Jumping ahead needs manufacturers' help
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By Sophie Matthews-Paul
8 May 2012
PSPs need to work with manufacturers so both can be one jump ahead
When you ask customers what they want next, do they really know? These days increasingly this is a key question when manufacturers are asked about how they plan future solutions, and how they progress current ones to take into account perceived changes for upgrades. But people can't jump into new markets without the right equipment, and increasingly this needs to factor in innovation.
Conferring with end users is great, of course, and the only practical way of determining what their various clients are expecting from their PSPs and display producers in the future. On the other hand, it is often easy for people to accept a 'me too' policy when it comes to equipment purchasing decisions, and there's a danger that everyone could find they're doing the same thing. In such a competitive world, individuality rather than following the crowd is often preached but, in terms of machine design and performance, necessarily there will have to be compromise and commonality in components to make a system which can be brought to market as a production unit.
As well as asking customers what they want, it's surely a good idea to incorporate as much flexibility into a single production machine to cover as many bases as possible. This means that investors in new equipment might set out with one idea of what they're going to do with their new engine, but have the flexibility to use it for different types of application if their businesses take the leap into new production areas.
But manufacturers don't have a crystal ball and, much as forecasts and statistics are valuable when trying to assess future requirements, it's going to be the end users who come up with many potential ideas. These are the folk who have the practical experience of knowing what they'd like to see in future technologies.
So it becomes a bit of a paradox. Manufacturers want their customers to determine future directions; canny end users want to be able to jump out of the mainstream and produce something different. Some might have sufficient production capacity using existing technology, so want to diversify. Few stand still. Add to that, particularly in wide-format digital production, there are all sorts of potential markets that must still be lurking out in the big wide world which, thus far, haven't been addressed by ink-jet print.
Users of digital technology largely have to go with the flow because that's how machine developments tend to work out. But many manufacturers can't know well in advance where niche markets are going to emerge, and they can't evolve without base machinery on which innovation can be based. And that's where customers wanting to be one jump ahead are extremely useful.
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