NAPCO Research Report:
Production Print Strategies to Excel in 2022

In 2022, production digital printing will continue to play a vital role in print service providers’ efforts to improve productivity, increase profitability, strengthen print’s value, and enhance customer relationships.

Setting a course to profitability in 2022 and beyond starts with identifying those strategies and tactics best aligned with the forces shaping competition and customer expectations.

A special NAPCO Research report titled Production Digital Printing 2022: Planning for the Year Ahead identifies the top trends that will influence the competitive landscape in the year ahead and principal actions print service providers should consider and include in planning efforts.

The report, based on ongoing industry surveys with market monitoring by NAPCO Research and the PRINTING United Alliance, highlights nine key trends across a variety of operational areas, including management, marketing, workflow, technology, and workforce.

Solid Digital Print Opportunities Lie Ahead

According to the report, the outlook for print demand looks strong, and 2022 will offer opportunities for expanding production digital printing volumes. While many organizations initially reduced their use of print in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, usage has returned. Commercial printers participating in PRINTING United Alliance/NAPCO Research State of the Industry research surveys are reporting increases in print sales, quote activity, and work on hand.

The outlook for print demand looks strong, and 2022 will offer opportunities for expanding production digital printing volumes.

The Offset to Digital Print Conversion Will Accelerate

A key finding of the report is that increasing customer demands for personalization, shorter runs, and shorter cycle times combined with various digital press options—addressing format sizes, speeds, and ink types—will drive digital press investment and print volume.

While many operations have digital presses, their role will continue to expand to meet shifting customer needs. More choices in digital presses are expanding the range of products they can produce and markets they can serve.

Automating with Workflow to Meet Customer Demands

Efficient work processes are an important contributor to any printing business’s success. Increasing customer demands for faster turnaround, shorter run lengths, and just-in-time ordering are making automation even more critical to optimizing equipment investments and enabling more profitable revenue streams.

Every manual touch point adds labor cost to a project as well as the possibility of human error.

According to NAPCO Research surveys, printers reporting annual double-digit sales growth incorporate higher levels of automation than printers with less annual sales growth.

Increasing customer demands for faster turnaround, shorter run lengths, and just-in-time ordering are making automation even more critical.

Automation Enhances Customer Experiences

Communication buyers are under enormous pressure to reduce costs and maximize the return on their communication investments. This presents an opportunity for print providers to offer customers more automated tools and processes to better access, manage, create, and control print production and spending.

At the same time, customers expect smooth and transparent experiences with their print providers—from job quotes to submission to delivery—that automation can facilitate. Making it easier for print customers to place orders, submit jobs, monitor work status, control branding, and better manage spending eases their anxiety and enhances their experience in working with a provider. Print service providers that invest in enhancing customers’ overall service experience can build stronger client relationships that are less likely to be threatened by price competition.

Building strong customer relationships goes beyond delivering high-quality print products and includes the client’s entire experience in working with an organization. Automation can improve customer experiences, as its use can improve quality, turnaround speed, delivery, and color consistency and provide real-time job status visibility/connectivity—all key customer demands.

Addressing Persistent Labor Challenges

Attracting and hiring staff is an ongoing challenge for print service providers, and that challenge will intensify as longtime workers begin to retire.

A 2021 PRINTING United Alliance survey of 230 commercial printers found that 69 percent of respondents are having trouble hiring staff and 41 percent are expecting labor shortages to be a significant challenge this year.

Digital printing can ease hiring challenges, as newer digital presses, like the varioPRINT iX inkjet color digital press, require fewer operators and are easier to operate than offset presses. The level of training required for digital press operators is less than for offset presses. For most participants (59%) in a recent Printing Impressions survey on workforce status, the hardest position to fill was offset press operator. Operators of toner, inkjet, and wide-format digital devices, for example, ranked lower on the list of the most difficult positions to fill.

The report highlights key approaches for employee hiring and retention.

Attracting and hiring staff is an ongoing challenge for print service providers that will intensify.

Opportunities Are Expanding, but Margin for Error Is Shrinking

The challenge for print service providers is not a lack of opportunity but choosing the best opportunities to pursue. The right choices contribute to sustainable competitive advantages. The wrong choices deplete resources, fragment operations, and undermine core capabilities.

Carefully analyzing how well an option fits an organization’s expertise, strengths, and circumstances will increase its odds for success. It is important to select options that fit and pass on those that don’t—no matter how much buzz they are creating in the marketplace.

Assessment and business modeling tools can help guide and analyze decisions. Three effective options, highlighted in the report, are the Cagan Opportunity Assessment, Lean Canvas, and the Product Opportunity Evaluation Matrix (POEM).

Final Thought

While industry trends and customer expectations are ever-changing, basing business decisions and investments on known market realities and customer demands is a sound strategy. The year ahead presents many opportunities for print service providers to thrive and prosper, but preparation will be key. Download the full report to guide future business decisions and investments.

Did you know?

The best way to gauge the business impact of Canon’s innovative production inkjet technology is hearing directly from customers.