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Talking Shop

(April 2008) posted on Wed Apr 09, 2008

Print providers discuss the state of the industry at the Signage and Graphics Summit.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Clare Baker, Tom Zeit

Brandon Gabriel of LAgraphico said that the profitability of green initiatives is not all measured in dollar amounts, however. Through environmentally responsible practices, LAgraphico has established a healthier work environment, is more aware of internal operations, and has had doors open up to new customers. (See "Where the Grass and the Profits are Greener," page 30, for more information on Gabriel’s operation.)

A panel discussion on "New Ideas in Inventory Control" examined the need to minimize inventory while remaining responsive enough to handle unpredictable situations. Moderated by Marty McGhie of Ferrari Color and including Greg Schopmeyer of OAI, Inc., and Mark Wallace of Pratt Corp., an emphasis was put on developing as close and trusting a relationship as possible with your suppliers while not remaining dependent on too few of them. It was also noted how critical the efficient use of your physical space is, so that what inventory you have is as accessible as possible while minimizing the space it occupies and the expense of storage.

A lot of discussion throughout the conference addressed the difficulty of how to define your business based on the work you do and who your customers are. At a roundtable discussion, for instance, it was noted that the difference between the work of a custom shop and a production shop is becoming less clear as more and more production work requires customization, with very little inventory or standardization except at the highest volumes. One of the toughest things for a relatively small shop to know is when to turn down a big job because it’s really not a good fit. The competition is keen for those big jobs, even with their lower margins, but the demand for quality and even customization at that level is ever-growing.

On the cutting edge

Emerging technology, and the smart use of it, was of course one of the most popular topics. A busy session on what’s new and important about flatbed UV digital printers, for instance, with panelists Jim Hunt of Fastsigns, Paul Lilienthal of Pictura Graphics, and Greg Root of SuperGraphics, created a lively discussion.