A Brief Rundown of the INg 2022 Spring Meeting

The effects of paper-hoarding and other supply related issues are impacting growth for 2022

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04/21/2022

Andrew Young

 

 

What Went On

Imaging Network Group (INg) kicked off its 31st year with the spring meeting in Tucson, AZ. As one of the printing industry’s longest running peer groups, 47 member companies and vendors sponsors gather every six months to share case studies, business insights, and updates on subjects impacting the industry such as postage, taxation, and data privacy regulations. Membership includes a mix of transactional and direct marketing service providers that are privately owned and collectively generate approximately 40% of 1st Class mail volume.

 

In partnership with INg, Keypoint Intelligence presented the annual member survey and profile update. For 2022, supply chain issues are the biggest concern with staffing, information security, insurance requirements, and industry consolidation rounding out the top five. Also included in our update was a summary of output volumes, operational changes, trends in hardware and software placements, as well as the group’s overall sentiment on a variety of subjects such as sustainability requirements in RFPs, the influence of private equity on the print industry, and a more European perspective on the customer communications services market.

 

The Main Focus Was on Paper

Paper and envelope supply concerns dominated across a range of topics. How to deal with allocations from suppliers that are canceled at the last minute? What is best practice to reduce the number of paper stocks and envelope types you offer customers? Or, how are added warehousing and transportation costs that are needed to maintain adequate paper inventories impacting profitability?

 

The COVID toilet paper shortage was often sited when describing concerns that paper-hoarding might be occurring even though paper suppliers are trying their best to be fair with their allocations. Being able to predict inventory requirements months in advance was identified as a key factor—something that transactional service providers can more easily predict with the repetitive and contractual nature of their work. This is more challenging for direct marketing providers that tend to have the need for a broader range of paper substrates, so reducing the number of paper options available to customers has been one way to manage their inventories.

 

Digital services were frequently mentioned as one area of opportunity to offset the challenges with printed communications. “A significant and growing part of our revenue is in digital communications,” said Fred Van Alstyne, COO Content Critical Solutions. “I encourage our members to get serious about building their digital communications capabilities because there is opportunity out in the marketplace.”  However, some INg members said their customers are not asking them to provide digital communication services and that there are other considerations to expanding digital offerings, such as the cost of technology, the staffing to implement and support customers, as well as skills to manage functions like a software company rather than a printing business.

 

But It Wasn’t Just About Paper

Other presentations included a fascinating keynote talk by top economic speaker Dr. Chris Kuehl, Director of Armada Corporation. He presented his own economic outlook and provided context for the forces impacting our economy and business. Elizabeth Gooding of Inkjet Insight shared “10 Thing to Do Better”, focusing on operational efficiency, identifying common missteps, and looking for business solutions that do not always require a new hardware or software investment. The member-led presentations highlighted the intentional nature of the group to set aside competitive concerns and instead openly share as friends and business colleagues.

 

For the upcoming Fall 2022 INg meeting there is the intriguing possibility of an appearance by the US Postmaster General. No wonder this esteemed group has a growing queue of new member prospects and vendors sponsors wanting to join! For more information about INg, please see their website at imagingnetworkgroup.org.

 

For other show reviews and analyses, check out the Customer Communications Advisory Service on the InfoCenter. Subscribers can log in, while others can send us an email at sales@keypointintelligence.com for more details.