The Power of Print During a Pandemic

By: Karin King

Apr 17, 2020

To say that we’re living in unprecedented times would be an understatement. As more cities and states issue mandatory stay-at-home orders and close non-essential businesses, it seems that nearly all of us have already been affected by COVID-19 in some way — and so have the industries we rely on. 

In its published guidance to state and local jurisdictions and to the private sector, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) identified “Communications and Information Technology” as a critical sector that should continue to operate during this national emergency. 

There has been some confusion as to whether or not printers fall into that category. According to Michael Makin, president and CEO of Printing Industries of America (PIA), printers have been classified as an “essential business” in most states, but it’s currently a state and locality issue — not a federal mandate — and printers in states like Minnesota and Pennsylvania have had to appeal to get that designation. 

As of right now, though, a majority of printers throughout the country are allowed to stay open — although work might look a little bit different than it did just a few weeks ago.

The Essential Nature of Print 

Print service providers currently serve all CISA essential business sectors as communication lifelines, taking care of crucial things like:

  • Printing pharmaceutical packaging and scripts
  • Printing “instructions for use" manuals for healthcare professionals and consumers
  • Printing posters, billboards, and other signage for communicating essential information
  • Printing health and safety communications for a variety of state agencies

But although they’re allowed to continue operating, printers are having to make adjustments on the print shop floor to follow mandatory social distancing standards, incorporate rigorous sanitizing procedures, implement the use of masks and gloves and stagger employee shifts to help maintain the health and safety of their teams.  

All these steps being taken are critically important, and guarantee the products that are so desperately needed are getting to the people who need them.

How Printers are Stepping Up to Help 
Many printers have been hit hard by shutdowns across the tourism and hospitality sectors, but many have also quickly pivoted to provide labels and packaging for the healthcare industry and other in-demand products and services. Others have found truly innovative ways to use their technology and skills to help their communities. Here’s just a snapshot of how printers in the US and beyond are aiding in the fight.  

King County Bottle

Photo courtesy of Kings County Distillery

Duggal Visual Solutions, a commercial print service provider in hard-hit New York City, partnered with Kings County Distillery, a Brooklyn Navy Yard neighbor that has converted its efforts to produce hand sanitizer. The two companies are producing, bottling and labeling the highly in-demand product, with Duggal printing the paper-based labels on its sheetfed HP Indigo 12000 presses.

Webster Printing Pick Up Sign  Webster Printing Social Distancing Sign

Photos courtesy of Webster Printing

The creative team at Webster Printing in Massachusetts has been focused on designing menus, postcards and promotional pieces for restaurants to help with the transition to takeout only, as well as custom signage to help businesses explain operations to their customers while limiting contact. They’ve even donated social distancing signage to nonprofits and local businesses and are offering free heart-shaped lawn signs to help people show love and support to community members and workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight. 

In Illinois, Nosco, a supplier of digital print solutions for folding cartons, labels and flexible packaging with a focus on pharma and healthcare, is currently working around the clock to produce packaging for testing kits, drug products, syringes for hospitals, face masks, and hand sanitizer.

Carly Press Stickers

Photo courtesy of PrintWeek

Carly Press in the UK wanted to do something for those who are self-isolating at home, and so began using its spare press capacity to produce free “self-isolating” stickers for local residents to put up outside their homes.

Time Printing Solutions Provider in Sacramento, California, knew they had to think outside of the box to stay afloat and have started using their Versafire digital presses from Heidelberg to produce signage created by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for use in hospitals and businesses to encourage social distancing and hand washing. They are also designing and printing hand sanitizer stations and other signage for their clients.

Chicago Loop Hope SignPhoto courtesy of SpeedPro

SpeedPro Chicago Loop is not only producing health and safety awareness signage related to COVID-19, but they’re also volunteering to run errands or perform tasks for their clients and others in the “at-risk” category in the greater Chicagoland community.

Custom Xm Smiley Mask Custom Xm Kit

Photos courtesy of CustomXM

CustomXM is selling custom-printed locally made cloth face masks. They’ve also created a “Social Distancing Bore Buster Kit,” designed to keep the whole family entertained while they’re stuck at home. The kit includes things like coloring books, playing cards and puzzle books, and every purchase provides at least 5 meals to the Arkansas Foodbank.

The Print Industry and COVID-19

While these are unprecedented and uncertain times, there is support available for printers and small businesses, including a COVID-19 Resource Channel from Printing Impressions and a comprehensive COVID-19 Resources page from the Printing Industries of America.

While life and business look different right now, we’re heartened by the print industry’s resilience and by the commitment of so many print service providers to serve customers and strengthen communities through even the toughest of times. That’s what we call the power of print.