Wednesday, June 10, 2009

“Traditional ‘print-pack-ship’ Model vs. Digital File Transfer, Cloud Printing, Printing-as-a-Service (PaaS) Model”

I received this article from Mahil Maurice, a very smart young man who works for ARC. I think he is the “Product Manager” for ARC’s “ishipdocs” technology product, which ARC began selling (I think through its PlanWell team) around the time of the IRGA Convention. I think the article Mahil authored is thought provoking. (A company I’m associated with has already signed up for the ishipdocs service.)

“Traditional ‘print-pack-ship’ Model vs. Digital File Transfer, Cloud Printing, Printing-as-a-Service (PaaS) Model”

Author: Mahil Maurice

A common denominator for a Reprographer to serve a construction project is to have a local presence. In the past, this has allowed the small to midsize reprographer (and, of course, larger regional-markets-reprographers) to enjoy steady revenue streams generated from printing services in “the reprographer’s” local AEC market (or regional markets.) However with the economy in a recession and the housing industry in turmoil, local projects have dried up, resulting in significant drop in revenue streams for local reprographers. The last 18 months have seen a steady decline in revenue in the Reprographics Industry, and, for some, that decline in revenue has been considerable.

Given what’s going on in the economy at large (and, not just in the U.S., but worldwide), one cannot safely assume that lucrative print revenues are not a thing of the past, especially when one considers another looming factor, if not a rapidly increasing trend – Digital File technologies – which are contributing to declining reprographics revenues.

Most Reprographers continue to work in the traditional “Print, Pack & Ship,” Model and generally have enjoyed additional revenues from the “analog shipping component” of printed documents. However, with digital file transfer capabilities, end users (i.e., reprographers’ customers!) can now send files digitally to a required location, completely bypassing the local printer, and, in most cases, allow the destination party (other reprographers’ customers) to worry about the printing and distribution component. Companies such as YouSentIt, LeapFile and several others have point-to-point digital document distribution facilities serving many AEC customers. This has further eroded revenue streams for local and regional reprographers and poses a serious on-going, if not future, threat, as Digital File Transfer technologies become more widely used.

The combination of a bad economy, design and construction industry woes, and disruptive technologies are posing a serious threat to the traditional Reprographic Model and the “Print, Pack & Ship,” Model.

The Reprographics industry is in an evolving paradigm calling for a change in Business Model. In the future, successful companies (we might also refer to them as “survivors”) will be the ones that see the future and put in place the elements to meet the changes head on. Positioning your company to take advantage of what the future holds will be the key to your success, if not the reason for your survival. A common denominator to execute on the new Business Model is being a fully viable digital shop, one with a highly effective, e-commerce based, Digital File Transfer capability – and a network of qualified partners (print/distribution partners) to work with.

AT&T is a good example of a company that evolved from being a leading player in the telephony long distance market to a provider of a Broadband, Cable, Wireless and Telephony. They became a one stop shop for all consumer communications needs. They had challenging times in the late 90s while losing a significant share of their core product (long distance) however quickly mapped a path for the future and built the model to get there. Today they are reaping the benefits of a wireless and cable infrastructure and competing with wireless carriers and supporting products such as the iPhone.

The Reprographics industry needs to do the same - and think beyond the “traditional” Print-Pack-Ship Business Model!

The good news is business is no longer limited to local areas, given the ever increasing globalization of the world economy. This brings with it a wealth of opportunities for the Reprographics Community. Architects and Engineering companies are actively seeking projects outside of their traditional locales, including internationally. Therefore, a reprographer is now, and this will likely accelerate in the future, expected to manage documents and transfer content in a faster manner to a destination - a destination not in the reprographer’s market or region. Things that a forward-thinking reprographer needs to capitalize on – 1) increasing shipping revenues and margins; this is done by eliminating the traditional shipping provider and keeping that revenue in the reprographer’s business by digitally shipping, 2) introducing document management services , including document transfer to other partner-reprographers.

While the opportunity presents itself, where’s the infrastructure to serve a global market or the money for a reprographer to build such an infrastructure?

How can a small to medium size or even a regional reprographer or printer afford to build a massive printing network to serve the global market? So how does a local reprographer expand and stay viable??

This is where Cloud-Printing and Printing-as-a-Service (PaaS) come into play. Each of these concepts promote a global solution that permits a reprographer to have a global footprint - without having to build the infrastructure, the technology and also not spend on maintenance of a network.

A Global footprint would enable a Print Partner in New York City to digitally ship a document to a Print Partner in Beijing China and have it printed and delivered locally. This allows the two print partners to enjoy 100% of the revenues while delivering the documents in a Simple, Faster and Green manner.

Some Key Findings and Recommendations

• Per Gartner, 52% of CIOs are reporting flat IT budgets for 2009.
• There is no massively scalable IT infrastructure available for Cloud Printing today.
• Organizations will benefit from Cloud Printing because it allows them to simply purchase the print and not spend on hardware and software.
• Reprographers and Print Service Providers will benefit from Cloud Printing by gaining access to IT infrastructure that enables them to solicit global businesses without having to invest in the necessary infrastructure.
• Reprographers and Print Service Providers must actively evaluate implementing Cloud Printing and attempt to partner with companies that have the scalable infrastructure to support Cloud Printing.

ARC recently introduced ishipdocs (, a web-based software- as-a-service. which promotes Cloud Printing. This important technology product allows Reprographers and Print Partners to subscribe to the service for a marginal monthly fee and permits the Print Partners to send digital documents to each other and get them printed and delivered locally. iShipdocs technology permits all revenues from shipping, printing and delivering to be shared by the Print Partners.

ishipdocs allows Reprographers and Print Partners to instantly have a Global Footprint without having to spend on infrastructure, software and maintenance costs and enables them to enjoy the many benefits of reaping revenues from business they never had, or might have had to give up. Now the Reprographers and the Print Partners can go after any business, knowing very well they can boast a Global Footprint and get past the many barriers that prevents them from doing so today.

Suddenly we have a local player with a Global Foot print to facilitate a job - anywhere in world - thus positioning itself to combat the disruptive technologies, the dried up local market, and introduce new global based services without having to spend a dime on infrastructure and software, the essence of Cloud Printing and Printing-as-a-Service (PaaS).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Will anyone ever develop an A/E/C E-INK READER?

“A Kindle Rival for Business People” – this short article, authored by Brad Stone, appeared in the NY Times Technology section on Monday, June 1st. The article says that Plastic Logic, a 10 year old company founded by two Cambridge (MA) professors, is working on devices with E-INK reading screens on thin, flexible plastic displays. Apparently, their first “reader” product, which is about the same size as the new jumbo-size Kindle DX, will be on the market early in 2010. “Users can change pages with a flick of the finger.”

I sent Plastic Logic a letter suggesting that it would be nice if they developed an E-INK reader that had an image size of 18” x 24”. (That would allow one to “read” ½-size 36” x 48” CAD drawings, ½-size 30” x 42” CAD drawings and ½-size 24” x 36” CAD drawings.)

I doubt that we will see an A/E/C E-INK READER in my lifetime, but it is certainly fun to think about the possibilities!

In a different article on another day, there was an announcement that E-INK, the Massachusetts company that developed E-INK reader technology, has agreed to be sold to a Taiwanese-based technology company.