Print Industry: The Role of Education in Bridging the Technology Gap
Printing as an industry has seen various transformations since its origin. With continuous upgrade and transformation, it has been revolutionized. Being a strong ancillary industry to Automobiles, FMCG, Advertising, Electronics and many more, printing has its marks everywhere.
But with digital technology and media taking over the communications in day-to-day life, printing community needs to evaluate their businesses and that too, immediately.
Printing Industry Must Take Not of Digital Disruption
Printing industry needs to acknowledge the fact that digital disruption is around the corner and we need to address these challenges.
While printing businesses are busy in selling and buying their stuff, there’s lot more we need to look at, talk about and find solutions to. Most of the challenges that printing industry is facing with digital world can be solved with research and education, but there’s a huge gap between practicing business and education in print industry.
The major challenges of printing industry are digitization trends, declining demands from industries like banking, advertising, postal services as digital channels have already taken over. Price pressures with declining demand and increasing asset costs also hit the margins of printing businesses.
Printing demands have been decreased not because of demands getting low but because we haven’t upgraded businesses to meet new-age demands and this is where industry education can play a huge role in guiding SMEs to become more digital businesses. Several examples of successful printing giants like VistaPrint, Zazzle, Xerox, Epson etc. are continuously doing their research to upgrade their products and services.
A Wake-up Call for the Printing Community
The first thing we need to realize industry-wide is lack of education at industry level in overcoming challenges. Big players in the market like Xerox, Epson, Konica Minolta and others have their own research centers whether they are doing tremendous research in improving all the aspects of their products and printing. But is that enough for a whole industry to survive?
No, we need more industry-wide knowledge exchange to be viable among upcoming challenges of technological disruption.
With more networking events focused on selling, buying, networking over coffee and mergers and acquisitions, we need to have events for upgrading our skills and can merge our skill sets with emerging demands of consumer and with advanced technology.
We already have come a long way in adapting technology in terms of online printing (Web to Print), Variable Printing, Hybrid Print Technologies and many more. All these solutions have transformed hardware-heavy machinery-control approach in printing industry to a software-centric and personalized, ecommerce services application.
Printing businesses are already shaping their business models in terms of giving personalized products, door-step delivery, integrated marketing for clients, acquiring corporate clients. But this lacks real product and services innovation at a wider level.
This gap can be attributed to lack of innovation and brain storming level for small medium printing businesses. Big players have deep pockets to shell considerable amount in research and innovation but for SMEs, it’s difficult to shell out money for research and product innovation.
Coping Up with the Challenges
Printing industry requires vocational training and education to change the business scenario in the ground level rather than addressing national and international challenges. Printing industry is tackling up challenges in an applauding way, as the statistics suggest that the most common age band in the industry according to 2015 data, is now 35 to 44. This is down a bracket from the 45 to 54 recorded in the last comparable data, which looked at 2013 (Source –PrintWeek). These numbers show that industry is adopting new age millennials in workforce and this can provide long-term advantages in reskilling of workforce.
Printing businesses need to adopt the convergence of emerging technologies and blend it to their current business models. The very simple start can be via adopting web to print solutions to be in books of digital consumer.
Till now printing has been an unorganized industry with focus, been the bottom line. Businesses also need to focus on soft skills, business models and competencies to combine learning and business to be viable in long run. Though we need to adapt to technological trends but these management skills give an unclouded vision of running businesses with life-long learning. This would also attract new age millennials to see printing businesses as their dream jobs.
Printing businesses being SMEs have limited resources for upskilling and training of employees. The best way to bring this change is from bottoms up approach by increasing training of businesses and resources at regional levels, with a combined effort. Regional groups should unite to organize various events, hands-on workshop rather than promoting their products and services. This can be fruitful step in bridging the gap between existing and futuristic businesses. Tech and innovation hubs at regional level can be really helpful in reaching to more number of businesses with less financial burden on single business.
At an international level, we need more events that promotes learning, hands-on workshops, technological sessions and talks to address these concerns and become better learners and adopters of technologies for their businesses.
What Lies Ahead for Everyone
There’s a lot of untapped potential which can come out for printing, given that filling the skills gap and business go hand in hand. With more industry relationships, everyone can be benefitted in terms of –
- Wide adoption of new services and products – A lot of new emerging technologies has inspired to shape up our current products and services. Services like printing with database management, 3D printing, intelligent labels, flexographic printing offer market and demand for new services. With education and right skills, mass adoption and mass production of these services are possible benefitting businesses in creating their own niche.
- Integrated Offerings – Print advertising is one of the eldest advertising methods and thus, its applicability to wide range of products and services makes it amalgamable to lot of approaches such as digital, social, native and interactive. This gives to a rise of entirely new customer segment of executive buyers and enterprise partnerships with wide product range.
- Promoting research and innovation –Innovations like conductive inks, photonic printing techniques, 3D printing, combining Virtual Reality and printingneeds to be talked about to make them mass scale adoption and production. Thiswill lead to opening of new markets and bring higher added value for the printing industry.
- Creating organized industry – The more organized the industry will be, more advantage they can take of associating with research institutes and increasing their learning curve.This will lead to create a juncture of learning between research and SMEs leading to more product innovation and adoption of modern technologies on wider scale.
Printing can be replaced with digital media, it’s no more a myth but integrating printing with digitization is more of a fact. Working closely within the industry and incentivizing players who are taking right steps can bring the worlds of skills, businesses, and education together. This will help in developing right mix of skillsets and predicting the future of businesses and skills required to create more futuristic print businesses.