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Commentary & Analysis

Letters to ODJ: Keeping up, Silver Bullets and Creating the Future

May 17,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: May 17, 2005

May 17, 2005 -- When we ran Pat Taylor's column last week on strategy being overrated, I knew it would generate some responses: I just didn't know what to expect. Thoughtful letters arrived almost immediately from printers and equipment vendors alike. I particularly like the comments from Sandy Alexander which in some ways relates back to recent discussions on getting new blood into the industry. Hope to see you at On Demand in Philadelphia this week. The WhatTheyThink team is there, so watch for our coverage on WTT all week. Onward! Noel Ward Executive Editor -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Dear ODJ: Never mind keeping up with the Joneses, just try to keep up with your kids For us to be competitive in this industry, every year we need to do more with less. We may not be happy about it, but it is the reality we are facing. As always, I appreciate reading Pat Taylor's thoughtful commentaries. Whether or not I agree with his comments, they always force me to sit down and think. Many years ago, my father said to me: "The only thing that’s constant is change!" This was before the digital revolution. At the end of the day, perhaps it’s always been this way. It just may be that the pace of this reality has accelerated. With regard to Pat's comments on PDF, he may just have been ahead of his time. While we have been watching the development of PDF for the better part of a decade, we are now finally just starting to actually see its acceptance and usage by our clients and their designers. One of the main reasons we just put in an Art Works System workflow (on Pat Taylor's Proactive servers) is to prepare for automation in file handling. We believe we will need this to prosper as a company. For us to be competitive in this industry, every year we need to do more with less. We may not be happy about it, but it is the reality we are facing. As better functionality is built into desktop software, the reality is that we are becoming an output device for our clients and their designers. PDF is a conduit to this reality. I have often given tours to students from local universities at our New Jersey facility. As I bring them through the electronic pre-press area, they show an acceptance and comfort level with the technology we are using. Some of the tools we use met with tremendous resistance from some who have gotten here from a more conventional craft background. We eventually hired some of these 'kids" and they have just blown us away with their ability to "pick up the ball and run with it". They do not have the preconceived notions that we have with regard to how a job should be produced. As this generation reaches a level of maturity and responsibility in our business, standards will be more readily accepted. Sandy Alexander is involved with the GRACoL committee in helping to set new standards for commercial printing. In attempting to print near identical results in both our New Jersey and Florida facilities, rather than aiming one facility at the other, we are aiming both at the GRACoL standard. It is not a matter of working to the lowest common denominator. It’s a technically sound approach, and good business. Do things change too fast? Maybe, but as Pat points out, flexibility is key. As my sixteen-year-old daughter took the opportunity to point out to me this weekend, our four/five year old home computer is too darn slow! The reality is that a young person's perception may well be more accurate than our own. Pat, if you have not already done so, try talking to some students and I think you will see what I mean. I’m not suggesting that experience doesn’t matter. If there is a core group of us bald guys, we can set the dogma for the company, and let some of the younger folks make it happen. Looking at the approach and make-up of your company I suppose you already know this to be the case. Greg Hill Sandy Alexander -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Dear ODJ: Is there really a silver bullet? One thing I have learned in my time in this industry is nothing is ever as wonderful as it first appears Pat Taylor's column on May 10 was really a wonderful article -- and wonderfully written as well. I really love the final thought of preparing for the future today by investing in solutions that will give you some pay-back now. The future will come, no need to worry about that, but as my mother told me many times as a young man, "Worrying is a substitute for Doing". Do what can be done today to make your company better. If you have been, stop, waiting for the "silver bullet" to cure what ails you - PDF, JDF offer hope and basically the vision of a better mousetrap. Yet, one thing I have learned in my time in this industry is nothing is ever as wonderful as it first appears--even the prettiest of dogs occasionally get fleas. Building incrementally with an eye on the future is the wisest way to maintain a health and successful company, organization, personal life, etc., etc. As you can tell, I love the article. Great job, Pat. Matt Sisson Enovation Graphics -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Dear ODJ: You can create the future Pat Taylor's heart and thoughts are in the right place but his comments show the confusion that exists in the industry. You can't see the possible future because you do not understand what exits now. One can create the future conditions. To do this, one needs to understand what is now wrong and also have some ideas on how those faults can be corrected. You are very right about the difficulty to predict the future but you are not correct to think that it is not predictable. If one has the knowledge and opportunity to change things, then the future can become predictable by means of that change. One can create the future conditions. To do this, one needs to understand what is now wrong and also have some ideas on how those faults can be corrected. Your have the technician's view of everything changing and not the physicist's view of everything being constant. A technological view can not predict performance but a physical scientific view can. You look at the process and see so many variables that you can not imagine how they can be controlled but you do not see the fundamental rules of how those variables affect the process. This leads to confusion and uncertainty of action. In this state of uncertainty, many think some system will make all things well. You know that is not the case, but still you, as others, think that standards are the way forward. Unfortunately standards and especially standards that are improperly developed are no answer at all. The gurus in the industry have no idea how the process actually works The main problem is the capability of the process. Right now, the offset printing process is not statistically capable of meeting the very wide tolerances of the existing standards. Developing tighter standards will have no effect on improved performance. The gurus in the industry have no idea how the process actually works and you are correct in not trusting their views on what will be the future technologies. That does not mean that the future can not be predicted to some degree. If you know how to change the present, you can create the future. So don't be too discouraged by what seems to be a confusing mess. Much can be corrected at reasonable cost when viewing things from a different perspective. After the process is made capable, then other marginal improvements, such as CIM, JDF etc. can be applied. Erik Nikkanen President Fountech Inc. Toronto, Ontario, Canada -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Dear ODJ: Keep the customer satisfied I absolutely agree with Noel Ward's points about taking care of customers At our company, 40 percent of new equipment sales is MORE equipment to EXISTING customers. If we treat our customers right, and help them grow their business then they'll buy more of our systems. Said another way, almost half of our 'new customers' are EXISTING customers! It makes absolute sense to keep those folks happy. Chuck Somerville Software Engineer, Global Customer Support Services Kodak Versamark Inc

 

 

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