What Were the Goals of Leading Printers at Print 05? by Heidi Tolliver-Nigro August 28, 2005 -- Whenever we talk about technology, as we have throughout WTT's coverage of Print 05, it's always interesting to see not just what the market-leading vendors are doing but what some market leading printers are doing. So as an epilogue to WTT's coverage of Print 05, I wanted to bring you interviews with three industry innovators and technology leaders that describe why they went to Print 05, what their goals were, and what technologies they were interested in. It's always interesting to see not just what the market-leading vendors are doing but what some market leading printers are doing. King Printing First, I interviewed Adi Chinai, joint managing director of King Printing, a book printer in Lowell, MA, that services both traditional publishers and self-publishers. The company has always been on the leading edge of technology, having been the first its region to adopt digital printing back in 1980s (it presently has a fleet of DocuTechs) and to invest in computer-to-plate in the mid 1990s. Today, to adapt to changing market conditions, King Printing is launching into digital color printing and short-run bookbinding to complement its traditional bookbinding lines. The shop started with finishing. Earlier this year, it installed what Chinai calls "the first short-run casing inline of its kind," the DGR Casing Inline from DGR Graphic of Germany, which allows the shop to do extremely short-run bookbinding. What Chinai particularly likes about the DGR is that it allows him change book sizes without switching out parts. "The old way, we were doing six makereadies per day," he says. "Now I can do eight or nine." To adapt to changing market conditions, King Printing is launching into digital color printing and short-run bookbinding Now, Chinai is looking for the right digital press to put on the front end. His goal at Print 05? To further analyze digital technologies and, hopefully, make a decision on a digital press, which he plans to use to produce short-run book covers, inserts, and short-run illustrated children's books, in an attempt to recapture work that is now being produced overseas. When I first talked to Chinai, before he'd had a chance to walk the Print 05 show floor, he was fairly convinced that he'd walk out with a NexPress. But when I spoke to him again, after he'd had a chance to explore, he was no longer certain. "The quality of some of these presses was much better than I'd anticipated," he said. "There are a lot more options than I'd thought." Custom Data Imaging Corporation Like Chinai of King Printing, Frank McPherson, president of Custom Data Imaging Corporation, a digital and variable data printer in Markham, Ontario, was at Print 05 to survey the landscape to see how much has changed. In particular, his goal was to see what changes, if any, have been made to the available VDP software. "The thing that impresses me most is XMPIe," says McPherson. "It's a really good product now, and it does everything from Web-to-print to print-to-Web." "I also notice that the mailing companies like Pitney Bowes, Bell & Howe, and Buskro USA are good as they've ever been," McPherson continues. "Their products are better. Their booths are better manned. They are showing more product and versatility of product. This reflects the fact that the industry is moving in that direction. More and more printing companies are getting involved in mailing." More and more printing companies are getting involved in mailing." If McPherson--whose company already offers mailing services, including presorting, CASS-certification, list purchases, and a variety of other services -- purchases anything, McPherson says, it will be XMPie software. "I can't see buying anything else, but I'll look and see," he concludes. PrintingForLess.com Wyeth Windham, production manager for PrintingForLess.com, was at Print 05 to investigate automation. Currently, PrintingForLess.com has one of the most advanced front ends in the business. It is a full Heidelberg shop (which avoids the blame game), with fully automated press presetting. Windham was here to investigate data control and management software for mailing processes. Secondarily, he planned to investigate JDF workflows and presets for his bindery. But, when it comes to his business, technology isn't Windham's first concern. Where PrintingForLess.com makes its money, he says, is in building customer relationships--and that starts with good technical service reps. PrintingForLess.com spends 13 percent of its gross revenues on training, and all of its TSRs go through a minimum of 16 weeks of training at full salary. "The result is TSRs that care about customers, consult with customers, and care about their products," says Windham. "Technology is important, but it's really secondary." Where much of the magic happens is also in PrintingForLess.com's proprietary MIS system, which tracks everything. If ever there were a company that knows exactly what is going on its shop -- from every detail of every job, in real time, visible in an easy-to-use interface (which Windham gave me a peek into from the Print 05 pressroom), to knowing the average conversion rate and lifetime customer value from every type of lead it gets from the Internet -- it's PrintingForLess.com. This kind of data tracking gives the company the ability to prioritize its activities, from moment to moment, and even its customer interactions. Everyone in the company, from the TSRs to the CEO, has access to the same information. At the time that we peeked into the job queue, there were 42 new jobs lined up. "Boy, the poor prepress guys are swamped!" joked Windham. "I'm glad I'm not there today!" This customer focus and ability to prioritize, Windham insists, has been the secret to the company's 45-70 percent year-over-year growth. While additional investments will help it continue to improve its internal efficiency, they are merely incremental and not critical to sustaining its profitability and growth. Customer focus and ability to prioritize have been the secret to PrintingForLess' 45-70 percent year-over-year growth. Where PrintingForLess is looking to make future investments is in technologies like JDF and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), which will ultimately be necessary for full automation, including inventory. Tying Them Together If there is a theme that runs through these three interviews, it is this: These market-leading printers aren't coming to the show to make large investment decisions or determine the directions of their businesses. Those decisions have already been made and the investment to take their businesses in those directions isn't made around trade show, but is continual, over time. Large trade shows like PRINT 05 are good opportunities for looking further ahead, to stay on top of emerging technologies, network, view print samples, and generally stay plugged in. If a company is in the market for a new technology, it's a natural opportunity to compare apples to apples, but because these companies are serious about investment, it is simply a refinement process. The homework has already been done.