A Sea Change in Print Buying
The researchers say foreign competition roughly follows a U-shaped curve where short and long runs of the volume spectrum are not affected to a great degree by offshore competition. The heart of the commercial sheetfed business is the prime offshore target.
There are physical, economic and functional barriers providing some checks on the encroachment of foreign competition. The report examines about a dozen of these at length. For most buyers, distance and language barriers are likely to be the top concerns.
Shipping times—"For large print projects shipped via ocean freighter, sailing time from Asia to the West Coast ranges from 10 days to 2.5 weeks; Asia to NYC is roughly three to 3.5 weeks. Shipping times for air courier range from one to three days, or three to five days for air cargo."
The barrier of geography also comes into play by limiting print buyers to collaborating remotely with print suppliers and introducing time-zone differences into the process that can cause a lag in communications.
Language barriers/miscommun-ications —"The language issue is one of the reasons why so many offshore jobs are still handled through print brokers and, increasingly, U.S. sales offices owned by offshore printers."
One issue that could be easily overlooked by potential buyers is the ready access onshore printers have to the U.S. Postal Service.
In their final analysis, the researchers conclude that offshore competition is here to stay and it has to be met with permanent changes in the structure of the U.S. printing industry. They contend there is more going on here, though. "Offshore printing is not the most important threat to the printing industry, electronic communications is. It's the economics of using print that are unfavorable, not the economics of producing print."
The "What Should U.S. Printers Do?" section of the report outlines a number of steps that printing companies can take to blunt foreign competition. In summary form, among the top steps are: