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Top 28 Factors – A Comprehensive SWOT Analysis of Screen Printing

28 August 2021: Tracking the transition of an industry over almost three decades is a rare opportunity for the truly privileged. In this 28th Anniversary issue of Screen Print India magazine, we decided to go beyond that and take a closer look at screen printing as an industry segment through the binoculars of experience and expertise. Everybody knows that the screen printing industry has tremendous potential; the question that we need to ask ourselves, is how will it face the future ?

Since this publication made its debut and commenced upon the road to evolution and growth, the screen printing industry in India has been constantly witnessing immense transformations. The industry has been making efforts to become more organized than it used to be. Dealers have become systematic, the market has developed, industry has grown and good trade practices have been implemented. Quality awareness has increased; the entry of multinationals has also made an impact.

From a situation where paper was the primary substrate, today the spectrum of screen printing applications has widened considerably. Better networking and awareness initiatives, innovative on-line presentation concepts and roadshows, have been broadening horizons to a large extent. Plus, the NextGen is playing an active role in the running of the business, with a greater willingness to expand and explore new avenues. The focus on value addition and competing globally instead of within India along with a willingness to invest money and gain higher returns, reflect a new era.

With that brief glance into the industry’s metamorphosis, we now move onto the in-depth examination of the factors that will influence its development and progress going forward.

Strengths & Opportunities: 

1) Cost-effective, ideal for vast volume print runs
One of the biggest plus points of screen printing is that once the stencil is prepared, the number of prints is extendable with a minimal incremental cost of the ink and substrate required. For instance, if you take the cost of 500 visiting cards, you can extend it to 1,000 or even 5,000 cards with a marginally higher cost, so screen printing remains the preferred format for large print runs.

2) Versatile, suitable even for distinctive fabrics
Screen printing process enables printers to opt for assignments where they are required to print on all types of fabrics, regardless of the differences in terms of thickness, texture or colour. This gives printers a huge advantage as they do not have to hesitate while accepting job work that involves printing even on exotic or sheer fabrics with gradations in terms of opacity or transparency.

3) An extensive range of inks to choose from
Whatever the assignment, whatever the substrate, whatever the effects, screen printing has a wide variety of inks available to manage each specific requirement. You can achieve different levels of impact by opting for subtle variations in the thickness of the ink, depth of colour, drying or curing methods and many such options that open up a huge world of immense opportunities.

4) Prints endure the tests of time and weather
If you have seen faded letterings or numbers peeling off a signboard on the roadside that is indicating a direction or the distance to your destination, you can rest assured that it wasn’t done using the screen printing process. Longevity of prints and retaining the sharpness even after years is one of the biggest benefits that screen printing provides to the end user and observers passing by.

5) Low initial investment at setup stage
Ask a cross-section of screen printers how they started out in this field and chances are the reply will be ‘at my house’ most of the time. Be it a one-man show or getting family members involved, it is possible to venture into this field with a minimal amount and be a respectable owner of a ‘start-up’ instead of continuing to work for someone in any other field as an employee.

6) Limited lead time required to start the business
Over the years, screen printing has been an extremely attractive proposition for anyone who has been poorly paid or harassed in another occupation. In fact, many times, it has been a chance encounter or coordinating with a screen printer that inspired such people to turn entrepreneur. Most importantly, a rudimentary understanding is enough so one doesn’t need to wait too long.

7) Enables one to print on almost any substrate
When an expert in screen printing showed an image of a glass building façade with printed logos on it during his presentation, the audience, mostly comprising printers used to basic job work sat up and took notice. Yes, the ability to print on almost any substrate is one of the key attractions of screen printing as it opens up endless possibilities for those brave enough to explore the scope.

8) Myriad effects possible ranging from subtle to striking
You can take any assignment and showcase the multiple possibilities with very simple or extremely sophisticated special effects that can be done, presenting them as options and opportunities. Highlighting the logo or some other design element, making things stand out in 3D or just a simple 2D effect, all of these are possible with screen printing.

9) Print on substantial size substrate or surface
Depending upon the skill of the screen maker, one can go in for a very large size of the screen and affix an equally large sized substrate for getting the message screen printed. From large hoardings to signboards, banners to drop down messages that cover the entire side of a building, it is possible to do many things and create truly king size print jobs with the screen printing process.

10) Even curved surfaces can be printed upon
While being able to print on almost any substrate is in itself a great relief, screen printing also scores over other methods because of its ability to print on any kind of surface, be it flat, curved, jagged or uneven. Concave or convex, all types of surfaces can be screen printed upon and this makes it an excellent choice for advertising or promotions.

11) Greater accuracy with emphasis on technology adoption
There was a stage where screen printing was on the back foot because the manual approach was not easy to control. Depending upon the person operating the squeegee, the pressure level would vary. With technology adoption to a far greater extent and printers investing in automation, those flaws have been more than overcome with precision now possible for printers.

12) Quality control, in line with top brand specifications
When a global brand looks for its logo design to be exactly the same across the spectrum, regardless of where it has been printed, screen printing again manages to fit the bill perfectly. As long as the specifications are properly stipulated and provided by the brand, a screen printer in India can ensure the same quality and deliver in sync with any other country worldwide.

13) Shift towards sustainable approach as per international standards
There were times when screen printing was considered in a negative light because of the environmental impact. However, with Indian screen printers taking on assignments from multinational brands and adhering to the regulations for such export quality jobs, there has been a marked shift towards an eco-friendly approach and investing in effluent treatment.

14) Leveraging power of internet with digital reach/ promotions
The growth of screen printing in India was hitherto limited by geographical reach. However, by taking advantage of the online medium to connect with the international markets and also taking opportunities to showcase capabilities through web portals, during webinars and virtual events, the industry has progressed by leaps and bounds with excellent prospects for the future as well.

Weaknesses & Threats: 

1) Gap between trained workforce required and available
While the number of institutes offering courses has gradually increased, there still exists a shortage of hands-on manpower; supply is less as compared to the overall demand from the industry.

2) Not very practical for small orders and sampling                                                                                                                                                This is one aspect where digital printing has made considerable inroads and to an extent, taken over certain categories like visiting cards and even letterheads as they are printed with the letters.

3) Entails greater costs for multiple shade print runs
Since every colour is printed separately, the cost of running a machine repeatedly or getting labour to run the squeegee again and again is higher depending on the number of shades involved.

4) Inconsistency in ink quality creates cause for concern
There is an unorganised, grey market where inks are available at a cheaper rate, like country liquor. Since these are hand mixed, maintaining the consistency is difficult and affects the final print.

5) Variations in pricing confuse and create disadvantages
Competition often creates strange situations where either the same product or sometimes the equivalent of it is available at different rates, thereby affecting purchase decisions and quality.

6) Recreating images with intricate designs can be challenging
If you are taking up an assignment where delicate patterns are predominant, this format can lead to certain issues and even the final print job being rejected because the final look and feel differs.

7) Automation is becoming essential for most job orders
Screen printing faces an ‘either/ or’ situation where either you stay at the bottom of the pyramid doing low price jobs or take financial risks and invest in getting machines for optimal results.

8) Manual printing method has multiple issues/ scope for mistakes
There are some aspects that cannot be wished away and the entrepreneurial ‘one table’ format is being criticised because of multiple issues that are difficult to resolve and possibility of errors.

9) Manpower costs on the rise so losing low price proposition
From the rent for greater space required to accommodate workers to the demands for higher wages, the low-cost manual method is losing its advantages, particularly in the major Indian metros.

10) High quantum of water usage impacts perception and environment impact
With a new environmentally conscious generation driving end-user purchase decisions, there are possibilities of rising disapproval for a segment that still requires a significant quantum of water.

11) Takes longer time to accomplish due to multiple stages and preparation time
Competing printing methods are gaining preference because the time required for creating the stencil, doing one colour at a time, etc. makes the process too lengthy for clients who are in a hurry.

12) Printers cutting rates due to competitive market affects profit margins
Too much competition has created a lose-lose situation whereby a potential customer can keep driving prices down by playing one printer against another, thereby causing profitability to plummet.

13) Limited awareness and hesitancy to invest in upgrading setup
Many printers either do not realise the world of opportunities that exist or opt to stay small as taking the next step requires committing substantial funds and the returns take some time to accumulate.

14) Industry still largely disorganised and small scale sector driven
Despite unifying platforms like Screen Print India magazine and SGAI, the national association, most printers operate in their little fiefdoms and resist attempts to work together for common goals.

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