A Consultant’s Take on The State of the Printing Industry and its Future

March 13, 2013

Editor’s Note:  In February, I joined many of my OutputLinks Communications Group associates at International Printing Week for the official dedication of CalPoly’s  The Raymond J. Prince Shakespeare Press Museum Resource Room. Note that the Sioux Valley News, Ray’s hometown Canton, SD, paper, featured this story on p. 3, ahead of the South Dakota 2013 legislative agenda, but behind the news of a massive snow storm and the hog report. “Next year we’ll make the front page,” vows Ray. “But we’ll take what we can get!”

Ray, who recently retired as President of our GreensheetBIZ division, offered the following keynote address, which we will present in two  parts.
--Katherine O’Brien, Senior Editor

 Dr. Harvey Levenson asked me to make a few remarks this evening. In reflecting on the industry that I have been in for many years I would like to make some observations and offer some thoughts. My comments will cover the following four areas:

1.  The state of the industry and its future.

2.  Where technology is leading us.

3.   For the students -How to obtain a great job and never worry about getting a great job.

4.  The Resource Room.


The industry has shrunk for two reasons – the Internet and the economy. The “Good Old Days” will not be back and in fact they were not all that good. Our industry is and has been in a continuous improvement mode. Let’s take a look at a few of the improvements:

>Elimination of isopropyl alcohol.

>Elimination of many harsh wash-up solutions such as benzene.

>Machine guarding of all equipment – saved fingers and lives.

>Trying to be environmentally friendly.

>Dramatic improvements in productivity and quality.

>Dramatic improved air quality  for litho, gravure and flexo.


It is no longer a dirty filthy industry that is was when I started in the industry in 1958. It is a miracle that I did not succumb from lead poisoning, lose my fingers in a paper cutter, contract cancer or lose a limb in a press. The “good old days” were not good.

In the 1960s the complaint of printers was that there are too many printers and we are all losing money. In addition RRD is just giving work away. Many prayed their competition would go out of business.

In the 1970s the complaint of printers was that there are too many printers and we are all losing money. In addition RRD is just giving work away. Many prayed their competition would go out of business.This same complaint was made in the 1980s, 1990s and till 2001.


In 2001, everything changed. The economy went in the tubes, the Internet effect was felt very hard and finally as my father would say God answered our prayers and eliminated scores of printers. Thus be careful what you pray for.

With all these changes we have an industry that is willing to accept and embrace change at a very fast pace. The industry is more competitive and customers are more open to new sources and ideas.

A local printer can now become a national printer with ease via the Internet. Buying habits are changing and no longer is a salesperson told “we only buy our printing from x.”

The future is bright for new ideas and methods. The industry is no longer a “men’s club” and now embraces all. Graphic Communication is alive and well.


The industry is changing in many ways. The areas that are busting at the seams are packaging of all types, pharmaceutical printing, specialty printing and some commercial printers. I did a survey of 18 commercial printers that are doing well and sought to determine why. What I found that they had in common was:

1. A president that was actively engaged in the business and had a sales background.

2. A sales force under 35 years old in their first good house with 1.3 children and needing money.

3. All embraced the latest technology.

4. All embraced the Internet and all were seeking niches.

Technology is leading us to be faster, cheaper, and lower cost. Today a printer must embrace the new, learn it quickly and buy it.

Coming Next Week: Ray’s Advice on Getting a Great Job


Ray announced his retirement in December 2012, citing his desire to spend more time with his wife, Nancy, and their grandson Joseph in their beloved Black Hills. Ray has authored several books, written countless articles for all of the major trade publications, and spoken before audiences from coast to coast. Ray has served as President of the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts (TAGA). TAGA presented Ray with the Honors Award for Lifetime Achievement. He has received the NAPL Craftsman of the Year Award and Graphic Arts Technical Foundation's Industry Education Award. He is a member of the NAPL Soderstrom Society, the Research and Engineering Council's Nonpareil Society, and the Printing Industries of America's Ben Franklin Society. Ray has also served three full terms as a director on the board of the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF). In 2009, PGSF presented the 2009 Harold W. Gegenheimer Annual Achievement Award.  Contact him at RaymondJPrince@aol.com" target="_blank">RaymondJPrince@aol.com.

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