Philie Group Blog

Four Tactics to Achieve Operational Excellence for Your Printing Company
By Mike Philie

The printing industry continues to evolve, with technology advancements, changing customer preferences, and economic fluctuations reshaping the landscape. To thrive in this sector, achieving operational excellence is crucial for printing companies. What is operational excellence? Operational excellence encompasses a range of strategies and practices aimed at optimizing operations, enhancing customer relationships, and ensuring profitability. Let’s explore four main points you can use to achieve operational excellence in your business.

Embrace Technological Advancements

In the general commercial printing industry, technology is a driving force behind achieving operational excellence. Printing technology continues to evolve from traditional offset presses to digital and inkjet printing, opening new possibilities and efficiencies. To achieve operational excellence, printing companies can embrace these technological advancements in various ways:

  • Invest in Modern Equipment: Upgrading to the latest printing equipment, such as automated offset presses, high-speed digital and inkjet devices, and the latest finishing equipment, can improve productivity and product quality. These investments can reduce production costs, enable quicker makeready times, and help minimize production bottlenecks to provide your company with a competitive edge. This has an added benefit of making it easier for your less experienced staff to effectively operate the equipment.
  • Implement Automation: Automation plays a crucial role in streamlining operations, removing non-value-added touches, and reducing errors. Automate tasks like file processing, color management, quality control, and data collection to improve efficiency and consistency in output.
  • Leverage Data Analytics: Utilizing your extensive MIS database, use analytical tools to provide insights into your customer behavior, market trends, and production efficiency. Analyzing data can help you make better informed decisions, tailor your offerings, and optimize your pricing strategy.

Focus on Customer-Centricity

A customer-centric approach is pivotal to achieving operational excellence in the printing industry. This isn’t a new thought. I wrote about this in a 2016 article “Why Leadership Matters.”

“Become more client centric vs. product centric. Customers don’t want to know about what you have; they want to know how you can help them solve a problem. As Bill Farquharson often says, “Solve the problem, earn the order.” He’s right, but how do you extend that mindset beyond the sales team onto the entire company? There’s a great article from Booz Allen called The Customer-Centric Organization: From Pushing Products to Winning Customers and I encourage you to read it as it defines the transition from being product focused to customer-centric.”

Satisfied customers are more likely become promoters and recommend your services to others. Here’s how to put the customer at the center of your business:

  • Effective and Timely Communication: Maintain open and transparent communication with customers throughout the printing process. Keep them informed about job progress, delivery times, and any potential issues. Promptly address their concerns and feedback. Work to remove the “I’ll get back to you,” or “geez, that’s a great question” from your responses.
  • Quality Assurance: Consistently deliver high-quality printed materials. Implement quality control processes to ensure that every job meets or exceeds customer expectations. Your customers aren’t only looking for your best work sometimes, they expect it all the time. Use a culture of quality to build a reliable, dependable operation that delivers your best each day. A reputation for quality can lead to customer growth, loyalty, and referrals.
  • Customer Feedback: Actively seek feedback from customers to understand their satisfaction levels and areas for improvement. Whether it’s in the form of surveys or a 1:1 quarterly business review, use this feedback to make necessary adjustments to your services and processes.

Sustainable Practices

In today’s environmentally conscious world, sustainable printing practices are not only responsible but can also commercially advantageous. Demonstrating a commitment to sustainability can attract environmentally minded customers and reduce operational costs. Here’s how to incorporate sustainability into your operational excellence strategy:

  • Green Materials: Offer eco-friendly printing options using recycled paper and environmentally friendly inks. Highlight these choices to customers who prioritize sustainability in their projects.
  • Energy Efficiency: Invest in energy-efficient equipment and practices to reduce your carbon footprint. This not only lowers your environmental impact but also decreases utility costs, contributing to profitability.
  • Waste Reduction: Implement planned and unplanned waste reduction measures such as efficient job planning, recycling programs, and digital proofs instead of physical ones. Minimizing waste not only helps the environment but also improves your bottom line.
  • Certifications: Consider obtaining certifications to demonstrate your commitment to sustainable practices. These certifications can enhance your reputation and attract environmentally conscious clients. And while these are worthwhile, make sure that your target customers value this and that it will indeed be a competitive advantage for you.

Diversification and Innovation

To achieve operational excellence in the printing industry, it’s essential to stay ahead of the curve by providing the range of services your clients will benefit from and fostering a culture of innovation:

  • Review Your Service Portfolio: Determine whether adding new printing niches or services, such as large-format printing, data driven direct mail, or promotional products and apparel is right for your business. The other direction is to get deeper and wider into fewer product offerings – but becoming a world-class provider of those services. Diversification can help you tap into different markets and revenue streams while capturing a larger amount of your existing clients spend. Caution, while this can certainly add to the revenue stream, be alerted to becoming a business that is an inch deep and a mile wide.
  • Research and Development: Allocate resources to research and development. Experiment with new printing techniques, materials, and finishes. Stay updated on emerging trends in design and technology to offer innovative solutions to your customers. Remain curious and strive to provide your clients with what-if
  • Collaboration and Partnerships: Collaborate with creative agencies, marketing firms, and graphic designers to offer integrated solutions. If you provide direct mail services, you can add data analytics and modeling services. Building partnerships can expand your reach and provide a one-stop-shop for clients seeking comprehensive printing and marketing services.
  • Employee Training: Invest in continuous training, cross-training, and skill development for your employees. Encourage them to stay updated on industry trends and emerging technologies. This dovetails with becoming a learning organization. Empower them to contribute ideas for process improvements and innovations.

Achieving operational excellence in the printing industry is an ongoing journey that involves embracing technology, prioritizing customer-centricity, adopting sustainable practices, and fostering innovation. By following these four main points, printing companies can position themselves for success in a dynamic and competitive market. As the industry continues to evolve, those who adapt and excel in these areas will thrive and remain at the forefront of the printing business.

Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.comLinkedIn or email at

Originally published in Printing Impressions.


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