In Defense of the Status Quo?

As press releases come across the transom, I’m always on the lookout for topics that are a little to the left of center for the office technology space. One in particular caught my eye a week ago, admittedly a topic that I have only a passing knowledge regarding, but it was the big picture perspective that got me to thinking about the what-ifs of growing business.

Last week Ricoh unveiled its RICOH Ri 100, an affordable direct-to-garment printer for the production of high-quality applications on a variety of fabrics. The Ri 100 is small enough to fit easily on desktops/counters and is a “perfect fit for environments not traditionally dedicated to print, such as souvenir shops and small businesses,” the release stated.

The release went on to say that as many organizations and individuals seek ways to expand their portfolios or enhance brand loyalty, the Ri 100 is a cost-effective way to achieve these goals.

“As Ricoh continues to invest in the industrial print market, we do so with one goal in mind—to make it easier for our customers to grow their businesses,” said John Fulena, vice president, Commercial and Industrial Printing Business Group, Ricoh USA Inc. “The RICOH Ri 100 fits perfectly into that mission: it’s affordable; it’s easy to use; it works fast to produce quality, unique applications.”

The Ri 100 is aimed at businesses, municipalities and other organizations that see the value of having branded t-shirts, canvas bags, pillows and other fabrics. MSRP for the RICOH Ri 100, heating unit, software and other accessories will be less than $5,000, significantly lower than that of traditional DTG printers. You can learn more about the Ri 100 by visiting here.

I’ve enclosed a good deal of information in fairness to Ricoh; it’s currently available only through the Anajet sales team, but Ricoh will be announcing channel information sometime this quarter. But I wanted to use this presser to make a point. Much like dealers have done with 3D printers, a DTG printer strikes me as a curio, without much chance of back-end consumables profit (and at $5K, it’s definitely not a cash cow waiting to happen). As a gateway product, however, your ability to use the Ri 100 (or any ancillary product, for that matter) as a business lever to other opportunities rests squarely on your shoulders.

Fighting Change

I’d like to share a quick story from my time covering the commercial printing industry. I was the late 1990s, a time when the internet still hadn’t truly become mainstream and businesses employed websites that could charitably be described as online brochures. My magazine had posted a story I wrote online regarding ancillary product and service opportunities, one of which was mailing and fulfillment.

Production inkjet was still several years away from being the mainstream topic of choice. But even then, with the economy flourishing and rampant M&A swirling like crazy, printers were seeking alternative business lines to drive new profit.

Anyway, someone posted a comment on the article that was extremely critical of the piece. It was borderline trolling, complete with colorful language. Several members of our staff (myself included) took the bait and engaged in back-and-forth banter. The commenter took great exception to the ideas, calling them foolish, impractical and not fiscally viable. In the end, we bowed out of the conversation with an “agree to disagree” stance.

The author made no attempt to hide his identity or that of his company, which was refreshing. In hindsight, his rant was actually a cry for help. Within a year, the firm was obtained in an assets purchase by an industry consolidator.

Suffice to say, at the point of this angry man’s posting, it was too late to save his business. Adding mailing and fulfillment, finishing, digital printing, wide-format, sign printing…it wouldn’t have mattered. This printer crossed the zero barrier for action and became fish food for a larger commercial enterprise.

Danger Signs

Ray Stasieczko is our resident evangelist for change and has frequently written about the need to take a leadership position when it comes to recognizing and implementing change. He is not a fan of the status quo, and for good reason. If there is a defense for the status quo, when it comes to the fortunes of your business, only you know for sure. But it is a dangerous stance.

Technologies and offerings often die a silent and gradual death, but not in all cases. When the PC was first released (back when I was in college), I doubt there was an immediate “get the hell out of Dodge” proclamation by typewriter dealers. Perhaps industry veterans have a more informed memory in this regard. Still, the handwriting was clearly on the wall.

It doesn’t take a watershed moment to sound the alarm. Your own instincts will suffice when trends point downward. Better yet, a thorough analysis from an industry consultant will help bring to light any blind sides you may have developed.

Whether its MPS, MNS, MGS (managed garment services), water coolers or an offering out of left field, recognizing the “what” and the “when” to implementing change is vital to maintaining relevance and keeping the lights on.

Whether the red flags are plain to see or business trends are slowly pointing south, we must reconcile the need to change when we identify the warning signs as opposed to fighting it. And we can benefit from the failures of others by not continuing to trample down the path of the status quo. Become the agent of change and not the fish food.

Gotta admit, though, a DTG printer sounds cool…

Erik Cagle
About the Author
Erik Cagle is the editorial director of ENX Magazine. He is an author, writer and editor who spent 18 years covering the commercial printing industry.