SGIA and GASC Vie for Wide Format leadership Commentary by Steve Aranoff & Robert FitzPatrick, The EAGLE August 14, 2006 -- In our first column on OnDemandJournal, we contrasted the difference in approach between Pitman and Enovation Fuji in growing their wide format print businesses in the U.S. Another view of what can happen when you don't do something radically different to change a company can be seen in some recent dealings with GASC over GraphExpo. We recently had the opportunity to review both Graphic Arts Show Company's (GASC) description of their GraphExpo 2006 Wide Format Pavilion, and the data sheets given to booth purchasers in that pavilion to use in describing their companies and products for the show guide. We found the information almost laughable, in that there were no categories to describe a wide format business that wasn't rooted in the use of digital printing solely for proofing, or any concept that finishing had anything to do with products that were not rectangular or "bound" by nature. At a recent show vendors we know lamented the fact that they could not easily demonstrate what it would be like to use their products in a productive workflow environment. As much as GASC is trying to do the right thing by moving more and more heavily into the digital world it seems they still don't really get it. So many more opportunities to help printers to better find their way are possible, but it doesn't seem to be happening with any urgency yet. Or is it that it, or its parent organizations, are so heavily rooted in the past that moving forward to present a level playing field is being held hostage by some of the old heavy iron members? In earlier days, especially in the Offset world, there used to be large companies that could showcase all of the products a printer might need for production in one place because they sold or distributed all of them. At most of today's trade shows we can see products, but not help a printer prospect to gather more information about what was now possible for different kinds of efficient production and for new ideas that could be sold to client customers. At a recent show with some old friends, we were talking about what was taking place at their booths, and all lamented the fact that they could not easily demonstrate what it would be like to use their products in a productive workflow environment. We used to say that many different output devices, or presses could do the necessary job, but the printer might fail because he put in the wrong network. Each of them did a good job to show their part, but, the practical sense of being able to show the benefits of continuity in a true workflow was missing. It was easy to compare flatbed UV printers perhaps, but what about being able to follow a design from the "prepress" step through the RIPping process to print and to finishing -- ready to deliver to the customer? Today, screen printers, and the new digital printers from outside the industry, are even less sophisticated than offset printers in the techniques of workflow. They are now being challenged to provide quality products in smaller quantities for less money. Wringing costs out of the process is becoming paramount to success just as it became in the offset world. But, who is teaching this to the buyers who know nothing about the long term parallel efforts in the longer run Offset and Flexo markets with standards such as JDF and CIP4? A Catalyst for Change? Yet, another organization, SGIA, has taken so much of a different tack that it is going overboard to be the catalyst for change in a printing industry even though they have every bit as much history and entrenched members as with GASC. Who is teaching buyers in offset and flexo markets about the long term impact of JDF and CIP4? Mike Robertson, CEO, has taken on the task of bringing value to the membership by making SGIA the knowledge source for the use of digital technologies in the screen and specialty graphics markets. Basically, he is trying to keep SGIA relevant and important in the era of the same converging technologies being shown at multiple trade shows. To this end, he has promoted SGIA-sponsored demonstration pavilions and donated the space to member companies to provide information, training and demonstrations of what is possible, rather leaving it up to individual members to spread the gospel only as they see it. This September at SGIA Expo 2006, printers will get to see what might be possible from beginning to end by using different technologies within a plant. Not too long after you read this, we should know how SGIA has done on this task. The plans were to have three unique on-floor learning opportunities learning that give attendees a head start in understanding what they are able to accomplish through more than one manufacturer. According to SGIA, these include: * Wrap the Boat, Wrap the Car, Baby Four of SGIA's consumables manufacturers have been asked to show off their latest large-object wrapping techniques and media on vehicles, including a boat, at the Wrap Display Area. Vehicle wraps were one of the first and continuing big users of digital technology for both printing and digital cutting. * An Image Flows Through It The optimum in digital imaging workflows will be demonstrated at the Digital Workflow Pavilion. You'll go with the workflow, following an image from design, to RIP, to printing, and finally to finishing. Two workflows showing different capabilities for both flexible and rigid printed materials will be demonstrated. Design through RIP and Print, followed by specialized finishing for different kinds of flexible and rigid materials will show how streamlined production can be accomplished At SGIA Expo printers will get to see what might be possible when using different technologies within a plant from beginning to end. * Look Inside for Your Next Market Think inside the box -- or, rather, the room. Or the restaurant. Or the store. At the Expo's Interior Design display, exhibits plus a free seminar will show and discuss expanding into the interiors marketplace. This is another unique opportunity for customized short run specialty graphics -- a new business opportunity. We think that SGIA is going a long way towards showing that they don't see their trade show as just a "real estate" sale, as do some traditional shows. By sponsoring these pavilions and holding the participants to do a credible job, a big service to the marketplace should result.