What are dealers seeing in the production print world, and what advice do they have? Throughout this issue you’ll find a pattern, as several trends emerge as prominent factors in the field. We asked some experts to expand on those trends, and following you’ll read their insights on what’s shaping the production print market these days.

What is changing the most in the production print sector?

Ted McLeod: Production print is alive and well, and the shift from conventional to digital continues. As a result, there are changes happening all the time as manufacturers release new digital technologies to help needs of the end users.  There have been in-line technologies that have helped automate tasks that were previously very time consuming. These have been very well received by the market.

Josh Santos: Clients and prospects are more open to add or upgrade to production equipment to meet their business and marketing needs in-house. Clients and prospects in today’s society are more open to the diversity that production print solutions bring with modern technology. 

What technologies excite you the most in the production print sector?

John Hastings: Inkjet solutions continue to improve and become more approachable from a financial perspective for the end consumers. Toner still dominates the short-run digital market as they still need dedicated operators.

McLeod: This is an easy one for me as the manufacturers we represent are launching or have launched new models. Canon USA is soon to be releasing their new B3+ inkjet press, the varioPRINT iX1700, which has GFC, and our customers are extremely excited. Ricoh continues to refresh their color lineup and is soon to be releasing a BW updated series, these engines have all run very well.

Will automation help alleviate some of the labor shortages in production print operations? What other roles does automation have? 

Hastings: Automation is helping companies that are struggling to find skilled labor, reduce overhead and easily hire and train less skilled works to keep production and quality high. Automation helps speed to market for time sensitive bids on large print contracts.

McLeod: Absolutely, the manufacturers are aware of the issues companies are having with staffing and are putting out technologies to make it easier to get more production out of the products with less intervention. You will see at times many digital presses being run by one or very few operators. 

Automation plays a huge role in the operator’s life as they can now rely on the printers to self-correct issues in many cases when the unit is configured correctly. These automated tasks can put hours back in the operator’s day/week that leads to a more productive shop. This will ultimately put money in the owner’s pockets, which makes everyone happy.

What are some of the biggest challenges when adding production print to your lineup? 

Hastings: The largest challenge is the initial investment in equipment and staff to support the sale and support/service of the solution. You can’t pretend in this space. You must have technical expertise on the sales and service side of the equation.

McLeod: Choose the right partner and you won’t have challenges.  We have been lucky with our partnerships (knock on wood).

Santos: For us, preparation from a team of well-rounded and experienced individuals who are committed to the success of the program is where we see the biggest challenge when adding production print to a lineup. For instance, we have dedicated production print specialists, production analysts and certified trained service personnel throughout the organization, all backed by our leadership. Creating a team like this can make all the difference in the success of your initiatives.

What is your best piece of advice you would give to a new production print equipment salesperson? 

Hastings: Work hard to learn the business of the customers you are selling to, learn their challenges and how to solve them with equipment and solutions you provide. Building trust and credibility is paramount to your success!

McLeod: Know your technology. This is a business that you can’t bluff your way through.  The customers are educated and are looking for a partner that can bring them value with the solutions you represent. Be responsive, be on time and build trust. There is no substitute for hard work. The sales cycle is not quick, so you need to be organized and have many opportunities working at all times. 

Santos: Our advice is to learn as much as possible about the technical aspects of the production print solutions your business provides. Be that subject matter expert for the people you support and understand the WHY around print, and what makes it so important in today’s marketplace.

What are a few niches in production print where you are seeing a lot of growth? 

Hastings: Packaging. Whether for food or labels, commercial printers continue to invest in high margin packaging solutions. 

Santos: We are seeing a lot of growth in on-demand printing. We are mostly seeing this in areas and industries such as religious organizations, education, marketing firms, medical and manufacturing.

What role does security have in production print sales?

Hastings: Large volume mailing and financial printing work. Soc 2 Type 2 and HITRUST certifications are prevalent.  

Santos: Security plays a pivotal role in today’s production print sales, which requires having intelligent conversations with key stakeholders around securing production print environments. You have a more concerned and aware buyer in today’s market around data and equipment security, so being fully educated on the product’s capabilities will benefit the seller.

Are you seeing the use of AI solutions in production print? If so, how/which use cases? 

Hastings: Variable data. It is helping bridge the gap between high end designers and equipment operators. 

McLeod: Yes, we are seeing AI as part of the future in the production print space. One of the latest examples of this is a part of a web-to-print solution we resell. AI is in the core product offering, which allows end users the ability to design/build out a project with ease. It is quite remarkable when you think back to how some of this would have taken days to complete in the past.