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Digital Transformation in the Printing Industry

Written by Toby Wells - Kinetix Technologies

Digital transformation is the new buzz word in the technology industry, but what does it exactly mean and more specifically, what does it mean for the printing industry?

Let’s start by looking at the term Digital Transformation; Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers.

It's also a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment, and get comfortable with failure. In business, digitizing usually involves turning paper-based information into digital information.

toby wellsBusiness leaders are getting the message and prioritising their business accordingly. IDC forecasts that worldwide spending on technologies and services that enable digital transformation will reach $1.97 trillion in 2022, per the (IDC) Worldwide Semi-annual Digital Transformation Spending Guide. IDC predicts that digital transformation spending will grow steadily, achieving a five-year compound annual growth rate of 16.7 percent between 2017 and 2022. Business executives are starting to recognise that digital transformation is not a quick fix but rather a long-term investment.

How does digital transformation then influence the printing industry, the one industry that relies on its customers still using paper, the one thing that is not digital?

The print industry has been feeling the force of the digital age for some time; information is shared and distributed online instead of printed on paper. Manufacturers now need to find new areas of innovation, all of this while trying to protect their core business – printing. The dilemma that they face is finding new growth areas for printing whilst trying to make their product still relevant in the digital age.

It is now crucial for manufacturers to connect to their customers in a meaningful way by creating services and products that leverage their heritage in print but also connect them with the digital world they do business in.

One of the ways that manufacturers can achieve this is to drive the digital transformation journey;

Paper remains a key element of the connected and collaborative office workplace and still plays crucial role in the business processes of many businesses. However, paper bottlenecks can hamper business productivity and frustrate the client. This is where print dealers can connect the paper and digital worlds and develop stronger expertise in workflow solutions and services, such as smart multi-function devices (MFPs), which have evolved over the years to become sophisticated document processing devices. This enables print dealers with the opportunity to maximise the value of their hardware offerings and combining it with software solutions.

Business process optimisation and workflow capabilities will become key in the differentiation for dealers in the industry, requiring a balanced hardware, software and service portfolio.

The first place to start is with the stakeholders as a whole, if there is no buy in from the top, the transformation will never get off the ground, conversations will turn to meetings will turn to presentations will turn to POC’s and then the ever changing landscape will continue to drive the change in the solution offering before the original solution can even be accepted or implemented.

The recommendation is that the company makes an executive decision to “bite the proverbial apple” and start the digital process to change with one or too applications in the right areas of the business under pressure from digitisation. Once the commitment is made the change will follow, however it needs to be a continually driven process as needs to stay relevant to the business. The digital landscape is changing so rapidly that the original solution you start with might be outdated the by the time you implement the solution if you take too long on executing the decision to roll.

This means that business need bold and original leaders that are willing to take the risks necessary to stay relevant in the future. The days of mitigating your risk with financial heads needs to be curbed with bold decisive action that instigates change.

Ondrej Krajicek, chief technology strategist at Y Soft, said that offices were changing as a result of the impact of technology and increases in flexibility and collaboration. 

According to Krajicek, “There is a huge amount of potential for the future office to be more efficient and better connected than we ever could have imagined two or three decades ago, and we should be welcoming these new technologies with open arms. However, the ongoing role of print management should not be discounted: moves to make the office paperless have gathered pace in recent years, but demand for the ability to print documents remains high.” 

“Key to ensuring print keeps up with the pace of technological innovation lies in the development of next-generation print management software, which is optimised to deal with the changing nature of the modern office. This technology has been created with the increasingly paper-light, digitally transformed office in mind, and so emphasises the need to streamline cumbersome processes and increase automation when it comes to administering printing," added Krajicek 

Managed print service is a perfect example of digital transformation. MPS providers can digitalize costly and time-consuming manual processes with today’s remote monitoring solutions available. Technology like predictive analytics and electronic data interchange (EDI) enable businesses to provide true automation and just-in-time supplies fulfilment. Resolving technical issues by remotely accessing the device—enables businesses to resolve problem issues without ever sending a service technician.

Leverage Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. All printers are “things” and the connected smart MFP forms part of the IoT landscape. Dealers can exploit the enormous data generated to monitor actual customer product and service usage. This data then enables manufacturers to deliver better service performance through predictive data analytics and by collecting information about customer usage of products or services, dealers can improve their offering to the client by anticipating their needs and offering them a tailored made solution.

What does the future hold for the print industry - one that is hardware-centric and reliant on the printed page - in a digital world? Can it truly reinvent itself for the digital age?