Commercial Printing

Develop a substrate strategy - for greater profitability and sustainability

Whether paper, film or textile: a successful substrate strategy must match the business model and customer expectations.

4 minutes 4 minutes
Table of Contents
From purchasing and storage to disposal - print shops should plan the selection and use of their printed media well. The right strategy offers potential for greater productivity, expansion and sustainability. A prerequisite: print service providers (PSPs) must be up to date with the latest developments in substrates and technologies.

Many print shops are familiar with the scenario: rolls of different materials, from papers and laminates to coloured films and other printing media, are piling up in the warehouse. Leftover stock from previous printed orders and sample rolls add to the inventory and take up unnecessary space and, in the worst case, resources for costly disposal. A well-considered strategy can help to put an end to this uncontrolled growth.

It is based on a careful analysis of stock levels and considerations for adapting media and existing printing technology to the requirements of the market and customers. The choice of substrate plays a decisive role in a market in which end customers need to differentiate their print products from the competition. A well-thought-out strategy that fits the business model and the target group influences the quality, costs, sustainability and impact of advertising materials, labels or packaging.

Triad of availability, customer requirements and technologies

If you want to implement a cost-effective strategy for your company, this first requires a careful analysis of the market, customers, technologies and media, as well as constant adaptation to changes in the printing industry.

In detail, the following factors influence your substrate strategy:

The availability and price of raw materials

The supply of paper and other media often depends on external factors such as currency fluctuations, environmental conditions or the general political climate. However, print shops can compensate for many of these factors, act flexibly when purchasing and consider alternatives that are cheaper, more available or of higher quality. However, caution is advised with very low prices and unknown suppliers: a no-name material may not only be inadequate for the production purpose, but may even cause health, safety, quality and environmental problems. Long-term collaboration with trustworthy brands and suppliers is therefore a strategic cornerstone for many print shops. In this way, print service providers ensure that the desired substrate quality can be supplied - and reordered - at a fair price and within the required deadline. And they can also negotiate special conditions particularly well in an established ecosystem of personally known suppliers. In addition to the guidelines for procurement, the strategy also includes the inventory of stocks. With barcode scanner solutions, the remaining running length of individual rolls can be tracked in the inventory so that even half-full rolls can be utilized well for specific orders.

Customer needs and expectations

As a print provider, you should know and fulfil the requirements and wishes of your customers to set up a valid strategy. Clearly define your market position and address the right customer segments, as requirements can vary greatly depending on the industry, product, target group or market segment. This also includes clear communication about the prices of high-quality or sustainable media compared to substrates for standard applications. Clients today expect individual, personalized, creative or sustainable printing solutions that stand out from the crowd. Print shops must therefore make the most suitable selection. When implementing a strategy for sustainable options such as recycled paper that conveys an environmentally friendly message, it can be useful to manage customer expectations: clearly label the sustainable preference and offer only a limited choice of standard media. Certifications are helpful here, as they confirm compliance with environmental standards and ensure transparency. It can also make sense to focus on local offers. Customers from the region usually know the suppliers and know that the delivery routes and therefore the environmental footprint are good.

Current and future technologies

Of course, the selected materials must be suitable for the printing process and the application. However, avoid using only the paper offered by the manufacturer for each printer: this creates a lot of waste and costs. Many third-party suppliers provide choices that are suitable for all market-leading printing technologies: Latex, UV-curable inks or eco-solvent. For these universal options, you need to define profiles and print speeds initially, but this effort is quickly amortized by more flexible purchasing. The printing industry is constantly changing to keep up with new trends and integrate innovative technologies. Accordingly, print shops must also regularly review and update their media process to keep pace with the competition and tap into new markets. For example, innovative production methods such as digital printing, 3D printing or augmented reality in printing may require or enable new substrates that were previously impossible or difficult to print on, such as textiles, plastics or ceramics.


The factors of purchasing options, customer expectations and technology provide the building blocks. Print shops should be familiar with the latest developments in materials and technologies in order to define their suitable solution step by step. This enables them to position themselves as experts in media and retain their customers through expert advice. The right substrate selection also harbours potential for growth, higher productivity and sustainability. Good reasons to take a strategic approach to substrates.

Compatible print media for Konica Minolta systems

This Online Media Guide provides a quick overview of tested substrates.
Detailed information and test results are available for easy download.
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