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The Third Wave: An Iron Tale about the Business of Print, Vol. 12

This column is the twelfth in a year-long series of columns about the challenges facing the converting industry. Through our 2002 series of print and web articles, Raine provides critical insights, specific industry examples, and thought-provoking ideas about how technology is impacting converters today. In this issue we examine why companies need to create "technology radar screens" in order to remain competitive in the years ahead.

Creating a Technology Radar Screen
As more and more companies reduce physical assets and supplement business processes with software and e-solutions, the business drivers start to change. As money and technology become easier for more competitors to access, then, clearly, the differentiating factor starts to revolve around intellectual property or intellectual capital. Leaders in the converting industry will be those companies that can aggregate intellectual capital cheaper, better, and faster than the next guy.

It stands to reason the more you know about what’s going on in technology, the more powerful your competitive strategy —with the promise of capturing new opportunities faster. Creating a technology radar screen means formalizing a process in your company that collects, translates, and communicates the latest relevant technology information to the entire management team.

We are seeing it first with worldwide or global companies. In the not-so-distant past, becoming a global company meant building an efficient network of production, sales, and service subsidiaries capable of penetrating markets around the world. But the demands of the knowledge economy are turning this strategy on its head. The challenge is to innovate cheaper, better, faster, and that means getting better return on investment (ROI) for knowledge capital. It means creating value by searching out and mobilizing untapped pockets of technology and market intelligence scattered across the globe.

And what’s even better is this formula is not reserved for big companies. Thanks to the Internet, small to medium size firms have equal footing to create their own technology radar screens.

Technology Radar Screen Benefits
The benefits to creating an ongoing system or process within your company to track the latest relevant advancements in technology will have enormous payback. Some of the benefits are as follows:

  • new sales opportunities;

  • ability to identify and negotiate first with distribution channels and partners;

  • "first-mover" advantage with new technology standards;

  • greater productivity growth (i.e. technology drives productivity faster than labor hours can);

  • organization alignment and accelerant; and

  • source of competitive pricing advantage.

Front End Changes: Digital Asset to Content Management
Tracking rapid changes within the production front end is an excellent place to start a radar screen. The content management value chain (i.e. those activities related to the capture and conversion of data, text, and images) is assimilating, morphing, and penetrating deeper into the converting world. As technology applications takeover huge chunks of the front-end (e.g. file creation, file transfer) and integrate with human functions, the value chain shape shifts itself into something completely different. Content management is on a direct collision course with the print and converting production value chain.

What does this mean to a converter? How fast and how soon should converters react? By creating a radar screen and looking at what’s happening to content management in other industries, converters can gauge when developments will impact their world.

This became especially evident at the latest PackExpo Show in November 2002, especially when contrasted with GraphExpo 2002, held in the same location three weeks earlier. GraphExpo (and Converting Expo), now one-quarter the size of PackExpo, definitely showed the industry "stress lines" of both the exhibitor and attendees. Clearly, printers are focusing on technology solutions and digital equipment —anything that can reduce costs by greater than 30%.

From the front-end to the back-end, crisis in the print industry is forcing the acceleration of understanding how to use technology in the print supply chain as well as into other industry supply chains, such as fulfillment, direct mail, and converting. We are witnessing the growth of purchases for ancillary converting equipment by printers to provide full-service solutions to their best customers.

A technology radar screen in a converting company could show that there exists a great opportunity for converters to partner with printers and maintain their position as the converting supply chain experts. It's just one more way to help fight for your price.

This article is excerpted from the Raine whitepaper The Third Wave: An Iron Tale about the Business of Print, downloadable free of charge from

Susan Kelly is a managing partner with Raine Consulting, specializing in strategy development, customer clarity, and business optimization services for the graphic media and digital technology industries. She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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