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GLS Companies CEO Gary Garner looks forward to drupa

Published on November 17, 2011

Cary Sherburne asks CEO Gary Garner his perspective as a repeat attendee and the value drupa brings to the industry.

Cary Sherburne:  Hi.  I’m Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com and I'm here with Gary Garner who’s President and CEO of the GLS Companies out of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.  Welcome.

Gary Garner:  Thank you.

Cary Sherburne:  We’re all gearing up for Drupa 2012 and so as an attendee I’m just kind of curious, you know, it’s a big expense, times are maybe a little tight—maybe not for you, but for a lot of us.  Why is it important for you to attend?

Gary Garner:  Well, I’ll tell you, you know, we’ve suffered with the downturn in our business the last several years just like everyone else has.  And I do—however, Drupa for us is a real big event.  I think that I’ve been going to every Drupa since 1986. 

Cary Sherburne:  Wow, yeah.

Gary Garner:  The purpose of the show for us is really in looking at some of the new technologies, of course, and trying to figure out, you know, what it is over there, where the business is going.  And we do recognize that most of our suppliers use that as the kickoff of their newest technology.  So we feel like the expense of going over there is worth it.

Cary Sherburne:  And how many people do you usually take?

Gary Garner:  Well, we always take a couple.  I think I’ve taken as many as six and typically it’s three or four, but anyone on our senior leadership team.  It depends on where we are in our business cycle at that moment, what it is that we’re looking for, and that will kind of help determine who we take.  Additionally, we really find that it’s a wonderful time for us; it gives our leadership team and I some time together and that’s real important for us too.

Cary Sherburne:  Yeah, without the day-to-day pull.

Gary Garner:  Exactly, right.

Cary Sherburne:  Yeah.  So how do you plan for it?  I mean you can’t just sort of show up at Drupa, it doesn’t work.

Gary Garner:  No.  I believe—I’ve just been hearing in the last few weeks to start getting your rooms and start making your reservations now and typically, we’re about there.  So we’re kind of developing a strategy.  We thought we’d wait till this show is over.  I’ve got six or seven of us here for the next few days at this show, and then we’ll start focusing more on some of the new introductions at Drupa.

Cary Sherburne:  And so how do you go about planning though?  I mean do you—they’ve got a lot of good tools on the site and stuff.  Do you use that or you just know kind of what vendors you want to see?

Gary Garner:  Well typically, I mean I think every vendor in the world participates and so it is—one thing about Drupa, we find it to be a little bit overwhelming.  So typically, we will get our group together and start planning some strategy and say, you know, what does it look like for the next couple of years?  What have you guys heard?  What’s coming out?  What’s the technology look like?  So that’s kind of what we do to focus on it and, you know, we’re about to start those meetings now.

Cary Sherburne:  Wow.  And so, you know, I’ve only gone to two so that’s why I, you know, look as old as I am because it’s hard on you as a journalist.  So in 2004, it was sort of the Digital Drupa.  In 2008, everybody was calling it the Inkjet Drupa.  What are you kind of looking for new I mean this year, this time?

Gary Garner:  Speed.  

Cary Sherburne:  Speed, that’s great.

Gary Garner:  I think that speed and quality of the inkjet.  I think that that’s, you know, we’ll be making decisions on what we can integrate into our business, and I think that’ll be the big part of it.  I think that the investment and the equipment is  higher than ever and the return is a shorter period as I ever saw it, so it’s important for us to make sure we make the right decisions.

Cary Sherburne:  And you’re in printing and mailing?

Gary Garner:  Correct, that’s right.

Cary Sherburne:  So you’ll be looking at—are you a roll, a roll to roll?

Gary Garner:  No.  Everything—all of our—as far as our direct mail business, that’s pretty much all cut-sheet.  I mean we have a wide ranging capability, you know, and the marketing services provider is maybe a little bit overused already.  But, you know, we do try to be a single source of supply for our customers and an overall low cost provider.  So I mean along with the small format stuff, we run 40?inch sheet-fed equipment and both half-sized and heat-set web equipment; and a full array of black and white and color digital equipment, and, you know, building websites and big IT functions and all that sort of thing.  So we cover, you know, the business looms quicker than ever and it’s more complicated than ever.

Cary Sherburne:  Yeah.  And so you’ve already got roll-fed in, so putting a roll-fed inkjet, I mean one of the issues for sheet-fed printers, you know, you can’t just slap in a roll-fed machine.  You’ve got to have all the handling and the storage for the rolls and all of that, but you’ve already got that with your webs, right?

Gary Garner:  That’s correct.

Cary Sherburne:  So that’s good, so great.  And how long do you usually stay for?

Gary Garner:  Probably at the show four days plus the travel time.  So I would say we allocated six days or so.  And, you know, I’ve done it in a shorter period and I’ve also done it when I’ve had our leadership team over there with me and I take them to the airport, and then I pick up my family members and we make an extended trip out of it.  

Cary Sherburne:  Oh, that’s great.

Gary Garner:  For those of you that do not go to Drupa, I would highly recommend considering it and take the time to do it.  Germany, at that time of the year, is a beautiful place; the weather is terrific.  And it is really something how well-organized and how well they do at putting that show together.

Cary Sherburne:  Yeah.  When I went the first time in 2004 it was just about mind-boggling to me.  We went earlier as journalists in January, and I was so glad to have had that orientation to Düsseldorf prior to the show because again, if you just show up—now it’s going to be 21 buildings or something.

Gary Garner:  Yeah, it is.  So you’ve got to, you know, spend the evenings kind of looking through what it is that you want to do.  But, you know, like I said, we use it just as much as a bonding time, for lack of a better word, with other people in the organization, along with seeing all the technology, and it gives us lots of stuff to talk about.

Cary Sherburne:  No, that’s great.  And we will have a video studio at Drupa and so maybe we can talk to you again once you’re there and learn a little more about what you see.

Gary Garner: I would be glad to do that. 

Cary Sherburne:  Great, Gary.  Thank you.

Gary Garner:  You’re welcome.

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