January 13, 2023 By PrintAction Staff
In mid-2022, Alec Couckuyt was appointed as president of Maracle, a mid-sized, 100-year-old commercial printer in Oshawa, Ont. Besides the skilled staff, Maracle’s ability to offer single-source solutions including design, print and finishing, all under one roof, made the job an attractive proposition for Couckuyt, who has been in the printing industry for more than 30 years.
What is the state of the print industry today, in your opinion?
AC: The printing industry is an integral part of the marketing-communications landscape. Being part of this mix has rewritten the fundamentals of print and resulted in a dramatic increase of shorter run jobs and a growing demand for faster turnaround times. These changes have accelerated a technological evolution in an industry that was, for a long time, addicted to the ‘iron on the floor’. This evolution has, in turn, created a business environment that’s marked by consolidation and divergence. We see a decrease in the number of print service providers and a rise in product offerings (commercial, packaging, wide format, labels etc.) by existing companies.
What attracted you to the print industry?
AC: I was fortunate to start my career, more than three decades ago, in the graphic arts division of Agfa in Belgium. Assignments with Transcontinental, Symcor, Océ/Canon and Fujifilm only strengthened my commitment to the industry. The rapid evolution from analog to digital and the business opportunities created by this change intrigue me. I don’t think there are many industries today that have gone through such a fast evolution in a short period of time. Today, we can produce mass-print runs, print-for-one and everything in between.
How can the industry attract more young people?
AC: We need to do a better job at ‘selling’ our story. The word ‘print’ has the connotation of analog, and doesn’t portray the high-tech status, degree of digitalization or the craftmanship in the industry, which the younger generation could more easily relate to. Canadian Print Scholarships is doing a great job at bridging that gap, and as an industry, we should work more closely with educational institutions. Our industry is an exciting high-tech one with plenty of opportunities.
In such a competitive landscape, how can printers win more sales?
AC: Just putting ink on paper doesn’t cut it anymore; added value is the differentiator. Choose and define what you are good at, perfect it, automate the processes as much as possible, and build partnerships with your clients to go beyond a single business transaction. Clients rely more and more on their print provider to take charge of the complete process flow from ordering and to press approvals to finishing, fulfillment and shipping.
What are some of the biggest opportunities in the print industry?
AC: Opportunities are plentiful. The key is to focus on customer needs. Recognize their pain points and find a way to alleviate them. Also, make it easy for them to do business with you. For example, some customers might have requirements beyond commercial work and source additional print work, such as wide-format, packaging, label etc., from other vendors. Being able to offer these additional services might set the printer apart from its competitors and help getting a bigger share-of-wallet with that customer.
What do you think is the most exciting thing about print today?
AC: The tech advances in the industry (prepress, workflow, offset, toner, inkjet and finishing) are increasing operational efficiencies. Technology is the driving factor behind ‘print’ solidifying its position as an integral part of the communications mix.
Couckuyt’s responses were edited for length. For more Q&A Spotlight interviews, please visit
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of PrintAction.
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