Page 64 - Print 21 Magazine Nov-Dec 2018
P. 64

Trade Printing
Steve Crowe
A marriage of convenience
As capex financing tightens and technological developments increase Steve Crowe examines the phenomenal growth of trade printing – outsouring manufacturing – and discovers that all it takes is a little trust in someone else.
Nobody ever said printing was easy, but running a print business has changed irrevocably, as what was once shown in print migrates to screens.
Print volumes are down. Competition
for the work still available hasn’t dwindled though – the supply/demand equation is stacked against printers as competition ratchets up the tension between costs and profits. The costs of setting up or enhancing
a conventional offset print business are high: the press itself, the labour, the power, the space. The benefit of course is control over production; however, an increasing number
of print businesses, particularly smaller ones, are eschewing further investment in plant
and equipment and instead turning to trade printers – not as in the past to handle peaks of production, but to handle all their production, to become their de facto manufacturing arm.
Trent Nankervis of the country’s biggest trade printer CMYKhub says, “There is no doubt that trade printers have played a strong part in a retail printer’s business
for a long time now. Initially it was due to the cost of reinvesting in offset equipment, then it was difficulty finding skilled offset operators, and now it is to offer redundancy and products that they are not equipped to produce themselves.”
CEO of LEP Colour Printers, John Bromfield, thinks it is difficult to gauge the current print market “because there’s not a lot of information out there”. But there is no doubt it is tougher, he says.
“I think it is fair to say it is even more competitive because of over-supply, some new players and everyone trying to get more market share,” he says. “As a result of that
I believe we have seen a shift in the power relationship from printers back to their customers, with supply exceeding demand.
Customers are in the driving seat demanding what they want at a price they want to
pay, and if they do not get it they will go to someone else who will do it.”
Bromfield does not wish that to be seen
as overly negative though, adding, “It is not such a bad thing in some ways, because it keeps everyone on their toes and makes you look at everything to make sure you keep your competitive advantage. It is a reflection of society – the takeaway society we live
in today. Everyone is very impatient. Like
a McDonald’s drive-through, everyone is adopting that attitude to print.”
The one-stop-print shop concept that was
so popular a couple of decades ago was one
way to keep the work coming in, but that has become a millstone around the necks of many who leapt aboard. For most SME print shops
it is virtually impossible – because of lack of scale, expertise and investment capability – to buy and run one or more high-tech, many-unit offset presses; digital presses; wide-format machines; a comprehensive finishing section; and all the attendant prepress, online and other ancillaries required to pull it all together in a coherent business model. Then they have to sell it to increasingly print-sceptical customers.
Jamie Xuereb, director at Mediapoint
in Melbourne, summed it up with, “The companies we can see feeling the pinch are trying to be all things to all people. Others are moving away from their core focus and trying to add new avenues. What that tells us is their core business is not hitting the mark.”
Both men control exclusively trade printers. Trade printers notice because
they are part of an engine room that is in a position to pull the print industry to a more sustainable future. Their business model
works – for them, for their printer clients, and for the market at large looking for cheap, effective print products.
Trade printing has been around for decades of course, based largely around providing offset volumes for those without the scale to do it. But it has widened in scope to include digital print, especially short-run variable data jobs. Labels – ditto on the short-
run variable part – and now wide-format production are increasingly being handed to trade printers specialising in that area.
Jamie Xuereb says Mediapoint is Australia’s largest trade-only flatbed and large-format dedicated printer, and is on a growth curve. “In the last 12 months we put a million dollars into new equipment such as our Durst [P10 250HS Plus UV] flatbed printer and 3.2-metre guillotine. In the previous 12 months we also invested up to $3m in our new 2,200sqm facility, plus the new equipment and working environments that went with it.”
LEP Colour Printers recently merged with Qld Trade Printers, and one attraction for LEP was QTP’s wide-format capability, says John Bromfield.
“With the merger with QTP it gives us some wide-format capability. We are putting our toe in the water with the capability QTP had with a HP Latex 360 wide format printer, which gives us a foothold that we can leverage off, and we will take it from there in building on that capability. Depending on how that goes, we will look into taking that to our Melbourne operation as well.
“The other diversification product range we picked up as a result of the QTP acquisition was in foiling and embossing,” he said.
Alex Coulson, director at Hero Print in Sydney, believes trade printing is in a
Directors of Mediapoint, Jamie (right) and Jason Xuereb.
John Bromfield, CEO of LEP Colour Printers.
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