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A unique view on #Futureproofing in Australia

Ask the expert John Pestell

John Pestell is an experienced Information Technology Consultant specialised in the Print Industry. 
Managing his company; Pestell Consultancy, he became a Gold Certified printIQ Partner and an accredited implementation specialist. John Pestell has been in the industry for over 20 years. He started in the UK in 1999 and moved to Australia a few years later, in 2008.

Pestell Consultancy is an Australian print marketing company established since 2013specialised in MIS implementations & support, Infrastructure support and maintenance and simplifying IT for businesses to ensure value from investment and delivering the best solution for your needs.


How has the printing industry in Australia changed over the years according to you?

JP: The printing industry in Australia has changed due to equipment and IT technology innovation and with competing against overseas suppliers of print. The reality is that print companies must become more competitive. Many print buyers purchase print overseas because it is a cheaper solution, and they can get it delivered within shorter time frames now. The Quality from oversees printed products has also increased. The Australian print industry must adapt to compete with overseas suppliesthey have the knowledge of customers, so with a more efficient print process they can be more competitive. 


What has impacted the Australian printing industry the most in the past decade?

JP: Since this past decade, two evolving changes in the print market has impacted the industry most: for example, clients’ expectations for shorter turn arounds  and the reduction of staff. The consequence of this is that print companies are investing in technology to be able to survive, to be competitive, to do more work with less cost, less staff, less wages, less errors, it is all about efficiency.  

It is a catch 22, Australian print companies are streamlining thanks to technology, and they are doing more with less. But an impact of this has also been that skilled people in the print industry are no longer working in the print industry. This is the downside of technology, but in its turn it is driving the need for even more automation and efficiency.

“Technology is driving the need for even more automation and efficiency.”


Is the Australian market focusing on versatility, customization, and personalization?

JP: There are two types of printers in Australia: Printers whstick to specific and more complex products, and they do these products well. Others   print the commodity products such as business cards, letterheads, pull-out banners, etc. In these environments, printers are operating in a hybrid environment: digital, wide format and other printing devices which are required for that versatility.


How have printers in Australia adapted to all the mentioned transformations?

JP: Many printers adapted by keeping their businesses up to date with the latest equipment and technology. I have just completed a project for a company to automate the printing of all their eCommerce orders. Their customers are coming online, requesting an order of business cards for example, and it is fully lights-out. The system is pushing the print jobs straight into the press queue and there are no touchpoints at all. The first time anybody touches the job is when they click print on the digital press and they are taking the stack of paper out on the other end. That is why most of the companies are looking to go towards automation as much as possible. Automation results in reduced time, reduced costs, and errors. Errors are human, so whenever there is human input, there are human errors, as well. 


Were printers in Australia quick to adapt to these transformations, or struggled?

JP: Transformation is not easy; it requires time, effort and money. But it is well worth it in the end. 

“Some printers in Australia have adapted by investing in automation, workflows and software solutions. However, there are still companies yet to realise the benefits of these investments.” 

For companies who are already using automation it is great! They have the foundation and something to build on. But as for companies who need to have a larger automation project because there is no automation at all, especially during these tough Covid times, it is harder. These companies are too labor intensive; they have gotten too many people, too many touchpoints. These companies are aware that automation is not a simple thing to set up, it requires a lot of time, a lot of communication, and a lot of scoping. Moreover, their biggest issue is their businesses are a time-pull because of their manual processes and they must be able to get someone to commit and dedicate a lot of time to set up the automation which adds to the time issue. In conclusion, a lot of companies do recognize the benefits of automation and would like to do it, but they are just too busy in their day-to-day lives manually processing their jobs and are stuck between rock and a hard place. Maybe if they find this time, things will get better.


What are the main challenges lived by printers in Australia today

JP: As mentioned earlier, there are some companies that would like to automate so they can do with more with less people, but are still doing too many manual tasks, and now with COVID, it makes it worse because they have less staff on the ground due to restrictions. The people that are allowed in are business owners or the crucial people who must cover all the roles inside the print facility. Implementing automation is now even harder. On the other hand, even the ones who are enjoying automation today is only because they have taken the time to work with people like myself to get the automation working. I can build these flows, and I can set-up Ultimate software, I can set up Switch and everything in between, but without the input of the customer, especially when I cannot go onsite to see the actual set-up and how the flow works, it is much harder. It requires a big commitment from the customer as well, and that is where the main struggle is these days. 


What do successful printers in Australia have in common?

JP: Success has three main pillars and in Australia specifically I would sum this up as; (1) investing in knowledgeable staff, (2) having an efficient leadership and (3) being able to invest. In addition, to get a clear visionthe ability to see what the company might look like where they want to go and how much it will take them to change.


What are the benefits of digital printing according to you?

JP: That is easy to answer:  

“Automation possibilities. It’s about being able to quote and produce digital products through a fully automation MIS/Workflow solution.” 

Digital is much more cost-effective for lower quantities, has a better time-to-produce and a much faster turnaround time. Offset will never go away; you will always have the demand for it depending on the set (situation?) you are in. 


Why would an offset printer in Australia not move to digital printing?

JP: Some offset printers do not want to move to digital printing, because it does not suit their market nor their customer needs. For example, when printing long runs with minimal customization or personalization, offset printing is more suitable. Larger quantities demand require offset, so it depends on the market. Also, I do believe in working in hybrid mode because it gives you versatility and flexibility. In fact, my customers are a mix between offset and digital and wide format. 


How has the pandemic affected the industry in Australia? What change will remain in Australia after the pandemic is over?

JP: As with most companies, the demand has dropped, and remote working has become the “new norm. After the pandemic, I think for a while most will be in survival mode. Some companies will unfortunately not make it after the pandemic, others will struggle a bit more, but hopefully I would like to see everything gets back quickly and even with some growth. One of my customers in the U.K. says that because people had to put off ordering printing products for some time now, the return to a new normal means more orders for them, they are enjoying a very busy period. I hope the same happens for Australia.


What are the 2021 trends of the printing industry in Australia?

JP: There are two words which are booming worldwide in the printing industry in general and in Australia in specific:

Automation and Workflows”. 


What can printers in Australia do today to future-proof their business?

JP: Australian printers need to invest and keep up to date with new technologies to future-proof their business.


For more information about future-proofing print business, and how Ultimate Impostrip® and Ultimate Bindery® can help, contact Ultimate TechnoGraphics representative in Australia,  Pestell Consultancy. 

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