Editor's Note: Joel Salus, a long-time reprographics company owner and consultant and proprietor of the Reprographics 101 blog, recently surveyed the industry about their plans for buying new large-format imaging equipment and other, related, issues. Below is his analysis of the survey results.
Joel’s comments regarding the “Wide-Format A/E/C Plan Printing Equipment” Survey:
For this survey, we wanted to find out which brands reprographers have been purchasing (or are thinking about purchasing) for production-level needs, which is why we asked respondents to exclude purchases of “regular” ink-jet equipment. (PageWide printers and Memjet-based printers are “ink-jet” printers but they are production-level printers, so those “ink-jet” printers were included along with “toner-based” printers.)
Had this survey been conducted two years ago, we would not have asked about HP Page-Wide equipment, since HP PageWide equipment, at that time, was not yet on the market. Memjet was on the market two years ago. In fact, since, prior to HP’s release of its PageWide printers, HP did not have any true “production-level” printers on the market, had this survey been conducted two years ago, questions about HP printers would not have appeared on this survey.
Before I begin my specific comments about the results of the survey, I have to point out that it is not a good idea to draw concrete conclusions from the results of any survey when the survey lacks broad-based participation. If the survey had been taken by 300 firms rather than 54, we could draw concrete conclusions. Now to my comments:
Quite interesting that 38 out of 54 respondents indicated that they’ve purchased production-
level wide-format printers this year and that 24 out of 53 respondents indicated that they are planning to purchase production-level wide-format printers either later this year or in 2017. This means that reprographers have money to spend (or are able to get loans to finance equipment or are able to get lease financing) – this is a very healthy sign for our industry!
HP PageWide has come on strong. As to printers purchased so far in 2016, 55 pecrent of respondents have gone with HP PageWide printers. And, as to printers that may be purchased later this year or during 2017, 63 percent of respondents are apparently planning to go with HP PageWide. This certainly can’t be good news for OCE or KIP, since, prior to HP’s release of HP PageWide, OCE and KIP, together, pretty much owned the production-level A/E/C printing equipment market. Not a single respondent indicated the purchase (or planned purchase) of a Vortex 4200. Which is why RTI went down for the count in June 2016.
ROWE equipment, which has been on the U.S. market for just about two years by now (maybe a bit less than that), does not seem to be gaining much traction in the U.S. reprographer marketplace. The same could be said about Memjet-based printers from Xerox and OCE. As to Xerox’s Memjet-based printer, survey results showed that no one purchased Xerox equipment and showed that no one is leaning towards purchasing Xerox equipment. If this holds true, it may well be predictive of Xerox, at some point in the not too distant future, pulling out of the wide-format equipment market, and, if that does happen, that would be the second time for Xerox since I started the Reprographics 101 Blog in 2009.
Based on the survey results, it looks like OCE wide-format equipment had a greater market share than KIP wide-format equipment prior to HP’s introduction of HP PageWide printers, but I suspect most reprographers were already well aware of that. The main question, though, is what will happen to KIP if HP takes as much market share as is indicated in the current year and next year purchase responses? Is KIP strong enough to survive being in the 3rd position, market-share-wise? (I hope so; there are a lot of outstanding people in the KIP organization.) As to OCE, I’m less concerned about OCE’s future viability, given the backing of being owned by Canon. As to ROWE, it will be interesting to see if ROWE has staying power, given the lack of traction we see (for ROWE) in the survey results. (Note: 1 respondent indicated that he/she would likely be purchasing ROWE equipment.)
Joel’s comments regarding the “A/E/C Plan Printing” Survey:
Repeating the comment I made on the results of the over (the “equipment”) survey …..before I begin my specific comments about the results of the “plan printing” survey, I have to point out that it is not a good idea to draw concrete conclusions from the results of any survey when the survey lacks broad-based participation. If the survey had been taken by 300 firms, only then could we draw concrete conclusions. Now to my comments:
Regarding the issue of “how much” A/E/C plan printing “color” work is running through reprographics shops, 58.5 percent of respondents say that “color” work is 10 percent or less of
their total output (total output being b/w and color combined.) Since this is the first time I’ve asked this particular question in a survey, I can’t tell if this is a change from earlier times. I suspect that “color” plan printing is on the rise, but this is based on the fact that 83 percent of respondents say that they expect customers to order more and more plans in color next year.
As to pricing, only 5 respondents out of 53 reported that they are offering the same price for both color and b/w output (4 respondents said they are doing this, but only for certain specific customers.) I expect that to rise in the future.
As to the issue of the health and vitality of the A/E/C plan printing business (folks, this specifically refers to “large-format A/E/C prints on paper”), 81 percent of respondents said that their A/E/C plan printing business in 2016 has been as good as or better than business was in 2015. Of interesting note, that’s not what ARC said about its sales of reprographics work, 2016
vs. 2015; ARC said that its reprographics services business declined year over year. Perhaps this means that ARC lost market share?
Ninety-one percent of respondents indicated that they offer an Internet-based planroom service. Based on the responses to “which planroom do you use,” it is apparent that ReproConnect is the clear leader, at least for those who participated in the survey.
To me, the last question on the survey was the most interesting, as it kind of measured the attitude and outlook reprographers have about the future of the reprographics business. Only 5 respondents feel that the outlook is dismal. That said, 27 respondents said that more and more of their A/E/C customers are moving towards a “less paper” business model and 27 respondents said that their A/E/C customers will likely be ordering fewer prints per project in the future than was the case in the past. Perhaps the reason why 31 respondents think the future of the A/E/C plan printing business is “just okay” (or, you could take that to mean “okay”) and that 4 respondents think the future of the plan printing business is good to excellent (together representing the majority) is the likelihood that revenues from color plan printing will keep overall revenues the same or possibly increase their revenues (provided that they continue to charge a premium and are able to do this without losing market share).
One final comment about A/E/C plan printing: In October, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a long-time friend in the Washington, DC area. My friend is a senior manager with one of the largest general contractors in the U.S., and he’s been with this firm for more than 16 years. I asked my friend “what’s going on in your world with plan printing?” His responses, a) their “per project” plan printing requirements are “way down” compared to requirements years ago, b) his firm is using Bluebeam to manage and mark up digital files, c) he said that there is still a need for hard-copy sets of plans at job-sites; this need is driven by the fact that building inspectors (who visit job sites) still need to “stamp approvals” and mark signatures on those sets.
To those who participated in the surveys, THANK YOU!