Does Your Company Need a Technology Refresh?

Sheryne Glicksman
Oct 17, 2017

After missing Print17 and BTA in Philadelphia because of Hurricane Irma, I was more than thrilled to travel out of my home state of Florida to attend Loffler’s Tech Fest 2017 in St Paul, Minnesota this past month!  Tech Fest is a one-day annual event that Loffler hosts bringing partners and companies together to learn about the latest technology trends and tools. Their focus on educating the audience about a technology refresh, message of helping customers and giving back to the community was clear throughout the entire day. If you haven’t heard of Loffler, you might want to check them out at https://www.loffler.com/. They started their business in a garage in 1986 and have grown to become one of the mega-dealers in the United States.

As quoted by James Loffler, Vice President – IT Solutions Group, “At Loffler Companies, helping our customers succeed is the “Why” behind what we do.  Tech Fest is an example of that commitment.  The day is spent sharing best practices, educating on the latest technology and leadership trends and strengthening customer relationships.”

Here are three best practices I would recommend for anyone considering their own Tech Fest:

Start with Having a Panel Discussion

Loffler’s Tech Fest started with a panel of four local business leaders representing the retail, legal, healthcare and hospitality markets. Discussion around top IT Security and Business Continuity concerns was kicked off by James Loffler and hosted by Jeff King. Security, industry regulation, more educated customers and IT governance came up during the panel discussions. It was noted that augmented reality will drive future sales in retail with the new iPhone coming out allowing shoppers to scan store aisles for specials.  It was also stated that small incremental changes based on needs are the best approach with technology. Most of the panel experts said we should pay attention to artificial intelligence and look at data around value based outcomes. Of course, security was top of mind for everyone who stated that companies like Loffler are key to helping businesses with specific strategies related to security needs. It’s ok to outsource some of your IT work to free up your own internal IT staff. What are you doing to leverage IT strategies and protect your business?

Highlight your Vendor Support and Do Breakout Sessions

Loffler partners with key vendors in the digital imaging channel and they have their own business units of expertise.  Scattered between the vendors, they set up their own specialty booths highlighting their experience in Managed IT, Managed Print Services and Loffler Consulting and Management Services. This company walks the talk of being more than just a copier company! I was pleased to see some familiar vendor partners such as Square 9, Xerox, Perceptive Solutions, Quest and networked with vendors I haven’t met such as Biscom, FR Secure, Artic Wolf, Communication Systems Specialists, Zerto and many more. I would suggest continuing to leverage your partnerships with key vendors and industry analysts, we can help drive business leads your way!

I found that Loffler’s Tech Fest breakout sessions were extremely educational. They prompted additional dialogues throughout the day around leadership, careers in technology, the importance of continued learning and the fact that we all need to be comfortable being uncomfortable with the pace of change in technology happening so quickly. Attendees were interested in how they can get more information on industry trends and blogs and they were also interested in learning more about how technology tools will help them solve their business problems. (I may have helped Loffler sell Square 9, not that they need my help).

They talked about the importance of IT. That it can no longer be considered a tactical part of business. That applications dictate our business processes and good data is important so we can mine it and make intelligent business decisions with it. Today, companies still lack the data they need or they must pull it from many places. What are you doing to streamline your applications and data to be more efficient?

It was noted that Shadow IT in an emerging challenge to pay attention to. Shadow IT is a term often used to describe information-technology systems and solutions built and used inside organization without explicit organizational approval. It is happening when departments choose to deploy their own solutions without involving IT.  The IT department must be at the table with the business units so everyone is on the same page aligning the business with the technology. I believe it’s one of the first steps in crafting a technology refresh for your company.

Commit to Partnerships, Culture and Diversity

Everyone has a mission statement and culture description on their website however how many of you really believe in this mission and support the culture you represent online? It was exciting to see that Loffler’s online persona and in person presence matched with their core values.

At Loffler, they believe in blending together voices from all types of people to move forward with one shared purpose of exceeding the expectations of their clients, employees, partners and community. Diversity in IT matters. This was even more apparent when key note speaker took the stage.

Their long-term partnership with the Minnesota Vikings and key note speaker Kevin Warren hit home for me. Mr. Warren spoke from the heart, showed passion for what he represents and does for a living. He spoke highly of the true partnership that Loffler has with the Vikings. He spoke about how important it is to evolve as a company, support diversity and streamline efforts on the business side to grow. I was blown away by the new interactive campus they are building in Egan. He showed us the new U.S. Bank Stadium where Super Bowl 2018 will be hosted. (I’m currently available to attend)!

Technology Refresh

In closing, it’s been noted that 3% – 7% of a company’s revenue will be spent on IT. Have you thought about your own Tech Fest? How are you leveraging your vendor partners? Have you looked at your own website lately to make sure it represents who you are today?  Are you having dialogue with your customers to understand their business challenges and prepare for growth while aligning the technology tools to help them? Do your sales reps know what challenges technology can solve? If so, you are on your way to building a technology refresh for yourself and your customers.

Solution Focus: IQ’s printIQ in the Expanding Scope of print MIS

Ryan McAbee
Oct 16, 2017

In the world of print production software there is no better example of a love/hate relationship than between print service providers and their print MIS solution. Print MIS solutions are, or should be, the one record of truth for the business which means the solution touches every function and every employee within the shop. Therein lies the problem. Print MIS solutions take a long time to setup and implement in the shop, assuming internal resistance does not derail the entire project.

Print shops usually start by implementing the core modules of estimating, quoting, purchase orders, job ticketing, and accounting which takes no less than a few months but can run over a year for larger operations. After the core is in place and running, some shops continue the journey and start implementing more advanced modules for shop floor data collection, inventory control, fulfillment, and customer relationship management. Still fewer shops continue to planning/scheduling and business intelligence modules which, sadly, can have the greatest impact.

So why would any print service provider, knowing the inherent challenges and implementation path, want a print MIS solution? Transformation. When done right, a management system can provide real and increasingly real-time data to enhance operators, production supervisors, management, and owners, with making the right decisions at the right time. Instead of experience, intuition, or guesswork, a fully implemented print MIS has the data to answer important business questions, such as:

  • Who are my largest customers and what percentage of total turnover do they represent?
  • Who are my most profitable customers and products/services?
  • What is my production capacity for any given time and will I be able to meet peak demand and maintain my SLAs?
  • Who are my most successful sales representatives? What type of work and what margins are they booking?

Getting to the advanced-user curve of your print MIS solution is the goal. However, the print MIS solution must work in coordination with other software to push you to the next level – smart print manufacturing.

Smart Print Manufacturing (SPM) starts with streamlining inputs (customers, job onboarding, and production resources) to optimize every stage of production, eliminating or minimizing manufacturing inefficiencies and errors while maximizing uptime and execution.

Print MIS solutions need to reach upstream and downstream to coordinate and record production processes (remember it’s your shop’s single record of truth). Can it receive online orders (through a module or third-party solution) and provide real-time, cost-based pricing to the customer? Can the job ticket, with all the customer’s intent, travel with the supplied artwork into your prepress workflow? Can it optimize material usage through intelligent planning and job ganging? Can it receive milestone updates from downstream software and equipment to update the job ticket and scheduling while also triggering alerts and notifications? Suddenly, your print MIS behaves more like a management and workflow platform for the entire shop.

That’s exactly how IQ, a software developer with operations in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and United States, designed their solution. Realizing customers were looking for “far more than just an MIS”, IQ bills their printIQ solution as a “Management Workflow Solution.” Beyond the core and advanced modules described above, printIQ has existing integrations with other industry leading software from Chili Publish, Enfocus, Kodak, and XMPie, to pass relevant production information upstream and downstream. The company publishes a set of APIs as another method for exchanging data and integrating with other software within your shop. Depending on the other software, IQ has simplified this process by using Zapier to link web-based applications (over 750), such as the accounting package Xero.

The company is trying to solve longtime challenges within print shops, i.e., capturing accurate, timely shop floor data. We know from our 2016 North American software investment survey, that two of the top reasons for not capturing shop floor data are because of resistance by staff and the amount of time it takes. printIQ took a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach to the problem by creating an app that staff can download to their phones and capture the information with a device and interface that are already familiar. The phone’s camera can also be used to scan barcodes to speed up the process. Print shops looking for a new or different solution for managing the many aspects of their operation should give printIQ a close look.

Love it or hate it, print shops need tools that enable transformation. Smart print manufacturing is the next evolution in print production and many have already started on the path. Have you?

Read more in the InfoTrends Solution Focus series.

Have stories to share or questions to ask, then reach out to @mbossed on Twitter, or LinkedIn, or good ole e-mail.

The Rise of Workflow Automation in Wide Format Graphics: Driving with Dashboards

Ryan McAbee
Oct 11, 2017

Get into your car, turn on the ignition, and what do you do? You glance at the dashboard to make sure there is no check engine warning light and that you have put the car into the right gear to take off. Modern car dashboards provide drivers with real-time information on the health of the engine, direction of the car, upcoming maintenance intervals, and how to get to your destination. Data-driven dashboards for print production do many of the same things for managers, production supervisors, and staff.

There are two primary types of dashboards used in print production today – job management and equipment operational efficiency. Job management dashboards provide a real-time snapshot of the work in production, its status in the shop, and whether the job will meet the milestones and deadlines agreed upon with the customer. Most dashboards are customizable to meet the specific needs of the user. Production staff dashboards might consist of work-to lists and a view to the day’s schedule. Manager dashboards are more likely to track service level agreements (SLAs) and other key performance indicators, such as spoilage rates and profitability. Since job management dashboards need to aggregate information regarding jobs, costs, schedule, and other business data, these dashboards are typically add-on modules to a print MIS or ERP solution.

Durst Analytics as seen at FESPA 2017

Image: Durst Analytics as seen at FESPA 2017

Operational efficiency dashboards use data provided by the connected equipment to provide actionable production statistics, such as machine up-time, and eventually predict when parts need to be replaced or maintenance needs to be performed. Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), or the percentage of manufacturing time that is truly productive, is often a key metric that is used. OEE is calculated by multiplying availability and performance of the manufacturing process and the resulting quality of output. World-class OEE is considered in the range of 85% but OEE for leading print shops is usually half; Toyota manufactures the same car on a single production line versus a print company manufacturing batches of different products.

Explanation of Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)

InfoTrends explanation of OEE

Although dashboards are increasingly needed to effectively manage print production, there are a few drawbacks. Job management dashboards rely upon many supporting layers of data that are fed by multiple modules within a print MIS or ERP solution. This assumes you already have such a solution in place with the necessary modules implemented. Operational efficiency dashboards are not as complicated to setup and only need software from the equipment manufacturer. The issue here is that there is not an industry standard for what is measured, how it is measured, and a universal way for the data to be exchanged. Since print shops have a mix of equipment from many different manufacturers, it is nearly impossible to aggregate the data from all equipment into a single view.

Even with today’s challenges, data-driven dashboards are becoming essential tools to view and improve productivity and remain competitive in the market. Just like your car, these dashboards show you how you are doing today, potential issues to address, and how to get where you want to go.

As always, inquire with your preferred vendors to learn about what data-driven dashboards may be available and look at these solutions: Durst Analytics, HP’s PrintOS PrintBeat, and ONYX hub.

Read more in the Rise of Workflow Automation in Wide Format Graphics blog series.

Have stories to share or questions to ask, then reach out to @mbossed on Twitter, or LinkedIn, or good ole e-mail.

What is Smart Print Manufacturing?

Ryan McAbee
Oct 9, 2017

The printing industry transitioned over the past four decades from a craft to a manufacturing process, driven by an endless stream of enabling technologies. The communication landscape continues to shift and evolve leaving print to compete against the speed, cost, and targeting capabilities of digital channels. Competition also remains stiff within the industry which remains focused on reducing costs through automation. The next decade will be about redefining print manufacturing to make it smarter as we transition to the next industrial revolution.

Smart Print Manufacturing (SPM) starts with streamlining inputs (customers, job onboarding, and production resources) to optimize every stage of production, eliminating or minimizing manufacturing inefficiencies and errors while maximizing uptime and execution.

SPM combines manufacturing methods with industrial technologies to optimize all stages of print production. Many print service providers have already implemented lean and just-in-time manufacturing techniques to optimize their supply chain and minimize waste. Mass customization and autonomous production, however, are still bubbling up.

  • Mass customization: creating customized, and in some cases personalized, products in small quantities while not increasing manufacturing costs.
  • Autonomous production: the use of data and networked communication to connect machines to management and information systems and other machines to decide and execute the most efficient manufacturing process.

While these concepts may seem as farfetched as the sci-fi technologies used by Jetsons when that cartooned appeared in 1962, the first generation of mass customization and autonomous production are already here. Cimpress, parent company of well-known online print brands in North American and Europe, is a mass customization company. Their brands produced 30 million orders from 17 million customers that resulted in 46 million customized products. The company has subsequently launched a platform, called Cimpress Open, to let merchants and other printers tap into its mass customization capabilities. As for autonomous production, most major equipment manufacturers that supply the industry have initiatives. Heidelberg demonstrated its “push-to-stop” technology at last year’s drupa tradeshow which allows the press to initiate processes, e.g., blanket washups, without needing input from the operator.

Source: InfoTrends

SPM relies on a stack of technology that is changing and evolving. In the table below we list the technology, description, and industry examples available today.

Technology Definition Sample of Industry Solutions
Analytics Software to interpret and visualize data that can be customized to individual users. Canon PRISMAlytics, EFI Fiery Navigator, Kodak Analytics, ONYX HUB, SpencerMetrics Connect
Big data Massive sets of data, often from multiple sources, that requires advanced software to capture, store, and analyze. Heidelberg (PTC Machine Cloud) and Pitney Bowes Clarity (GE Predix)
Business Intelligence Software that combines production data with financial data; often an add-on module to a print MIS or ERP system. Avanti Executive Dashboards, EFI BI, Tharstern BI
Cloud Computing An evolution of IT to pool and share resources (network, servers, storage, applications, and services) often via the Internet. Most cloud-based offerings in the print industry use a cloud computing service, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
Cyber-physical systems Smart machines that translate data into actionable information to interface with other machines, systems, and people. Autonomous robots for materials movements.
Industrial Internet of Things A subset of the Internet of Things specific to manufacturing for increasing revenue through improved productivity, workforce transformation, and new business models. IIoT encompasses many other technologies in this list. No specific examples although many industry solutions are necessary parts of IIoT.
Robotics The use of robots to perform tasks, often repetitive, previously done by a person. Several vendors use robotic arms for material movements, e.g., from palette to cutting table, from suppliers like KUKA Robotics.

 

Print service providers of all shapes and sizes need to prepare, plan, and take steps to implement their own version of Smart Print Manufacturing. SPM is not just for the largest printers. While some technologies, due to cost or expertise, are out of reach for some printers, e.g., robotics, others are not, e.g., cloud computing. Those who wait will find it increasingly difficult to compete as the efficiencies of competitors trickle down to their cost structure and market pricing.

Have stories to share or questions to ask, then reach out to @mbossed on Twitter, or LinkedIn, or good ole e-mail.

Labelexpo 2017: Quick Takes From Brussels Show

Bob Leahey
Oct 4, 2017

Labelexpo, the biannual tradeshow of the label industry, took place September 25 to 28 in Brussels and, thirty years after its start, it retains its momentum and “giant” status, with over 650 exhibitors and 30,000 visitors, most from Europe but many from Asia, the USA, and Latin America. Digital printing was at the core of the show, in big booths of all the top EP and inkjet printer vendors (HP Indigo, Xeikon, Domino, Durst, Screen, and others) and at the stands of many others, including a few entrants that are both new and significant. Before producing a detailed report for consulting clients, the InfoTrends division of Keypoint Intelligence offers the following conclusions from the 2017 Labelexpo:

In-line digital embellishment is hot. The two EP leaders, HP Indigo and Xeikon, are both developing proprietary, in-line jetting modules to add white, spot varnish, tactile effects and even metallic decoration to their toner-based label print webs. Meanwhile, other vendors contribute their own products to the trend, such as printer suppliers Domino, Gallus, and Konica Minolta, and head supplier Xaar.

HP Indigo GEM Embellishment Example

EP is still vital and growing. While inkjet is growing and has many more vendors, electrophotographic technology showed dynamic additions in high production systems, such as Xeikon CX500 (new at the show) and HP Indigo 8000 (2016). At that same time, Konica Minolta announced its 100th global placement of KM C71cf after less than two years of availability, and then announced a successor to it, Accurio 190.

Accurio 190 Replacement for Konica Minolta C71cf

Hybrid printing is a focus for key suppliers. The top three vendors of narrow web label presses—Gallus, Mark Andy, and Nilpeter—all market hybrid flexo/inkjet systems as key parts of their product lines. Meanwhile multiple other vendors also contribute, such as Colordyne, IPT, MPS, Omet, and Prototype and Production Systems. We note especially the focus on hybrids by Gallus, Mark Andy, and Nilpeter, each of which has hundreds of established press customers worldwide.

Gallus Labelfire 340, Based on Flexo Plus Fujifilm Samba Inkjet

UV inkjet is adding low migration options. UV inkjet, which powers most inkjet label printers, is handicapped by concern about possible migration of uncured photoinitiators. In food packaging. “Low migration” UV inks designed to address these concern were evident at multiple booths (printer vendors Durst, EFI Jetrion, Epson, and ink makers Siegwerk and Sun Chemical) at Labelexpo 2017. New, or nearly so: the use of a “nitrogen purge”, to enhance polymerization of toxic monomers, as seen at Screen and Durst booths.

Aqueous inkjet is gaining momentum. Production digital label webs using aqueous inks have been limited to the Epson Surepress, plus Colordyne and a few others based on Memjet. A key merit of aqueous inks have been their safety for food labels, but the main options have limitions, Epson SurePress print speed (15 fpm), and Memjet dye-based inks, CMYK only. From Labelexpo 2017, though: Epson and the Memjet OEMs are have had good success; Mouvent’s aqueous future printer could be influential; miniature production printers from Afinia, Trojan, and New Solution all use aqueous inks; last, Memjet will upgrade to pigmented inks in 2018; Kodak will add aqueous CIJ printing via Uteco Sapphire.

Mouvent Label Printer Example

Label converting is now “cyber” oriented. The label industry likes the idea that manufacturing will be automated and driven by data exchange, through The Cloud and the “Industrial Internet of Things,” and Labelexpo had lots of evidence to that effect, notably Labelexpo’s first “Automation Arena” in Hall 11. There a collaboration by AVT, Cerm, Esko, Kocher + Beck Matho, MPS, Rotocontrol, Wasberger, and Xeikon,  yielded two automated press lines, one for digital and one for conventional label production, with automation of everything from job creation through prepress, printing, finishing and invoicing.

Package printing is strategic at Labelexpo. Digital printing for folding cartons and flexible packaging has been a side focus of Labelexpo since at least the 2011 show; in 2017, both applications are well established, whether for printing unsupported film on webs or 18 point folding carton board, on both roll-to-sheet and sheet fed systems. HP Indigo and Xeikon have both spurred folding carton printing; in flexible packaging, HP Indigo is alone so far as an established solutions provider. At Labelexpo, others showed they will join that drive, with Uteco & partners INX and Kodak, as examples.

Xeikon Carton Print Example

A summary conclusion to all of the above: The world’s label industry is now full of digital technologies, for printing and for all its ancillary processes and needs; the 2017 Labelexpo showed the growth of those technologies, and the strong prospect for more in years to come.

The Rise of Workflow Automation in Wide Format Graphics: Optimizing Substrates

Ryan McAbee

In this blog series, we have been exploring ways shops can automate their workflows. One of the goals of any workflow is to increase efficiency and, in doing so, reduce costs from the operation. Labor, however, is rarely the biggest cost component of any wide format graphics job. The ink and materials are the big ticket items, so any way to minimize the amount needed will improve the operation.

Optimizing substrate use through combining and batching jobs for output is a good start. The next level is to optimize the amount of work, from one or multiple customers, that can fit on the same material through nesting. What once took an operator significant time to move and duplicate images within a creative layout program, like Adobe Illustrator, can now be done in seconds. The nesting software uses the true size of each shape, factors the quantities needed, and then fits them into a tight pattern that minimizes the amount of material needed to print. Below is an example of regular versus a nested layout.

Regular Layout

InfoTrends-Regular-WF-Imposition-2017

Nested Layout

InfoTrends-Nested-WF-Imposition-2017

Most nesting software provides additional controls, such as locking rotation or allowing objects to be placed within the white area of other images, for the user to fine tune the layout. As a last resort, users can manually manipulate any object after the initial optimization if it still needs to be tweaked.

Nesting is not unique to wide format graphics and is routinely used in labels and packaging production. The difference is that layouts for those applications usually start with a computer aided design (CAD) file where the nesting pattern is already set to match an existing dieline pattern. Wide format can combine a greater number of unique shapes due to the use of digital cutters instead of diecutters.

Nesting optimization software can be sourced from either the RIP/DFE vendor or from an independent vendor that specializes in impositions and layouts. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • RIP/DFE-based: Caldera, Ergosoft, SAi
  • Independent: Tilia Labs, Ultimate Technographics

Mileage will vary for the cost savings gained through nesting based on the volume of work using a common substrate, the shape complexity, and quantities being produced. Some report materials savings of up to 50%. Considering the costs of many of the substrates used in wide format graphics, any percentage saved will lower production costs and improve profitability.

Read more in the Rise of Workflow Automation in Wide Format Graphics blog series.

Have stories to share or questions to ask, then reach out to @mbossed on Twitter, or LinkedIn, or good ole e-mail.

At LabelExpo 2017 Workflow is Automated!

Pat McGrew
Oct 3, 2017

Underpinning a very successful LabelExpo 2017 was talk workflow and talk of speed. This year in Brussels we saw not only new technology for label production and finishing running at higher speeds, but we saw a growing emphasis on the workflow that drives production, with echos of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things in the subtext of every press conference and every workflow demonstration.

Across the 9 halls and 679 exhibitors there was workflow specified on the signage, in the demonstrations, and most notably, in the Automation Arena, where the emphasis was on live demonstrations of automated conventional and digital label and packaging solutions from Cerm, Esko, Xeikon, MPS, Kocher + Beck, grafotronic, AVT, WLE and Matho. The Automation Arena demonstrations were supported by Avery Dennison, FlintGroup and Zeller + Gmelin for inks and substrates. As a bonus, the LabelExpo team took the time to build a great YouTube video which you can find here and should be on your playlist if you work in label production.

The AVT Booth at LabelExpo 2017

Across all of the halls it was clear that the equipment manufacturers of flexo and digital solutions recognize that the key to a successful customer is not only reliable, flexible production equipment, but a solid set of workflow solutions to guide their clients towards the fullest possible automation. Many hardware suppliers have partnered with CERM, which bills itself as the business management software for narrow web printers. Their solution, which begins at quoting and touches the required stops through to warehousing, shipping and invoicing has components for costing, data collection and a Web to print solution called Web4Labels.

As common as the speed story prevalent among the hardware vendors was a new emphasis on job acquisition. The web-to-print story was everywhere, on signage and in booth demonstrations, and not just for digital solutions. Many of the flexo solution vendors also have web-to-workflow solutions that open new product options for their customers.

Durst featured Workflow and Web-to-Print on their signage.

Many vendors were emphasizing their options for variable data and variable imaging as digital print solutions and hybrid solutions vocalize their value propositions that include making output personal or at least customized. The team from Chili Publish, seen below, fresh from their successful Print 17 stand in Chicago, indicated that they were having vibrant conversations with both existing clients and prospects as they look for solutions to create value in the print chain. In Chicago next year and Brussels in two years from now it is likely that more software solutions providers will set up stands to engage in this growing market opportunity.

The team from Chili Publish at Label Expo 2017!

Worthy of note was a kiosk (seen below) in the FlintGroup/Xeikon booth touching on a topic that needs more focus across the industry: how to sell these great digital solutions. The Xeikon aXelerate program is one of several seen on the floor that put the spotlight on helping label producers sell the value proposition of digitally-produced labels. There are myriad product offerings that leverage what digital can do easily, such as adding targeted messages, QR codes, and other technologies.

Xeikon had a great story around helping to sell digital!

One of those technologies is Augmented Reality, which was available in the SCREEN booth in partnership with Solimar Systems. SCREEN Europe worked with Solimar to enable a set of labels (seen below) that, when viewed with the Solimar App, runs a video showing the SCREEN workflow and print story for labels. It was a great way to allow an attendee to carry a demo with them, though the signage in the booth missed the opportunity to spotlight this unique demonstration.

From productivity suites to job journeys, the emphasis on using workflow to a competitive advantage was clear in every hall. For any label producer who has not yet investigate web-to-print options and automated workflow options, this show is the clear indicator that this is the time to invest to stay competitive.

If you are wondering how you can stay competitive, consider spending some time in our report store (http://store.infotrendsresearch.com/ ) or engaging with us in the Production Workflow Service. We go to the shows and conferences, study the market, and do deep dives into the technology so that we can provide the best advice and guidance to our clients. We are standing by to help you on your path to automation.

 

 

If you have stories to share reach out to me! @PatMcGrew on Twitter, on LinkedIn, or Pat.McGrew@KeypointIntelligence.com all reach me. For more information on how to gain access to our research, market sizing & forecasts, or how to subscribe to our Production Workflow or other services, contact Deanna Flanick today at deanna.flanick@buyerslab.com!

Romano’s Ramblings: New Print Will Prevail!

Pat McGrew

by Frank Romano

Where will printers make money in the future? Some say it will be from digital printing? But digital printing is usurping analog volumes, and analog volumes are not growing. To grow, the printing industry must find new products and new services.

The best example of “new print” is wide-format inkjet printing. Go back to 1995. The first wide-format inkjets were seen as proofers for color printing. Suddenly, signage became a hot market. Not just signage, but color signage. Signage was done by screen printing, but full-color reproduction was not typical. The wide-format machines got bigger and bigger. Commercial printing companies added them to their fleet of production devices. Today, well over half of all printing firms have wide-format inkjet. They make money with a technology that was never predicted.

Predictions are hard. Back in the late 1990s, I gave a talk at RIT and said that there would be half as many printers in ten years. I was booed, and that was by the faculty. I remember when offset was said to be only for “quick and dirty printing” and when PostScript was just another printing driver.

 

 

There are no leading indicators for the future of technology. Not only did no one expect the Spanish Inquisition (sorry Monty Python), but no one expected Facebook and Twitter, etc. etc. In fact, no one ever predicted the Internet.

So, we come back to the original question. If printing services are to prosper, they must find new products and services. Paper-based volumes are declining. Therefore, printers must print on something besides paper. Some already do. Those printers invested in flatbed inkjet printing. They can print on foamcore, glass, plastic, ceramics, textiles, wood, metal, and more.

It is true that there are industrial plants that print on these materials right now. Of course, the quantities are in the millions, and there is little customization. But new print markets are evolving, like industrial design, home décor, specialty signage, promotional items, unique packaging, and other decorated items.

 

 

Take the 15 Page a Day Challenge!

Eve Padula
Oct 2, 2017

The proliferation of social media makes it possible for consumers and businesses to spread the word about events, causes, and pretty much anything faster than ever before. Over the past few years, we’ve seen quite a few social media challenges. Back In 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge increased awareness about ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) while also raising $109 million for the charity. During 2016, the Mannequin Challenge became a social media sensation. Not to be outdone, the Paper and Packaging Board issued its own How Life Unfolds challenge of its own over the summer. This 15 Pages a Day Challenge is a paper-based reading program that’s great for people of all ages and literacy levels.

Read more »

Happy Birthday KBA (now rebranded to Koenig & Bauer)

Ralf Schlozer
Sep 27, 2017

The oldest press manufacturer celebrated its 200th anniversary on the 21st of September 2017 at the founding site in Würzburg, Germany.

In November 1814, the first newspaper was printed utilising machine power, using a steam-powered press invented by Friedrich Koenig for The London Times. Not willing to grant exclusivity rights for the printing press to The Times, Koenig relocated to Germany and found a new factory site in a disused monastery in the Bavarian town of Würzburg. In 1817 the company was finally founded by Koenig, as the world’s first printing press factory. To this day the company is partially family owned and is headed by Claus Bolza-Schünemann. He assumed a leadership role in the company in 1989, as the sixth generation of the family to lead the company.

In contrast to the other major German offset press manufacturers, Koenig & Bauer stayed profitable in most years since 2000. Through organic growth and acquisitions a revenue high of around €1.7 billion was reached in 2006 and 2007. In the aftermath of the financial crisis and within two years revenues dropped by 40% and hovered just above the €1 billion mark since, with a slight upward trend recently. More consequently than other press manufacturers, Koenig & Bauer exited unprofitable markets and focussed on new areas. For example, the once leading web offset press business has been scaled down a lot as demand and prices (and profits) plummeted. Koenig & Bauer is also active in many niches that larger offset press companies were not able to address profitably. This includes presses for currency printing (almost all are Koenig & Bauer built), presses for metal print, glass and container print as well as the largest format sheet-fed offset presses.

Read more »

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