Darwin or Demon? Which one are you?

By Erwin Busselot, Director, Business Innovation & Solutions, Ricoh Graphic Communications, Ricoh Europe                      

British naturalist Darwin famously said: ‘It’s not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change!’ This is also true for companies.

As in competitive markets commoditisation often displaces differentiation. This is also Darwinism at work. Commoditisation can, however, be countered by innovation. But we can be held back from innovating by the demon of inertia in us.

American writer, publisher, artist and philosopher Elbert Hubbard said: ‘The reason men oppose progress is not that they hate progress, but that they love inertia.’ Failure to innovate equals failure to differentiate. Profits and revenues need to adapt and evolve. To sustain attractive returns commercial printers must transform their core competences over time. They must also include their employees and educate them on the aims.

Efforts to change direction can be thwarted by the inertia that success creates. Companies who want to innovate can often have a poor success rate due to losing the ability to innovate, or locking up scarce resources in non-differentiating processes. This is the demon of inertia at work.

Integrated technology, processes and people ensure positive results. This powerful combination can help defeat the demon.

For example, workflow management that centralises functions and brings legacy processes together under a shared services model can free resources that are performing duplicate functions. Commercial printers can also standardise processes into a single process set, simplify processes in a levered way, and automate or outsource.

We worked with a commercial printer that lacked clear visibility of device activity across multiple manufacturing sites. The client believed that all its production printers were “pretty busy 24/7” but there was no quick view of peaks and troughs in production or assessment of hardware investments to increase capacity. There was also no comprehensive data on which to base tactical and strategic decisions.

After reviewing how the operation could make crucial improvements, comprehensive reporting and analysis of all production printing activities was quickly established as was clear visibility of overall device usage and productivity. Data analysis showed that no hardware investment was necessary. It also identified periods of unproductive on-call time that led to process improvements and enhanced utilisation of its high speed webfed inkjet printers, resulting in a 20% increase in capacity.

Commercial printers can also transform their efficiency and control across locations. They can replace an inability to react to capacity bottlenecks and unforeseen events with greater reliability through simple capacity and contingency planning. They can switch from lack of interoperability of the sites to easily rerouted work, either proactively or reactively as events unfold, and track the status of all work across all locations in one place.

Innovation can deliver new revenue, build new business models, grow value to new and existing clients and elevate sales potential are also shared. The five production stages of input, manage, prepare, produce and output can be enhanced. Finally, innovation can help commercial printers address and solve the challenges they face by enabling them to embrace HENKAKU – the spirit of transformational change and thus defeat their inner demon.