29 March 2012
Apathy will sink printers despite improving economy: NAPL economist
TORONTO—In the old days, a sustained upturn in the economy was good news for everyone left standing, but not anymore, said the chief economist of the National Association of Printing Leadership (NAPL) based in the U.S. 

Andy Paparozzi visited St. George's Golf and Country Club in Toronto on Wednesday morning to lead a talk entitled The Printing Industry: Creating Our Own Recovery hosted by OPIA. "We can't just count on the economy to make things right," he said.

Andy Paparozzi

He warned a "if it's not broken, don't fix it" mentality will spell the demise for printers. "If it works, we need to know why," he said. "Our biggest threat is the status quo."

While thousands of commercial printers in the U.S. have closed shop since 2007, Paparozzi had some good news in that the NAPL expects some modest growth in the next five years. "But in perspective, we're still behind from when the recession started," he said. "Recovery is coming, but it will heartlessly divide the prepared from the unprepared."

He said the printing industry in becoming increasingly more competitive is the U.S. as the internet is breaking down barriers. "There is a profound misconception that less printers means less competition," said Paparozzi. Because of technology, "we're competing with people we've never competed with before. We used to know the competition, now we have to anticipate the competition."
  Recovery is coming, but it will heartlessly divide the prepared from the unprepared."
- Andy Paparozzi

He suggests printers "keep investing" in capital, "but only when there's sound measures of expected return, and not just when competitors are investing. A bad capital investment can sink a business."

What are some of Paparozzi's tips for improvement?

"We need to all ask ourselves three questions regularly; what are we doing better than six months ago, what are we going to do better in six months, and how are we becoming more valuable to our clients," he said.

He suggested to create a "cost watch task force" internally, as at least one U.S. printer is doing, to garner credible ideas for how to trim costs and be more efficient. Employees can be rewarded with personalized gift cards for ideas, he said.

Printers should embrace electronic communication and start a blog, he added, because "clients read them religiously". The same goes for sending out regular e-newsletters and having an effective website, he added. "Too many websites are electronic brochures that are not engaging," said the chief economist. Printers should also follow their clients' online discussion groups via social media, he added.

Integrating services is better than adding services, he said. "Successful companies did it by enhancing core litho capabilities, not abandoning them," said Paparazzi.

When making decisions, it's also wise "to seek the contrary opinion", said the NAPL spokesman. "Don't just rely on best-case scenarios."

It's not only about being a good printer, but also defining yourself by the success of your clients, he stressed.

If there's anything to be learned from the economic woes of recent history, it's that it "made us question what we knew," he said. "We must learn what happened the last three years. If not, the recession wins."

Meanwhile, the NAPL is in talks to merge with another major U.S. print organization, the Printing Industries of America (PIA). Similar discussions are happening at home between the Canadian Printing Industries Sector Council (CPISC) and Canadian Printing Industries Association (CPIA).
— Jeff Hayward
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