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Who do you compete with? The answer is not obvious.

by Pete Basiliere  |  March 27, 2015  |  Submit a Comment

Actually, your competition may have nothing to do with your business. Your competition are the disrupters: new technologies that come racing around the curve at you, the entrants that challenge your fundamental business assumptions.

This is especially true in the printing industry. We compete with other media.

Printed pages are declining sharply, print industry revenue has declined sharply. The only positive number is also bleak – the number of printing companies that have closed has increased.

Why? The transition from analog to digital, from paper to display.

And what’s worse, the amount of content that people read (on displays, of course) is actually increasing.

But there are bright spots, especially in digital production printing. Although the overall market is in decline, production digital press manufacturers such as Canon, HP, Kodak, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Xerox and Xeikon have the opportunity to help their customers take share from analog printing technologies — offset, screen and flexographic printing.

Which is the reason what Data-Mail did this week is so forward-looking.

I traveled to Hartford CT to Data-Mail this week, along with a large number of Canon’s production printer customers. We networked over dinner and sat through an hour or so of presentations about Canon’s production printing lineup. Then came the best part, a panel discussion by co-founder Andy Mandell and three of his senior managers, followed by a complete tour of Data-Mail’s main facility.

Andy and Joyce Mandell opened the doors of their 500,000 square foot, family owned, debt-free business to us, the place where 800 employees produced 1.5 billion pieces of mail last year. Today Data-Mail is one of the USA’s largest full-service direct mail production companies. Discussions with Andy and other senior managers were open and frank about their business and especially how inkjet technology is opening new markets and leading to new clientele.

The management team was initially surprised at how quickly the direct mail market understood not only the difference but also the value of inkjet printing. Customers are now doing more versioning, printing more color and personalizing more pieces, especially since 2007/2008 as clients became more selective in what they were doing with their mail. That is no surprise, right?

What was surprising was that the management team realized that they don’t have to fill the printers with color work. Yes, they have two Canon JetStream 2200 and one ColorStream 3900 and, yes, they would like more color work but they realize that the volume is growing. Instead, they allow the black work to essentially ‘subsidize’ the investment in color inkjet technology and nurture their growing inkjet business.

Lest you think Data-Mail only uses inkjet presses, they also have 24 toner presses, six Xerox iGen4 presses plus offset sheet-fed, envelope converting and imprinting presses.

Printing companies don’t compete with each other as much as they compete with other media.

Data-Mail opened their doors to competitors including Portland ME-based Pyramid Checks & Printing and EiPrinting, to a woman-owned direct mail firm based just 45 minutes away, to large insurers and others. With innovative people like the Mandell’s and their employees, the printing industry will thrive by sharing insights into what works, what doesn’t and together facing those new display technologies that are coming around the curve head-on.

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Tags: canon  colorstream-3900  competition  data-mail  digital-press  digital-printer  digital-printing  hp  igen4  inkjet  inkjet-press  jetstream-2200  kodak  konica-minolta  offset-printing  production-printer  ricoh  toner  xeikon  xerox  

Pete Basiliere
Research Vice President
12 years at Gartner
18 years IT Industry

Mr. Basiliere provides research-based insights on 3D printing and digital printing hardware, software and materials. Mr. Basiliere's Maverick research coined the term Generation AI, people born after 2010 who will not know a world without application intelligence in their lives. Read Full Bio

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