Two years ago in our November FlyBy we wrote that for the typical small offset shop owner, the question was not whether to branch out into digital, or even when. The only question unanswered was how much to invest.
Fast forward to Tom Crouser's column in the March issue of Quick Printing magazine. If we accept what 185 shop owners told Tom about their actual investments during the past two years, even the most hardened skeptic has to realize that digital is on track to marginalize offset the way offset displaced letterpress.
For us, writing programs that when released will still be relevant for a rapidly changing industry is merely one tectonic plate that's shifting under our feet. Just as uncertain is what's ahead for desktop applications. Will we see an exodus to the cloud as many predict? And if so, whose cloud will it be? Finally, who will win the platform wars, Apple, Microsoft, or an Android-like upstart nobody's yet heard of?
For the unlucky developer who picks the wrong horse, it's going to be a long walk home.
Unitac International Inc.
The Changing Print Shop
It's not often that we recommend someone else's product in this newsletter, but Tom Crouser's recent study of what products and services have been added by printers during the past two years warrants an exception. The study is an eye-opener. Business as usual is now clearly the beginning of the end of the road for small to medium size print shops.
While website construction, email campaign management, and wide format are all evaluated as viable pathways to diversification, offset versus digital is still front and center. Not as a debate necessarily, but how shop owners are dealing with it. The way one owner summed it up is telling:
"As the shift from commercial printing has shifted toward digital, our staff has necessarily decreased. Our gross sales have decreased, but the profit margin has increased to the point that paying the bills is easier now than before. Automated digital equipment runs with less supervision, and the quality levels tend to be more consistent and at a higher level than before. We are enjoying the change, even though we didn't enjoy the trip here!"
The printed 27-page report includes products and services printers are planning to add, and is available from Crouser & Associates. Price: $50.00 U.S.
What you see here is a prototype of something we're currently working on - MorningFlight/FM, with the FM standing for FileMaker. The finished product may look nothing like this, but I wanted to give you a sense of the direction we're headed in. Two points worth mentioning:
1. MorningFlight/FM is part of a new product line. It will not replace current Morning Flight editions.
2. You'll need FileMaker Pro 11 or newer to run it.
With more than 16 million units shipped and eight offices around the world, FileMaker is to database software what QuickBooks is to accounting. It's also an Apple product and that alone says MorningFlight/FM will run natively on the Mac. Apple isn't stupid - the same program will also run on Windows. More in our next FlyBy.
Tip of the Month
Adding Chipboard to Pads
When ordering pads, most buyers naturally assume they come with a chipboard backer. In the many years of owning a print shop, the only pads I recall delivering without a backer were the scratch pads we made for ourselves - out of leftover paper we had sitting around in our odd lot room and were too lazy to slip backers into. We just padded a single block of paper a foot high and peeled off what we needed.
For pads going out the door, you'll want to add chipboard. And the easiest way to bill for that is to simply include the cost of the board in the padding charge. In other words, if you're charging 30 cents per pad, price it so those 30 pennies include the chipboard.
What if you want to break out the cost of the backer on the quote? That, too, can be done but will need a paid Morning Flight program, down to and including the Passport Edition.