Print Rooms deliver value during the pandemic Ricoh study shows

April 26, 2021
By Craig Lewis, Head of Enterprise Printing, Commercial and Industrial Printing Group, Ricoh Europe By Craig Lewis, Head of Enterprise Printing, Commercial and Industrial Printing Group, Ricoh Europe

The pandemic has driven significant business transformation. For Print Rooms and CRDs there has been major shift in their perceived value with many stepping up to new challenges and providing vital services to home workers.

Room for Print in 2021, an independent study by Kaspar Roos from Aspire and Ralf Schlozer, The Digital Print Expert, found their ability to remain relevant, flexible and reliable helped deliver strong returns. For many it justified their continued existence when external services and providers were impacted. It identified these four key findings:

1. COVID-19 – a catalyst for change

When the pandemic hit a Dutch inhouse site in the automotive industry, identified the immediate need to continue customer based processes like producing manuals and communications and adapted its processes accordingly. A UK university rushed through workflow modernisation, including an online ordering system, to allow documents to be ordered remotely. Flexibility was crucial for these and other operations. Particularly when new products and services were added at short notice, such as Covid-19 related communications and signage. Also vital was production reliability. For example, with Hybrid Mail, DZ Bank in Germany enabled staff to continue creating customer letters for centralised print and distribution.

2. Focus on the customer

CRDs traditionally have a fixed user base and the survey found expanding services and capabilities was the best argument against outsourcing. A local council’s Print Room confirmed its flexibility with documents that need to be produced outside normal hours and a major insurer was able to cut down delivery times for documents by digitally printing them internally. Inhouse sites also saw noticeable differences when they improved their ordering process, adapted accounting and integrated desktop applications. A German local council and a UK university also reported increased demand after investing in a web to print solution.

The survey found there was a shift towards additional colours and value added services, encouraging print rooms to invest in new technology.

3. Embrace digitisation

Print Room managers should prepare to adapt their print and digital document services. Many sites confirmed increased demand for digital versions while print volumes remained stable. Transactional documents were expected to move towards digital versions, while marketing documents were expected to grow more in print. One CRD serving a large insurance company reported a growth in print to accompany digital communications for online renewals. The study also highlighted that Print Rooms were well equipped to be an important stakeholder in digital document strategy. They offer valuable skills in design and layout of documents and contribute to processes on compliance and data protection.

4. Automate workflows

With companies cutting costs, staffing levels have gone down while the complexity and variety of job types has increased. The secret of doing more with less is technology, automation, and business model innovation. In the study digital print, combined with inline finishing to automate labour intensive processes, stood out as a driver for higher productivity. Additional operational efficiency was achieved through software investment such as production workflow, marketing and database management solutions and electronic job submission or web to print. The report highlighted an education commission that supplies exam papers. It brought print back in house with an automated production workflow. It now produces high quality personalised exam papers on demand.

As for the long term effects of the pandemic, the study found organisations will:

  • take greater care in how they source print products;
  • want to store less and rely more on immediate digital print on demand;
  • place greater importance on online ordering, tracking and automation as staff and internal customers work from home more;
  • see an increase in the range of print products requested.

The role of print and electronic documents is changing, but their significance remains. It is important to be prepared for the evolving communication landscape by making the right decisions with the best guidance and practical advice.

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