Myriad factors are creating a volatile environment transforming the types of signage and graphics found in retail stores.
Blee: I may actually be in the minority within the industry, but I don’t see us ever retiring our screen equipment completely. As long as there is a PMS book and a desire for fluoresescents, metallics, and special effects, screen has a distinct advantage. We are probably the prototypical model of the transition. We were 100% screen—we didn’t have roots in any other process. But to be quite candid, we are systematically removing equipment on the screen side because of the revenue it produces and, especially problematic for us, the floor space. A traditional inline is extremely large and it becomes a question of real estate. Is it worth running that equipment when I can place two to three digital presses in the same footprint? I believe digital will get faster and screen’s speed advantage will eventually not be there, but I believe there is still a niche.
Pratt: I concur, there is always going to be a place for screen printing. The analogy, and it might be a bad one, is a camera. If you’re old enough, you probably had a 35-mm single-reflex camera and you had to alter all the f-stops, get the lighting right, and manipulate the variables to get a really good picture. With a digital camera, you just point and click. Screen printing has an enormous amount of variables, but if you manage them correctly, you get a depth of printing and color gamut that you just can’t get digitally. Depending on what the application is, there is definitely a niche in looking at that process, doing the research, and taking those capabilities to a different level. If you do that, there are margins. If you’re just trying to print four-color process on banners, that’s not what screen printing is for anymore.
SP: We touched on consolidation, and obviously Dan’s company is an example of that trend. It isn’t just happening with companies like yours, but with your customers and vendors as well. Does anyone see a possibility that this dynamic might change?
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