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The Innovation Cycle: Where Are We?

(December 2009) posted on Tue Nov 24, 2009

Invention extension? Functional substitution? Find out what these concepts mean and how they apply to the screen-printing industry.


By Mark Coudray

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If everything digital is about smaller runs, shorter set-up (or no set-up) times, and quick turnaround, we now have a way of transitioning digital into our existing markets. In the T-shirt example above, building community is the key we’re after. It gives us the opportunity to create different products for the leaders, incoming students, senior students, and so on. We’re taking a general market (high volume) and subdividing it down into more specialized segments (niches)

You can charge more money for the shorter runs andegin making this part of your marketing plan. You now have a pathway to the segment of the market where digital is currently best served, without giving up the long run part. Over time, digital will get better and better, faster and faster, and it may in fact replace screen printing economically as the decorating method of choice. In the meantime, you now have a plan for incorporation that gives you time and flexibility to incorporate the best decorating method for the situation at hand.

Secondly, your objective is to hybridize or incorporate the emerging technologies into your existing business. By excluding them and resisting, you are only delaying a most unpleasant end result. You can accomplish this objective by figuring out how you’ll use digital in your business, for your customers and clients (above.) Find reliable vendors for these digital services and outsource now. Work the bugs out on someone else’s dime. Don’t make the investment until you have it all working and your customers are happy and eager to buy more from you.

When you finally make the capital purchase, you’ll be able to hit the ground running on day one. This is especially important with digital technologies. They only get faster, better, and cheaper as time goes by. If you try to develop the market while you learn all of this, you’ll never recover your investment before the next generation comes out. Your competitors will be watching and their investment in faster, cheaper, better devices will put you at a disadvantage.

As you move from analog to digital, you’re still offering your customers viable solutions for their needs. You can continue to develop your understanding of how the market uses your goods and services and this only strengthens your position of authority and expertise.


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