How do strategic alliances create value for customers?

Can you give me an example from the SNPA membership?

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As the pace of global business accelerates and customers become ever more sophisticated, companies face a dramatically changing competitive landscape. Markets are moving so quickly that it is sometimes difficult for businesses to stay current on all the technologies and information needed to maintain a successful operation. Strategic alliances are essential building blocks in an environment where increasing organizational and technological complexities continually emerge.

Using a broad interpretation, a strategic alliance is a relationship between firms to create sustainable value for their customers. The firms unite and direct their resources, capabilities and core competences toward the same target audience.

The combination of products and services delivers better results than if the individual companies go it alone. In each case, the blended solution produces unique business value in the form of lower costs, expert integration with customers' existing production systems and fast, easy startups or transitions.

Strategic alliances can help manufacturers and suppliers serve their customers through guaranteed continuity and quality of supply. Alliances enable the partners to deploy labor and materials more effectively. In addition, Alliance partners are able to collaborate on bringing new production-enhancing technologies to the market.

Customers derive value from strategic alliances by having the convenience of a full-service one-stop shop. Customers gain access to specialized skills and knowledge at a fraction of the market rate. They also benefit in other ways, such as alliance partners' cross-promotion and referrals.

Since early 2006, one of Southern Lithoplate's key strategic initiatives has been to align with select best-in-class industry providers in order to improve newspaper and commercial printers' processes and products. These partnerships have been carefully cultivated based on fit, functionality and shared values.

The Southern Lithoplate Strategic Alliance is built on the solid know-how of each member in the areas of workflow software, plate-making hardware, plate management, color measurement, digital plates and specialist training in sales. Offerings include RIP-to-folder production analysis, with choices of thermal and violet printing plates, imagers, workflow and color management systems; precision register punching, bending and lock-up systems; G7® quality certification; communication and adjustment software; and training for ad sales teams in print and digital campaign creation to help customers make the most of their new production capabilities.

Alliance partners do what they do best – support their own products and the implementation of the constituent parts – under the Southern Lithoplate sales and marketing umbrella. Southern Lithoplate provides expertise in service, technical support, leadership and overall alliance coordination.

"Southern Litho's Strategic Alliance features quality-driven products, and the alliance members stand behind them," said Jay Frizzo, president and COO of Paxton Media Group's Newspaper Division. "Alliance service representatives are expert at getting you up and running. The systems are very reliable and very consistent, with seldom a problem."

Paxton Media Group, a privately held media company based in Paducah, Ky., owns about 30 daily newspapers, along with numerous weeklies and free papers. A dozen pressrooms, mostly located in the southern United States, print multiple titles. In 2006, Paxton embarked on a group-wide conversion from prepress production employing film and analog plates to a computer-to-plate (CtP) workflow.

Rather than stick with one digital imaging method and plate system throughout the company's production facilities, Paxton outfitted its sites with a mix of equipment. Thermal technology was installed in pressrooms where it proved the most cost-effective choice. In other locations, plate imaging with violet lasers met the prepress and printing needs. Frizzo called this a good approach.

"We prefer to determine how well a particular system performs at one location and then replicate it elsewhere," he said. "Working with an alliance of vendors for CtP and associated hardware and software was important because we could put together the whole program and figure out the ROI."

Rollouts, especially those involving major installations or process changes, don't always proceed as smoothly as planned. The advantage of a single point of contact is the direct link to support specialists, who are available 24/7.

"We couldn't afford to be down during the CtP deployment," Frizzo said. "When an issue arose, we had a response pretty quickly. Those guys jumped into it. We found that any problem could be resolved with one call to Southern Lithoplate, even though we operate equipment manufactured by different vendors."

Steve Mattingly is senior vice president of Southern Lithoplate, a leading provider of digital plate solutions and associated products for the newspaper and high-quality commercial sheetfed printing markets. Southern Lithoplate's service infrastructure is designed to support customer productivity and profitability from prepress through the pressroom and beyond. Mattingly invites readers to join his professional network on LinkedIn or contact him via email at smattingly@slp.com.

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