From the Editor: No Wide-Format? Why Not?
There’s no doubt wide-format is booming. In-plants say it’s one of the most in-demand products they offer, with great profit margins and nearly limitless potential. According to our data, 72% of in-plants offer wide-format printing services. But what about the other side of that percentage — the 28% that don’t offer wide-format?
I found myself thinking about this group, wondering why on earth they are ignoring the excitement of this value-added service and contenting themselves with toner on 8.5x11˝ sheets. So I asked.
I emailed a few dozen respondents to our Equipment Investment Trends survey who had noted they don’t offer wide-format and asked them why. I got some long and short answers, but they boiled down to these five:
- Another department handles wide-format.
- No need for wide-format. We can print posters on our toner printer.
- The volume/demand is not there so we use an outside vendor.
- No space for a wide-format printer.
- Cannot afford a wide-format printer.
Then I sent those five reasons to a dozen in-plants that are having great success with wide-format to get their thoughts. I was not prepared for the deluge of passionate responses.
“The large-format arena is one of the fastest-growing segments of what we do. It is also the best profit margin in our department,” wrote Martin James, manager of Graphic Communications at Deer Valley Unified School District in Phoenix.
“Once the product is unveiled and marketed, you will ask yourself why you did not offer the service sooner,” added Naomi Quiram, director of Print and Mail Services at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn. “Our original ROI was 18 months. Wide-format met the return in half the time.”
“There are so many applications for wide-format it is difficult to imagine any organization not using it,” added Dwayne Magee, director of Messiah College Press and Postal Services, in Mechanicsburg, Pa.
I don’t have space to include all the exuberant comments. So I’ll sum up the responses to each of the five reasons given for not offering wide-format.
Another department handles wide-format. As the resident printing expert, your in-plant should ask some hard questions about this scenario. Is that department handling the needs of the entire organization or just their own? Are they following the same quality standards as your in-plant? If your in-plant managed wide-format, would your print knowledge and service expertise provide customers with a greater benefit and allow this service to flourish?
Some respondents suggested getting a wide-format printer anyway and competing with the other department, driving them out of business with better service. If you’re not that brash, then at least work closely with that department to understand what they offer and where they are lacking, then make a proposal to incorporate this service.
No need for wide-format. We can print posters on our toner printer.
Respondents fairly scoffed at the idea that a production printer could match what they’re doing with their wide-format printers. Sure, it can churn out some posters, of a limited size, but it can’t print on vinyl or any of the other substrates that are allowing in-plants to decorate windows, vans, doors and many other surfaces.
Also, they wondered, how do you know your customers don’t want more wide-format options than just posters? Did you survey them? Do that, and you’ll learn a lot. But do some research first and include ideas on the survey for applications they may not have thought about. I guarantee you will pique their interest.
The volume/demand is not there, so we use an outside vendor. What would we do without “Field of Dreams” to guide us? Over and over managers used the phrase “If you build it, they will come,” to describe how customer enthusiasm for wide-format boomed once they installed it.
“Once the word is out, you will be very busy,” wrote John Cruser, global manager of Bloomberg Ink, in Dayton, N.J.
“I knew there would be a demand, but never realized how high the demand would be,” added Paul Wannigman, Print Services/Mailroom manager at Coborn’s in St. Cloud, Minn. “Now wide-format is almost half of what we do.”
Outsourcing should be used as a gateway to bringing wide-format in-house. Develop a customer base, track outside pricing, tap your outside printer for advice on equipment and then bring the service in-house.
Lack of space. Alas, the curse of many an in-plant. Yet several respondents in tight quarters overcame this dilemma to add wide-format. They retired equipment that was rarely being used, rearranged their shop, found unused space in another department, started with a small-footprint device only a couple of feet long — the point is, they made it work. One suggested putting a printer in the front office area where it will generate customer interest. Another kept his printer in a corner and had to roll it out each time he used it. I myself have seen wide-format printers in hallways and in managers’ offices. Make it work.
Cannot afford a wide-format printer. As mentioned earlier, the ROI time on a wide-format printer is very short. And more basic models will only run you a few thousand dollars; prices have come down, in case you haven’t checked in a while. You can also start by leasing a printer while you create a market.
Add up what you’re paying to print this work outside and you can easily make a case for getting a machine. The explosion of orders you’ll receive will quickly make the price tag seem irrelevant.
Wide-format is not only a great opportunity, it can be essential to the future of your in-plant, managers said.
“I know if I had not started my wide-format business in 2003, Regional Health would not have a printing department today,” noted Larry Mills, manager of Regional Health Printing Services in Rapid City, S.D. “It would have been closed down due to an ever-changing world of technology and business.”
“If you are not looking at ways to grow,” added James, of Deer Valley Unified School District, “you will not succeed.”
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.