Surprising findings from VMA Annual Industry Metrics Survey report

The newly-formed Visual Media Association has released surprise findings from its 2023 Annual Industry Metrics Survey.

The first event to release the report was hosted by partner sponsor Ricoh Australia and held at the company’s Macquarie Park offices in Sydney on Tuesday 14 November, before a roadshow of events across Australia.

According to VMA CEO Kellie Northwood, the first survey of its kind in 10 years completed by 160 of the top printing businesses in the country representing approximately 75 per cent of the personnel employed in the category has identified key trends and forecasts for the print and visual media industry.

According to VMA CEO Kellie Northwood, the survey has identified key trends and forecasts for the print and visual media industry

“As we merged the Real Media Collective and PVCA over the past 12 months, one of the really important things was to look at all of the wonderful programs that both associations have done historically.

“And one of them is an industry should know who it is, what it is, and how it is to allow our businesses to be more successful as well as your planning, forecasting your CapEx investments.

“We are hearing a lot of things about skilled labour shortages and what the government wants us to be doing environmentally and when it comes to carbon. We need to understand as an industry, what are we actually doing? Where are we at and understand whether we are we prepared, and also, what the association needs to also be investing in for you, so that we can address some of your concerns.

“I was thrilled with the high level of respondents to the survey, we exceeded our respondent target by 42% which has ensured the data we have collected is compelling and a strong illustration of our industry. I do thank each and every respondent for their time and contribution to the survey. The data too has some surprises – staff ratios sales v operational reflects a changing landscape to manufacturing, commercial to digital equipment percentages similarly so. The shift in skilled labour innovations, as well as working flexibility trends entering our industry are interesting and I look forward to sharing these with the industry over the next few weeks,” Northwood said.

Here are some of the key findings contained in the 2023 VMA Annual Industry Metrics Survey:

General Industry Trends

  • 83.44% of companies are privately-owned and operated
  • 67.55% of printers operate from a single site
  • 51.67% of businesses realise an annual turnover under $2 million
  • 32.46% of businesses realise an annual turnover under $1 million
  • 71.53% are small businesses of 15 employees or less
  • 49.01% are employing less than 10 employees
  • 62.35% report gross profit margin in the last financial year was more than 20%
  • 60.26% whilst offering multiple services, define themselves as ‘Printers’
  • 55.25% of businesses report growth in job volumes
  • 28.67% of businesses report declines in job volumes
  • 43.41% report the greatest risk to their business in the next 3 years is the economy

Service Offering & Diversity

  • 46.85% of businesses have increased their service diversity over the past three years
  • 48.25% are looking to invest in existing equipment with upgrades and add-ons
  • 28.67% are looking at new manufacturing capabilities
  • 77.11% of printers will invest in diversification programs within the next two years
  • 37.35% of printers will invest in diversification programs within the next year

Quoting Jobs & Workflow

  • 92.72% of employees are customer-facing or sales personnel, with some operating in a hybrid to operational role
  • 54.55% of employees see the lack of automation as the biggest issue facing their production efficiency
  • 51.24% report poor workflow solutions – outdated or multiple tools, as having a significant impact on their production efficiency
  • 38.24% of businesses report automation will reduce the highest cost impact to their business with reduced employee numbers
  • 62% of businesses receive job orders via email
  • 28% of businesses receive job orders vis direct sales orders
  • 15% of businesses receive job orders via web-to-print
  • 67.06% of jobs quoted are converted to ‘Live’ jobs
  • 17.65% of jobs quoted are converted to ‘Live’ work
  • Sales and customer facing automation is becoming a priority
  • Workflow automation and technology is critical to improved profitability and sustainability to businesses across the industry
  • Job volumes are growing which supports a stronger industry and reflects recovery from COVID
  • 61.18% of average job size is under 1000 units
  • 30.6% of average job size is under 500 units
  • 82.12% of businesses report job volume trends throughout the year
  • 57.26% of volume trends are linked to seasonal campaigns
  • 40.17% of campaigns are linked to EOFY and customer budgeting windows
  • 38.46% of campaigns are linked to Education and Government work such as elections, budgets or school terms
  • 23.08% outline stability in jobs from month to month
  • 36.75% are reporting zero stability and predictability – operating in a quote to quote environment 
  • Retailers remain a strong buying group
  • Protecting government and education volumes is critical to the industry

Labour & Salary Benchmarking

  • 68.24% of business costs allocated to labour
  • 24.71% of business costs by comparison are allocated to materials
  • 28.68% report the lack of skilled labour is a significant risk to their business
  • 50% report that roles will become shared or hybrid roles across all business needs
  • 38.24% of companies pay 5-10% above the Award
  • 36.76% of companies pay 11-20% above the Award
  • 10.29% of companies pay 100% to the Award
  • 5.88% of companies pay more than 20% above the Award
  • Operational staff still make up the largest departments by number of personnel across businesses, if only single-skilled
  • The majority of all personnel are full time employees – 60/40 gender split
  • The printing industry collectively pays above the Award rates

Skills & Training

  • 57.35% report roles will evolve whether automated or hybrid within the next three years
  • 58.82% of respondents invest in formal training for staff
  • 67.50% of businesses invest in private training outside of TAFE or Government provided training
  • 77.94% of businesses do not employ apprentices
  • 22.06% of business employ at least one apprentice
  • 53% of employees are aged between 36-55
  • 28% of employees are aged between 56-65
  • 15% of employees are aged over 65
  • 56.25% of businesses report the biggest challenge to workforce recruitment is finding candidates with the right skills
  • 45.31% of businesses report the biggest challenge is finding job-ready candidates
  • 64.06% of businesses report mindset and motivation balanced with attitude to work is the biggest challenge in the year ahead
  • Evolution, multi upskilling and diversification to skills and training is trending
  • Year one apprentices dominate the apprentice cycle reflecting the pause and rebuild from Covid
  • Ageing workforce demographic is balanced to young incoming growth 

Finance, Business Certification & Standards

  • 62.35% report a higher than 20% gross profit margin average for their businesses
  • 35.30% report an average of 5-20% gross profit margin for their businesses
  • 89.41 per cent report that energy is less than 20% of their operational costs
  • 96.47% report that environmental compliance is less than 20% of their business operational costs
  • 51.56% do not have any environmental certifications
  • 42.68% use environmental credentials of paper and print to assist their sales process and customer discussions
  • 15.63% report ISO9001 or ISO14001 certification
  • 1.56% are carbon mapping

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