Log In | Become a Member | Contact Us


Market Intelligence for Printing and Publishing

Connect on Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

Featured:     European Coverage     Production Inkjet Analysis

Commentary & Analysis

Pessimism Running Amok

April 11,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: April 11, 2005

April 11, 2005 Two lengthy letters arrived not long after Pete Rivard's column on Evangelism ran last week. They are pessimistic and discouraging, yet many aspects of the industry today justify the sentiments voiced by the writers. The changes our industry is going though are profound and it is clear that there is no turning back. But does this mean we shouldn't still work to find ways of attracting new people to be part of 21st century printing industry? What do you think? What happens if we don't bother to try? Let us know! Dear ODJ, I am quite sure you will not be pleased with my comments. I am not that pleased with them myself. I would be very reluctant to suggest to a young person that a career in the printing industry would be a good idea. I would be very reluctant to suggest to a young person that a career in the printing industry would be a good idea. First, let me comment about my background. I am an engineer and have been developing new science that addresses the density control problem in presses and I have some technical concepts that can be practical solutions to common density control problems. Presently a press manufacturer in Europe is developing one of my concepts that corrects the press design fault that causes ink water balance and its related density variation problems. From my perspective, I would not recommend a career in the printing industry to the average student because technology changes so rapidly, the markets are shrinking, and the skills are generally being designed out of the work. This to me means that firms are very tempted to let these people go when economic pressures and new technologies make it easy to do so. I would not recommend the printing industry for above average students if they have the least bit of imagination. For the above average student I would definitely not recommend the printing industry because if they have the least bit of imagination, the existing management community will frustrate their interest in doing things differently. I have seen this many times. People in firms who want to try something new, are frustrated by managers who don't want to try things that are not proven. Managers in this industry are not that smart in an analytical way. If they were, they would not be in the graphics industry. They would have been in engineering, or science or medicine. Their training or education is limited and this makes it very difficult for them to evaluate imaginative ideas that young people will try to bring up and they will tend to reject different thinking. One would think that the scientific community in the printing industry would be a great place for imaginative young people to show what they can do. But this is also not the case. The scientific community acts more like an old boys club and the knowledge base that they have developed over many decades is full of faulty knowledge that they have no interest to change. Their main interest is to maintain their position as big fish in a relatively small pond. Bright young people have no place in this community unless they fall in line. Managers in this industry are not smart in an analytical way. Their training or education is limited and this makes it very difficult for them to evaluate imaginative ideas that young people will try to bring up and they will tend to reject different thinking. This is kind of a bleak view but is one that I feel is relatively true. For that reason I could not suggest to a young student that graphic arts is a good place to go. Of course there is a need for new people, but I could not with a good conscience suggest such an option. If they really loved the idea of graphic arts and they wanted to be at the creative design end, that is a different story and one I could recommend. It is really a "Catch 22" situation and I am quite sad about it. Young imaginative and smart people are needed by this industry but young people that are too imaginative and too smart will be frustrated by this industry. This is not a good situation and it will take a long time to change and things are not going in the right direction now. Erik Nikkanen President Fountech Inc. Toronto, Ontario, Canada Pete Rivard responds: Erik, Thanks for the bleak, but honest comments. As a person who has spent four years in the music industry, 18 years in the print industry and an additional six in academics, I can tell you that self-congratulatory, clueless management is not confined to printing. And there are certain areas of the industry, flexography being one, that have proven to be very open to new ideas. Certain practices that were developed, in part, right here in Dunwoody, have been adapted to their manual of best practices, the FIRST standards, 3rd edition. The realities of the new digital workflows are that the workforce has to be nimbler, more educated rather than less, and more in need than ever. I find myself forever taking the position that the skills, or craft, cannot be designed out of the work. It is precisely because people are incorrectly thinking that the hardware and software possess the craft, judgment, and self-regulating capabilities of a craftsman that I continue to look at bad printing every day of the week. Sloppy prepress work passes into inattentive pressrooms every day, and no amount of technology seems to stop it from happening. From my perspective, I watch three dozen or so new students enter the program every year and two and a half-dozen graduate annually into good paying jobs, and they pull into my parking lot after six months on the job in their new car or on their new Harley. So I believe we're doing good work. Who knows what these kids would be doing if they chose differently. The realities of the new digital workflows are that the workforce has to be nimbler, more educated rather than less, and more in need than ever. The journeyman sheet fed operator does not possess the skills required to set up and run a VDP workflow. I see a need to clear a lot of dead wood out of this industry, top to bottom, and I intend to have talent prepared to fill the vacancies. By the way, I would love to have you drop by Dunwoody if business brings you to Minneapolis. I'd be happy to point out all the shops in this town that need serious help on ink-water balance issues. Pete Rivard -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Dear ODJ, My three children will not be in the printing business if I have anything to say about it. I have been actively involved in the print industry as a sales representative in the NY/NJ area since the mid '80s and I am getting out. The print industry has been very good to me, but within the past few years the handwriting on the wall has become hard to ignore. The print industry is driven by the equipment manufacturers and technology. The whole process of printing a job has been compressed tremendously and will continue to move in that direction to the point where through digital printing and other electronic technology it will make sense for many businesses to generate what little printing they are still doing house, perhaps even to the desktop or move more printed materials to the web. Within five years your average surviving printer will be virtually unrecognizable from ten years ago and in far fewer numbers. An oversupply of printers created by equipment suppliers with easy credit has not helped the situation either and will probably hasten the erosion of the print for pay shop. An oversupply of printers created by equipment suppliers with easy credit has not helped the situation either and will probably hasten the erosion of the print for pay shop. A bloodbath within the industry has already started with the consolidation we saw a few years back, and will continue to get even worse. Look around. Jobs are getting smaller, prices are depressed, margins are smaller, and most printers are scurrying to find additional streams of revenue that will help them survive and possibly thrive after the rest of the industry continues to consolidate. Add to all this the impact of the internet. The internet has taken away many printing dollars. Companies are not adding dollars to market on the internet, but they are taking away from printing to do so. Then there is the one bright spot in the industry--direct mail. However the USPS will raise postage rates making email blasts and other types of internet marketing even more appealing. Let us add one more thing to the equation. Overseas competition for the remains of what was once a vibrant industry in the US. The one bright spot in the industry is direct mail. But rising postage rates will make email blasts and other types of internet marketing more appealing. To say the least, printing is experiencing a paradigm shift. Any kid of above average intelligence graduating from high school is computer savvy and would have to ask themselves an important question when considering a career in printing. How often do I use electronic media and how often do I use print media? The answer to the question is that these students are much more comfortable with electronic media than paper based media. They do their research for reports on the web, read newspaper articles on the web for current events assignments, play their XBOX games on the web interfacing with people all over the world and we even get their report cards over the web. It's an electronic world, and they are intertwined with it so inextricably that it is almost ridiculous for them to ever even consider a career in print. I suspect many of the students that have not enrolled in RIT in the past have been the sons and daughters of print shop owners. They see first hand what is happening in the industry and I'm confident this has dissuaded many of them from pursuing a printing career. Kids are so intertwined in an electronic world that it is almost ridiculous for them to ever even consider a career in print. I'm sure by now you believe I am quite a pessimist, however I am not. Printing was a great ride while it lasted. I truly enjoyed myself and have made a handsome living for myself over the years. Time marches on and progress along with it. Communication has become even further democratized by electronic media, the same way Gutenberg did it with printing press. Just as there was less and less work for scribes when Gutenberg came along, there will be less and less work for the printer as electronic media continues to grow. Electronic media has a voracious appetite and it is getting stronger and stronger every day by nourishing itself on print jobs. Radio did not kill the radio star, but it certainly delta it a terrible blow and relegated it to a distant second. Electronic media (the web) will do the same to print. I am currently pursuing a new career and it is in the communications realm as well. To communicate is to define to the world the very essence of who we are and what we mean to each other. We will always communicate with each other. It's just a matter of how we do it and print will become a smaller and smaller part of how we define ourselves. My three children will not be in the printing business if I have anything to say about it. Perhaps they might pursue a career in some aspect of electronic media? Best regards and good luck, Eyes Wide Open

 

 

Become a Member

Join the thousands of printing executives who are already part of the WhatTheyThink Community.

Copyright © 2016 WhatTheyThink. All Rights Reserved