Plotter Life-cycles

Plotter Life-cycles

It's 2019 and the world is rapidly changing around us. From a technology point of view, we look at our cellphones, cars, apps, and it's apparent that we are not living in the same world as our Grandparents. Yet in the Wide format world of printers, some customers think we still live in that world because most of our industry is still black and white.

Customers often say to me, "My old plotter here lasted me 7-10 years."  Some customers will have plotters that last longer!  The problem is the expectation of the equipment does not line up to the reality of the equipment.  Years ago, life was simpler.  Copy machines made copies, and Printers printed.  Nowadays, we are in a world of fast "On-Demand" Multi-function systems that require more reliability, stability, and productivity - but the demands from the end users are more taxing and stressing on the equipment.  

The harsh truth is things aren't built the way they were used to, and there are a few reasons for that. Its contradictory to think, "I want something to last 10 years, and change with the times." The only time that can work is in a marriage, and both people have to adapt.  If one person doesn't adapt, The relationship will struggle to survive. With equipment -  You can't build things to change that fast, and expect them to stay the same for a decade.

In the wide format industry, I have seen customers spend over forty thousand dollars on equipment 15 years ago on equipment that costs eight thousand dollars now.  The prices have been coming down and has seemed to stabilize.

This article is to help change the mindset of the Wide Format customer, but not scare them.  We are in the wide format industry, and our equipment is built to last, 3-6 years (depending on the model).  Wide format customers need to be aware that ultimately it's the technology driving the equipment, not the hardware.

What does that mean? Isn't the technology part of the hardware? Yes.. Kind of. I am referring to Software, and the variables we cannot control. I think the new hardware could last a long time. However, If we have a Plotter that was built on Windows XP specifications... Can it connect to a Windows 2012 or 2016 Server?  We have been in situations where IT departments revamped a whole company and then calls us for drivers on the old plotter for the new server. It's not a pleasant conversation when the IT department must inform the customer they need to acquire new equipment that is compatible with their new network. Some customers are okay with it because of the communication and security benefits.

FYI - When a manufacturer discontinues a product, they have to support it for 5 years before it can become "end of life". By supporting, they must make parts for the machine. I have seen large companies make parts, but stop updating drivers.  This is hard part.  Sometimes we can lie to computers with old drivers and try to trick them to print to old plotters.  Its not a good thing if someone or something is lying to the other thing.

Wide Format Color LED printers are a few years away, and when they arrive they will bring a lot of change to our industry.  Inkjet plotters have officially standardized color in all of their products.

To be in front of the line of a race, you must do enough hard work to get past everyone else.  Luckily we are in a marathon, and the customers that know when to sprint during the marathon will have more success.  Slow and steady does not win the race anymore.  Being Smart and conditioned does.

Being ahead of the curve, knowing yourself, your company, your limitations, weaknesses, strengths and making adjustments will make you and your company successful.  The plotter is part of that equation.  It is a lifeline, and profit center for firms. Use it and look at it like a dentist looks at his drill.  He cannot survive without it.

Just because your plotter works doesn't mean that it is working for your company. The prices are cheap enough that customers can get new, better, and modern equipment that suites their needs better, and faster than ever.

Live in the world we live in now.  Make sure you have the best plotter that suites your companies needs.  Make sure your plotter can handle your demands.  There are over 50 different plotters out in the market, we are extremely confident there is one for every customer.

Don't get me wrong, we are in a happy medium of 4-5 year life expectancy on our plotters. Copier salesmen try to push for 3 year life spans.  That is too early and 6-7 years is too late.

Find the happy medium.  Find the sweet spot, and always be running at peak performance.

The goal is to not let your old plotter die, or get outdated. We can't think this is our Grandparents world, and we can't be caught blindsided by an old mentality. 

Choosing the right plotter, and matching that with a good lease will keep your payments in your budget will allow you to get out of the plotter before the plotter becomes a stress point and not a profit point.

Apr 23rd 2019 Denny Mezzapesa

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