Web to Print is all about program based work. Printers are all about project based work. The two don’t mix. Part of the reason for such slow adoption is just that fact. How does one build a process for program-based production with components which are all based on project based work? Print machinery is designed for quantity and high speed production. Digital print on demand is low quantity and digital presses today run at 10 to 20 times slower with 1/4 of the production footprint of offset equipment. Print MIS systems are built for project based estimating, job tracking and planning, bulk shipping and large complex jobs. Put a digital job through the estimating module and you’ll price yourself right out of the market before you begin. Sit with sales, prepress, estimating, press and bindery and mention this type of change. You’ll see smoke rise, tempers flare and an immediate psychological shutdown. Change to these people is EVIL. It threatens their very existence and reminds them that the world will never be what it was. Those still in the industry are aging and there’s no fresh blood entering this industry. They hate change, but change is what’s for dinner.
Web to print is made up of storefronts, servers, SaaS, databases and complex asset management, architects to understand and build a client’s specific solutions based on unique needs. Scripting engineers, security and permissions schemas, multiple HTML interfaces, slow digital presses, automated FTP servers, no allowance for prepress, unique custom automated billing models, integrated automated reporting, market imposed pricing, constant maintenance of templates, catalogs, shipping methods and a unique set of customer service challenges. Bindery is smaller and requires more agile equipment tolerating no setup time. If you’re a traditional printer and you’re not turned off yet, then maybe, just maybe you’ve got the intestinal fortitude to survive web to print.
The long and short of it is that a conventional printer doesn’t speak the language required to tackle web to print. One must go outside the conventional world and bring in the talent from elsewhere. From where do you say? Well, first one needs to hire one who has the passion for the Internet, for change, understands process and programmatic vs. project, sees the potential and owns the vision of moving from the old to the new. (Asbestos underwear is a requirement.) Then one must stand aside and let them run with the vision to build the new model and hold one’s water because it’s all foreign to the traditional printer.
If you’re good with that, then there’s hope. If you’re not, then you’ll just have to start looking for the company that has it figured out. Good luck with that. You’ll need it. When you find it, lock it down quick. There are a precious few who get it and the majority who don’t. It’s as foreign as the PCs forced upon you in the 90’s. Those who embrace it will win. Those who fight it will certainly die. It’s disruptive, but then again, so wasn’t Xerox, Micorsoft, Adobe, Apple, Google, Twitter and Facebook. It’s a new world and web to print is going to replace the project based world as we know it. So hang on tight and realize that it’s going to be a wild ride. But the good news is that the model is one of annuity and not project based. Those who embrace it will win back the customers whom they lost to the bid process and value add will once again be front and center winning over price and turn.