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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Shaun's Corner "Sell Technology Not Print"

I was in Up-State NY and Boston last week to meet with several of our PEiR members and their AEC customers to learn about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for our industry in 2010.

One thing is abundantly clear: While opportunities to sell customers printing services appear to be declining, the opportunities to approach customers with technology solutions are huge and growing. The days of throwing bodies (labor) at problems are long gone. Every AEC company recognizes the need to use computers and software applications to improve productivity and efficiency.

Whether they use AutoCAD, Microsoft Office, Timberline, Prolog, Primavera, SharePoint or whatever, they are all accustomed to budgeting for technologies. They simply need reminding to extend that technology review to their reprographics services. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the bidding process.

The contractor community, has a limited number of funded projects in the works. As a result, contractors are required to do a lot more bidding to win a project. The bidding process used by many contractors is oftentimes very inefficient, and as a result, can create technology sales opportunities for those reprographers who can demonstrate the value of their bid communications and document distribution services.

In an effort to keep costs down and in some cases to keep their doors open, many contractors are trying to cut any costs associated to pre-construction activity, in order to survive. Remember, contractors don’t make money by bidding, they SPEND money. To stay in business, they need to make the bidding process as cost effective as possible. To most, that means reducing costs in bid set printing by eliminating them entirely, or passing printing down to subs by simply distributing their bid documents digitally.

That’s where we need to turn into technology promoters.

Solutions like PlanWell/BidCaster and Sub-Hub can offer better document control, productivity improvements, bid response tracking and better security than ANY analog-based solution. Contractors are still opting to use less sophisticated digital distribution methods (technologies) like FTP and CD’s because they do not understand the savings that your technologies can offer.

Reprographers who are struggling to get GC’s to pay to use their document management solutions need to remind themselves that they must explain to their customers that the technologies they (reprographers) offer actually help solve problems and create value.

Some reprographers are still lucky enough to be printing bid sets for government projects particularly in markets that require bids to be distributed in paper. Others claim that bid set printing is declining so fast that they (reprographers) are finding that they have more print capacity than the market is demanding. I could not help noticing at some shops, production devices and personnel were sitting completely idle. Such circumstances demand a different approach to remain relevant to our customers and viable as an industry.

Don’t lose the chance to help your customers to increase productivity and reduce costs with the technologies you can offer. You may need to price the technologies a bit different but I think you will find that you will have a better chance of getting your customers to accept the costs.

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