Goodbye to the year that went by too fast

As I write the last editorial of 2017, I look back on the year which brought with it a fair share of trials and  tribulations, hopes and fears, challenges and nail biting moments. Will 2018 be the harbinger of good news? Maybe, maybe not.  And what could be playing on the minds of print suppliers?  Is it that printing become a price-driven commoditized market? Is price the only governing factor in decisions to allocate jobs?  One industry veteran said: “We seem to be moving to the lowest priced spectrum with contracts won on lowest prices not quality. Presses and clients are looking for cheap options in every sphere and quality is suffering. Still I am optimistic that this market correction will leave the best man standing in the end and

Perceptions play a part in consumption patterns

Businesses can and do fail, but this is not necessarily a reflection on the industry as a whole.  One or two printshops going out of business, does not automatically mean that print industry in the region is in decline.  Individual businesses are vulnerable to many situations outside its control - economic or political- which may force certain decisions like downsizing or closing shop, but this does not reflect on the resilience of the industry, and one should not be hasty in pronouncing its

Change is the constant , all else is variable

The dynamics of the printing industry is constantly changing,  more so evident in the last decade.
Technology has made such rapid strides that the young blood entering the industry would need to refer to a dictionary to understand moveable types, manual operations, dark rooms, screen films for colour separation. The junction at which we stand today, we are accustomed to books on demand, ebooks, end-to-end automation,   3D printed offices, the list is endless.  While disruptions seems to have

Poaching staff from rivals is a strict no-no

Sourcing talented and capable employees is a challenging, time-consuming and expensive affair. Training follows the sourcing process, which in turn calls for additional investment in time and money. So many HR managers take the most obvious shortcut - poach staff from rivals.  Their argument in favour is that the person is already trained for the job, he understands his responsibilities and is better equipped at handling difficult situations.
Headhunting members of staff from direct competitors

Job work printing could be a double edged sword

Encouraging trade printing or job-work printing can be a double-edged sword. 

While trade printes provide wholesale printing to print resellers who sell to the ultimate client, and may or may not own printing equipment (either second-hand or even third-hand machines), job work printing involves no press at all but renting time on someone else’s equipment out-of-hours.  The points in favour would be  additional sources of income for printshops, either in the form of rental income for their

Putting systems firmly in place to create freedom

As businesses - print or any other - go through their usual cycles of peaks and troughs, the one factor that should surface in varying situations is that systems and processes should be placed firmly in place.  Most print companies in UAE are owner driven, and therefore largely dependent on the ‘size’, experience  and decisions of one brain.  Establishing systems as a means of check and balance ensures auto-correction and a seamless flow of operations.  So, having marketing systems, inventory

Personalised packaging-more mainstream now

Printing has the ability to bring brands closer to customers and personalisation can ensure customer loyalty and repeat orders.

Personalisation and customisation is especially popular with food and drinks brands; and social media helps to generate a buzz and create a hype for such products. Novel, creative ways of using this kind of branding can and has proven to be successful in mass market campaigns and for promotional purposes.

Sensing this additional revenue stream, many manufacturers

The mantra is ‘Never stop learning’

Brick and mortar businesses are being threatened by online giants. Margins are getting squeezed.  New players on the block translate into diminishing turnover. Traditional versus Dynamic. Tried and tested versus new and modern. The New World brings with it a new set of challenges.  
The constantly changing dynamics in an increasingly digital, web-connected world forces printers to shape up or ship out. The mantra here is ‘never stop learning’.  Moving out of their comfort zones and  adapting to

Automation and internet of things - a mega trend

There is an obvious paradigm shift in all industries, including the print industry towards the ‘internet of things’, which means the ability to transfer data over the network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.  Its a situation where all sorts of machines, factories, vehicles and even household items are constantly online and able to transmit and receive status reports and instructions. Seamless integration of printers/MFPs with mobile devices can help vendors

Keeping tabs on financial health of the company

Owners of companies - especially sole proprietorships or partnerships used to running their businesses, where one or two people do all the thinking, risk overlooking warning signs that something is not right. This complacency could turn out to be very costly for the business. So often blame is shifted to ‘financial slowdown’ or ‘undercutting’ or ‘increased competition’, when actually the fault lies elsewhere.
Consultants usually recommend running the business through the ‘health check’.  While

Drupa 2016 hailed success ‘exceeds expectations’

With the final curtain call falling on the most awaited show of this year, Drupa 2016 has been hailed by industry stalwarts as a success. Though overall the number of visitors in this edition were lower than 2012;  over 250,000 unique visitors arrived at the expo from 188 countries.  Breaking records were show sales and new technologies and tie-ups.  Though inkjet ruled the roost, corrugated packaging emerged as a key trend with a swathe of new inkjet machines targeted at the sector. All in

Searching for the edge to lift clear of competition

Dynamic printhouses are constantly reinventing themselves to find their niche areas, that extra something that helps them lift clear of competition.  This could be in the form of specialization like 3D on different materials, direct-to-textile printing,  photobooks or calendars, or catering to the education or pharmaceutical sectors; or expansions in related fields like packaging, print on demand or variable data or interior decoration industry.  Rather than become the Jack-of-all-trades

Technology upgrades in countdown to Drupa?

As the countdown begins to the most awaited global show this year for the printing industry, most industry experts        do not believe that there will be anything revolutionary in conventional printing presses. Yes, enhancements would be announced, and presses will be proclaimed to be more efficent, faster, automated with less makeready times.  And though money is being invested in technology, the manufacturing giants are facing tough times.

        The never-ending print slowdown as well

In a digital world, people do enjoy tangible print

Robert Keane, the chief executive of Cimpress and the founder of Vistaprint, was the first keynote speaker at the inaugural PrintWeek Live! event in London. His address included valuable food-for-thought and inspiration for attendees no matter what the shape or size of their own businesses. Excerpts from his speech:
He outlined four key perspectives. Firstly, specialisation. He said: “In this vast market, being a generalist is a very difficult if not an impossible task. I believe you need to be

Multi layered approach to corporate identity

Most printers usually focus on number of orders, price factors, staff issues and machinery degradation, rarely giving even a fleeting thought to their own corporate identity.

     In a vast majority of cases, regional printers follow the same policies that have been pursued for years, never making re-invention a priority. Archaic sounding company names,  old fashioned logos and decrepit websites.  That professional corporate identity should be given its due is something that completely

Increased international presence at Gulf Print ’17

As curtains fall on the 11th edition of Gulf Print & Pack, the biennial exhibition for commercial and packaging printers in the region, the one distinguishing factor was the higher number of international delegations participating including from emerging markets such as Iran.  Participating exhibitors from over 110 countries arrived from China, India, Italy,  Switzerland,  Germany, Turkey,  USA, UK, Egypt, Taiwan,  Hongkong, Netherlands, Spain among others.  
 While many exhibitors mentioned

What creates a balanced marketing strategy?

As companies search for newer strategies to gain a foothold in this fiercely competitive buyer’s market, the marketing policy and expenditure incurred needs to be calculated as a proportion of sales. As a norm, a marketing budget of 4% to 5% is an accepted investment in this engine that drives business growth.

Yet deciding how much to spend and where to spend is not always easy. It is not possible to answer the question of what will make every marketing effective without having a clear idea

Searching for growth in a shrinking market place

The challenge with most  printers is how to search for growth in shrinking market places?
 This painfully real situation has had printers searching for answers in different directions.  Those not able to face market forces have folded shop, while others have moulded their businesses to the changed demand-supply scenario.
A leading printer says developing a range of value-added, technology-based solutions, systems or services have extended our opportunities in a sector where the market is in

Exhibitions - one more attempt at branding

As the most important exhibition for the signage and graphics market segment bids goodbye, a lot of questions are being tossed back and forth.

    Is the investment in Sign and Graphic Imaging show (SGI) worth it? For overseas exhibitors and visitors, questions like - shall we invest in SGI or in local shows?  Did the number of visitors and products sold at the show justify the cost of participation?  Should the timing of the show be any different?  Should the huge investment of money and

Curtains fall on the 20th edition of SGI show

And yet another Sign and Graphics Imaging show (SGI) concludes, with most exhibitors and visitors expressing satisfaction in general, with the visitor turnout and visibility factor. While the number of exhibitors from the East has increased significantly; a lot of big names from the UAE were missing this year.  It could be a strategic or ‘budget-constraints’ decision, since 2017 will host another major exhibition - Gulf Print and Pack.
Non-participating exhibitors expressed the price increase

3-D printing: future of sustainable production?

3-D printing or additive printing is the new segment with unlimited potential and possibilities. It has come a long way from its roots and today 3-D printers can handle various materials and requirements, paving the way for mass customization.  3-D printing has proved to make manufacturing more sustainable by transforming traditional manufacturing processes through cost reduction, energy saving and reduced CO2 emissions.

By its very nature, 3D Systems printers manufacture products

Value add collaborative relationships

Though price factor rules in every business - print or otherwise, collaborative relationships with suppliers is another important aspect that cannot be undervalued.
Though price is important because every one has a budget, but price is not the be-all, end-all factor in the upward graph of the business. Printshops need to differentiate between suppliers offering same quotes.  Often supply chain partners can offer innovative solutions and economic efficiencies since they stand to benefit from the

Recycling effectively can bring multiple benefits

Recycling of machinery and consumables like paper, cartridges can bring benefits to the business and environment, creating a win-win situation for all.

While some printers are known to purchase pre-owned equipment and machinery, refurbish it and effectively use it to drive down costs and improve profits, others are proactive in recycling paper and cartridges, keeping tonnes of material out of landfills, benefitting the environment.  Suppliers too have a role to play in encouraging recycling

Investments in software can help printers scale up

To scale up your business seamlessly a lot of variables have to fall in place - increases in turnovers and job orders need to be handled efficiently, bottlenecks removed, staff should not be overloaded leading to possibilities of mistakes, optimum utilisation of machinery, personalization needs to be handled without any hitch among others. Those printers that have moved operations and services from manual to software, technology based are able to optimize and streamline processes, leading to a

Waste management - an opportunity

Waste management in many countries is a multi million dollar industry.  And prudence in managing and reducing waste in an industry like printing - with its inks, chemicals, paper, metal and print related materials - is even more significant and strategic.

A waste management strategy can be divided into two parts - reducing the waste your business generates and disposing or reusing waste materials.  Both the above segments directly impact the bottom line. 

Everyday waste management can

Transforming the buying process with technology


The Gitex Technology week always brings with it a buzz of activity, anticipation and goody bags filled with new technological marvels. This edition was no different with a focus on robotics, 3D printing, virtual reality, augmented reality and drones.  On display was the first virtual reality robotic simulator, first 3D-printed car and first 3D-printed humanoid robot from UAE based DigiRobotics. While there is a greatly increased interest in 3D printing, dealers have yet to see runaway