Well known WhatTheyThink contributors Andy Tribute and Frank Romano go back and forth on trends seen at drupa and give their take on what will and won't work. Get key takeaways from drupa by Andy and Frank.
Andy Tribute: Hi, this is Andy Tribute from WhatTheyThink here at DRUPA. And beside me is a rather unknown gentleman who has just come from his around the world trip. I believe he’s going to introduce himself.
Frank Romano: I’m Frank Romano with WhatTheyThink.com, Professor Emeritus at RIT and world traveler.
Andy Tribute: By ship.
Frank Romano: By ship, that’s right.
Andy Tribute: Frank, tell me, what do you think is important – we’ve seen all this lovely new technology, the big trend on B2, etcetera. What’s the problems or what’s the benefits of it? Is it going to succeed?
Frank Romano: There’s the potential to succeed. The thing now is how you’re going to invest. You’ve got all this wonderful new age technology, roll fed, sheet fed, new technology from Landa. Now, the cost per unit to produce things with digital is higher than the cost figured on offset because with offset, you’ve got a longer run. Now, the offset people are saying they can handle short runs. Well, wait a minute that means you have to invest $6 to $10 million U.S. dollars in order to get a press that will let you do that because you’re not going to do it on an older offset press. But if you invest in the new digital technology, now your problem’s going to be the cost per unit will be higher, although Landa claims he puts down half as much ink as offset, so therefore the cost of the ink on the job will be less.
So, it’s going to be an interesting challenge of business models as we go through with this one.
Andy Tribute: It’s interesting as well, I notice a couple of offset companies as well as doing this move perhaps into digital, perhaps with Landa, they’re also offering hybrid technology and putting inkjet heads into presses. We see it with KBA; we see it with Press Tech and a few other companies that are doing this. You know, in terms of doing a limited amount of variable data, black and white only, is and I think this is going to be interesting to see is this going to be an interesting approach for the future?
Frank Romano: Well we can’t get the people who have digital printing to do variable data printing. It is still a very small percentage of the digital printing and digital printing, as you know, is still a small percentage of all printing, mostly because of the long run stuff with magazines and newspapers. But we haven’t gotten the industry to really accept variable data printing. And so if we can’t get them to do it on the smaller machines, where it’s probably more effective, now we’re going to get them to do it on the bigger machines? Well, Donnelly has probably built a business with that, Quad had built a business with that, big printers have built a business with that. Whether it’s small or medium sized business can do that with a hybrid system, I’m not quite certain.
Andy Tribute: I think it’s difficult on that one. It’s interesting, we’re seeing; say, that hybrids are being built onto big web presses for doing high volume stuff, but the interesting concept to see it being built onto small presses like the 75 DI from Press Tech with that. It’s trying to get both markets in one, which is going to be difficult to see if that works.
Frank Romano: I was surprised how much hybrid stuff was here, by the way. Adding inkjet to offset, adding it to almost anything you can imagine. But you certainly have a blend of equipment here from the B2 sheet fed machines, which, by the way there was one and now two, now four, now six that are out there. I mean, that has really grown. Roll fed inkjet has grown significantly. Oh, and the label market. There must be a gazillion inkjet label printers here.
Andy Tribute: And this is not even the label show.
Frank Romano: That’s correct. So, there’s certainly enough choice for anybody who wants to come here. The big question Andy and I have is how can you make money with it? And I don’t think they’re presenting that business model and saying, here’s this wonderful gee whiz technology, but no idea of how you can use it in some effective way.
Andy Tribute: One of the things I’m looking at doing in terms of after the event is actually try to analyze and say, let’s – now, with Benny Landa now saying, you know, this is taking the technology into the 10,000 run length and that sort of area. Now, it would be interesting if you’ve got a non-variable data job to say, is it going to be quicker to print that on Benny’s new, say 75 centimeter wide machine with no start up or to perhaps get the latest Heidelberg Speed Master 75 Any Color, which is introduced at the show with, say, a five minute startup, and at what point does the tortoise get overtaken by the hare in terms of this sort of situation and at what level does the situation. These models are the ones that nobody’s done yet because we don’t really know what the pricing’s going to be on these new presses and all the elements in terms of that. So, it’s a very difficult situation in terms to say which way is going to be the future for this.
Frank Romano: Well, it’s an interesting DRUPA. There’s a lot of interesting technology, so stay tuned to WhatTheyThink.com.
Andy Tribute: Absolutely.
You miss an important point when you say "we haven't gotten the industry to accept variable data printing." The problem isn't the industry, it's the customer. There is an illusion out there that there are all these customers who have all this data they're just waiting to use. Most don't; probably 99% of the customers I talk to. So we hear a success story about some large national insurance company or auto manufacturer that did a great variable data campaign, but when it comes to small to medium businesses who account for a majority of printing, they just don't have the data, and are even resistant to attempts to help them develop it. That is why a majority of printers have used their digital presses to do short run static data, which has commoditized digital print just as much as offset. The market for variable data is dependent on DATA, and most businesses just don't have it.
I am not sure this is the most current information. In the latest NAPL Digital Services Survey 87% said they offered or were in the process of offering variable-content digital printing. Of all digital printing today, VDP made up 27%. And even if there are companies don't have databases or enough information in them then that is as much an opportunity as a threat. Because then you can offer a database service to create or augment the database. If your interested to learn more listen to the two NewsTalk Live presentations we did on this subject recently at napl.org/NewsTalkArchives.