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The Third Wave: An Iron Tale about the Business of Print, Vol. 1

As a new contributor to pffc-online.com (Paper, Film & Foil CONVERTER), Raine Consulting Inc. looks forward to providing readers with up-to-date information about technology’s effects on the converting, printing, and packaging industries. Through our series web articles in 2002, we hope to provide critical insights, specific industry examples, and thought-provoking ideas about how technology is impacting converters today.

Raine's whitepaper The Third Wave: An Iron Tale about the Business of Print is the foundation of this column for the coming year. This whitepaper is the third in a series of in-depth analyses of the relationship among technology, business growth, and the printing industry.

We believe the lessons learned in the print industry provide valuable insights for converters. For example, in the fall of 1999, an initial Raine white paper, The First Wave: Transition of the Printing Industry to the Internet, outlined the deluge of e-commerce providers and cautioned readers about a long road to success in using e-commerce technology.

A second white paper (published fall 2000), The Second Wave: Webifying the Printing Industry, introduced the concept of e-commerce gorillas -- powerful companies with deep pockets and strong experience in their markets that were beginning to make serious technology investments--far beyond the dot.coms.

In the converting industry, for example, we have seen the rise and fall of both independent and private exchanges (such as Selecterra or Paction). Today, in the converting industry, we see the growing strength of technology-capable suppliers (such as Avery Dennison and DuPont), companies offering established services to their customers electronically.

Avery Dennison's new RollXchange.com looks to translate their success in their own selling surplus material to a new level. The RollXchange gives label converters the ability to trade a wide variety of materials and equipment, with Avery Dennison providing logistics and transactional support.

As another example, DuPont Cyrel is moving aggressively to link with key customers through their Cyrel Online program. Each of these initiatives is noteworthy because the service is based on an established and profitable business, using customer-tested communication and data transfer methods.

What's Next?
The story continues to a "Third Wave." Despite the rise and fall of ecommerce providers, and the slowness of e-commerce gorillas to reveal themselves, there are other industries and other players very much interested in the lessons learned by printers and converters.

In an attempt to solve customer problems, these Third-Wave companies are colliding into the converter's domain. Our concern? These new entrants try to marginalize the business of converting. For converters, the future is now. The imperative is to make smart choices around technology and new business models, and capture the opportunities for which they are uniquely qualified.

The converting business is a widely varied industry. Many of its most successful businesses have been built on the truly unique blend of technical capability and customer responsiveness. This whitepaper looks at some examples where "converter-proven" technology has helped other businesses grow and prosper. Now more than ever, it's time to figure out how converters can leverage technology to create a new roadmap—one that is directed toward new markets, new customers, and ultimately new growth during these tough and unpredictable economic times.

A common thread throughout the Third Wave deals with understanding "profit somersaults" in the converting industry. These swings in profitability are symptoms of a bigger problem. Converting equipment, now, is the tail--not the dog. The converter's technology infrastructure--not his or her equipment--has become the dog. Those that come to grips with what converting is--and what the converter's true strengths are--will make the reinforcing choices to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Finally, we will take on a prescriptive note to help CEOs re-gear themselves toward the most essential tasks at hand: generating sales and making smart technology choices. Anyone running a converting company today will find "Raine’s Four-Step Process" for technology-planning an excellent guide to solid growth.

We are excited about our relationship with Paper, Film & Foil CONVERTER. We look forward to your comments; your input and opinions are important. If you have any questions, wish to contact us, or want to download Raine whitepapers, please visit us at RaineConsulting.com.

Raine Consulting Inc. is a management and technology consulting services firm. Our associates are experienced managers from printing and converting companies. We concentrate on helping companies in graphic media understand how technology-enabled systems can benefit their companies. We've managed and contributed to projects in supply-chain optimization, e-procurement, and CRM.


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