What business are you in?

What business are you in?

One thing that defines print on demand is flexibility.  But is it possible that we aren’t taking advantage of this flexibility and we are limiting the scope of our business?

It is not uncommon to fall into a mindset that our business purpose is fixed.  This view can inadvertently make us prisoners of the past and lead us to overlook new opportunities.  

This is particularly relevant in the print on demand sector, where our business identity can be viewed through multiple lenses.

Should our identity be defined by:

  1. The products we create? (e.g. we are a provider of custom t-shirts)
  2. The production technology we utilize? (e.g. we are a DTG business)
  3. Our operational capability? (e.g. we are an agile on-demand manufacturer)

The way we choose to answer this question can drive vastly different approaches to product strategy. It is entirely possible given the versatility of digital production that expanding into new and diverse product lines might be more achievable than anticipated.

Maybe we already possess the necessary competencies to diversify our offerings significantly and create new income streams?

I’ve watched the evolution of one of our sites with interest – they have innovated through a series of carefully executed stages.  They have evolved from a narrow print on demand base in books, mugs and display with high revenue concentration to a business with an extensive giftware range and more recently apparel with a second generation of apparel implementation adding virtual warehousing capability (for lower movement lines) and a big expansion to the apparel range.  What this site has realized is that their core IP/their core competency is to convert any low unit count digital order to a product with ruthless control of time and resources.  The form of the digital machine that does the making is in many ways irrelevant; it’s the process that they have honed and refined that really matters.

So are you a focussed product manufacturer or a digital-on-demand company?  How you answer may lead to a whole new strategy opening up.

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith is the CEO of ZenSmart, a leading workflow automation platform that streamlines manufacturing in On Demand plants across the world.


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