Wed, Apr

Were you at the Fespa UK Association’s ‘The Future of Print i4.0’ at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry yesterday? If so, how did it impact your strategic thinking? If not, why not - as Peter Kiddell stresses in the new issue of Image Reports (http://bit.ly/2REIMbp), “the more we talk to the real exponents of i4.0 the clearer it becomes that it is something that can’t be ignored”. Yet many large-format PSPs are - our 2018 Widthwise survey flagged that up. So what’s going on?

It’s interesting that ESMA has decided to offer a course - in English - for companies wanting to learn about theoretical and practical aspects of digital printing technology for industrial applications. The course, which costs 2,150 Euro, will run 5-8 November at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Engineering and Automation (IPA) in Stuttgart, and is targeted at those who: want to obtain an overview of digital printing technologies - especially piezo inkjet - to make educated decisions to what extent inkjet could be integrated in their production process; want to obtain basic inkjet know-how in order to plan the introduction of inkjet into their organisation and facilitate their investment decisions; and those that have already installed inkjet equipment but are still at the very beginning of the learning process. These are the people all the kit manufacturers want to reach, so if ESMA gets a good turn-out it will have one heck of a valuable contact list!

A survey of more than 2,000 UK adults, commissioned by Event marketing platform Evvnt, has revealed that business-related events are attended by 67m Brits each year, and that attendees typically spend an average of £57 to cover tickets, travel and spending costs. Mmmm – seems cheap to me. How does that measure up to your experience?

Right, it’s October, so like every year at this time, I start pulling together my long-list of nominations for the annual Image Reports’ Angel Awards – recognising products launched over the year that the editorial team feels will make real impact on the wide-format digital inkjet sector. Want to point me in the direction of a piece of kit, service, solution, consumable that you deem worthy? Just drop me a line and I’ll investigate!

My old school motto was ‘Per Unitatem Virtus’ - Strength Through Unity. With Carol Swift having now officially taken over at the helm of Fespa UK Association I have to ask – what do you want from the organisation? The UK/Ireland wide-format digital print sector gets somewhat overlooked when it comes to print industry’ reports etc. so is the answer for more PSPs – and suppliers etc – to come together and present a stronger front?

“It’s not about print capability but supply chain management that is stymying printed blind market development.” That’s what the commercial manager of The Blind Shop told me when I was talking to him at 100% Design. We all know that finding new customers - especially in new vertical markets - is one of the toughest jobs, but in this instance he’d actually gone to a PSP that purported to be a ‘specialist’ blinds printer, only to be left dangling over questions about working with them on a bespoke job. Perhaps the PSP in question didn’t think it worth bothering about. But the result is that this man can’t be bothered now to look into more bespoke and personalised print jobs. It makes me wonder if we’re a tad too complacent…..

100% Design opened yesterday and runs until Saturday at Olympia in London. Exhibiting from the print space is Colourgen, which is putting 3D wallpaper possibilities from the Dimense printer in front of visitors. But that's it from our industry. Shame. The shows attracts loads of creatives and innovative interiors and surfaces/materials companies - as exhibitors and visitors - people you could do well to rub shoulders with and products that might just pique your interest. Just a thought in case your diary is looking a bit lightweight!

…to win big contracts. But you no doubt you have to be bold. In the next issue of Image Reports I talk to a PSP that has put in place a ‘communications team’ to deal with specific top tier targets in two vertical markets where it sees real growth opportunity. It’s a brave move - it’s not a cheap option - but the expectation is for long-term pay-off. Are you playing a long game too?

Heck, Iain Robertson is not pulling any punches. Is print really in crisis in Scotland? I certainly know of PSPs that are feeling some of the effects he has outlined in the statement issued today. What’s your take? I’d like to hear.

Where do we stand now on ecommerce as a sector? Has it become common practice among large-format PSPs to provide an online ordering and pre-payment system? Obviously not all jobs/clients lend themselves to this, but is it something you find you now have to have in place for ‘bread-and-butter’ work due to customer expectation – and perhaps its usefulness in terms of cashflow?

As media suppliers focus more on getting their materials in front of end specifiers, are you finding your customers come to you with better knowledge of what they want and of what substrates are required to achieve their desired effects?

Ok, how many of you use alternative inks to those supplied/recommended by your printer manufacturer/supplier? Do you feel strongly one way or another about their use and their impact upon your own operations. Please drop me a line or give me a ring if you’re happy to talk. Cheers.

Do you ask environmental questions of your kit suppliers? When I last asked manufacturers what questions they got asked by PSPs about the ‘green’ credentials of their machines I was largely told that nobody really cares about that sort of thing – that it’s just about capability and end price. Is that still so or is the greening of the whole supply chain, and concern from your own customers, prompting you to ask more questions – not just in terms of machine efficiency etc., but on stuff like where parts are sourced, manufacturing energy consumption, delivery distance…? We should be, shouldn’t we?

Where do you meet ‘creatives’? I mean those you wouldn’t ordinarily come across in your day-to-day activities but who might well bring you work over the long-term if they only knew what whacky and wonderful things large-format digital print could deliver. And when you do meet them, how do you describe what your business does? Nice to see that Oasis Graphics and SMP Group are listed under ‘experiential’ at the upcoming Retail Design Expo for instance – not just POS/POP. I’m happy to help push the envelope and make the right noises in the right places, so help me help you by telling me where you think the best networking is to be had!

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