The latest research from In-Plant Graphics magazine is worth looking at. The study is entitled, "Software and Automation Trends in the In-Plant industry." One of the questions was about software ownership. Respondents were asked the following: if they own the software, own the software and are planning to upgrade, if they don't own it are considering a purchase, if they don't own it and have any plans to purchasing, or do they not know. Recalculating the data slightly by combining those that owned the software and disregarding those that don't know, you come up with the figure below.
Looking at the chart, several interesting things appear for me. Simply looking at the green bars that represent those that own the software, you can see that, after design software, variable data printing software is the second most popular software followed by a tie between Web to print and workflow software.
It makes perfect sense that design software ranks number one considering that almost every company uses design software. However, I think it is ironic that variable data printing software comes in at the second-highest ownership on this list. Unlike design software which is used every day in every company, VDP software is used rarely as indicated by the tiny fraction of VDP printing done.
If VDP is rarely used, why is it ranked so high on this list? One possible reason is because you can perform variable data printing using office products such as Microsoft Word. Another possible reason is because it is typically sold with the printing equipment and often offered as a bundled deal. The third possibility is that companies are listening to the experts who say you need to master variable data printing before you can master cross media and Omni channel marketing.
What makes perfect sense, however, is the approximate tie in ownership of workflow software at 47% and Web to print at 46%. Workflow and Web to print software are critical because they help in-plants reduce their manufacturing cost and speed their turnaround time. In a super-efficient workflow, this software can allow companies to offer same-day or overnight turnaround which is a new value-added service.
How important is it to reduce production cost and add new value-added services? A few years ago, an InfoTrends study (now Keypoint intelligence InfoTrends) identified reducing production cost and expanding products or services as the two most important initiatives for in-plant printers. Admittedly this research is dated, but I don't see anything contradicting this data which means that this remains very important.
Only Two Software Types Reduce Costs and Add Value
If you use reducing costs and adding value as a lens to look at all products and services, something unique emerges. Of all these different services or software, only two help reduce manufacturing cost, increase efficiency, and add more value.
If you're heading to the Print 18 show in a few weeks, keep this in mind as you walk around the show. If you see something that could help your business, ask yourself "Does this help me reduce costs and add value to my business?" If the answer is yes and you can cost-justify the purchase, it is likely a good investment.