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Digitisation in the printing industry: There's still room for improvement!

The printing industry has been facing strong changes for many years now. While the level of sales is largely holding steady, apart from reasonable fluctuations, there are major shifts within the various sectors. The commercial business, for example, is becoming increasingly difficult - more modern media are increasingly outstripping classic commercials. On the other hand, the winners of the change are areas such as packaging and labels, which have been able to significantly increase their share of the total order volume over the past decade. 

The air is getting thinner for many printing companies in Germany that are already established - a fact that is also reflected in the number of companies that has been declining steadily for years. Every company in the printing industry should ask itself today what direction it would like to take in future. Because without specialising in individual, promising areas it will hardly be possible to produce profitably in the near future.

From the past to the present: what has changed?

There is no single cause that is responsible for all structural changes in the printing industry. Rather, it is an interplay of various factors that make life difficult for businesses. To blame the growing importance of online marketing alone would be short-sighted.

Rather, the entire nature of commissioning in the print industry has changed. In the past, printers fought for every single job. However, this was then associated with a large print run that ensured the company's capacity utilisation. At the same time, the administrative outlay was kept within bounds measured against the size of the order. 

This situation has changed fundamentally: There is a larger quantity of print jobs. But the print runs have become much smaller. No wonder, because whether it's a daily newspaper, a glossy magazine or business stationery - in times when saving paper has almost become an art, customers are more likely to opt for smaller print runs that are distributed specifically to genuinely interested parties instead of the bulk principle.

The challenge: high costs for low print runs

The challenge associated with many small, individual orders is the cost. Each new order entails a certain amount of administrative work (e.g. for coordination and price negotiation with the customer) and set-up costs. The more orders you process, the higher your mountain of unproductive tasks piles up. This drives up your costs and decreases the profitability of the operation. In the face of shrinking margins and declining orders, no printer can afford this. But the practice is exactly the same - you probably know it.

Processes that have proven themselves over decades now suddenly become a stumbling block: where telephone arrangements, manual system entries and double data entry are the order of the day, efficiency can hardly be implemented.

But what is the way out of this misery? There are three possible solutions. And they are called: digitalisation, digitalisation and digitalisation. As you can see, there is no way around digitalising and automating your internal processes. Only if you have your processes under control you can avoid cost explosions and transform your business with low costs for the future.

Just digitise it? It's not quite that simple!

You might gulp now and remember some attempts to digitalise processes - but with fluctuating success. The majority of software solutions in the industry are still based on the on-premise principle. This requires a separate IT landscape in which the systems have to be individually adapted to the company. This process is extremely lengthy and therefore expensive. 

The structure of the company also plays a role. Nine out of ten companies in the printing industry have fewer than 50 employees. Implementing on-premise applications is too costly for this target group. As a result, many long overdue projects do not even get off the ground or quickly come to a standstill. An end-to-end software landscape that enables fully digital processes is hardly feasible.

Added to this is the service portfolio of the printers. Only a few companies are specialised. Three out of four companies can be classified as "other print products". They are broadly positioned and print everything the customer orders, whether business cards, catalogues or books. In order not to lose valuable customers to competitors, they try to fulfil all their wishes.

While this enormous diversity offers great customer benefits, it also makes processes unnecessarily complex and drives up costs. The more diverse the possible tasks are, the more difficult they are to standardise and automate. Sometimes this can even lead to companies barely being in the black at the end of the day.

The solution to the predicament: 1. digitalisation, 2. standardisation, 3. automation

If you want to survive with your print shop, you have no other choice despite all the adversities: you have to make your processes more efficient. You can achieve this in three steps that build on each other:

  • Digitisation: Say goodbye to manual labour and increasingly digitise your processes. Properly used software enables faster and more efficient processes and reduces the susceptibility to errors.
  • Standardisation: The more specialised your products are, the more likely it is that your processes can be standardised. This means that they offer greater potential for automation in the future and contribute to the efficient processing of customer orders.
  • Automation: Automated processes save valuable resources and improve availability. A typical example is the automatic reordering of paper as soon as a certain reorder level is transmitted from the warehouse.

Connecting the dots is what counts

Introducing a single piece of software is no great art. The supreme discipline is networking with the existing systems of suppliers and business partners. Because if the software solutions do not communicate with each other, time savings and automation remain wishful thinking.

Zaikio succeeds in doing what a single company cannot do alone: As digitisation experts, we bring all market participants together in one place, from suppliers and workflow providers to Web2Print tools and MIS. This way, connectivity is just a click away. Zaikio Procurement is the first solution for an industry that is networked down to the smallest detail, with many more to follow.

The great advantage of this solution is that printers have access to the product ranges of all suppliers with whom they have a business relationship within one product. Via an intuitive interface, operators and buyers select materials, view prices and availability and place orders directly at the touch of a button - without the need for telephones or e-mails. 

Zaikio's success is based on the fact that even the smallest printers achieve clear added value. Zaikio Procurement is and remains free of charge for printers. We finance ourselves through a rebate from participating suppliers and can thus make the service available to printers at no additional cost. You can use Zaikio Procurement as a stand-alone product or integrate it directly into your in-house MIS. In the future, other products will follow, linking different market participants. Zaikio paves the way to the future for every printer.


If you want your print shop to remain competitive in the future, it is imperative that you make your processes more efficient. You can handle individual jobs with short runs profitably on the basis of digital and automated processes and thus react flexibly to customer wishes.
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