Top Industry Leaders at Offset and Beyond Conference

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Las Vegas --  Attendees at the 2009 Offset and Beyond Conference, which kicked-off yesterday and takes place through Wednesday, May 6, are taking advantage of the advice and experience of some of the world’s top business and print leaders. 

In addition to Printing Industries of America’s stable of experts, key presenters at this year’s event being held at Caesars Palace include Howard Putnam, the former CEO of Southwest Airlines. Putnam spoke about leadership in turbulent times.  Additional speakers included Susan Kelly, chief executive and president of K/P Corporation, Michael Makin, CEO of Printing Industries of America, and Gerd Finkbeiner, chairman of the executive board of manroland AG.

Highlights from Monday Morning General Sessions:

The Offset and Beyond Conference, presented by the Web Offset Association (WOA) and Printing Industries of America, started off on a high note as the audience was energized by Putnam, who also authored the book, Winds of Turbulence. “You, as the leaders of your company and the printing industry, must have a clear and concise vision if you want to survive today’s turbulent times,” he said. It was Putnam who guided Southwest through the visioning process that led the airline to have a “fun” culture and provide an excellent travel experience. He says, “Turbulence is inevitable—but misery is optional … and it is people who make the difference in turbulent times.”

Following Putnam was Susan Kelly, chief executive officer and president of K/P Corporation, interviewed by Michael Makin, president and CEO of Printing Industries of America. “Do not take your best customers for granted,” cautioned Kelly.  In 2007 K/P lost a major account to a competitor, which Kelly described as “a life-changing event for K/P… we were forced to restructure rapidly.” Lowering their cost levels, changing processes and workflows, and redefining their corporate culture were all key to the successful transformation of K/P into an integrated marketing solutions provider. However, while they were restructuring as a result of the major lost account, Kelly noted, “We also had to make sure we kept our current clients delighted.”

“Implementing quality systems, leveraging technology, and investing in automation to become more efficient and cost effective can’t be emphasized enough in today’s highly competitive marketplace,” Kelly stressed. She also noted the accelerated shift in mindsets around print buying and manufacturing moving to a new economic model of distribute-then-print, as opposed to print-then-distribute.

Makin asked Kelly what she looked for in a sales person. “We look to our organically-grown people, but do occasionally hire outside … but we stress it is a team, with the right resources behind them.”

Gerd Finkbeiner, chairman of the executive board of manroland AG, provided a global view of the printing industry and what printers can expect during the next decade, in “Raising the Bar on Performance.” He started by saying that today all regions of the world are experiencing recession and the most asked question is “when will it end?”  Finkbeiner continued with an insightful overview of the various print market segments, current issues and status. He stated that the challenges facing the print industry include market development, customer pricing, profitability, investments, and supplier prices. He stressed the importance of making the industry more competitive, and said that we must promote innovation and value. Finkbeiner closed by emphasizing, “We are all in this together … and you all here depend on print for a living.”

Mail Moves America is a broad-based coalition organized to defend against Do Not Mail legislation and develop a more positive message and image for advertising mail. Lisbeth Lyons, vice president, government affairs, Printing Industries of America; brought attendees up to date on efforts to block proposed Do Not Mail legislation. Up to now, efforts to block state and local legislation have been successful. Lyons emphasized, “It is important we keep on top of the various efforts to pass Do Not Mail legislation, and we urge our members to stay informed on the issue so they are ready to take grassroots action on Capital Hill and with state legislators.” Lyons encouraged members to use the resources available at www.mailmovesamerica.org.

Early Morning Short Stack Series

The early morning Short Stack Series focused on how to become more efficient and cut costs.

Patrick Olsen, corporate director, risk management at WS Packaging, informed his audience on how more companies are developing risk management and wellness programs that focus on preventative initiatives to eliminate workplace hazards and reduce costs. As corporate social responsibility programs become more prevalent; leaders and employers, he says, are taking a more active role in health, safety, and wellness. “The key to safety is to look at potential causes so you can prevent accidents,” said Olsen, who continued, “Everyone is accountable for safety,  and management must look at safety not as an expense but as an investment … Companies must move beyond 5S to 6S, and the 6th S is Safety.” In addition to safety, WS Packaging is committed to wellness programs for its employees.

“Energy Management and Reduction—45 Ideas in 45 Minutes” was a fast-paced session that educated attendees on how to save energy and dollars. “Something as simple as using energy-efficient lighting can save you hundreds of dollars,” noted Jeff Cottrell, project manager at Ripon Printers. The session provided various methods you can use to track your energy usage and then evaluate the quick changes you can make, as well as how to plan for energy savings in the future.

“Optimizing workflow in your manufacturing environment is one of the keys to profitability,” stated Dr. Mark Bohan, vice president, technology and research at Printing Industries of America. Bohan and Christopher Illa, operations and continuous improvement manager at Japs-Olson Company, provided an interesting overview on how to implement JDF workflow with maximum benefits to the organization.

Afternoon Concurrent Sessions

Monday afternoon had concurrent sessions on Leadership, Operations, and Production. Always popular is Dr. Ron Davis, vice president and chief economist at Printing Industries of America. His session, “Print Markets and Trends: High and Low Notes” updated his followers on trends relevant to various print products such as magazines, books, catalogs, and newspapers. “Typically, advertising expenditures are very sensitive to economic ups and downs as they fall rapidly as the economy stalls and rise once the economy recovers,” noted Davis.

Sustainability continues to be a hot topic. Gary Jones, director environmental affairs at Printing Industries of America, along with Michael Keene, president and CEO of John Roberts Company, and James Duffy, president of Alonzo Printing Co., Inc., focused on the importance of “Taking the Lead in Sustainability”, including the importance of making sustainability part of your corporate culture. “Printers can no longer afford to ignore the issues of sustainability and resource conservation,” states Jones. Both Keene and Duffy noted that lean manufacturing techniques and programs are “joined at the hip” with sustainability. John Roberts Company is one of the first printers to attain Sustainable Green Printing Partnership certification.

Cost reduction is roaring to the forefront. “Where Are the Savings in Consumables?” was the focus of a well-attended session. Chris Stout, heatset technical services at INX International Ink Co., opened the session by reviewing savings in ink consumption by benchmarking press conditions, having the proper ink and water balance, and press quality fingerprinting. Stout said, “One (1) degree in the reduction of the dryer temperature can save $500 per press per year.”

After that, Dr. Mark Bohan, vice president of research and technology at Printing Industries of America, reviewed the results of the ink optimization study recently conducted by his organization. Bohan noted, “Materials are 35% of the printed product cost according to the Printing Industries of America Ratios studies, so it is important to be able to learn how to optimize the process and PDF files to save on inks and other materials on press.” The session concluded with Deborah Hutcheson, senior marketing manager, commercial and wide format, Agfa Corporation, discussing ink savings technologies. She stated many printers are implementing both G7™ and ink savings at the same time to improve stability in the pressroom.

Nothing is more important in these turbulent times, as noted by Howard Putnam, than “Building Success Strategies,” the topic of the lively session moderated by Peter Schaefer, president of New Direction Partners, with panelists Joe Atturio, chief financial officer of K/P Corporation; Lloyd Streit, president of  Signature Offset; and John Berthelsen, president of Suttle-Straus, Inc.

Schaefer opened with his Printer’s Roadmap and Checklist for Survival and Success providing attendees with guidance on how to conduct a critical analysis of their print business along with how to prioritize the results of their “to do” list. His checklist included having a value attitude, managing external vulnerabilities, conquering the job shop manufacturing process, having a profit culture, superior sales and marketing functions, and the ability to generate customer loyalty. The session continued with a forthright Q&A exchange with the panelists detailing how they are coping with current economic conditions, including how they have handled workforce reductions, invoicing and slow pays, managing their suppliers and customers, cash flow challenges, and day-to-day business issues. While they each handled these challenges differently, they all stated they have continued their education and training programs in order to keep their employees more effective, plus it was good for morale during these difficult times.

While there are many people looking for jobs in the tough times, Hiring and Retaining Top Talent can be a challenge. A panel of printers and vendors shared their newest and successful strategies for measured hiring and retention practices. Key to retaining employees is continuing training and education. Printing Industries of America Ratios studies have long shown the “super printers” spent at least twice as much on training and education of all levels of employees than other printers. According to Blaine Gerber, senior vice president of Valassis, “We make sure in the interview process we understand the capabilities and interests of the candidates.” He continued, “It is also key to allow employees to feel important by providing appropriate decision-making latitude and recognizing performance at the individual and press crew level.”

The ever-popular peer exchange session for Monday was Troubleshooting Pressroom Problems, facilitated by Ken Rizzo, director, technical and lean services at Printing Industries of America; and Robert Buongiorno, director, web business at Komori America Corporation.