Insights to Forge The Future of Wide-Format
The third annual Wide-Format Summit once again delivered an intensive learning experience focused on the technologies, applications, and business models driving growth. Marco Boer, vice president at I.T. Strategies and a long-time Summit speaker, provides an insider’s view on what makes this event so essential for wide-format professionals.
Boer details how wide-format providers can harness the latest innovations, adopt data-driven practices, and squeeze hidden profits from their operations. His insights showcase how this three-day Summit empowers companies to understand change, expand capabilities, and elevate their businesses.
WFI: Tell me a little bit about the Wide-Format Summit. Why has it become such an important event for the wide-format segment?
Marco Boer: The Wide-Format Summit is a unique opportunity to get what I call an “executive education.” In just three days, you get to learn more about what’s happening in your industry than at any other event you can attend. It’s an investment of time, but it provides insight on technology, business models, and innovation. Most importantly, in those three days, you get to talk to your peers and do some “R&D” for your business by learning what they’re doing.
WFI: As an industry expert with a broad view of how digital printing affects the printing industry, how do you see the wide-format segment as being different from the others?
Boer: The wide-format segment is very different. It’s still very profitable compared to the commercial printing sector. Per sq. ft., you can charge five or 10 times what you can for commercial print. The reason it’s so profitable is because in wide-format, it really isn’t just about making the print — you also have to, for instance, make sure it fits in a frame, can be laminated, and finished. The challenge in wide-format at the moment is that because it is so profitable, it’s attracting a lot of new participants who used to view it as too small. But as commercial printing has come down in revenue, all the sudden wide-format looks a lot more interesting to them, and the barriers to entry are low. What makes the wide-format segment defensible, however, is its fragmentation. There are so many types of applications — different forms, installation, fabrication, wrapping. It’s not just about the print, it’s about the end-to-end result.
WFI: In today’s printing business environment, why is it important for businesses to understand how technology is changing? How does the Wide-Format Summit help them do that?
Boer: One flaw we humans have is that we often don’t understand time and how things change.
Technology changes faster than you think, so a six-year-old wide-format printer might run fine mechanically, but new technology is going to allow you to, for instance, remove steps in the labor process, and that’s really our biggest challenge these days. Modern technologies for wide-format might include things like a spectrophotometer, which can be used to adjust color automatically — you don’t need to do it manually. While little things like that are very beneficial, the new technology out there is also far more productive, which means you can take on more jobs and you can free up other equipment to run other jobs. And often, these newer machines have lower running costs: if you could take three of your older wide-format devices and replace them with one more productive, more reliable printer, that’s often in your interest.
WFI: What is one thing you think wide-format businesses could do (or consider) today that could profoundly benefit their businesses?
Boer: I think one thing the wide-format industry doesn’t do very well is track things, like the direct mail industry does — tracking data. But if you can start to obsessively track everything, from the order intake — which is not trivial because it can be so time-consuming — all the way to finishing and the amount of time it takes to do that, and even finding hidden costs, it’s going to allow you to make incredible efficiency gains. Wide-format work is very “custom.” The ironic part is that because of this, it makes it difficult to track, which allows for inefficiencies, which means you can charge more for it because it hasn’t become standardized. Because of this, if you knew all the data, you could probably squeeze out a lot more profit. For many wide-format shops, you need to think about the fact that a 2% gain in efficiency could mean between $10K and $100K more profit. Those “little” percents can add up very quickly.
The Wide-Format Summit is a hosted buyer-guide event that gives eligible attendees invaluable access to the industry leaders and experts covering the trending topics in the wide-format industry. Complete the attendee application form to be considered for the next event, July 29-31, 2024, at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa in Miami, Florida.