The old saying goes that “birds of a feather flock together,” and in a broad sense, that’s true. At the recent PRINTING United event in Dallas, representatives of all printing segments met up, shared knowledge, made connections and searched for the tools or concepts that will drive their businesses forward. Among the printing segments is one that may be the most diverse of all, and despite being the least known (or understood) by the printing community, it's also likely the largest.
To try to encapsulate those serving the functional/industrial segment is an effort in generalization. To attempt to describe companies manufacturing or decorating end products ranging from printed circuit boards to snowboards leads one to generalize, not always in a way that is conducive to thoughtful discussion. Those serving the sector may not be birds of a feather — their definition is instead a diverse aviary.
But the one thing that is common to all companies serving this segment (and all the others as well) is the imperative need for profitability — the true driver toward business success. During a segment-specific luncheon designed to foster networking and expand knowledge, presenter Erik Skie of CliftonLarsonAllen LLC, discussed how sales, operations and finance can work together to drive a business toward true growth and profitability. He maintained that within many companies, the sales and operations departments will report that they’ve sold a lot, and are busy, while the finance department can see that despite much work and activity, the business is not profitable. Part of Skie’s strategy for profitability includes strong understanding and management of variable costs. His message resonated with the audience and helped perhaps adjust their company metrics away from production and sales levels, and toward whether a company is truly making money — a simple concept that requires careful management.
To return to the saying highlighted at the beginning of this article, there is comfort and security in congregating with those who flock together and most “get” what we do. The explanation is shorter and the business models are more similar, as are the technologies and how they are used. But by zooming out on the specifics of what is happing in our core segments or individual business, we are all witness to a well-established industry in constant flux.
For functional/industrial printers — as for printers operating in all segments — pricing and profitability strategies will only take them so far. The next step for many is to escape the stasis of segment definition, technological affiliation or end-product specialization by moving into the future with an open mind and the ultimate step toward profitability. This final step is to position your business in the right place, at the right time, and adjust, adjust, adjust. Reinvention. Convergence. Evolution.
PRINTING United 2019 was a rousing success, and a top-shelf marketplace for printing technologies, materials, software solutions and business-building ideas. For future-focused functional/industrial printing companies, it was an opportunity to consider, compare and decide. The opportunity continues in Atlanta, October 21 - 23, 2020. See you there!