Brett Newman,Chief Operations Manager, Hybrid Services
Brett Newman is Chief Operations Manager at Hybrid Services, the exclusive UK & Ireland distributor for Mimaki’s award winning range of wide format solvent, UV curing, textile, latex and aqueous inkjet printers, flatbed and pinch roll cutting plotters, software solutions and genuine Mimaki consumables.
Established since 1996, Hybrid’s commitment to providing the very highest standards of customer service is coupled to a market-leading product portfolio of cutting edge solutions for the sign and graphics, industrial and printed textile markets.
Mr Newman oversees the sales, service and marketing departments and bring over two decades of print industry experience to the role.
What do you feel are the challenges that PSPs are facing in the industry today?
One of the biggest challenges that PSP’s face today is keeping on top of everything that is going on in the industry because this industry changes, develops, and it grows, and we are constantly seeking new and better ways to produce things. So, for example, we've seen wide format solvent printers now for almost 20 years, and in that time we have seen the rise of UV printing, eco-solvent, latex, solvent UV, and so forth, so what product do you buy, and for why?
I've been around long enough to recognise that when I started there were still guys around in the sign industry with brushes. And when you look at those guys who painted signs they had different brushes, whether they were in different sizes, had different bristles, or different handle lengths, whatever it was in those brushes, they didn't just have one; they had a potful. In today’s market those brushes have been replaced by inkjet printers, with different print and ink technology used to produce a far wider range of applications than with brushes.
Then there is market convergence. Where we once had clearly defined boundaries where there would be a screen printer, or a sign maker, or an offset printer etc. and they were all very much different. Today, the customer just sees print. The customer doesn't distinguish on size or quantity, to him it’s just print.
Therefore what would typically be classed as a commercial printer is now entering into wide format because they want to offer more services to their customers. Equally the traditional sign maker is now producing business cards and compliments slips and letter heads etc. and that's what I mean by convergence. Everybody is a commercial printer today.
I think it's great that people recognise that there's more than just one section of print and that it now encompasses a whole huge umbrella of print, and if you look at it that way - it's a massive and great industry to be in.
The thing to always keep in mind here is that there's still an end customer involved. That customer is going into the print shop to get digitally printed leaflets for an event, digitally printed letterheads etc. and the commercial printer is now recognising the benefit of adding digital wide format printing because he knows that while the customer still needs the leaflets and the business cards to promote his business, he also needs banners and pop-up's and other products and services that the commercial printer can now supply. But at the same time, the same customer is going along to his local sign shop for banners and pop-up's etc. and the sign maker is also now offering cut-sheet digital leaflet printing along with digitally printed letterheads and business cards.
So convergence is happening in both directions, and as people enter into what could be described as adjacent markets they want to retain the customer and retain control over what they are printing, and rather than sub-contract the work out, they bring it in house. This gives them better control over the margin and the profit, and the more spend you get per customer the better.
So there is confusion about technology and what might be considered best for the print service provider given the sector of the market they are serving, and convergence as the sign maker and the commercial printer are fast becoming the same thing.
What other trends are you seeing in the marketplace?
One significant trend that I've noticed is in the personalisation and customisation sector, and this is all about design because people are always looking to change their designs. If you look back 20 years ago it was all about personalised t-shirts with a vinyl cutter cutting flock. But if you look at t-shirt personalisation over the years we've seen it develop from straight forward single colour, to colour over colour layers, then into full colour print, and now we have full colour direct to garment t-shirt printers. There’s transfer paper printing from lasers, and multiple ways to do that too, but personalisation has moved on from t-shirts now to personalised items such as phone covers because people will always want something of their own design.
Nearly everybody has a phone today, and if you look at people on their phones you will see how people are starting to personalise these everyday items. It’s the same with interior décor. Now we are seeing personalised wallpapers coming much more to the fore, so the photo from your summer holiday is now on your living room wall. A favourite quote or slogan is now on the kitchen wall, or a picture of the stars and the moon is now up in the kids bedroom.
What we also have to remember is that the people who are coming through into this industry now, are the young people that live their lives on social media. They have constantly got their phone with them, that's where it's going, but these young people that also want to be individual. They want what they wear to be individual; they want what they hold in their hand to be individual; and they want their homes to be individual.
That's a trend that is as individual as it is personal, but ultimately it all starts with that initial design where there is an emotional attachment. People pay for emotions, and it's extremely profitable because you can charge a premium for it.
So how should PSP’s engage with customers looking for more personalised printed products?
Social media is the best sales avenue to spread the word of success because it multiplies rapidly. The successful companies that offer personalised offerings already know this and they spend as much time on social media as they do printing. It's about understanding the demographic of the people that want to buy this kind of personalisation and printed output, and engaging them in positive ways.
The power of social media and what it can ultimately do for spreading the word about your unique business offering cannot be underestimated, and as such I think the avenue to sell is as equally important as the avenue to produce.
How do you work with a customer who is looking to move into new markets?
It's about understanding the customer and taking the time to find out where they are now and working out their best way forward. We need to take into account budget, output, and the different applications they might want to achieve and what ink technologies will be best suited to their requirements - it's about understanding where they want to come in. What entry point do they do they want? Obviously you can come in at any level and at any point, but it's about addressing the market you are targeting and making sure you have all the right tools to be able to properly sell into that market.
If you look at the manufacturers, 10 years ago every manufacturer would be talking about feeds and speeds. That's how print was promoted. That's how it was sold. Today nobody cares about feeds and speeds anymore because everything today is about application. What do they want that particular printer to do? What application? So it eventually comes back to the brush guy again with his multiple brushes. He can invest in a first time inkjet printer that will produce 60% of the applications he initially identified as right for his business, but further down the line he might decide to provide additional services to his customers that will mean investing in additional printing equipment. So we provide clarity where there might be confusion, and ultimately our aim is to help the customer to achieve his or her goals.
What are your plans for the Sign & Digital UK show this year?
Hybrid Services has some great plans for the show this year and it will be the first UK showing of Mimaki’s new UV print & cut printers along with everything else from Mimaki. But one thing that's really exciting is our textile workshop.
Here we'll be looking to dispel the myths of soft signage and get people to actually produce something for themselves so they can understand how easy it is. They can come to the workshop, they can put their own file into the computer to understand the software side of it, and then output their file to the printer. We want people to come along and make something that they can take away that is personalised to them, so they can get their hands on the kit, and understand how it operates. We'll have a production specialist there who has been in the industry for 15 years as a production manager in textiles and soft signage, and so we can talk people through all the questions that they have about soft signage, dye sublimation and textile printing as a whole.
What do you think visitors to Sign & Digital UK might be looking for in 2018?
The days of people coming to see a machine have gone. People now come to see the output; they come to see to see the applications; they come for advice, and they come for a conversation. A machine is a machine and you can see it on a website and you can get a brochure, so many of your questions are already answered. What you do need to do is to go along and discuss how things can now be produced, the applications, the media that can be used, the technology and what you can output, and how much does it cost to be able to output a certain object - these are the conversations we are having now.
So over the last few years we've seen Sign & Digital UK change, we've seen the customer conversations change, and we've seen what the people coming through the doors are looking for. They don't always want to see the machines, but they do want to talk about the items they're producing, or looking to produce. This is because what they are producing is what they're selling and where they make their profit - these are also the same things that their customers are looking to buy from them. So, while visitors coming to the show today are far more knowledgable about basic machine speeds and feeds, they are looking to gain more insight into the applications instead.
What would you say to somebody thinking of visiting the show for the first time?
People coming to the show today are no longer the brush users of the past; they are modern digital craftspeople - a new breed of print service provider. They are also thirsty for application based information, whether it is for producing vehicle graphics, textiles, signage, surface graphics, or home decor -what they want is information and practical advice.
So my advice is to come to the show with an open mind. Obviously you can look at machines as much as you like, but ultimately you will benefit in the longer term by coming to the show and attending some of the excellent workshops available, or sit in on some of the panel interviews, or attend a better business presentation. This is where the visitor will get the maximum return from their visit to the show.
In my opinion, you could spend a couple of days at Sign & Digital UK and never speak with a single supplier but still get massive amounts of information out of that visit to the NEC and come away far better educated than you ever were before.