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Printing sector trends for 2020

Automation, collaboration, analytics and consolidation have been earmarked as the four key trends that will affect the print industry in the year ahead.

Johannesburg, 12 Dec 2019
Read time 4min 10sec

All businesses, regardless of size and across all industries, are affected to varying degrees by trends such as cloud, big data, artificial intelligence, automation and analytics. However, it’s the manner in which enterprises are implementing the technologies that enable the above that differs according to sector. 

The printing industry is particularly interesting as it applies a traditional method of business, despite its members being at the forefront of advanced technologies that allow people to print pretty much anything on any type of material and in a matter of minutes.

Bernice Hynard, the Managing Director of Printacom, outlines four key trends that she believes will affect the print industry in the year ahead.

Analytics and BI

The requirement to make more and more informed business decisions is driving a deep need for analytics, and as a result, there are more tools becoming available to businesses. Analytics is becoming a must-have business tool and companies that weren’t thinking about business intelligence (BI) as a tool for their businesses are realising its relevance. 

BI is becoming more ubiquitous. Companies are understanding that if they can draw data off the system and analyse it, they will have a better understanding of the business. Analytics is becoming as much a backbone of the business as finance, sales and HR. It’s virtually impossible to formulate proper strategies without doing analytics first to ensure that you have the proper business intelligence to make informed decisions. This is a trend that’s going to get more entrenched going forward.

Consolidation and right-sizing

In the year ahead, instead of reducing their spending, we’ll begin to see companies starting to right-size their infrastructure and businesses. During flush economic times, companies need a certain amount of infrastructure to accommodate their staff numbers. However, when the economy contracts, businesses reduce their workforce and run smaller and leaner operations. They don’t necessarily need all of the infrastructure they currently have. This is when they begin right-sizing; for example, moving certain applications to the cloud. 

This trend towards right-sizing will require companies to delve into their data analytics to ensure that their infrastructure will be better managed and more efficient and cost-effective going forward.

In line with this, the next two years are going to be consolidation years for our industry. We will begin to see companies and distributors consolidating and we expect vendors, even the end-customer, to do the same. Although we’re in a fairly mature industry – we’re 35 years down the line with IT in South Africa – the economy is tightening and we’re starting to see consolidation at all levels in our industry. Markets worldwide are declining in terms of volumes. 

Everyone is selling less of everything, there’s a distinct economic slowdown, and the resulting macro-economic pressure is driving consolidation and right-sizing.

Automation

Automation is not necessarily about replacing old infrastructure; it’s an iterative process. You can’t just implement automation and digitisation as a once-off project. That's because the majority of companies have legacy systems that they can’t afford to throw out or replace. This makes it difficult for them to embark on a company-wide automation drive. Instead, we’ll see the ongoing automation of small processes within the business, as a means of innovating on the edge. For example, a process such as the collection of bulk orders from clients is perfect for automation. 

Over the next two years, we’re going to see a significant acceleration in the automation of these types of processes as it will not only allow the business to reduce costs, but also free up employees to be upskilled for more value-added activities.

Automation is not a drive to a destination; it’s an ongoing process that contributes to the greater whole over time.

Collaboration

The workplace of the future is going to require people to be more collaborative. Future jobs won’t focus solely on academic qualifications, they’ll also require the ability to think critically and to collaborate. 

We are already seeing the workplace of the future in any company that allows things to evolve organically instead of imposing a strict hierarchy. Old-school hierarchies are flattening out as businesses recognise that people from every level of the organisation have value to add. People are being empowered to do problem-solving together, which is how future work is going to be done.

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