Forum 2018 Pre-Conference Session to Examine Where & How to Begin Buying Process
Capital ideas—without them, innovation stagnates. With the willingness to spend to earn, diversification enters the equation. Competitive posture is enhanced. New capabilities are realized. Additional customers are brought into the fold. The right tools—printing and converting equipment—positioned strategically, bridge expectations with execution. When resources are married to technology, good things happen—customers are satisfied; profits are maximized.
Determining the exact path to get from where you are as a package printer and converter to where you want to and need to be can prove time consuming, challenging, even somewhat frustrating. Giving up gets you nowhere; therefore, it’s not an option. In planning a capital expenditure budget, printers and converters should realize a barrage of information will be coming their way. As intimidating as the pile of product specs and testimonials may look, resolving to digest it and act in accordance with your objectives will bring rewards.
Navigating the seas of constant change, continuous improvement, shorter runs, multiple SKUs, variable information, complex/high-quality graphics, digital integration and multiprocess print in deciding the right buy at the right moment is an intricate, highly detailed process. Take comfort in knowing you are not the first or only one charting such seas. Advice is readily available and good counsel should be appreciated.
With that in mind, FLEXO Magazine put a single question to the Forum 2018 pre-conference planning team: “When it comes to purchasing equipment, where do I begin in the new market scenario?” That question is the basis for a two-hour session on Sunday, May 6 at 9:30 a.m. at Flexographic Technical Association’s Forum 2018. Planning and executing capital expenditures is one component of Forum’s central theme, “Bringing It All Together: Synchronizing Processes, People & Potential.”
Buying tips will come from printers, press manufacturers and a prepress software developer. Digested down, here is a sampling of what they have to say.
Improve, Automate, Execute
Doug Bartlett, Director of Graphics, Multi-Color Corp
Today, customers are looking to printers for innovation, not just printing expertise! Innovation in products, processes and materials is expected. Business is earned through bringing value. It is difficult to win profitable business by simply participating in a bidding process, or just being a “print” supplier.
Printers need to set themselves apart. They need to be equipped to handle unique applications with state-of-the-art tools that provide an advantage over the competition and add new capability to the market. Even with the right tools, expectations are high and execution from start to finish becomes critically important to delivery beyond those expectations, maintaining relationships and maximizing profit. This takes knowledge, resources and technology.
It is essential to look at all aspects of the process, starting with prepress systems through converting. Everything needs to work in concert. All areas are constantly changing and improving. Staying informed about these technologies, communicating internally about these advances and capabilities, using this knowledge, and collaborating to meet customer objectives will create the foundation for useful innovation and value-add to the business.
Investing in and applying technologies, ideas and innovations is difficult and complex. It is important to keep the big picture in mind and develop strategies to incrementally improve, automate and execute. Our industry is changing and we are seeing more complex printing, interactive packaging expectations, shorter runs and variable information/graphics. To meet these changes, we need to invest in equipment, systems and the knowledge to develop profitable solutions.
Integrate & Interface
Mike Rottenborn, CEO, Hybrid Software Inc
Purchasing the right printing and converting equipment is a critical decision for any business. With so much new technology available for printing labels and packaging, making this decision is harder than ever. In the past, software was often a minor part of that decision. This is changing: Software is an important part of the ROI for any capital equipment. It should be considered carefully as part of the purchase.
For many printers, buying equipment is more satisfying than buying software: they can see that new press running and imagine the capabilities it will bring to their company. Buying prepress software is less tactile: It’s often harder to evaluate the capabilities of new software, or to envision how it can be deployed to generate a return on a printer’s investment.
Therefore, it’s important to be crystal clear about the reasons behind your prepress software investment. What problems are you trying to solve? Will the software be used to add new capabilities to your business, like expanded gamut (EG) printing or shrink sleeves; or to replace older systems or processes that are not keeping up with the increasing pace of change? Will it be installed as a component of a larger system, perhaps with a new press, or will it stand alone? Defining business goals and success criteria before selecting software greatly improves the chances for having a successful and rewarding installation.
Remember that the total cost of ownership goes far beyond the purchase price of the software. Training operators on new software involves costs for the trainer, as well as the wages paid to the people being trained. Software maintenance is also a recurring cost and can be an important hedge against obsolescence. This can be reduced by selecting software that is built on open industry standards like native PDF and JDF. Finally, interfacing new software to your existing systems—MIS, e-commerce and production—has a cost, but offers the potential for savings through efficiency and automation.
New software must complement new equipment. For maximum benefit, it should also be a good fit with the existing hardware, software, personnel and business practices of the company.