Mon, Oct

Just before Christmas the Industry Mole was the victim of a burglary. His Cornish bolthole was burgled and a few items stolen. Nothing too valuable and insurers soon paid out.

However, arriving at the house two days before Christmas there was an immediate need to replace items, especially the TV which is central to Mole family life. With limited choice at the Penzance branch of Curry’s we quickly picked out the latest Samsung Smart TV and took it home.

As I write, it’s the first few days of 2015 and I’m desperately trying to kick-start myself into the New Year. It’s funny, I was full of enthusiasm a few days ago but yesterday the thought of having to set the alarm clock seemed to suck the life out of me! By lunchtime on my first day back my brain was already full to bursting and I had a long list of ‘To-Do’s’ written down. I think it’s going to be an action packed 2015!!

Employment seems to be a hot news topic at the moment with the debate about foreign workers, minimum wage and the headline grabbing ‘living wage’ that politicians keep talking about.

The UK large-format digital print industry has now hit 20 years of existence, during which time I have personally witnessed enough skullduggery to last a lifetime. It still goes on now, with salesmen overpromising on a daily basis and business owners too concerned about earning money today to worry about the longer-term impact of the quality of product and service that they are providing. 

I was in conversation a few days ago with a chap that I’ve known for many years. We were talking about work and he said that he had recently changed his business strategy and was turning away orders from his largest customers (I don’t believe he was being fattist!) as profit margins were invisible, they took months to pay and always wanted the delivery within the hour. 

“Building Earth’s most consumer centric company.” It’s a powerful mission statement by Amazon and one that, except for the odd snafu over delivery, has been reflected in by the service I get when I buy from them (too often).

As we all know, when it comes to our print business reliability is the key. With a plethora of poorly built digital print equipment available, usually at an attractive price, it is always a leap into the unknown for those that decide to invest in one. Sometime you are lucky and the machine can prove to be a good purchase that serves your business well. At other times the old motto, “Buy cheap, buy twice” springs to mind! 

I slept like a baby at Fespa. I mention this only because, for businessmen of a certain age, it is a point of professional pride to insist, loudly as they breakfast with colleagues, that they NEVER sleep in hotels. Presumably we’re supposed to believe they spent their wakeful hours devising a dynamic new strategy. They probably regard the concept of a work/life balance as the subversive brainchild of the department they invariably call Human Remains.

I was driving back from a demo of what looked like a great new textile printer last week and thinking about how well it would fit into my business. I’d be the first company in the UK to purchase this particular one and would have a real jump on the competition. Print quality was superb, it seemed to print onto all the fabrics on offer and the inks dried and fused instantly. It was really wide, printed quickly and had in-line slitters too, so less time post print in what can be the time-consuming task of finishing fabrics.

It’s scary how quickly a business can go from profit to loss if you’re not careful and are reminded we all need to chase profitable business and not turnover at all times.

It seems that every time I read a news report at the moment that there is a link to Twitter, Instagram or some other social media app. Celebrities, politicians, even the New York Stock Exchange are using it to either vent their anger, make an announcement or to publicise a product.

A great quote that I read recently was “Anything that can go digital will go digital” which I think is a good way of looking at how technology will continue to change the way we all live and work in the future. The latest digital print machines being launched will continue to erode the market share of the traditional ‘analogue’ technology of web, litho and screen printing and open up new markets and applications at the same time.

If, like the Mole, you have at the heart of your business a stream of large-format printers chugging away, then you will probably have, from time to time, given plenty of thought, like me, as to how you can earn more from them. When things are a bit quiet and machines are sat idle, the “If I drop my prices really low, I’ll print more, sell more and make more” argument enters your head. 

After writing a few months ago about all of the great looking printers and production kit on show at Fespa 2013, stories have started to filter through about people’s purchases, including my own. But, a friend of mine made the decision to upgrade his two printers to the latest all singing, all dancing version. He was promised that improvements had been made in all areas and it was now faster, printing at a higher quality and onto a wider range of materials.


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