Danger Lurks Offshore for American Printers
“Communications and physical logistics are so good today that geographic proximity is less important than ever,” Webb explains. “Being close to your customer was never really about geography, anyway. It was about having a shared understanding of goals and objectives, as well as getting things done in the most cost-effective manner today and in the future.”
Fast turnaround, long- and short-run work tends to be “safe” from offshore printers’ grasps, notes Vince Naselli, also a partner at PrintForecast.com. Mid-range sheetfed work that is not time-sensitive or that can have a buffer of time is the most at “risk.” He warns, however, that the bounds of “safe” are always being tested.
For example, some offshore printers ship partial jobs by air to deal with any quick turnaround issues, Naselli informs. “While timing and cost may prohibit a more substantial job to be outsourced internationally, if a small initial run will satisfy immediate requirements, the balance can be shipped normally. This incurs lower shipping and job production costs, with only an initial run or portion of the run shipped by air. While longer run projects are more insulated from the effects of international outsourcing, they are not immune.”
Which brings printers an interesting dilemma. Although viewed as an unpopular option for American workers, many U.S. printers are now either partnering with foreign printers or opening satellite plants in foreign countries, namely China, Mexico and India. While this trend may have started with mega-printers like RR Donnelley, Quebecor World and Banta Corp.—firms with sales of more than $1 billion—smaller companies are now looking at offshore printing as an option to keep a hold on current customers.
Clint Bolte, president of printing consultancy C. Clint Bolte & Associates in Chambersburg, Pa., suggests that those printers facing the loss of big accounts to an offshore printer should partner with their customers and help them find a foreign print provider.