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May 8, 2001 12:00 AM

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In his keynote address at the Technical Assn. of the Graphic Arts’ (TAGA) Annual Technical Conference, Grant Miller, RR Donnelley & Sons’ (Chicago) vice president of technology, stated that the focus of the R&D community must be on solving the high amount of waste and inefficiency in both print and electronic media. Some of the statistics he cited include:

  • 30 percent to 40 percent of all books never get sold

  • 60 percent of newsstand magazines are wasted

  • 97 percent to 98 percent of catalogs do not generate response

  • 65 percent to 75 percent of Internet shopping carts are abandoned before checkout

  • 96 percent of banner ads served are not clicked-through

  • Miller says that the methods for getting content to the user will change. The question is how to migrate new media platforms to deliver content to the user. "The shotgun approach to print media is gone. Business people now run the business and demand the highest ROI for their media dollar. We need to prove the effectiveness of our communications technologies," Miller said.
    The execcategorized technology into three groups: evolutionary, revolutionary and strategic. Evolutionary technologies have been in development for years and have become core-technologies for print media production. The evolutionary technologies that Miller believes have become key to the industry include:

  • Collaborative on-line proofing

  • Digital photography

  • Integrated dryer/afterburner/chill roll combos

  • Gapless adoption

  • 2X cylinder engraving

  • Materials "operating" specifications, ranging from paper roll identifiers and barcodes to pigment specifications and tolerances.
    Revolutionary technologies are those that show great promise, but "aren’t quite there yet," according to Miller. Potentially revolutionary technologies that RR Donnelley will keep a close eye on include:

  • Processless plates

  • Non-ablative on-press imaging

  • Digital printing concepts (Still one of the "great unfulfilled promises" according to Miller, but the quality and cost efficiency have improved greatly in recent months.)

  • Innovative binding methods

  • Single-fluid offset ink

  • Fountain solution film thickness measurement

  • E-book font rendering

  • According to Miller, strategic technologies are those that are driven by folks outside of the graphic arts industry that will impact the graphic arts. Key strategic technologies that Miller identified include:

  • Interactive pens and phones

  • XML

  • Moore’s law continues, contrary to predictions that Moore’s law would end this year; technology advances are actually accelerating the development of faster processor technologies.

  • "Free" Broadband, Terabit transmission technology
    Interoperability, Blue Tooth

  • In 1994 Donnelley’s customers predicted that the largest customer file they would get would be 2 MB, but not more than two months later RR Donnelley received a 200 MB customer file — obviously faster processors and greater bandwidth are going to be important to the Graphic Arts.
    Miller forecasted that the image quality, in terms of addressibility and imaging detail will remain consistent for stamps/currency, fashion catalogs, magazines, books and color brochures, but the demand for quality in electronic photography and inkjet printing will continue to grow and already exceeds the quality requirements for books and color brochures.
    The future will include tighter input standards. Miller stated that specifications such as SWOP are too loose and customers demand much tighter specifications. Other standards are needed for materials and process automation as well. Customer demands continue to get tighter than SWOP standards.
    When asked about concerns about the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) crisis, Miller said that 20 percent of the mass of paper that the USPS delivers originates from Donnelley facilities, so they are very concerned about the future of the USPS. RR Donnelley is teaming with other large printers to find a solution, and is working with the government as well.
    Miller listed what he has found to be the six biggest losses of time and costs in print production:
    1. Equipment failures
    2. Setup and adjustment
    3. Idling and minor stoppages
    4. Reduced speeds
    5. Defects in the process
    6. Startup and reduced yields
    "The bottom line," said Miller, "is that the overall equipment effectiveness today (OEE) is only 17 percent to 64 percent and there is a lot of room for improvement. This is where researchers and developers should be targeting their efforts — the process needs to be more repeatable and stable."
    Other priorities for RR Donnelley in the coming months will include improving ergonomically sound manufacturing process and automation that provides a more attractive package to prospective employees. Furthermore, relationships with suppliers will increasingly include more strategic sourcing relationship, to include single source contracts. From a technology aspect, RR Donnelley will be looking for integrated systems that tie directly into their administrative systems.
    Miller closed his presentation by advising that developers focus on the core aspects of printing and improving efficiencies, and that niche technologies, such as high fidelity color printing, are at best diversions: "I would much rather see a more stable and repeatable process."