New Research Places Print Services At The Bottom In A Study On Manufacturing And Finds Management Processes Are To Blame.

The peak-end rule says people judge an experience by its end point rather than a sum of moments. It makes sense as we attend the last five minutes of a game, watch a series finale on television, and skip to the end of a boring book. Why waste time when you can get straight to an outcome? Unfortunately that’s not the way it works in real life as we suffer through every moment of a frustrating home renovation, deal with constant delays in a development cycle, and anxiously await the conclusion of a Russian investigation.

Given most businesses focus on an end point, it’s not surprising when they embrace the notion, ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. That’s what print services must believe, why else would they put customers through a non-transparent manual process with technology from last century. But, what if an industry ranks 21st out of 22 in a study of management processes?

That’s what the National Bureau of Economic Research reveals in a paper titled What Drives Differences in Management. The paper presents data gathered from 32,000 manufacturing plants across 22 industries and found, “Structured management is tightly linked to performance and success.” For purposes of comparison a print industry blog converted the data and determined the print services industry is in a race to the bottom. 21st!

Why Did This Happen?

A common explanation is print is dying. The industry was so disrupted by the Internet that it stopped focusing on making its process better:

•Big commercial printers, and financial printers, added complexity by offering ancillary services believing their business is integrated marketing or financial solutions.

•Small commercial printers buy press equipment to incrementally improve production, but lack resources to fund anything else.

•Managed print services offer independence and transparency, but lack customer-facing tools and treat their supply base as second-class citizens.

The reality is print is alive; it’s just been slow to evolve. It seems when competition is complacent there is less urgency to innovate. We met recently with a highly respected print service that proudly stated their motto is “We suck less.” Not exactly a catchphrase to prompt the next great thing.

Another explanation is the industry benefits from a lack of transparency. After all, information helps a customer qualify suppliers, interact with greater detail, and negotiate better pricing. There is evidence the transparency assertion is valid as managed print has carved-out a strong position among the biggest buyers of print.

Being capable and being the right choice are different things. The next explanation is sourcing is seriously flawed as buyers and sellers have different objectives. That misalignment leads to guesswork as a buyer may not have knowledge on process or what’s available in the market. And waste when a seller says they’re capable while knowing there’s a better option. Of course there’s commission at stake, so it’s not about acting in a customer’s best interest.

There are other factors to consider, such as workforce. As Printing Industries of America reports, 30-50% of its skilled workforce will retire in 5 to 10 years. And, what’s missing is a supply of college graduates to bring energy, new ideas, and structured processes; for them, there’s little appeal in joining a stagnant environment. So, it all adds up to 21st place.

This Is A Typical Experience In Print Services. Is It Your Experience?

Here Is A Connected Print Experience

We believe in information transparency, digital processes, and choice. We believe when you hire a print service they should serve as an extension of your team. We believe every decision must be based on what’s best for a customer. Then, go from there:

•What is the business of a print service? If it’s print production, then it’s more of the same, 21st place. If it’s a connected print service, then every touch-point is supported with people, information, tools, and resources.

•What is the process to handle information? Email was never intended to manage complex projects as information gets buried in inboxes. Instead, a platform connects information for a project participant to see, understand, and make better decisions.

•What can be done to improve process? Today, a buyer uses disconnected apps to coordinate activities, all of which create workarounds. Replace workarounds with connected digital tools that streamline process activities.

•What kind of capabilities will improve production? Even the biggest print service pales in comparison to capabilities available in the market. To be adaptive, connect with a network of production resources to find the perfect match for project requirements.

•What would a customer prefer? Biased or unbiased guidance; email overload or platform efficiencies; 90’s technology or modern digital tools; static resources or a production network; disconnected apps or connected process; expensive or fair?

While the peak-end rule tells us an ending is memorable, it also finds that people judge an experience based on what they felt at its peak. We believe a connected print service is the only way to consistently achieve peak performance. A connected print service gives you reason to remember all the points in your experience.

PrintElements is a modern, connected print service. Learn more at