Survival of the fittest: Why print manufacturers must become masters of innovation
In today’s digital era, faced with the stark reality of either reinvention or rapid decline, large print industry players need to rapidly innovate to survive and prosper. Quocirca’s Print 2025 study reveals that, despite almost two thirds of industry executives saying innovation is the key to future success and the considerable resources at their disposal, major manufacturers have a harder time keeping pace with transformation than start-ups. This is due to a combination of factors such as corporate inertia, legacy processes and systems, difficulty in getting buy-in for new technology from senior leaders, and a misunderstanding of the needs of ever more connected consumers. However, some leading manufacturers are successfully leveraging the power of their brand and broad customer base to keep pace with digital disruption and enhance their competitive advantage.
Turning scale to advantage
Having revolutionised the office workplace several decades ago, print manufacturers are no strangers to digital disruption and innovation. The printer/copier has evolved from a “dumb” peripheral to a smart connected IoT device, with sophisticated embedded software platforms, capturing a wealth of data. As the market rapidly shifts amidst accelerated technology change, hardware commoditisation is forcing industry players down a path to another reinvention. Market leaders, often the traditional stalwarts of the industry, are becoming more agile, pursuing innovation and recognising the value of new talent, along with a willingness to embrace profound transformation.
As customer expectations evolve and digital transformation takes hold, print manufacturers and their partners have an unprecedented opportunity to interact more closely with both traditional and new customers. There has never been a stronger case for transformation and print manufacturers must reinvent themselves in order to find new and sustainable sources of revenue.
This means turning scale and legacy into new strengths combined with driving innovation with technology and new business models. In the coming years, AI, quantum computing, and machine learning will have significant impact on new products and services, while 3-D printing, robotics, and automation will disrupt manufacturing. There is no reason that traditional industry players cannot win at innovation, leveraging their scale and established positions – but they must embed digital strategy into corporate strategy to reclaim their status as industry pioneers.
So, in a mature marketplace how can print industry leaders strengthen their competitive advantage?
1. Rewrite the rules. Traditional players must avoid complacency about past successes. Disruptive change to the industry may not come from new start-ups as in other industries, but rather from existing competitors, as well as those in adjacent industries. Evaluate, experiment and engage with new technologies, platforms and ecosystems that could deliver a competitive advantage.
2. Reinvent business models. As the move to the subscription economy accelerates, driven in part by the Internet of Things (IoT), industry leaders are well positioned to bridge the physical and digital worlds. The value is shifting away from the physical asset to managing and enhancing the business value of the print infrastructure while integrating and streamlining print and digital workflows. Leading players can turn their expertise in owning and managing the print infrastructure into new competitive advantage, particularly around the integration of paper and digital workflows. As digital transformation efforts accelerate, leading vendors are working to enhance and expand their digital workflow products and services. Ricoh’s recent announcement to acquire DocuWare, a leading provider of content services software, reflects an ambitious move to strengthen their expertise in workflows, content management and document process automation.
3. Develop a culture of innovation. Industry players must create market-shaping investments that inject innovation, new talent and technologies into the business. The print industry is at a crossroads where it must look at accelerating innovation networks. Developing an ecosystem of innovators can pay huge dividends and also help attract the next generation of innovators as employees. This means creating a more open and collaborative customer-centric culture that builds customer trust and brand value. Vendors must evaluate opportunities to co-create with customers, existing and new partners and even competitors. The recent announcement of HP extending its partnership with Xerox is one example of how staunch competitors can work together.
4. Exploit big data. Because of their longevity, large, established companies such as the major print manufacturers have a wealth of data at their fingertips. Print manufacturers need to capitalise on this largely unexploited asset to make their data and data analytics integral to their business. Leveraging data with Artificial Intelligence (AI), for instance, can help industry players to develop more responsive customised and contextual experiences for customers, and also develop and monetise new products and services beyond their traditional core business. Ultimately, businesses that extract knowledge from proprietary data, and combine that with expertise built up over many years, will win in a continually consolidating industry.
5. Partner and collaborate. Developing broader networks of partners can help industry players achieve new sources of scale and extract new value from ecosystems. This can lead to co-creation as well as close collaboration with customers and partners. Again, leveraging insights from close and continuous collaboration can help deliver new, compelling customer experiences and new products and services. A case in point is HP’s approach to additive manufacturing, which has seen it establish a strong partner network of expertise including Siemens, BASF and GKN.
No time for complacency
Now more than ever, as print volumes decline and digitisation initiatives accelerate, print manufacturers who commit to transforming their leadership, organisation and culture will build a long-term advantage and survive and prosper. To stand out among competitors and maintain customer relevance, they need to apply innovation to not only existing and new business areas, but also in the products and services they develop.
Leading players are already reimagining and reinventing their businesses, but this is only the start. They must rethink their organisations from the ground up. This demands new focus, new expertise and new ways of thinking.
To innovate and scale, industry leaders will need to combine the creative skills of a start-up with the traditional strengths of an industrial enterprise. Those that respond to digital disruption boldly and embed digital strategies in their corporate strategy will be best positioned to drive competitive advantage from the laggards and emerge as winners.
To get early access to the next Print 2025 report please register at www. print2025.com
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