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A GREAT LEAP FORWARD

Jan 23, 2014 12:00 AM


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What PRINT 13 can tell us about the future

By Katherine O’Brien

In preparation for this edition of American Printer, I set myself a special task at PRINT 13. I wanted to find The Future of the Printing Industry. Like Diogenes wandering around ancient Greece, carrying a lantern and searching for an honest man, I traipsed the trade show aisles, toting my notebook and iPad in search of the Next Big Thing.

And I failed miserably. Because our future, such as it is, is not one of flashy technology. Sadly, there is no corporate jetpack we can strap on to send ourselves rocketing skyward toward new and exciting frontiers as our current challenges disintegrate beneath us.

For the past year, the mainstream media has tripped all over itself to tell us about 3D printing. We can make tiny helicopters! Automobile parts! Even body parts! It’s not clear if we can actually make money with 3D printing or, indeed, if replicators have a place in a commercial printer’s arsenal. Although there was at least one desktop 3D printer at PRINT 13, it was on the far fringes of the exhibition hall, where one encounters odd displays of spare parts and obscure equipment. It did not seem like a likely place to embrace the future of an industry. So I kept on moving.

STOP WAITING AND START DOING

What PRINT 13 did feature, in abundance, were fearless innovators: people and organizations who are not afraid to embrace change and move on. “Success in our new industry is about what we are doing for ourselves—not what the economy, consolidation, or the next big thing is going to do for us,” observed NAPL’s Andy Paparozzi during a presentation for KBA. “Success is about doing, not waiting.”

NAPL’s chief economist estimates that the number of commercial printing establishments in 2012 is 25,242. That’s almost 5,500 fewer than 2007, but Paparozzi warns that consolidation won’t solve the industry’s woes. There may be fewer printers, but we must now compete in new ways with people we never had to compete with before.

But there is a way to turn challenges into opportunities and win market share: Establish yourself as an expert. “Margins for error are shrinking, not just in the commercial printing industry but also across the economy,” said Paparozzi. “Technology is not just impacting our industry; it’s making the whole economy more competitive and complex. Clients and prospects must justify every dollar they spend and are therefore looking for experts who understand their problems and can solve them. Given the pressure on margins, they’re looking for experts who can get it right the first time.”

Komori’s PRINT 13 hybrid workflow demonstration featured the six-color Lithrone SX29 (LSX629) and the Konica Minolta bizhub C8000.

THIRD KOMORI FOR SG360° The firm recently bought its third six-color Komori Lithrone G40 (GL640) offset press.CHANGING AND GROWING

“Change is the key to survival” were the words Komori used to kick off the company’s PRINT 13 press conference. The company detailed its own evolution from press manufacturer to “Print Engineering Service Provider” as it celebrates its 90th anniversary. Komori’s OnDemand banner incorporates its H-UV curing and drying system (said to bring the offset process on more equal footing with digital), the KM-1/Impremia IS29 digital inkjet sheetfed UV printing system, and, eventually, a machine incorporating the Landa Nanographic technology.

RICK JOUTRAS – SG360MORE TO COME

The Komori/Konica press was prominently featured. We learned it can accommodate two imaging stations (beyond CMYK) to support clear coating, white, or Pantone colors. Komori has a new partnership to market and sell cutter/material handling equipment from Colter & Peterson. It also expanded its offerings via INX International Ink Co. Komori will market the NW140 UV digital narrow web press. (This label press is an INX/Spartanics collaboration.)

LOOKING BEYOND THE PRESS

Komori’s press conference featured a customer panel comprising Rick Joutras, SG360 (Wheeling, IL); Barry Burke, Burke Printing (Edmonton, Alberta, CA); Manny De Torres, Metro Packaging (Wayne, NJ); Jim Rowland, Epic Litho (Phoenixville, PA); and Charlie Gambino, Clark Printing (Saddlebrook, NJ). Although each panelist affirmed the excellence of their new equipment purchases, each also did a good job of explaining how the machinery fit into the bigger picture.

INTRODUCING SG360°

Joutras, president and CEO of SG360°, a Segerdahl company, said the company has completely redefined its brand. About 60% of its work is traditional printing, while the rest is “analytical and intellectual property.” Rather than “sell” customers paper and ink or brag about its equipment list, SG360° concentrates on helping its customers reach their customers.

Equipment highlights at SG360° included nine in-line web presses, Komori sheetfed presses, and HP Indigo and Canon equipment. Over the past year, the company has purchased three six-color Komori Lithrone G40 presses.

PENNYWISE AND PROFITABLE

The Burke Group has four divisions: general commercial printing, digital, direct mail and wide format. “We think like manufacturers, not printers,” said Barry Burke. “We plug in our numbers and we know down to the penny what our costs are.”

Rather than attempting to grow sales, the Canadian printer tries to make more money on existing sales. Burke is the first North American operation to install Haybrooke’s PDQ estimating solution and Axis, a third-party MIS. Estimating, job scheduling and other MIS functions are integrated into its print production workflow. Utilizing the data from PDQ, the Axis MIS system, builds job ticket information, job tracking, scheduling and inventory management. Live and historic business and operational analytics are displayed via a key performance indicator dashboard. Axis can be fully integrated into Komori’s K-Station press control software. 

With its six-color Lithrone G40, the Burke Group is a newcomer to the 40-inch world. “If profitability is our goal, we needed to invest in the technology that would get us there,” said Burke. 

THE FUTURE IS UPSTREAM 

Burke’s strategy has three pillars: diversifying the product offering, reducing costs and improving efficiency. With its print management system, the company can partner with clients early in the game. “We examine our clients’ print needs and their marketing goals and come up with a comprehensive plan to help them maximize their budgets by eliminating redundancy, providing a consistent brand across all media and reducing costs.” 

BIG DOINGS IN DAYTON

HP’s press conference featured insights from two customers. While both praised the equipment and customer experience, each also painted a vivid picture of the business case behind their decisions. Joe Morgan, president and CEO of Standard Register (Dayton, OH), spoke first. He noted that the 101-year-old firm, which has its roots in business forms, has evolved from a document-centric approach. “Our company today focuses on workflow, communications and analytics,” he said.

JOE MORGAN – STANDARD REGISTERMorgan described Standard Register’s focus as creating custom communications for the health care and financial service markets. Only a few weeks prior to the show, it acquired another fixture on the Dayton scene: WorkflowOne. “We’ve doubled the size of the company. [That acquisition], along with this investment [in the HP T400 and T230 presses], will now become a catalyst for our future growth. We are a company that is very deep in material science, very deep in printing technology and increasingly deep in information management. When these things come together, sparks fly.”

Diversified Global Graphics Group (DG3) (Jersey City, New Jersey) is investing in an HP T230 Color Inkjet Web Press. Tom Saggiomo, President and CEO, said the company is “a visual communication provider” that does traditional printing, digital printing and no printing at all—“We moved content over ether,” he said. DG3 primarily services financial services companies, pharmaceutical firms and Fortune 100 companies.

“Our DNA is print,” said Saggiomo. “For 20 years we’ve been in the printing business. But for the last couple years, our vision has been to tie the print output to data. Just printing doesn’t cut it any longer.…We purchased this device to really transform communications.”

TOM SAGGIOMO – DG3Saggiomo said the company’s custom communications vision has four goals:

  1. Fully integrated data to mail. “We start with data, a white page in [the press] and mail out, in an efficient and effective process.”
  2. Precision content targeting. “I don’t want to speak to the masses; I want to speak to targeted audiences. This device allows us to do that efficiently.”
  3. Collateral virtualization. “The old model was to print a million [of something] and put it on the shelf and see what the demand is. We’re pitching real-time collateral, especially in the pharmaceutical space.”
  4. High-volume closed-loop relationship marketing. “The idea is that there is a way to do some kind of versioning without breaking the client’s bank. That’s the new world. That’s where we are going.”

EXPLOITING NEW OPPORTUNITIES

Labels and packing will figure prominently in Fujifilm’s future. News at PRINT 13 included its exclusive partnership with FFEI Ltd. for the sale of FFEI’s Graphium digital UV inkjet press in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

“I was simply taken aback and somewhat humbled with the positive response to Graphium, not only from the Fujifilm salespeople but also from [potential] customers,” reports FFEI’s Andy Cook. “It became obvious [in speaking with attendees] that the interest is a reflection of what’s going on in the traditional printing world, where more and more businesses are growing their capabilities in packaging markets and specialty print applications. Short-run digital inkjet printing is opening up all sorts of new business opportunities that the digitally capable commercial printing companies have recognized and started to exploit.”

WORKFLOW WILL GET YOU THERE

Fujifilm’s press conference featured a customer panel with representatives from Gilson Graphics, NGS Printing, Panaprint, Print Fulfillment Services/OvernightPrints.com and Wright Printing Co./Folder Express. All cited workflow and embracing digital technology as vital to their ongoing success and future plans.

GO DIGITAL OR GO OUT OF BUSINESS

“If we were just a screen printer, we’d be out of business,” said NGS Printing’s Erik Landrowski when discussing the company’s wide-format digital additions. The Elgin, IL–based printer added an Inca Onset Q40i from Fujifilm earlier this year. NGS’s customized graphics include everything from back-lit signs to shelf-strips to floor graphics, banners and point-of-purchase displays.

VENTURING INTO NEW MARKETS

Publication specialist Panaprint recently installed Fujifilm XMF Workflow to manage its print production. It’s leveraging its operational efficiencies to take on more direct marketing work as its core market continues to grapple with tighter folios, fewer ads and more online options. The company operates a 150,000-sq.-ft. facility in Macon, GA, with 90 employees. Equipment highlights include two web presses, an eight-color sheetfed press, digital printing capabilities, a perfect binder, and saddlestitchers.

“About 85% of our business comes through a remote portal. Obtaining a workflow that had a good remote portal was [essential],” reported Jerry Axtell, prepress manager. “The automation tools enable us to turn jobs quicker compared to some of our competitors. Digital technology [is letting us] venture into new markets.”

BOLD MOVE FOR PRESENTATION FOLDER

We were faced with many of the same challenges that other commercial printers are facing—customers need shorter runs, better quality and faster turnaround—and it became obvious to us that inkjet was the answer,” said Doug Boysen, President of Folder Express. “Fujifilm’s J Press 720 offered us the format size we needed and the quality our customers demanded. Furthermore, it enabled us to compete more effectively for short-run jobs and eliminate much of the waste associated with traditional offset printing.”

Folder Express can produce presentation folders in one pass, supporting 24-hour turnarounds. A short-run job used to be 250 folders. Now it can be as few as 50.

THE REST OF THE STORY…

A few weeks after PRINT 13, Ennis acquired Folder Express, which was previously a division of Wright Printing (Omaha, NE). The business generated approximately $20 million a year in sales during the most recent calendar year and will continue to operate under the Folder Express brand name.

KBA STEPS UP ITS PACKAGING GAME

“Diversification” was the unofficial theme at KBA. The vendor segmented its booth into 10 areas featuring information on its commercial printing, folding carton packaging, flexible packaging, metal decorating, newspaper, plastic cards, security printing, digital printing, signage/ POP and service and support offerings.

Its press conference highlighted recent purchases and installations at Garvey Group, Imagine! Print Solutions, Malnove, Meredith-Webb, Rex Packaging, Printco Graphics and Walter G. Anderson.

FLEXO AND FANCY GLASS STUFF 

Look for more RotaJET digital press sales announcements—the first will go to a German direct mail printer. Recent acquisitions signal KBA’s intent to extend its reach: Flexotecnica is an Italian manufacturer of flexo equipment. KBA now has a majority ownership position in Kammann, the world market leader in screen printing systems for direct printing on glass containers. Kammann’s equipment is used for high-end cosmetic and beverage packaging.

THE TAKEAWAY

Your future is here now. It’s dressed up as hard work and decisions you may prefer to avoid, but it has never been more crucial to establish a clear corporate vision of who you are, who you want to serve and how you will excel, because the future is not something you can buy—it must be created, and now is the time to jump up and do it!