are being hit harder than others. There is no way to sugar coat it, but commercial print is taking a beating, with some respondents reporting to have only 10% of the orders they had in the recent past. Marketing print work is also down. On the bright side, labels and packaging have seen a slight upturn or have remained unaffected. This stands to reason given the supply chain involved in consumer goods.
Another positive note is that the printing industry has been classified as an essential business. This allows them to remain open during the lockdown mandates, although, it took some persuading of government officials for that to get sorted out. Printers are allowed to keep printing, but what are they doing in a comatose economy? Some are downsizing staff or reducing hours or at a minimum putting a hold on investing and hiring.
Lastly, there is a bit of a saving grace to the future of business health once a recovery begins. Last year, 2019, was a strong year for print. That provides some protective cushion for weathering this $4!t-storm of a 2020. The panel was unanimous in thinking that this mess will eventually come to an end and we can all get back to business. But, will it be business as usual or something different? Or will some throw in the towel? Either way, it's going to take some self-evaluation.
Lesson number one is to keep communicating. Don’t let your customers forget about you. That doesn’t mean to inundate them with sales pitches, but to let them know that you’ll be there when the smoke clears. Printers should continue to market and maintain an online presence. They should also do their best to hold onto cash and vital skilled staff.
Here’s what printers can do when they are not printing. They can work on improving internal processes. They can clean up and organize, both their job files and their shops. Printers are often putting off sorting out their MIS or customer information bases for lack of time. Now is a good time to tackle that. Now is also a very good time to research technology, equipment, get demos (via webinar) or look into solutions that business owners simply couldn’t cram into their schedules. This way, when the world comes back to life, they are poised to take action.
The Virtual Safari series has just begun, so there are plenty more sessions to come. So, register for as many as you like, there is no cost. Bookmark the Virtual Safari page so you can keep abreast of upcoming topics and have a reference when the session recordings become available.