Wednesday October 21, 2020

#IPD20: Who wants to be a printer, anyway?

Why choose a career in print?

There are some very good reasons not to pursue a career in print.

Let me tell you: none of them are actually true. A quick rundown of most common misconceptions about the printing industry.

Is print a dirty industrial job?

Nope. Print quality is highly dependent on a clean environment. This is especially so in food and medical packaging.

Is printing old-fashioned?

Nope. The technological advances in printing and finishing equipment in combination with software innovations are as modern as any other industry.

Does printing require highly specialized, niche skills? 

Nope. Many of the processes are relatable and skills are translatable given that today’s print shops are advanced digital workflow environments.

Is the printing market very competitive and difficult to sustain?

Well... this is true, as are all manufacturing businesses that straddle business to business and business to customer models.

Lastly, the big one, is print dead?

Again, nope. The industry is evolving and, opening career channels to entrepreneurial freethinkers.

Clean, green printing

  • Print is environmentally responsible
  • Cleanliness and safety are a priority
  • Both digital and offset printing methods are green

Print has had a reputation for being basement-dwelling, dirty, odorous work. That is certainly no longer the case.

Offset print has moved away from petroleum-based ink in favor of petroleum-free inks and other environmentally safe chemicals. [Recycle Nation]

Manufacturers of printing equipment have made huge strides toward greener operation.

The exponential growth of digital print has contributed to a rapid, positive change in the industry’s reputation.

Print manufacturing equipment has become cleaner and safer. The consumables are stable, substrates are sustainable and recyclable. Print is clean and green.

The cutting edge of tech

  • Software-driven environment
  • Smart devices
  • AI implementation

Software innovations and hardware advancements have been truly amazing in the last decade, especially.

There are brilliant minds delivering communication, connectivity, control, and creativity solutions every day. The graphic arts and print manufacturing realm is no exception.

From web storefronts to business management to workflow design to device control to shipping implementation, software rules the roost. Output devices and finishing equipment are controlled by intelligent software. Manufacturers are designing equipment that can be preset dynamically by instruction sets based on each job. Automation applications control job flow, job quality, and job processes.

Artificial intelligence is used in estimating, planning, and job processing. Scripting skills fit snuggly into the cutting edge of print technology.

Of course you can do it

  • Administrative roles
  • Customer service
  • Web and software development
  • Workflow design

The craftsmanship that once was involved in print, the nature of the business, created a very narrow but specialized skillset. Nowadays, a print shop is just like many other manufacturing facilities.

Administrative business skills and customer service skills translate fairly well between industries. Familiarity with one method or another will make a person more valuable in that respect, but it isn’t career-defining.

Web development or storefront administration or information technology also apply equally across industries. Workflow development, that is designing automation for print, takes an understanding of the processes.

However, as technology dictates networking and device communication, the backbone is familiar as is the engineering concepts. Education and experience mean, “you can do it.”

Competition is a good thing

  • Drives innovation
  • Promotes education

Competition is healthy in any industry as long as the participants keep pushing themselves as much as they challenge their competitors.

The desire to grow a business, get more efficient, provide better service, and produce a better product creates an atmosphere for innovation to flourish.

Part of that innovation is education. Pioneers of process constantly improve themselves while they revolutionize their businesses. Print is no stranger to competition, nor innovation.

Living print

  • Marketing
  • Packaging
  • Signage / PoP
  • Apparel
  • Stand out from the digital noise

For the last time, print is not dead!

It is alive and well in marketing materials, product packaging, signage, point of purchase displays, and apparel.

Print is in every room in every house and in everyone’s life. Humans enjoy the tactile nature of a book. People keep postcards, newsprint advertisements, and brochures lying around. That beats an easily ignorable email or banner ad on a website. Digital marketing has inundated daily life to the point that it is white noise. Print stands out from the noise.

How about some facts?

As of 2020, 371,251 people are employed in the printing industry in the United States. [IBISWorld] The industry’s workforce is getting older on average leading to the need for young, fresh minds to lead it into the future. The need for print isn’t going away. The way it’s ordered, produced, and delivered will evolve with ideas from a new generation. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has seen historically steady and inclining wage rates in the printing industry. The average print shop employs more people now than five years ago. [USBLS]

So, who wants to be a printer anyway?

Any technologically savvy, entrepreneurial, success-driven, career-minded person who wants to be involved in an industry that has been a part of influencing human minds since 1440. That’s who. [Invention of the Printing Press]

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About Piet De Pauw

After obtaining a bachelor's degree in Graphic Arts, Piet started his career as a software support engineer at Esko. This immediately made him realize the vital importance of automation within an organisation.

Passionate about the web, he became an online marketer at Thomas More university college, gained a lot of digital marketing experience and re-joined Esko in the Enfocus business unit.

Today he's in charge of driving interest for the Enfocus automation solutions. As you're reading this after reading an entire article, he might think he succeeded...

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