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The Age of Web-to-Workflow

Posted Monday, October 29, 2018 by Ryan McAbee, Director, Production Workflow, Keypoint Intelligence.

Print providers have been steadily investing in technologies and processes that enable customers to order and track jobs online. One key technology is web-to-workflow software. Web-to-workflow is a key enabler to a “lights out” manufacturing workflow. Submitting print work through an online ordering interface is the first step to automating workflow and reducing manual rekeying of critical order details.

Although web-to-workflow is similar to web-to-print, it encompasses the additional processes needed to produce and fulfill a customer’s online order which expands beyond the capabilities of traditional web-to-print solutions. For example, preflighting, color management, imposition, and job ticketing are just a few of the common steps in between the customer placing an order online and the print service provider printing that order.

Adoption Trends and Benefits

Web-to-workflow solutions are integral to production automation and can encompass all steps in the printing process including design, file submission, job tracking, soft proofing, online payment, online shipping, and inventory management.

The complexity and scope of a web-to-workflow solution can vary greatly but there is some commonality:

  • Product specification: This includes attributes such as color, size, substrate, binding, and finishing requirements.
  • Order requirements: This includes quantity, delivery date, customer information, and delivery information.
  • File submission into the workflow(s): The ability to upload a file which will be sent into the appropriate workflow.
  • Proofing: An electronic proof of the job should be provided and approved; a photo realistic proof is preferred.
  • Pricing: A price is calculated and presented for the job.
  • Payment: Payment should be enabled within the web-to-workflow solution.
  • Job status tracking: The status of the job is reported, automatically or by production staff, which can further notify print shop staff as well as the customer of the job’s progress.

Web-to-workflow offers many benefits and print service providers expect the volume of work submitted via web-based systems to increase. In addition, customers prefer the simplicity and always-accessible nature of online ordering. Web-to-workflow also aids print shops in managing jobs through automation. Savvy print service providers maximize their technology investments in order to reduce production costs, strengthen customer relationships, and widen the profitability window for production volumes. Industry leaders pursue new technology and use open standards to ensure that:

  • Internal processes function with rare interruptions and few errors
  • Little data is re-keyed
  • Units and functional areas collaborate
  • The organization is streamlined and cost-effective
  • The organization interacts with its stakeholders by sharing processes across the supply chain
  • The organization provides its customers and stakeholders integrated end-to-end solutions
  • Procurement processes are coordinated with suppliers, and the suppliers’ order fulfillment processes
  • Common data repositories eliminate duplication of effort, time, and cost, while providing higher levels of service
  • The web is used as a common business tool
  • Workflows are automated, where possible, from submission through printing

The Bottom Line

Success in today’s market is less defined by what a PSP can print and instead by how quickly and accurately the order can make its way to the printer and into the customer’s hands. Automation through software is the new intellectual property and competitive differentiator. One way to increase that competitive advantage is by channeling incoming orders from online storefronts through W2P into automated print production workflows. Enter the age of web-to-workflow.

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Workforce Development

Posted Monday, October 15, 2018 by Brian Regan.

alt textThe printing industry has a serious talent issue. The problem is multifaceted and will require a combination of ideas, actions, groups and dedication to solve. The time is overdue to take workforce development seriously. Lip service is no longer cutting it.

We all know why we are here. Baby boomers retiring, school programs dwindling and for many years now, it is the reality to many that print is dying. And today we hear increasingly that students are not motivated to seek careers in manufacturing. They see it as less flexible, lower paying and easily automated without long-term job security. “It’s not the future, it’s the past.” This inhibits new workers from considering the industry as they select their career path. That is a very challenging message to overcome.

The reality is we need quality workers. Old approaches are failing and our industry’s workers average ages increase. Employers can no longer rely on taking workers from each other and they most certainly can no longer suppress wages. The talent pool is not sufficient for those tactics to yield fruit any longer. Even with consolidation, plant closures and fluctuations in the economy, (which often leaves skilled workers and companies that need them in geographically different areas) the issue will remain. What the industry needs is a concerted effort both public and private at workforce development.

We must look at a variety of potential solutions, identify the ones that will work for each of our organizations and implement them. We need to expand our talent ecosystem.

Take heart. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, it discussed the changes employers were undergoing to adapt to the new reality. The majority of employers were willing to drop the experience requirements for their open positions. The catch phrase for this process is called “Down Skilling” This is a dramatic shift from the days of the great recession that saw employers asking for very highly skilled workers and getting them. Point being, our industry is not unique in its need. And don’t let a key factor go by missed. These firms will take people from any industry if they have the right competencies and transferable skills.

Recently a large digital printer closed its plant. They held a career fair that my company attended. There were 5 printers, 3 staffing firms and 3 non-printers. They were there to take the print skilled workers and transition them to their industry. Looking back at all the other non-print career fairs we have attended in no instance was a printer or print group seen. Why are we passive when others are not?

We need to take action. What skills do we need now and how do we train for the future. It makes sense to develop a series of competency models and assessment tools to identify people that will fit these roles. Once identified these competency models will assist us in marketing to and recruiting those with the raw skills and talents we need. This is how we develop robust pipelines for our industry.

Partner with our associations that are focused on these issues and help fund them. And unfortunately just paying membership dues is not going to fix the issues. Recruitment in today’s market is extraordinarily expensive. Top companies thoroughly understand and appreciate the best talent continues to be a key success factor for their businesses. They are very aggressive in this area. In a recent Semper survey we asked firms how much they spent monthly on recruiting. Smaller firms reported between $500 and $1000 a month with larger firms well over $1000. That is per month. Imagine the obstacles any one group has in trying to solve an industry wide problem. This survey did not take into consideration onboarding, assessing and training the found talent. It’s a big dollar item.

We will also need to become more aggressive as an industry attracting young people to our school and training programs. Reaching out to schools, guidance counselors and parents to change the discussion from dying industry to an evolving tech industry. Connecting with students with a powerful positive pro-print message. Once the young talent is identified we support them via scholarships and programs into our schools and plants for education and training. The remaining schools with applicable programs are dwindling and are in need of all of our varying support from local and national private and public entities.

Key Elements

  • Going to career fairs or hosting ones to be visible and communicate a viable message that inspires and shows the value of the industry and how each person can impact it.
  • Understanding the competitive landscape as it pertains to wages, career growth, benefits and opportunities. With understanding comes targeted solutions.
  • Developing training programs within companies. Identifying and empowering the trainers and programs. Set the programs up for success by rewarding the trainers and cross training employees.
  • Work with the various associations / consultants to demystify apprenticeship programs and unlocking state and federal money. For example in July 2018 the U. S. Department of Labor release data on $150 million of additional funds for apprenticeship programs. In the list of areas they site as viable for the support is advanced manufacturing. Print fits squarely in that realm.

The first step is to recognize there is a problem. Then work and support each other, our associations and each other in building a solution or series of solutions that target the key areas of concern. Each day we remain disjointed in this area is a day lost. This industry is an adapting, technologically focused and evolving. We have a lot to offer the next generation. We can do this!

About Semper International.

Semper International, LLC., a Workforce Solutions company, with over 25 years in staffing the Print Industry with Skilled Print Industrial / Light Industrial, Marketing, Creative, Administrative & Clerical Talent. Semper serves 3 main vertical markets;

- Consulting: Talent Attraction, Employee Retention & Training Programs

- Staffing Solutions: Payrolling, Staff Augmentation, Flex Staffing, Contractors, Direct Hire, Talent Acquisition, Strategic Partnerships & Talent Management

- Career Fair Services: On-Site, Campus, Regional / National

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The Role of Promotion in Driving Digital Printing Sales

Posted Monday, October 15, 2018 by Ryan McAbee, Director, Production Workflow, Keypoint Intelligence.

Investing in digital printing devices doesn’t guarantee print demand. The key to building demand lies in promotion. Marketing communications, or promotion, is what propels the marketing and sales process for digital printing; it catapults demand.

Promoting digital printing is of prime importance because customers and prospects may not be aware of the benefits and value it can deliver. Promotion is a vital component of marketing digital printing as it can prove your ability to handle and produce digitally print jobs that yield results.

Attracting new digital printing customers or expanding share of business with current clients starts with creating awareness and educating customers on its benefits and your competency. Awareness of competency can lead to consideration as a potential supplier. If a print service provider is considered in more sales cycles, its hit rate (or close rate) for new business should increase.

Self-promotion campaigns, marketing materials, and educational efforts that demonstrate digital printing capabilities will open more doors for sales reps. These efforts also help shift the sales conversation away from a price-per-piece discussion by focusing on new opportunities and the value that digital printing can deliver.

Where Should You Start? Identify the Key Value Messages

  • Short-Run, Fast, Affordable Production. Digital printing accommodates demands for shorter runs and faster turnaround times at competitive prices. This isn’t a new value message, but it remains important. According to a recent Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends survey of enterprises with 500+ employees, the top criteria used to select a print provider included the ability to meet deadlines and competitive pricing—both of which are benefits of digital printing.
  • Digital Printing is More than Four-Color. Advancements in digital printing technology, substrate availability, and finishing capabilities bring great flexibility to end customers in terms of the jobs they can produce and the use of special effects. Unique imaging capabilities lift the status of printed materials from commodity, price-sensitive offerings to higher value products. InfoTrends believes that the market value for enhanced digital printing in the U.S. and Western Europe is about $917 million. This value is expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of 14%, reaching $1.3 billion by 2020.
  • Expanded Substrate Capabilities Extend Application Options. Digital print engines can support an increasing array of substrates, including heavier stocks and synthetic materials. They can also support high-value substrates like rugged synthetics; pressure-sensitive stocks; photo media; and pre-scored, ready-to-print dimensional stock. This brings great flexibility to print buyers in terms of the jobs they can produce. The right substrate can create the opportunity for higher value (margin) print in today’s market.
  • Personalizing One-to-One Communications. Personalization enables marketers to deliver the right content, to the right person, in the preferred channel, at the right time. According to InfoTrends’ survey of enterprise marketers, 41% of printed communications include some type of personalized information or images targeting the recipient. Personalization was primarily pursued to improve results—communications with personalization delivered a 38% higher response rate than communications that did not. Personalization is primed for mainstream use, and 55% of surveyed enterprises expect to increase their use of it over the next two years. Print providers can help drive the use of personalization by creating personalized promotions and measuring/sharing the results of those efforts.
  • Markets for Customized Print Products are Expanding. Digital printing’s ability to customize and affordably produce lower quantities on an ever-expanding range of substrates enables customers to create new products for specific audiences or individuals. One of the more significant trends that has emerged in recent years is the influence of technology on homemade manufacturing. The combination of the Internet with technological innovations that enable individuals to easily make and sell products has resulted in the rise of the “Maker Movement.” Makers are found in fields ranging from food to crafts to technology; they are a legion of entrepreneurs starting their own businesses to create and sell self-made products.

Now is the time for you to demonstrate the value that digital printing services can deliver to your customers. Promotional efforts build awareness, showcase value, and demonstrate your ability to deliver innovative digital printing applications. Print providers that use their digital printing capabilities to demonstrate the possibilities can build stronger customer bonds and position their organizations as trusted and valued partners.

Getting your message across requires involves continually showing customers what is possible while also positioning your organization as a provider of innovative applications. Now more than ever, customers are looking for a partner—not a manufacturer—that can help them accomplish their organizational goals. Demonstrating how digital printing can help your customers maximize their communication budget dollars is a strategy that can enable you to out-finesse the competition.

  • Sponsored by Canon Solutions America

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Premier Press Announces Acquisition of JTW

Posted Friday, October 12, 2018 by Chris Feryn.

Premier Press, a leading west coast creative production company, today announced the acquisition of JTW Partners, LLC (formerly Ivey Performance Marketing) in a deal that takes effect November 1, 2018. With more than four decades in business, both companies have a long history of providing design and creative production services for major retail brands like Nike, adidas and T-Mobile.

Premier President Chris Feryn describes the acquisition as an opportunity to provide clients of both companies with a broader range of services. “We’re taking advantage of the synergies between our two companies to expand our capacity and capabilities,” Feryn said. “For our clients, this means we will be able to produce more work, faster. And they will have access to more specialized services, all under one roof.”

JTW Partners’ employee talent and equipment brings new design and expanded production capabilities to Premier Press, including:

  • Photography studio with commercial photographers and stylists
  • Production artists with prototyping and post-production retouching expertise
  • Dye sublimation for premium fabric printing

Feryn says Premier will bring many of JTW’s employees on board, including client services representatives as well as designers and other key resources. “It’s just a really great fit. They’re coming to a good home, and we’re going to be able to grow from there,” Feryn said, adding that the transition is expected to be complete by the end of 2018. Previously, JTW Partners was known as Ivey Performance Marketing, a long-time Portland Portland retail marketing company , which became a subsidiary of Wright Business Graphics in September 2017.

About Premier Press Premier Press has been conquering chaos, executing ideas, and helping clients achieve greatness for more than 40 years. Our privately held company in Portland, Oregon, has led the way investing in our people, new technology, and the environment. We’re a carbon neutral company, 100 percent wind powered, and SGP certified. We’re passionate about quality, customer service, and taking your project to the next level. Learn more at

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Posted Wednesday, October 10, 2018 by Bob Lindgren, The Management Guys.

Article by PPI Trusted Partner

Achieving success as an outside sales rep requires an unusual ability to listen to customers, learn their needs but then accept “no” as the answer but keep on trying. It’s generally acknowledged that some form of commission on sales is the best way to incentive these folks to keep on trying. The simplest form of such an approach is a percentage of sales, usually around 8% or 9%.

Because printer’s estimating/pricing systems produce quotes that include not only the actual expenditures to produce the job (production wages, materials, outside services, etc.) but also allocations of all the overhead costs of the business (plant, machinery, front office, etc.) they usually identify amounts charged to the customer in excess of this as “margin” and think of it as “profit” in the same sense as profit for the business as a whole at the end of the month. Because of this, some firms have keyed commissions on margin (25% to 50% of the margin) or a sliding scale based on gross sales but varying it by margin (0% on negative margin, 5% on a 5% margin, 10% on a 10% margin, 15% on a 20% margin). The motivation for these approaches is the belief that “margin” equals “profit” for the business as a whole.

However, the reality is that profit for the business as a whole is reached when the “contribution” from the jobs produced for the month covers the overhead for the month. The typical job involves an actual expenditure (paper, outside services, factory wages) of about 60% of the invoice price and thus produces a 40% contribution to overhead. If a job is sold for $10,000 about $6,000 will be spent to produce it and $4,000 will be left to cover the overhead. If the overhead is $75,000 per month, the firm is now $4,000 closer to profit. A moment’s thought makes it clear that if the job had sold for $9,000, the firm would still be $3,000 closer to profit than if the order had been lost to a competitor. Similarly, if the job had been sold for $11,000, the firm would be $5,000 closer to profit. Simply put, any job that is sold to produce a positive contribution makes the firm better off. If the price is increased by $1 dollar the firm is $1 better off.

This reality demonstrates the problem with commission systems that are keyed on margin. They discourage the sales reps from selling jobs that would contribute contribution dollars while at the same time they give a disproportionate reward to jobs that contribute at a higher level as the contribution dollars are not more valuable as they get larger. Also, since really high contribution jobs are scarce, the sales reps focus on them may starve the firm for overall contribution dollars and make achieving profit at the end of the month more difficult.A far better approach would be to pay the sales reps a percentage of contribution. However, this would sensitize their compensation to variations in plant performance beyond their control. As a practical matter, a percentage of value added is preferable as it achieves the same result and is easier to understand. “Value added” is the difference between the invoice to the customer and the actual cost of paper and outside purchases.

If the firm has decided to make a change in its system, implementation must be carefully planned if disruption of the sales force is to be avoided. First, the rates used should not effect a global change in the rep’s compensation. If they continue to sell the same jobs for the same prices, their pay will not change. What the firm is trying to do is to get them to sell more jobs for as much as the customers will pay with the goal of fully utilizing plant capacity which will maximize the firm’s profits. For example, if the reps are now being paid 8% of gross, the value-added equivalent would probably be about 12%. This can and should be tested by looking back at a year’s sales data and identifying gross sales and value added. This is relatively easy as paper and outside services are usually identified.

Then the new system must be explained to the sales reps not as an attempt to cut their pay but to make both them and the firm better off by selling more work at the most that the customers will pay. It is also wise to implement the change with a transition period of at least six months where the commissions will be computed under both the old and new systems and the rep will receive the higher of the two. Reps who grasp the opportunity, will sell more jobs and make more money. Those who can’t will eventually leave.

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