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Thu, Sep

Have you noticed many commercial printers round your way getting involved in wide-format – and if so, in what kind of capacity? As the Image Reports Widthwise Report 2013 and Fespa’s World Wide Survey 4 reiterated, the main wide-format applications haven’t changed much over time, with posters, exhibition graphics, banners, signage and POP still the main areas of involvement for most. As wide-format inkjet printer manufacturers continue to target commercial printers for new machine sales, is it time to take some of those higher margin niche markets more seriously?

…if you're waiting to see much involvement from the wide-format sector in relation to Ipex 2014 direction. Despite its integrating Cross Media and being marketed as a digital, print and marketing communications showcase, the make-up of the newly announced 360 Committee suggests that wide-format will pretty much stay on the sidelines. OK, so perhaps it would not be worth Ipex trying to muscle in too much on this sector that has Fespa - but the danger is that visitors such as print buyers/specifiers think they are attending a show showcasing the full breadth of what print has to offer. For the good of the whole industry they need to understand what it covers - and what it misses out!

Of late I’ve had a number of companies saying their machines are ‘affordable’ when pressing them for a baseline price – and OK, they’re being cagey because when does anyone ever pay the quoted price! But that’s got me wondering how hard potential customers have to push manufacturers for more detailed and relevant ROI figures. Is it any easier or harder than it’s always been?

How are you getting your print capabilities out in front of creatives like fashion designer Henry Holland, who partnered with London-based Displayways for his London Fashion Week first - a large-format printed and mirrored catwalk with a wow factor. Of course you can wait for such people to contact you, but how do you engage them in a more proactive way?

There’s been an enormous amount of development and attention creating more efficient and flexible workflows in the digital print sector, so are all the gaps now plugged? If there are areas that still cause you/the sector concern let me know so that we can take it up with the manufacturers.

What will your customers do if you offer them a ‘green’ substrate like Ilford’s BioMedia for the same price as a more traditional product? Will they bite your hand off? I guess that’s what Chris Bailey of QPS is hoping (given that he is selling it “at the same price point as comparable products,”) and it would seem a likely scenario, but the environmental issue is a tricky one as we know. Price is certainly a sticking point, so if that’s no longer a worry will we see massive conversion to more environmental materials? We’ve seen other pretty competitively priced ‘sustainable’ media but they don’t seem to appear all that frequently on the spec sheet…

‘3D printing’ is a misnomer; ‘additive manufacturing’ is much more direct in explaining the real role of the technology and as such pretty much everyone can see it has massive potential. But what’s its role within the print sector? I’ve spoken to people with very quirky ideas on how it can be used in its proper manufacturing guise to improve a print company’s reach and bottom line, though few are actually doing anything with it as yet. Are you? If so, get in touch and let me hear your story.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of the Ipex 360 Committee visitor focused steering group. I suppose it depends on the make-up of the committee and what types of visitor they represent as to whether it has any major impact on the 2014 show.  In what direction would you like to see it steered?

Given that packaging is such a growth area, I was wondering how many of you would be interested to hear about the worldwide launch of the real-time 3D packaging visualisation, ideation and design application from Creative Edge Software (CGS). Various other 3D visualisation packages targeted at the packing sector have ended up providing wide-format printers with what has, in essence, become a convincing sales aid. Your thoughts?

What are you doing to futureproof your business? I talked to a number of companies on that very topic earlier this year when I was researching content for the Widthwise Report 2013 – and found plenty of wide-format-based companies coming up with really clever plans for ongoing development, some of which, like Cestrian, were willing to go on record and outline their plans, proving that strategic thinking is not beyond the ken of PSPs! And a clap on the back for Cestrian as its plans become reality.

Want to entice more creative youngsters into our industry/your business? Then if you’re anywhere near Brighton during the week of 23- 27 September get along to Creative, Digital and IT Open Studios (www.wiredsussex.com/openstudios2013). At this melting pot Wired Sussex will be hosting an afternoon of recruitment advice for businesses on 23rd and 27th, on the 25th Brightwave and DV8 Sussex are teaming up to show how apprenticeships can help uncover the next generation of digital and creative superstars, and the rest of the time you’ll get a chance to see what companies like Pure360, Zero G Media, BTV Post, 5d Foto are up to in space that could just be yours!

Do you enter awards? I don’t mean just print specific industry awards, but more generic business competitions – Midlands Business Builder of the Year – that kind of thing. Just think what marketing leverage you can get from even making it onto a shortlist published within a local free sheet. If you’ve done it and it’s paid dividends, let me know.

What do you think about this newly announced Government consultation with employers on apprenticeships? We talk about the skills gaps in this sector, so what about taking the bull by the horns and designing your own apprenticeship scheme – would you do it if you had the financial backing to do so?

Do you put an onus on attending seminars and talks where you can take the temperature of the world in which you operate? Are you for instance attending the Two Sides/Print Power Autumn Seminar in London on 4 November. I don’t mean this to be a sales pitch for the event, I am merely wondering how owners/MDs/general managers of companies in this sector view such opportunities to listen and learn – it seems to me that it’s a tiny percentage who ever turn up. Why is that? Let me know your views.

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