Digitisation has often been perceived as a threat to demand for print products. It turns out this actually isn't true: The overall revenue of the print industry keeps growing. But, for several years now, the average volume of orders has declined while their number has increased.
This isn't just a zero-sum game. It means that for most print shops, the relation between time spent on preparing for a job and producing a job has tilted sharply. There is now more overhead to the average job. If, like most print shops, you have optimised mainly the production part of your operation, this is a problem.
Management knows what's up
No wonder then that among print shop management, the salience of topics like digitisation and automation has changed accordingly, as industry surveys show (see for example, Vonitsanos et al 2021). Around half of the respondents in a survey of German print shop managers expect to spend more on processes, IT, and software [German study available here]. There is only one topic on which more respondents expect to increase spending in the near future, for obvious reasons: hygiene.
Custom integration means costly integration
But integration is costly, at least if done the traditional, cumbersome way by connecting systems manually. Anyone who ever wanted to place an order for a custom software project knows that those estimates can be eye-watering. That is if you can even secure the services of a competent software shop within a reasonable time frame.
Integrating each partner just once
There is an easier way. Zaikio is building a platform for print industry interoperability that's open to any industry player. This way, any service is integrated just once, on the platform level, not at the individual print shop. And it is done by engineers working out the details with the respective company, be they software developers, service providers, machine manufacturers, or suppliers, among others. As a result, Zaikio provides plug-and-play interoperability to any print shop. That makes it easy for print shop operators to improve and digitise processes. And improved processes in turn mean less time wasted through duplication of effort as well as less money wasted, even with increased overheads due to structural changes in demand. And finally, it reduces reliance on protracted and pricey custom integration projects.
Let's start with procurement
The ﬁrst practical use of the platform is in procuring materials. Because buying paper and other consumables often still involves ringing suppliers, sending faxes, and a certain amount of confusion. Zaikio Procurement, in contrast, gives print shops an easy-to-use, zippy, and tidy way to collect their requirements in one place. With supplier inventories easily accessible right from within Zaikio Procurement, print shop operators can quickly check prices and availabilities for their requirements, and order with a few clicks. It even works right within a couple of MIS and ERPs.
A growing number of inventories
Because Zaikio is an open platform, multiple suppliers will be available for the UK. Premier Paper is already available via Zaikio Procurement and the number of suppliers keeps growing. The Zaikio team strives to get all relevant suppliers onto the platform. And because Zaikio Procurement also saves time for the suppliers, they foot the bill, making Zaikio Procurement free to use for print shops.
Just getting started
While Zaikio procurement already brings major efﬁciency gains for its users, it is just the start of a journey to make comprehensive digitisation easy and affordable for every print shop. We are pretty busy working on more nifty solutions to make the print industry more interoperable, resilient, and sustainable.