The general consensus among those in the print industry is that the sector needs to take an approach more similar to a service economy, rather than one that's more supplier-based. Print distributors are recognizing that business leaders are looking for more customized materials, shifting away from ready-made products. 

Consistency in a recessionary economy 
Despite the fact that market activity remained lackluster in 2011, print manufacturers managed to stay busy. In the Printing Industries of America's "Charter a Path for 2013-2014: A Special Report," findings revealed that demand for business forms in 2011 remained consistent, with profit margins growing by 5.3 percent from the previous year. Revenues from labels and direct mail grew 3.22 percent and 1.86 percent, respectively. 

Progressing with improving conditions
The report acknowledged that the print industry compared favorably to other manufacturing sectors – a good sign that the trade will solidify its position this year and in the future. PIA recognized the following provisions as witnessing the highest growth during the tail end of 2013 and beginning of 2014:

  • Greeting cards
  • Direct marketing 
  • Packaging 

In contrast, PIA acknowledged magazine, book and newspaper printing to have considerably less relative gains. Andrew Paparozzi, a contributor to The National Association for Printing Leadership, remained somewhat skeptical, claiming that, as an industry, print manufacturing improvement was somewhat lax. 

However, Paparozzi noted that individual companies are performing quite well:

  • Nearly one-third of print distributors surveyed by NAPL increased sales by 5 percent. 
  • One-fifth of study participants experienced revenue gains of 10 percent. 

From supplier to service 
AllInPrint referenced a study conducted by international research group Duomedia, which discovered that print distributors across the globe are repositioning their approach toward selling materials to consumers and businesses. The group maintained that such companies should focus more on communicating closely with the people to whom they're providing materials.

"Printing houses need to change their mindset and focus on offering solutions and services rather than selling products," stated the report, as quoted by the news source. "Identifying the real needs of their customer will lead to new and interesting offerings." 

Web-to-Print is where it's at 
Duomedia also acknowledged high demand for quickly made, customized work. This means print manufacturers need to reorganize their practices and procure machines that can print high-volume materials the minute an order is placed with a distributor. 

What it comes down to is the connectivity of the Internet. Cloud-based communication software has enabled organizations from across the globe to put ideas into motion with the click of a button. Automated factory machinery connected to central administration hubs capable of directing print tasks are likely to be implemented. The process will:

  • Satisfy the demands of marketing professionals as quickly as possible
  • Assert print distributors as viable competitors of digital counterparts
  • Reduce overhead costs 
  • Create demand for new labor possessing advanced software skills

A future exists 
Traditionally, whenever a company's practices grow outdated or inapplicable to a particular economy, they pivot. That's what those in the print industry need to do in order to survive – adjust operations around thriving in a market that favors digital processes.