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What's Stopping You from Growing Your Large-format Print Business?

Print businesses measure success differently, but what’s true for almost all is that a great deal of time and a huge amount of effort has gone into making them what they are. So where does this success take you? The quality of your work is consistently high, your turnaround time is good, and your clients love what you do. But lately, you've been turning down bigger jobs because you don't have the capacity. You know there's potential to grow, but something is holding you back from taking your print business to the next level.

For many print businesses, making the leap to scale up operations can be intimidating. In this article, we look at the potential obstacles in your way and show you that rather than being barriers, they could be the opportunities you need.

Worried About Investing in New Equipment?

A collection of Euro notes
A collection of Euro notes

For digital print businesses, keeping up with the latest printing technology is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge and delivering high-quality products to customers. But while the financial investment isn’t the barrier it used to be, upfront costs are still high enough to hold you back. So, what strategies can your business employ to help offset the initial costs associated with upgrading your print devices?

  • Lease or Finance Options – Look into making the investment more manageable by spreading out the cost over time through monthly payments. As interest rates go down, it could be the right time to plan a new investment. Leasing or renting shouldn’t be seen as a cost to deduct but as an asset to keep the print stack updated, allowing you to react proactively to market requests with profitable flexibility. It’s also possible to negotiate terms and conditions or engage local financial assistance programs.
  • Trade-in Programmes – You may be able to trade in and receive credit for your old devices when upgrading to newer models to make the transition more affordable. Staying with the same brand also minimises switching costs as software and the user experience are likely similar across the different models.
  • Evaluate Third-party Financing – In addition to manufacturer or dealer financing options, digital print businesses can explore third-party lenders who may offer competitive rates and terms. You could contact agencies who are aware of and up to date with financial options offered by local or national bodies.

Don't just look at upfront costs - consider your potential return too. Commercial printing offers excellent margins compared to many other sectors. Investing in specialist printing capabilities could soon pay for itself by allowing you to take on higher-value work. Faster print speeds, higher print quality, and lower operating costs will maximise productivity and profitability and minimise waste, leading to cost savings in the long run. You’ll also retain customers as they don’t need to go to your competitors to deliver a job that you can’t do.

Don’t Have the Physical Space?

A busy warehouse stacked high with boxes
A busy warehouse stacked high with boxes

One major limitation to growth is simply a lack of room. As sales grow and new services are added, print providers can quickly outgrow their property. Digital print allows for printing on demand, making it easier to reduce your inventory, but if you’ve already used up all your available space, consider these other options.

  • Relocate to Larger Premises – Find a new, larger space to accommodate your current setup and future growth plans. Whether you’re moving from a bedroom or a warehouse, leasing or purchasing a bigger building might be the essential next step. Look at how relocation will affect logistics for customers, future expansion, proximity to competitors, associated costs, and how long everything will take.
  • Expand Vertically – Explore the possibility of adding additional floors or shelves to your existing space. Vertical expansion can provide a larger footprint without relocating.
  • Optimise Space – Is there any way to free up space by reorganising your layout, implementing more efficient storage systems, or streamlining your processes? Space-saving technology could also be useful, such as replacing a printer and a cutter with an integrated printer/cutter.
  • Outsource or Subcontract – Consider outsourcing certain jobs to external partners to free up space in your current premises for core activities.
  • Acquire Additional Nearby Space – Relocation might not be an option, but you could look into acquiring adjacent spaces so you don’t have to move your entire operation. You could also put rarely-used equipment in storage.
  • Utilise Startup or Shared Spaces – Startups often have access to facilities that help incubate new business ideas. You could try to approach a new market as a new business entity and make the most of this support.

Concerned About Consistent Demand?

It’s natural to worry. What if you invest all that money to increase production capacity, but then your order volumes don't grow enough to sustain it? Many businesses are naturally cautious about overreaching. So, how do you ensure that growth matches projections?

  • Start with Solid Forecasting – Don’t just react to current demand spikes, forecast expected growth based on your research. Roland DG Connect is a cloud-based machine monitoring app that can help you evaluate your business performance to date and can help with evaluating ink usage, job profitability and costs.
  • Be Strategic with Investments – Use your forecasts to phase investments alongside projected milestones. Don't look too far into the future, first focus on lower-cost projects like workflow redesigns. Gradually scale up from lower-risk purchases to larger capital investments over time. One example of this might be adding a cutter to your current printer/cutter setup to separate the processes and maximise your printing time before moving over to a flatbed or second printer/cutter.
  • Continually Monitor and Adjust – Monitoring performance like print times, equipment used, inventory, and cash flow allows you to adapt - slowing down, outsourcing, or accelerating to match your actual growth curve.
  • Be Flexible – Look for flexible solutions to scale capacity up or down as needed. Ensure your expansion is aligned with real, sustained demand - not just optimistic projections.

Lacking in Technical Expertise?

Inspecting a roll of print media
Inspecting a roll of print media

How much technical expertise do you have in-house? How much do you need? From UV printing or interior decoration to print and cut or metal engraving, mastering new processes can seem complex. However, the latest printer technology is designed to be easy to use, with many time-saving features like automatic printhead cleaning and maintenance built in.

So how much expertise does your business need?

  • Upgrading within the same brand means you’re likely to use the same software that you’re already used to, such as Roland DG's powerful but simple-to-use RIP software, VersaWorks 6. You also have access to all the profiles available on Roland Profile Center to manage and print new media.
  • Ask your dealer if they know of any training courses you can send staff on. Roland DG Academy regularly hosts sessions for beginners through to advanced users. Of course, there are numerous business or marketing courses available that you can take advantage of.
  • It’s all relative, but with some training and a bit of practical experience, it needn’t take too long for employees to get up to where they need to be. Manufacturers are putting a real focus on making the user experience seamless and ensuring that any learning curve is as gentle as possible.

Not Sure About New Revenue Streams?

A print business owner reviewing print with a client
A print business owner reviewing print with a client

What else can you provide your customer? One of the best ways to grow is by introducing complementary products and services. Rather than just offering indoor signage prints, you could expand into vehicle graphics, POP/retail, interior decoration, awards, sports and workwear, industrial printing, direct-to-object personalised products, product packaging, and labels, to name a few. This helps you to tap into new customer segments and markets without drastically overhauling your core business.

You could even act as a third-party print supplier and facilitate jobs that other print companies can’t. This way, you can use your expertise and equipment, but you don’t have to go looking for the end customer. If you have thought about this in the past but didn’t know how to go about it, here are a few tips:

  • Identify Your Unique Capabilities – What can you provide that other businesses can’t? Is it a wider range of print technologies? The capacity to print longer runs? Quicker turnaround times? Speciality substrates or finishing?
  • Network and Promote Availability – Shout about what you can do and establish yourself as a reliable trade resource. Get your name out through local printing associations, suppliers, industry events, and directories. You could produce a newsletter, advertise on local radio and optimise your social platforms to target possible audiences.
  • Create Efficient Processes – Make the process as simple as possible for the client. Clear communication and fast quoting are crucial. Use online job submission tools, software and automated estimating, such as Roland DG Connect.
  • Control Costs and Capacity – Make sure that you stay on top of whether these jobs are profitable for you by tracking all costs for trade printing, from labour and materials to overhead allocation, and make sure it isn’t detrimental to your own production.
  • Nurture Partner Relationships – Establish trust through consistent quality, met deadlines, good communication and fair pricing. Look for reciprocal partnerships where companies cross-outsource each other's specialities.
  • Stay Up to Date – Make sure you’re aware of current trends. Follow brands, blogs and magazines to understand where the market is going and identify how you can stay ahead of demand.

Should You Adopt New Print Technologies?

A UV lamp from a VersaOBJECT MO-240
A UV lamp from a VersaOBJECT MO-240

Expansion could mean branching into new print technology that can handle a wider variety of print surfaces, inks, formats, etc. Introducing a UV flatbed printer, for instance, unlocks the ability to print directly on almost any rigid or flexible substrate. It’s a quick and cost-effective way to produce indoor and outdoor signs and displays, customised product decoration, industrial branding applications, fine art reproductions, and much more. These machines range from compact desktop-sized with an A5 flatbed to up to 2,500mm printing width for industrial-scale production.

The latest print-and-cut devices can also drive profitable garment decoration, floor graphics, decals, and durable vehicle wraps and graphics.

Is It Too Labour-Intensive?

To increase production volume and throughput for higher profits, you should rethink your workflow and explore how you can make steps more efficient.

  • VersaWorks has lots of room for customisation and can be configured or re-configured to ensure that your printer can be operated with minimal setup times for common substrates or applications. Make the most of functions like queue presets and add in quality, manufacturer-developed media profiles from sites like RolandProfileCenter to unlock more time and better results.
  • Workflow tools like PrintAutoMate from Roland DG Connect remove much of the human involvement and repetitive processes in jig printing on flatbeds.
  • If you don’t use one yet, it’s time to think about a take-up roller to prevent log print runs like wallpaper from trailing on the floor, taking up space and being damaged.
  • If you have the space, automated trimmers can cut printed media precisely while the operator is free to perform other tasks.

Streamlined workflow solutions help maximise productivity from your operators and every automation reduces labour costs per setup and job.

Concerns Over Getting Staff Up to Speed?

People looking at a computer screen in a train the trainer setting
People looking at a computer screen in a train the trainer setting

Build up your equipment training and technical skills by sending staff members to comprehensive training programs offered by equipment manufacturers and certified operators. Trained employees can then cross-train other team members or new starters.

Start Growing Strategically

Remember, you don't have to completely overhaul your entire business all at once. A bit of planning will let you take measured steps to grow into new markets, invest in the right equipment and technology, and increase production capacity. The opportunities are there – it's just a matter of finding the right path to get started.

So don't let perceived barriers stop you from taking your business to that next level. You can significantly grow your business in smart, sustainable ways. After all, you've already come this far – why stop now?

If you’d like any more information on anything you’ve read in this article, our experts would be happy to help.

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