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The Current Capacity of Wide-Format Digital

(July 2009) posted on Mon Jul 13, 2009

This month, Greene presents research data about corporate buying practices that reveal some interesting inclinations and give an up-to-date look at the market for wide-format graphics.

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By Tim Greene

Early in 2009 someone asked me, “How much overcapacity do we see in the US right now?” He asked this leading question in the context of wide-format printing equipment. His point must have been that so much equipment is installed, and it is so productive, that we must be over capacity—especially in light of the economic downturn. The question got me thinking. We’re seeing news of layoffs all over corporate America, we are in an era when my three year old knows what downsizing is, and people are as productive as ever.

Maybe he’s right. Maybe we’re over capacity as an industry, but I don’t see that as a condition that will change. I think it’s a characteristic of the printing industry as a whole. After all, shop owners want to be prepared for the busiest times. Most businesses have their ebbs and flows, but the extremes are highly disruptive. The extreme ebbs cause layoffs and ruin companies; the extreme flows create jobs and make people invest in new and more productive equipment.

I really can’t say whether the market for wide-format digital graphics is any more prone to run at low capacity than any other segment of the market, but I do understand why it is the way it is. In a recent InfoTrends study, we asked more than 300 corporate print buyers, all who regularly buy wide-format digital printing, about their typical turnaround requirements for wide-format graphics. The answer to this question helps us understand why the need exists to invest in faster and faster digital equipment for the production of wide-format graphics. Our data show that these buyers need 20% of the graphics they purchase to be printed on the same day the place the orders and that 70% of orders must be fulfilled within two business days.

The need for speed is likely to accelerate. In the same study we asked these corporate print buyers why they chose certain print-service providers. Their responses indicate that the top three considerations are price, quality, and turnaround time. These responses far outweighed the other decision-making points: knowledgeable staff, convenient location, customer service, range of products/services, and availability of expert design help. This makes sense, right? Even if a printer can meet the price you need and you trust they will do a good job, what good is that if they can’t meet the deadline?


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