Commentary & Analysis
FREE: The Word from the Top: What Are Industry Executives Saying?
By Cary Sherburne,
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: November 1, 2004
By Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor November 1, 2004 -- Over the course of Graph Expo, I was able to speak with a number of industry executives to get their perspective on where the industry is going, what buyers are looking for, and what we can expect to see by drupa 2008. Here is what they had to say. Shafeth Syed, Group Product Manager, Adobe Systems Where drupa was the coming out party for JDF with a lot of technology companies talking to each other, we now have to shift the conversation around JDF. We must talk about real-world solutions that are enabled by JDF, not as a technology, but in terms of what it enables and how it is going to improve productivity and help profitability. Tom Saggiomo, Agfa’s President, Graphic Systems North America Customers do not need siloed solutions, they need a continuum. The days of doing an individual or discrete task within a production operation and simply tossing it over the transom to the next department, hoping for the best—those days are gone. And we plan to continue to enhance our solution set so customers can continue to turn to Agfa for that continuum of evolving solutions. Gee Ranasinha, Director of Marketing, DALiM Software Some printers think of themselves as companies that sell ink on paper; other printers think of themselves as media distributors. The change that needs to come about—the realization that we are in the manufacturing industry—must come from within. At the same time, customers are forcing printers to think differently. To effectively address the changes that are impacting our industry, printers need to have a champion in the organization that can look at the various processes dispassionately, schematize those processes like other manufacturing segments have done, and then redesign them to be more effective. With average order values and run lengths declining, the challenge for today's printing company is to incorporate value-added services that migrate the business from simply ink on paper to the larger perspective of media distribution. Guy Gecht, CEO, EFI Our ability to place MIS solutions is less about competition and more about people being afraid to make the step to implement MIS. But overall, here at the show, we are definitely seeing good traction in the concept of MIS and operational integration from the commercial print industry. Visitors to our booth are saying, “We get it. We need new software. We need to integrate.” And they are spending a lot of time looking at solutions in detail. Once again, like drupa, it is a software show. People are coming to see MIS and OneFlow. And Digital Storef ron t is really taking off. Software is 20% of our business, including the former Printcafe, and we will grow that segment of our business by 15-20%. Meanwhile, I still think there will be a lot of consolidation and it will become increasingly difficult to survive as a small company. At least once a week, we have a review of an acquisition target, and we haven't really come across anything yet. If we find something we like, we may work fast—we are still interested in acquiring and there is no shortage of opportunities. Kim Graven-Nielsen, President & CEO, Esko-Graphics It doesn’t add any value to talk about all of the buzz words—JDF, PDF, XML, metadata. If we can invite customers in and demonstrate what they can do with their file formats in an open envi ron ment, how they can move the file from one application to the next, save metadata and go back and forth with a free flowing manipulation of the file, that is what matters to customers. Whether we call it Donald Duck or JDF doesn't matter. Don’t invite customers in to talk about JDF. I believe the industry will be very busy with CIM for the next couple years. By next drupa, a lot of the industry will have adopted CIM. Also, we believe we will start seeing the commercial print and packaging segments grow closer, and as that happens, the notion of being focused on either/or means less and less. Ralph Lloyd, Vice President of Product Marketing, Global Graphics If you help printers take small steps in implementing JDF and show them that it works, they will take the next step. That will be our approach to the market, finding ways to show success for the smaller to medium sized sites so that they gain confidence. Later down the road, as these smaller businesses begin to take overflow work from larger printers that are fully JDF-enabled, in theory the process should be simplified by the steps both parties have taken to integrate JDF into their respective workflows. With respect to the interoperability we are achieving, we have seen events like the JDF Pavilion here at Graph Expo evolve over the last two years. The first one, to be honest with you, was a lot of smoke and mirrors. But today, these are live demos. You can see the data flowing and it is actually working. The industry needs to see that it actually works, and that is why these events are important. James Summers, President, GMG USA The big difference I have noticed since last Graph Expo, which was the first major national show for GMG in the States, is the increased awareness of GMG. Last year, people were not that interested in speaking with us, indicating that they wanted to buy from a company that has been around a while. Now that we have over 5,000 installations worldwide, and after we won the IPA proofing shoot out, people understand that we are serious about the U.S. market. People know who we are and want to discuss exactly what we do. This Graph Expo is a good show for us. James Dunn, President, Heidelberg USA Considering that by the time a job is printed, 80% of the cost of producing that job has already been invested, it is important to have efficient, reliable finishing operations. Heidelberg is placing increased emphasis on printers being able to obtain a better ROI than ever before by updating their finishing operations, especially with the integration offered by JDF enablement of finishing solutions. Charlie Corr, Group Director, InfoTrends/CAP Ventures There are some “must do's” for the printing industry as we look beyond Graph Expo and out toward drupa 2008. These include: pursuing super efficiency, leveraging digital technology, moving beyond ink and toner on paper to value-added services, becoming an “always on” industry operating 24x7. The geographic focus of our industry is changing, and it is not necessarily a local business anymore. Printers must have good information on where the market is going and the new rules of the new game in order to succeed. Those who “get it” will have a high chance of succeeding; those who don't will exit the competitive playing field. Yves Rogivue, CEO, MAN Roland Printers have two options for increasing profits—increasing revenues or reducing costs. And CIM, a common practice in other manufacturing segments, is a key enabler for the printing industry in containing costs. Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of resistance to the concept, with too many printers failing to understand that they are manufacturers, insisting that everything they do is custom. Without CIM, printers cannot cut their costs sufficiently to improve their margins. At Graph Expo, we joined with several other industry innovators in an operating workflow demonstration called CIMcity. Its purpose: to create a real world JDF production envi ron ment that will show Graph Expo visitors how they can combine open systems in prepress, press and postpress to create customized workflows to best serve their markets and their customers. Anna Chagnon, President & CEO, Pageflex Our biggest strategic focus is to bring the world of variable document creation to the end user. We believe it is important to give marketing and advertising professionals the ability to make final changes and be involved in the process in a way that they have always wanted to be. In the past, they have not been afforded this opportunity because of the complexities of the workflow. We are working to further automate the process, placing more power in the hands of the document owner without detracting from the value offered by the print service provider. I believe this is needed to accelerate the adoption rates for variable data applications. Karl R. Fritchen, President, QuadTech QuadTech, the Research & Development Division of QuadGraphics, is a designer and manufacturer of automated control systems and material handling and finishing equipment for print. The biggest challenge we see for printers is the reduction in prices that they are enduring. We have to find ways to help them maintain their profitability by helping them with control systems and data systems. Although we are seeing an upturn in the industry, there will be more consolidation among printers and their suppliers. A lot of companies are weak from the past few years and haven't been able to put the appropriate investments into the future. The companies that will be staying are those that made the investments in new technology rather than trying to weather the storm. If you, as a supplier to the industry, are coming to this Graph Expo showing the product you were showing last year—with a drupa in between—it is a good sign you may not be around for the next drupa. Scott Seebass, CEO, XiNET There is a lot more money to be saved on the f ront end, in communication with customers, internal approval processes, proofing, getting the number of f ront office workers down. These improvements are much easier than the huge capital expenditures required for CIM. Software implementation on the f ront end to address these issues will save real money today. Having said that, when printers replace machinery, it should be replaced with something that delivers more automation. My perspective is that it is the manufacturers who are pushing JDF, not the customers. I have not had a single customer, here or at drupa, that has been interested in JDF. JDF is about the back end, and I just don’t think there is that much inefficiency on the shop floor.