Printing companies face extinction

How has the use of digital technologies affected the printing industry? Toli Papadopoulos speaks to Dan Jordan, the owner of a small printing factory in Melbourne’s south-east.  

G.I Printing from Toli Papadopoulos on Vimeo.

Dan Jordan has been running G.I Printing for more than 25 years. He believes that digital technologies are on the rise and will one day supersede print.

“Printed media is being replaced by electronic media, there is very little that you cannot do electronically nowadays. Devices such as laptops and iPad’s are replacing things like docket books and a variety of printed media,” Mr Jordan says.

According to Mr Jordan, this is not the first time the printing industry has undergone major change.

“Over the years we’ve faced a lot of challenges. Our industry has changed enormously and keeps on changing,” he says.

“It used to change perhaps once every 50 years, now it seems every five to six years there’s new technology being developed.

“If you aren’t prepared to work with it you will very quickly find yourself out of the marketplace.”

Over the last 25 years, the printing industry has gone through a number of technological phases. When Mr Jordan opened his business in the mid-80s, the most common form of printing known as offset print was in its peak.

Within the last decade, digital printing has overtaken offset print. Digital printing requires less labour and overhead costs as items are often published via desktop computers.

“The digital machine has reduced the cost of printing. Instead of us charging $1000 for a job we are now only charging $400 or $500,” he says.

“It’s funny to think that one single person with a desktop computer can do the work of twenty different apprenticeships that we’ve had in the past.”

Yet despite this reduced cost, business for G.I Printing has been declining each year. The company deals with a range of printed media, including company advertisements, flyers, cheque books and invoices. Mr Jordan believes the internet and computers is slowly reducing the need for many of these printed formats.

“Clients have no hesitation in producing an electronic brochure rather than a printed one.

“They create their artwork and put it on their website and direct you to that, rather than printing and mailing brochures out.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, since 2012, manufacturing for printed materials has fallen by 18 percent.

Research from IBISWorld also reveals that between 2008 and 2013 the printing industry has suffered a negative annual growth rate of 5.4 per cent.

The reports also suggest that digital technology is to blame, as a lot of advertising is now produced online and consumers have begun to utilise tablets such as iPad’s to access their material.

But how does this affect a small business like G.I Printing?

“The printing industry is shrinking at an alarming rate,” Mr Jordan says.

“Last week I was having a discussion with a client who said to me he spent $300,000 in his organisation to issue iPad’s to all his workers on the field.

“Clients are embracing electronic alternatives and walking away from traditional print media.”

And it seems that G.I Printing isn’t the only business threatened by digital technology. In the last year, many of Australia’s leading printing companies have gone into receivership including Vega Colour Group, a business based in Melbourne and Geon Group, a company once valued at $320 million.

Within the last year, G.I Printing has also seen a dramatic drop in sales. In 2012, Mr Jordan purchased another printing company in order to stay in business.

“Buying the other business was a survival strategy,” he says.

“Despite the fact that we bought another company I think after 12 months we’ll be lucky if our sales are any higher than they were the previous year out of the one company alone.”

So what does the future hold for the printing industry? Mr Jordan believes that one day print may become entirely obsolete.

“I personally think that if the industry does continue, it will exist in a minor way. Once the older generations retire everything will be done electronically,” he says.

“I am glad I am not far from retirement, because if I was younger, I would be getting out of this industry as fast as I could.”

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2 thoughts on “Printing companies face extinction

  1. Hey Mate,

    Love the article, written very well. I am very interested in what you had to say, in particular because I work at a digital printing business as a Business Development Manager. There is a big difference between offset printing and digital printing, and although offset is shrinking, digital is actually growing still quite substantially. I work for On Demand – Australia’s biggest digital printer, and we have been pumping out work. Our print turnover has grown from 12, to 13, 14, to 15 million in the last 5 years. It’s a more personalised way to print, and yes I agree that electronic advertising is growing a lot more, but again, digital printing is actually still a growing business.

    If you ever do a follow up article, i’m happy to discuss.

    Cheers,

    Matt

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