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Diving into digital

Oct 1, 1996 12:00 AM

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Printers, trade shops and other graphic arts firms are changing their attitudes about electronic support services such as digital data management, archiving and network services. A new industry study reveals that while graphic arts firms, particularly printers, historically have wanted to see a direct correlation between a piece of hardware or software and its capital return before making an investment, a dramatic shift has taken place in the market.

This data comes from SFM TrendWatch, the twice-yearly survey of the graphic arts industry conducted by Strategies for Management (SFM), Harrisville, RI. The report is based on information compiled from more than 700 survey responses, plus interviews with print buyers, printers and other industry figures. It focuses on printing industry business conditions, key business challenges, new sales opportunities, investment plans and perceived business threats, among other topics.

According to respondents, the number one new sales opportunity for 1996 is broadening prepress services. For color separators and platemakers, digital file management and archiving was cited as the second most important opportunity, with 26 percent giving this answer. Commercial printers gave a surprisingly high response rate to this category as well, nearly one in 10.

A related category, database management, was the third most common response among color separators and was rated moderately high by typographers and service bureaus.

As for investment plans, 44 percent of all respondents say they are planning to purchase a Mac or a PowerMac workstation within the next 12 months, with 53 percent of service bureaus and 60 percent of color separators giving this answer. Network servers came in second, with the number of all respondents planning to make such a purchase coming in at 20 percent (a 50 percent increase from the last survey).

"This confirms what we have been saying about the importance of database management and communications in today's marketplace," notes Dr. Joseph Webb, president of SFM. "Having a network server means that more companies are abandoning `sneaker net' systems (taking a disk and walking it over to the person who needs it) and moving to totally electronic workflows."

SFM TrendWatch is a clients-ponsored study updated in the spring and fall. The cost of the study is $2,750 annually. For more information, contact Joseph Webb, SFM, at (800) 283-8063.