Commentary & Analysis
FREE: One Man's Love Affair with Print, George Kallas, Metropolitan Fine Printers
by Gail Nickel Kailing October 3,
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: October 3, 2003
by Gail Nickel Kailing October 3, 2003 -- Graph Expo, like other major trade events, can cause a bad case of sensory overload! Big pictures, big equipment, ever bigger booths … and crowds of attendees trudging along burdened down with rollafter roll of fine prints from the latest equipment, stacks of product brochures, and a boat load of tsatskes (trinkets and trash) . Sometimes, however, you see someone strolling slowly down those carpeted aisles with a big smile on his face. Someone who looks like a kid in a candy store. Meet George Kallas, President/CEO of Metropolitan Fine Printers in Vancouver, British Columbia. A caveat for the editors and proofreaders of the world – George talks in exclamation points, so don't get out your red pens… The show: It is a fantastic show this year, I'm so impressed! Last year, it almost looked like a morgue. I was kind of worried – am I in the right industry? This year, I tell you, I'm the happiest person in the place! I'm sure a lot of the vendors are very happy; they'll sell a lot of equipment! As a printer, I'm happy because the more people I see at the show, means the more viable the industry is. So I'm very happy about that. Yesterday was great, and today I can't believe the amount of people that are here. It's going to be just unbelievable! Inspiration: We're just getting mostly inspiration and education. We have a terrific company, and the reason we have a terrific company is because we go to shows like this. I see what's happening in the future and it motivates me to say “OK, I'm going to move in that direction” and that's our focus. If you don't go to a show, how can you know? You can read magazines but it's not the same as kicking the tires. I need to come here! I can't wait every year to come to the show, and next year of course, drupa! drupa: Last time I did seven days, and I tell you, I was running from booth to booth and building to building! I'm not going to do that this time, I'm getting too old. So I'm going to spend all 16 days there and take my time and see everything! I love the business – it's not just printing, it's not just manufacturing - to me it's art, it's craft! I love all the new technology, the old technology – I just love everything about it! Printing as high tech: This is a high-tech industry, but it's still – what it comes down to is ink on paper, right? But it's how fast you can get those words on the paper. That's what it's coming to. How nice can it look, the quality? How vibrant the colors? Digital has come a long way and they're doing an excellent job, but the quality and the price and the colors of offset printing are still better for what we do. We love color, so when I print a picture, I always want to make it colorful! I don't want it to be flat, I want it to be alive! The artist inside: I believe there is an artist inside each one of us, and I like to think all the employees at our company feel the same way. They're artists themselves. I do say to a lot of the designers that they are artists, but we are artists too. We can make something look good or look bad by changing the characteristics of the ink on the press. We can improve on it for them. We're not just manufacturers. I do believe that we're artists in what we do. Not just us but everyone in the printing industry. The technology: We're using Printcafe, we have Hagen. We're completely integrated throughout the whole place through CIP4. Everything – accounting, everything – fully integrated. The only thing that is left is some final tuning because we just got a new MBO folder and we're fine tuning it right now. Once that's done – we're totally integrated. The presses have been fully integrated for the last year and a half. All the color is adjusted from the plate room. So that when we drop the plates in, we're in color, probably with the first pull. It's unbelievable that we have people come to see this – Creo brought representatives from a company in China that has 6000 employees – to our little company - and they just could not believe it! Fulfillment: To be honest with you, we don't do fulfillment. We can't be good at everything. In the long run, I can't see it being something for a printer like us because we are a niche market printer targeting the high end. We just want to focus on what we do best – and that's printing and everything around it but not fulfillment. We do a lot of fine art books that are shipped. We're focusing on being a fine, high-end printer. We've been printing 10-micron screens for the last three years. We're the only printer in the world, according to Creo, that prints 10 microns, day in and day out. That's what we do – we just want to print beautiful pictures! Keeping an eye out I'm not really seeing anything unusual, that I haven't seen before. But I'm keeping an eye on digital printing. We're all offset, but I can see that there's going to be a good market for digital. We haven't started moving in that direction, but we are keeping an eye on it. But everything else that's in here, we more or less have. I read a lot of trade magazines and I use the web a lot to check everything out. I'm always pretty close to where the technology is before the show, so we usually like to buy everything ahead. We like to be a little ahead of the market. We're just right on the edge. That's where we want to be because that's where we can be profitable. Isn't this show wonderful? It's like some kind of rock concert, isn't it? Finally, finally! Thanks, George, we needed that! After a few minutes with George, you just can't be tired or depressed. The sun comes out, the birds sing, and life is beautiful. Even in the middle of McCormick Place.