WFX: A World of Wide-Format Possibilities
Leaders of large-format printing gathered to exchange their thoughts on new applications, businesses strategies, and the future of our industry.
"What’s so awesome about being in the printing industry? There’s always something new to get excited about,"
Herrera’s words encapsulated the aura of possibilities that permeated the conference, hosted by SGIA and ST Media Group May 21-23. Over two and a half days, the industry’s top wide-format print professionals gathered in Minneapolis at the historic Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot, for an exciting lineup of speakers and panelists, myriad networking and roundtable opportunities, and a chance to converge with industry influencers in a setting dedicated exclusively to wide-format digital print.
But most importantly, CEOs, presidents, and founders of the premier print shops in the country traveled to Minnesota to make a change in their company. Ryan Estis, opening keynote speaker and CEO of Ryan Estis & Associates, said it best: “The most important time during this conference is 8 a.m. the day after it ends, when you have to put into practice what you learned,” he said. With sessions dedicated to emerging trends like interior décor and textiles and technology updates from 3D printing to single-pass, every attendee was delivered a new idea (or two or five) to implement at their shop.
One of the key takeaways? In this industry, you don’t simply print graphics – you help clients create an experience, strengthen a brand, and forge connections.
“You’re not in the business of digital printing – you’re in the business of amplifying a brand or a business,” said closing keynote speaker Anthony Tjan, founder & CEO of The Cue Ball Group, venture capitalist, and entrepreneur. At the end of the day, yes, PSPs print graphics for clients, but have you ever stopped to think about the bigger picture? “It’s not what you do, but how you do it. Give customers a little more than they expect each time,” added Estis.
Below is just a glimpse of the insights, actionable takeaways, and statistics that WFX attendees gleaned from the inaugural event.
WFX dedicated a number of sessions to emerging trends in the wide-format print space. Speakers dove into new applications and markets that your shop should consider adding to its repertoire in order to diversify and bring in new clients.
“Why the Retail Store Is Evolving, Not Disappearing”
Kraig Kessel, co-founder, Kraido
- “Customers are looking for experiences. Build-A-Bear figured this out in the ‘90s.”
- “More surveyed retailers say they’ll be opening stores in 2018 vs. closing them.”
- “Designers and retailers want more engaging environments. This means printed graphics and 3D printed components.”
- Pop-up stores, social responsibility, showrooming (viewing a product in a store but buying it later online), BOPIS (buy online pickup in-store), online retailers moving to brick and mortar, and the customer experience are major retail trends in 2018.
“Reimagining 3D Printing in the Wide-Format Space”
- “I’ll tell you a secret – 3D printing is really simple. Getting print-ready files is the hard part.”
- “By having technology nobody else has, we can make things that nobody else can make.”
- “The future is our youth. We’re investing in talent.” Pictographics is recruiting millennials who have been printing on desktop 3D machines for years.
“From Soft Signage to Fashion, the Opportunities in Textile Printing Are Boundless”
Panelists Ron Gilboa, group director, production technology, Keypoint Intelligence; Kerry King, VP of research and development, Spoonflower and Big Picture Editorial Advisory Board member; and Kirk Green, CEO of Ferrari Color and Big Picture Editorial Advisory Board member
- “Textile printing is growing. How do you develop a business plan around it?” –Gilboa
- “Soft signage was first about saving shipping costs, now people use fabric because they like the look.” –Green
- Direct-to-textile vs. dye sub for textiles: Each has pros and cons. Dye sub is two-step, but can have higher colorfastness. Direct is more efficient. –King
- “Finishing is a challenge. If you can’t sew or finish the printed textiles, that’s a problem.” –Gilboa
“What Single-Pass Printing Means for Your Business”
Mark Hanley, president of IT Strategies
- Corrugated leads in the use of single pass. Graphic arts has been slower to adopt.
- “There can be issues with a single head: nozzle redundancy, maintenance integration, head cost.”
“Why Sustainability and Profitability Go Hand in Hand”
Moderated by Marci Kinter, VP of government & business information, SGIA, SGP; panelists Jenny Dela Cruz, COO and co-founder, Snowball Print Marketing; Marco Ugarte, Ph.D., CSCP, sustainability manager at MillerCoors; and Scott Schulte, co-CEO, Modernistic
- What’s an easy way to make sustainability and profitability go hand in hand? “Have your energy company look at your lighting. We saved 65 percent.” –Schulte
- “We have to be the ones to ask the hard questions to move the industry forward.” –Dela Cruz
- When it comes to sustainability, “It’s a cultural change and it snowballs.” –Schulte
“If Wallcoverings Could Talk: New Opportunities in Interior Décor”
Moderated by Big Picture columnist Rachel Nunziata, product development manager, 4walls.com; panelists Chris Laniak, production manager, Excelsus Solutions and Paul Lilienthal, president, Pictura Graphics
- “Seventy-four percent surveyed say wallcoverings and interior décor are key growth markets.” –Nunziata discussing a recent FESPA report
- “We’re really trying to focus on custom – not just wallcovering, but all graphics.” –Lilienthal
- “One challenge we are seeing [with custom] is that we don’t have a book of designs to flip through. There’s a lot of education needed from consumers to customers.” –Laniak
“How a Punk Rocker from LA Became a One-Stop-Shop Rockstar in Vegas”
- “Want to give yourself a small heart attack? Try putting a jersey on the Statue of Liberty.” –Swanson told the crowd about adorning the Las Vegas statue in a 650-pound mesh jersey for the Vegas Golden Knights
- “Why have someone else print it when you could?”
- Swanson’s brand? “This is me. Just be yourself.”
“Keeping Print Relevant for the Next Generation”
Moderated by Robin Donovan, editor-in-chief, Signs of the Times; panelists Brian Adam, president, Olympus Group; Ben King, president, King Signs & Graphics; and Dalton Scott, president, Young Professionals of Minneapolis
- “Millennials speak that online language better than anybody.” –King. An online presence is more important than ever today – are you leveraging your social media and website?
- “Millennials are constantly trying to learn and grow. Everybody wants to be a better version of themselves.” –Scott
- King, Scott, and Adam all stress the importance of one-on-ones with employees, whether it’s weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. Communicate with your employees and discuss things that are going well and areas that need improvement.
“Leveraging the Power of Technology and Social Media to Maximize Profit”
Inna Semenyuk, founder and CEO, InnavationLabs
- “Over 4 billion people use the internet. Over 3.1 billion people are expected to use social media this year.”
- “It’s not about just driving traffic. It’s also about creating an experience.”
- Snapchat has its own version of QR codes called Snapcodes that anyone can create. Millions of people (many teenagers) already have the Snapchat app on their phone – is this a way your shop can experiment with connected print?
- Augmented reality will be a $117 billion market by 2022.
Women in Print
Recipients of Big Picture’s Women in Print Awards discussed their leadership roles in successful wide-format businesses, sharing insights on how they got started in the industry, challenges they’ve faced, the reasons they’re still here today, and their vision for tomorrow.
“The Women in Print Panel"
Moderated by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Big Picture; panelists included 2016 Women in Print winners Diana Herrera, owner/president of AP Imaging and Elaine Scrima, VP of Operations at GSP, and 2017 Women in Print Award winner Michelle Gobert, president and owner of Image 360 Central New Orleans
- “It’s exciting to be in an industry that is ever-changing and evolving. And we get to evolve with it.” –Scrima
- “I always go for enthusiasm over experience. I want the young person who loves figuring it out.” –Herrera
- “We’ve always been early adopters. Sometimes too early...” –Gobert discussing being on the forefront with new technology, which helped land her many high-end sports clients
- “If a customer wants something, we tend to invest in it and the equipment.” –Scrima
- “I’m very excited about what we can do with 3D print.” –Herrera
- “I love the youth and I love their energy. I love helping them along the way.” –Gobert explaining why she often works with startups and small businesses
- “In this industry, there’s no limit to your creativity or what you can go out and market.” –Scrima
Though new and flashy applications are always interesting to talk about, WFX made sure to add sessions focusing on the nuances of operating a wide-format digital print shop. What are buyers looking for in a print provider? How can PSPs develop customer loyalty? How important is color consistency for your clients?
“The WFX Buyers’ Panel”
Moderated by Steve Duccilli, senior VP of content, ST Media Group; panelists Kevin Manion, VP branded environments leader, Wells Fargo; Harry Steen, creative director, SuperValu; and Suzanna Eversole, manager, print production, REI
- “We come up with ideas, but we don’t know how to produce them.” –Steen
- “If you’re SGP certified, you rise right up to the top.” –Eversole
What are customers looking for in a print vendor?
- “It’s all about the relationship between the buyer and the printer. I want honesty.” –Steen
- “I’m looking for longevity in relationships.” –Manion
- “I want a printer that cares about my signage as much as I do.” –Eversole
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how important are the following factors for you as a print buyer?” Duccilli posed to the panel
- Manion: 12
- Steen: 10
- Eversole: 10
- Manion: 10
- Steen: 10
- Eversole: 10
- Manion: 5
- Steen: 6
- Eversole: 6
“Preserving Customer Loyalty"
- “Create relationships with your customers and make them partnerships.” –McGhie
- “How do you preserve customer loyalty? Provide them with innovation.” –Tour
- “The cost of securing a new client? 5 to 10 times more expensive than retaining a current one.” –McGhie
“Meeting Your Clients’ Color Expectations”
Moderated by Ray Weiss, director of digital print programs, SGIA; panelists Hayes Holzhauer, executive VP of operations, bluemedia, and Terence Wyse, OPS R&D color specialist, Shutterfly
- “How do you know you’re hitting your target if you don’t know what your target is? Getting all your machines on the same color targets is crucial.” –Weiss
- “The biggest challenge in color management is if the media is bought by the container. It’s 100 percent never the same as the last bin.” –Holzhauer
- “Good color management is all about reducing variables.” –Weiss
Managing the Dynamics of Family-Held Businesses”
Greg Root, president, GMN/superGraphics
- “Spend time on the next generation. Create a transition plan — don’t wait.”
- “We’re constantly combing the next generation to find out if our kids are interested in working in the business.”
- “Only 1/3 of all family businesses successfully make the transition to a second generation.”
“Never Settle: How to Take Your Sales Team from Good to Great”
Moderated by Ron Gilboa, Keypoint Intelligence; panelists Eli Everhart, director of business development, C. G. Witvoet & Sons, and Kirk Green, Ferrari Color
- “Trying to be all things to all people is your superhighway to mediocrity.” –Green
- “We ask clients: who is your audience? What’s your message? And how can we help you do that?” Sales has become more consultative. —Green
“The Future is Now: The Two Key Places to Automate Your Production”
- How can our staffs help themselves and make their jobs easier? “Tap into staff ingenuity – find better ways of doing things.” –Labiuk
- “Automation saves you countless, countless hours.” –Hite
- “Automation is really just saving time, money, and effort. Five minutes may not seem like big savings, but all that time adds up.” –Labiuk
- “Creating or following an existing process to stay focused on the big picture will accelerate all areas of the business in ways unexpected. Work on the business, not in the business.” –Hite