Wide-format print is one of the most vibrant sectors of the digital print market, as evidenced by the 22,000 people who made their way to Fespa London in June 2013. There are three major driver to this trend that is being observed from all over the world, customer are pushing for better quality and specialist as well as the need for increased productivity.
There is still a high rate of technological development in wide-format print. New applications continue to unfold as new substrates, inks and marking technologies are brought to market, leading to new opportunities such as label printing, packaging and package prototyping, interior d?cor, soft signage and fabric/garment printing and a wide range of consumer and industrial applications in ceramic printing, in addition to the established signage and display graphics markets.
While the capabilities of individual wide-format printers continue to evolve apace in terms of resolution, colour gamut, speed of production and range of supported substrates, the integration of these devices into both the production workflow and the wider environment of their owners’ businesses has largely been neglected.
The wide format printers are operated in isolation as compared to all the other kinds of ERP systems. This does not happen because integration devices are not available but because the customers lack focus and awareness in automation.
Wide-format work typically requires more complex finishing than other types of print, sometimes to the point where the direct print costs are only a small part of the total job value. Complex one-off jobs will typically require creative input, management time, shipping and installation in addition to the printing process. Most of the producers of wide format print are very reluctant in accepting automation as the norm of this kind of jobs is customerization.
This manual approach can lead to inefficiencies in production management, and may result in material wastage and quality inconsistencies both between devices and over time. The other problem is associated with the inability to load balanced work across machines leading some machines being left idle.
Over time, the areas in the production process that are manual usually call for additional costs which are not included win the cost of production oftenly. Most of the time, job costing methods per metre often result into products being sold at a loss because not all the costs are accounted for during calculating the total costs. Since there are no bottlenecks in place, it becomes very difficult to identify those areas whereby money is being lost as there are no available details to facilitate this.
As the wide-format print provider market becomes more crowded and competitive, margins will come under increasing pressure as they have in offset print.