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Talking about #futureproofing print production in the UK market with Workflowz

Ultimate TechnoGraphics - Talking about #futureproofing print production in the UK market with Workflowz
20.04.2021

How long has Workflowz been in the printing industry in the UK?

Workflowz was formed specifically to work within the print and graphic arts industries, which we have been doing for over 11 years, but our expertise goes way beyond that, having supplied prepress and workflow solutions for two over decades. In addition, with more than 15 years in production prior to this, we provide extra value to our customers by carefully selecting best of breed products to represent based on our experience at the coal face. This gives us even more insight into the value of the solution and how it can benefit our customer’s business.

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

Mass adoption of more digital printing and remote de-centralised processing for global campaigns has created new opportunities and challenges. The immediacy of getting a file through to output and the reduction in time frame of handling the pre press tasks, has lead to a need in more automation. Although it has also introduced the risk of more error as repro technicians aren’t handling physical documents and therefore not visually checking the files, therefore more checks and balances need to be put in place to ensure final images are credible and up to standard.

What impacted the printing industry in the UK the most in the past decade?

Speed and quality of devices has improved, as well as greater innovation in the last decade – not just in terms of print, but in inks, substrates and finishing. Financial considerations and constraints are constantly putting pressure of devaluing print, with printers fighting to get orders with price, rather than competing on value and quality. Economies of scale has also lead to the growth of massive print entities, both in the UK and globally.

How have printers in the UK adapted to these transformations?

Some have been acquired or merged, others have concentrated on core business and not succumbed to the pressures to change direction. Some, with the Luddites approach, have sustained their position, but this has no longevity without adapting and by keeping your head in the sand you become oblivious to the world moving on without you. Adopting new processes has allowed for more lights-out production and allows workflow to do the heavy lifting and repetitive tasks, printing has become less reliant on humans to do the work – technology is just the enabler, personnel still need to be involved for their creative input. Many printers have adjusted with the adoption of web2print, not due to the increase in products available, but that fact that the internet is now a more suitable backbone for these platforms.

‘’Adopting new processes has allowed for more lights-out production and allows workflow to do the heavy lifting and repetitive tasks, printing has become less reliant on humans to do the work’’

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

There were some early adopters who didn’t make a quick change because they were learning and failing, making changes as they go but even though they started first, they didn’t have the smoothest path to success. The second generation of adopters could learn from the mistakes of the first wave of innovators and reduce their time to market, but without the pain points of being the pioneer. Eventually you only end up being a commodity at that level, unless you add a further level of innovation on top, which many have now done.

What are the main challenges lived by printers in the UK today?

Print is only one component of a campaign, some printers have had to diversify their service offering to include other touch points for a holistic approach – data merge, personalisation, cross media etc. Print is still seen as an external commodity and clients seem to be less loyal, just looking for price or sourcing through print management organisations, where there is anonymity about who is doing the production. There have been lots of off-shore print producers, which may decrease due to Brexit or economical changes, so hopefully UK based printers will see an increase in their local production. Recently, the demise globally in large catalogue production, is a huge challenge, which has only luckily affected a few suppliers, but has affected the population en mass.

What successful printers in the UK have in common?

A) Workflowz as a partner ; ) B) Forward thinking management – innovation, passion, drive. C) Good at being early adopters of new technologies, but with higher standards than global equivalents.

How has the Digital Transformation affected the industry in the UK?

It was recognised that automation could help with standardised production. Quickly some early adopters and visionaries realised this and gave them a window to monetise the extra capacity in their business and open up new revenue streams.

‘’It was recognised that automation could help with standardised production. Quickly some early adopters and visionaries realised this and gave them a window to monetise the extra capacity in their business and open up new revenue streams.’’

What are the benefits of digital printing according to you?

Speed. Printing in a quantity of one, ie personalisation. Also, new opportunities and allowing the migration of shorter run products to move from conventional to digital production. Digital can be more standardised with localised production; using local distribution to speed up processes and time to market.

Why would an offset printer in the UK move to digital printing?

It could add value to a company with extra revenue sources from large format printing, retail point of sale, exhibition wrapping. COVID has increased the need for such things, which many companies have successfully adopted.

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

They may not have the right clients to provoke making the changes, or they may have a legacy team which have not adopted the befits of digital print. Others may be restricted by physical location and not have the space to run get two printers in parallel. There is still over-capacity in the market and some may be offering digital printing services, but outsourcing to a trade partner.

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

In one word ‘Agility’, the UK market has adapted which is fantastic. Some changes will remain, as companies have adopted new processes and found new ways to do things, which have provided them with another revenue stream they may not have previously thought of. The pandemic has polarised the print market with certain sectors such as retail and packaging doing really well, but others suffering because of the reduction in demand for more traditional printing, and with people working remotely and being on furlough, companies have not been reliant on previously large teams. If they had a web2print platform in place, companies were more prepared for the pandemic, whilst others have had to make these changes as they went along. This is always a challenge and conflict of the differences between strategic and reactive business planning.

‘’The pandemic has polarised the print market with certain sectors such as retail and packaging doing really well, but others suffering because of the reduction in demand for more traditional printing.’’

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

To be more cautious and do more due diligence. There is still an appetite to enhance service, improve quality and gain efficiencies and that will help any company with their bottom line.

Why should printer in the UK automate their workflow (prepress and postpress)?

Automating repetitive and recursive tasks has multiple benefits. Firstly it’s consistent, reduces errors and saves time. These benefits can be in file preparation, pre press tasks, flight checking and imposing files as well as utilising that same information post press, setting up guillotines and finishing lines. This reduces the double keying in of information, saving time and keeping things consistent.

‘’Automating repetitive and recursive tasks has multiple benefits. [It] reduces errors and saves time. These benefits can be in file preparation, pre press tasks, flight checking and imposing files as well.’’

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

Keep an open mind to innovation and research, network and be adaptable. Be prepared to put the time in and work on proof-of-concepts and invest the time to subsequently review and improve – as its rare anyone gets things right the first tie of trying. Look at strategic partnerships where an alliance may be better than the perceived threat of a competitor. Also, many are looking beyond our shores – there is a global market and we should embrace the opportunities a post-Brexit UK could give us.

For more information about future-proofing print business, and how Ultimate Impostrip® and Ultimate Bindery® can help, contact Ultimate TechnoGraphics representative in the UK,  Workflowz Ltd.

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