One more summer is in the books, and here we go into fall. And over the last couple of years I’ve seen more change in this industry than any 2 year space I can remember. Even the advent of the Mac, Pagemaker (now Adobe In-Design) and image-setters now seems like it was all happening at a snails pace compared to the speed of change we see today…and the beat goes on.

In the past printers had to deal with changing technology in how we made our products, even though the product stayed the same. Faster software and more efficient equipment meant more investment and training, but in the end, the printers job was to put the ink on the paper.

Today though, some printers are re-evaluating their place in the whole communications food-chain. Some find opportunities in logistic services of warehousing, distribution and fulfillment of printed products for their clients. Some provide creative services like design and content creation at the front end, and with the move to complex digital workflows, some printers have taken that expertise and offer IT services like database management as well as web design. Some digital printers are extending this expertise to offer personalization of printing for one to one marketing, personalized web landing pages and helping to design interactive campaigns. Taken all of these things together and we are moving into world of Integrated Communications.

Over the past 15 years, as printing became streamlined (because of digitization & the computer), the printer would work with the purchasing department or print buyer on what work was being offered. In most cases, the quote would go to multiple suppliers and the least expensive or the quickest printer would get the work. They seldom knew anything about the job until it arrived.

As we move ahead, some forward thinking printing companies are making the change into more of an “Integrated Communication Company” model, that is understanding that communications are delivered in many different ways. As we in the industry change our business models, our points of contact will change to the marketing and creative departments. Our companies will be involved in early planning stages of campaigns and products, and use their expertise to help clients optimize the way these campaigns and products are brought to market. That may involve some test marketing to determine the best way to deliver certain information, be it printed, mailed or electronic delivery, but most likely will be a well thought out integration of all methods of delivery. These integrated communication companies will not get the work because they are the cheapest supplier, but because they are partnering with their clients in the total planning, testing and creative process and are the only logical organization to do the work.

We all still have a lot of work to do to get there. Some printers are farther along than others on this journey, and some will never get there. It’s a whole mindset change for the printing companies as well as the people and companies that buy printing and communications. I can’t wait till 2015 and look back at how all these changes in our industry played out. We’ll probably be saying it all looks so simple in hindsight.