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Rising to the challenges of the ‘new normal’

Print ePS - Rising to the challenges of the ‘new normal’
4 minute read

The ‘new normal’ presents commercial printers with a complex and dynamic landscape of rising energy costs, the rising cost of raw materials, and labor shortages.

Further, this challenging and transformative post-pandemic environment (sometimes referred to as ‘the new normal’) looks set to stay.

But as Britain’s former Prime Minister, Winston Churchill stated: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” In this blog we post some questions and suggestions to get your team thinking, planning, and acting to help you to prosper in today’s business environment.


Where are tomorrow's opportunities?

It is most likely that you see and hear a shift in your customer’s focus as they, too, adjust to the new normal. Listen well and find ways to insert your business into their supply chain, in turn, assuring your business’ success.

It is also important to surround yourself and your business with more and more successful customers. This may mean some shift in your current customer focus. Don’t fear change. Understand it, and proactively be part of it rather than being forced into a reactive situation. Operate on your timeline, not someone else’s whenever possible, which means you cannot be complacent in your thinking and planning for the future.

Where are we today?

It is essential to have good insight into the business you are conducting today and consider what your customers look like, and which are generating the most revenue. Are those customers also generating the most profit?

Look at your product mix and sales volume, are the biggest sellers profitable? What is profitable? Why is it profitable? What parts of your business are the least profitable?

Be careful not to mix overhead with profit centers and think it is okay as it all comes out in the wash. Always measure, always ‘move to improve’. 

Are you aligned with market demand? What are your customers telling you that they need? Are you supplying them with solutions for their needs? Be part of their supply chain and in discussions to open conversation beyond just what you do today.

Also, understand the current and future market as best you can and proactively target your business to where the opportunity is. Evaluate this against what you are doing today and where you are profitable or focus on improvement.

Are you automating the right ‘stuff?’

One of the areas of opportunity easily recognized by all organizations is automation.

Are you automating what should be automated? In your end-to-end solution, there is a tendency to automate the exception rather than the repeatable norm. Why? Because we want to eliminate exceptions so we can carry on with what we find familiar and easy. Don't make this mistake! Prioritize automation for repetitive tasks. Focus your resources on the exceptions.

I would also suggest that any anomalies should be reflected in your pricing so that the additional time spent is profitable. Don’t give away employee time because “they are there anyway, might as well have them do it.” If the employee is in a profit center, evaluate how they are being utilized for the highest opportunity and margin.

This goes for your customer-facing order entry, or e-Commerce solution as well. Put the easy stuff on the site first to gain buy-in from the customer and automate the redundant no human-touch necessary work. There is a reason that stationary, print-on-demand static catalog items and fulfillment are natural candidates for online automated work.

How do we move from today to tomorrow?

Now that we have the data don’t stop there. Again, Move to Improve. Find the areas where you feel you and your team can improve. What are you going to target and why? Be clear about your objectives and base them on the data you have collected. Now is the most important part — don't just talk about it, act! Make clear your goals by making them SMART goals and well communicated throughout your entire organization.

Get your entire team involved! It is best to pick goals for each manager. Be sure to include all managers from sales through operations. Throughout my career, I have found the most success when using a servant leadership style. I ask my reports the question: “How can I help you with your job of helping get work done for our customers?” Set goals for each quarter and use SMART Goals to measure success.

An example goal for sales might be to add one multi-year B2B customer contract with a target revenue of $xx that utilizes our web-to-print solution with a primary focus on wide-format inkjet work with a profitability of $xx per quarter. 

Associated goals for production might be turnaround time, waste reduction, labor cost reduction, etc. Sharing the results of these goals through measuring the appropriate KPIs is critical to team buy-in and success. Acting on the above should not be a one-and-done event but should be part of your routine business review quarterly and annually.

Be careful not to measure and analyze too granularly. For example, if you do land that B2B contract, don’t count every job but rather the account’s success overall. While this might seem in contrast to the production measurements, it should not be based on expectations of all when you include them all in the planning phase.

One last thought-provoking question, you know what you know, but what is it you don't know?

If you do not have an information system and operations that support data collection, analysis of costs, understanding profits, automation of orders, automation of operations, and automation of invoicing, start there! Consult with those you trust to find suitable systems and put them in place as quickly as possible so you can understand your entire business and make informed decisions.