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Digital vs. Screen and the Dilemma of Process Improvement

(June 2012) posted on Tue Jun 26, 2012

How will screen printers can take a leadership role in improving quality and integrating into a more digital-oriented advertising world?

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By Mark A. Coudray

As I see it, the problem is one of vision and willingness. I don’t hear many people talking about this. It’s as if owners and management are in denial with their heads stuck in the sand. It’s been easy to blame poor performance in the last few years on a crappy economy. But that isn’t totally to blame. Times are changing and with them, so is our need to adjust.

We have some transition options available for now, but they are becoming increasingly limited. Run length will continue to decrease until only what is needed to drive the sale is produced. We can’t stop that. It’s an inevitable outcome. Our future lies in understanding what’s really going on and developing meaningful and effective solutions that add value for our customers.

The future of screen will be about integration. It relies on how we integrate into a digital economy and how we integrate with other digital processes. It’s foolish and naïve to think we will remain a viable option because we have better outdoor durability, size, or substrate variety. These were all historical values that have been eclipsed by digital. We still have a small speed advantage on longer runs, but as we have seen, that is increasingly irrelevant as well.

So what are the options? What can we do to add value? Clearly, there are no simple answers. We are a mature industry with established relationships. Our customers have come to know us and trust us. Sure, they are focused on cost, but that is what has driven everyone in the past. The vision and willingness I spoke of earlier have to do with stepping up and providing leadership.

Our customers look to us for leadership. When you take a total customer perspective, you have a responsibility to present solutions that maximize your customer’s potential through the use of what you sell them. That is the living definition of value.

Willingness means moving off the current model you are using within your company. This is scary and a big risk. Nobody wants to make a costly mistake. No one wants to move away from what they know into the unknown. But think about this for a minute.

Your new competitors don’t have that irrelevant, historically based model holding them back. They don’t have the internal friction of a mature workforce resisting change. They also don’t have the customer base and the relationships you have.

That being said, if you fail to step-up and provide the vision and leadership to your established relationships, you’ve just opened the door. You’ve opened the door to a new, aggressive competitor who’s more agile, lower cost, and is now competing with you head-to-head. You’ve just handed over the one advantage you had.


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