Special Report by Carole Alexander October 16, 2006 -- The Must See ‘ems, the most innovative and compelling exhibits and products at this year’s show as determined by a panel of experts, were announced today by Bill Lamparter of PrintCom Consulting Group at the Executive Outlook. They were part of a full day of speakers, sponsored by Heidelberg USA and the Xerox Corporation, and well attended by a national cross section of printers. “Today’s world of print is in a disruptive state of change,” commented Lamparter, “but also a unique state of opportunity.” The Must See’ems, selected from 5,700 products from over 600 exhibitors, may point to some of those opportunities. The product nominees were voted on by secret ballot from a 15-person committee (our Noel Ward among them) to reduce them to the final handful. The full list will be posted on the GASC website and are worth reviewing by everyone before coming to the show. Bill Lamparter Let’s take a look at the technologies this committee determined to be the most significant technology for a printer’s profitable survival in 2007 and beyond. In the number ONE position--the most important—can you guess? Management Information Systems! According to Lamparter, “Managing a printing company with information instead of instinct and gut feel is critical to the success of a print business today.” Owners have to know the business side of print. That means collecting meaningful data from their shops and reviewing it to determine decision-making and saying adios to “seat of the pants” approaches. A second reason for MIS is that it is a core component of CIM (Computer Integrated Manufacturing.) According to Don Goldman, Principal of Consultware, data precedes integrated automation. MIS should not only collect data, but also allow management control, monitoring and reaction to the dynamics of change. “The salesperson should become more of an advisor.” Must See ‘ems are Binary Systems, Inc Elements, Booth 5463 and Press-sense Ltd Omnium Booth 5427. Number TWO on the hit parade was JDF-enabled CIM. To be one of those who are experiencing a windfall as the economy improves, a company must be close to wringing out all the inefficiencies in their manufacturing process and be automated. All the equipment today is doing its part to produce more at less cost, with less labor, greater accuracy and using JDF to integrate all parts of the process. The printing company has to do its part to embrace this capability. JDF is an “enhanced digital job ticket,” according to Janice Reese, Executive Director, Network PDF, Inc, “using XML tags to give instructions to every part of the process. This is revolutionary.” Ray Prince, VP at NAPL, adds that process planning must be done in addition to job planning, and “JDF is the best planning answer, but must be done at the earliest stage.” The goal is good modern equipment and good maintenance with faster, problem-free throughput. As Goldman comments,” With JDF interconnectivity a shop should have process control and shop floor data collection to ensure job-costing productivity. CIM brings it all together, with old presses and old MIS systems being the barriers to success.” In THIRD position is press technology, both lithographic and digital. Although lithographic printing is in decline, there is still plenty of printing to be done and 75% of industry presses are 10 years or older, according to Lamparter. “The new automated presses are better than ever, “ he adds. “But don’t be an equipment junkie,” warns Prince. “Define WHAT you want to print, your customer, quality level, number of colors, type of stock, end use requirements, length of run and volume of work.” Prince identifies the latest trends as UV (because of high markup), longer press runs, perfecting, lots of make-ready savings devices, being lean, building a press for a product, buying all the attachments and remote service. Despite presses up to 16 colors, Prince advised that a 7-color is probably best because “it can hit 93% of the bulk of the work at a reasonable cost.” He advised testing the press in the showroom at the manufacturer, and not in a plant and writing a performance based contract. Must See ‘ems are Heidelberg USA Speedmaster CD75 Booth 1200, and Komori Lithrone S29 Booth 629. Andy Tribute Kip Smyth, VP, NPES, showed many studies that all agreed digital printing is growing rapidly in both color and black and white. The b/w market has disappeared for short run in litho, according to Andy Tribute, while “b/w digital printing continues to add new features and spot color still dominates billing applications.” The current 10K production digital color devices are anticipated to grow to 30K by 2011. And digital printing is no longer just for short runs. Printers are finding success in digital printing in a variety of areas from single MFP devices to addressing and variable data to mixing offset and digital. According to Tribute, inkjet is currently a minor player in process color devices “but after 2008 the battle could get intense and by 2012 ink jet will dominate.” Meanwhile, printers should “ get educated on their markets, data and print technologies, develop a detailed entry plan—or, if already in digital, develop a growth plan. And seriously look at variable data printing.” Speeds are increasing, but Lamparter warns, “listen carefully to the way speeds are stated and be sure you understand if the vendors are quoting one-sided or two” so you are comparing apples to apples. Must See ‘ems for black and white are Oce VarioPrint 6250 in Booth 1263 and Xerox Digital Duplex Production System Booth 1217. Must See ‘ems for Production Color are Konica Minolta Business Solutions USA bizhub PRO C6500 Booth 5212, Punch Graphix Americas Xeikon 6000 Booth 1245, Screen Truepress Jet 520 Booth 3802 and Xerox DocuColor 5000 Booth 1217. FOURTH on the list is workflow. “Be sure you are considering every aspect from what comes into the shop to what goes out as a physical product,” advises Lamparter. Rick Littrell, Principal of MagiComm LLC, thinks a future of JDF is critical to survival for printers. “PIA/GATF research,” he explains, “finds a 75% faster make-ready with JDF-enabled workflow.” You will have to examine your workflow as you investigate the first top two, MIS and JDF-enabled CIM. MIS is a critical component of workflow. But JDF or not, you are looking to create the most effective and efficient operation you can. Don Piontek And FIFTH is a tie between color management (color proofing included) and postpress. There will be plenty of the former to investigate at the show. In the latter category, you will be dazzled with the sophistication of inserting, bar code reading, laser die cutting and perfect binding, among many other finishing capabilities. This former “stepchild” of the printing process has come up with innovations that could be a key differentiator for a printing business. Don Piontek, Principal of Finishing Resources, called them “bindery breakthroughs” and noted that many printers are adding mailing and fulfillment because “it’s the most effective environment for adding services.” He recommends seeing the following: GOSS Pacesetter 2500 saddle stitcher B2429, Muller Martini Tempo 22 saddle stitcher with a “windmill”, POLAR P.A.C.E. total cutting system B1263, Horizon BQ-470 perfect binder B2446, Watkiss PowerSquare perfect binder (without glue) B3963, IBIS Smart-binder B1263, KAS Compact multi-format envelope inserter B2070, Buhrs-ITM BB700 flexible enveloper inserter B2671, the EasyMailer digital mailing system (converts a flat sheet into an envelope) and Streamfeeder batch-counting system B2057. While you’re looking, don’t miss the Must See ‘ems --Formscan Inc. MagVision for bar code reading Booth 2087, Bowe Bell + Howell Marathon 16 Inserter in Booth 225, LasX Industries LaserSharp die-cutting Booth 1586 and Muller Martini Pantera Perfect Binder Booth 1229. Must See ‘ems for color management and control is Heidelberg USA Prinect Inpress Control Booth 1200, Kodak Colorflow Booth 400 and Pantone Huey Booth 4822. Additional technologies deemed to be most important were Computer to Plate, Mailing and Fulfillment, Unique Coating and Wide Format Product Printing. Take a look at these Addressing Must See ‘ems—Bowe Bell + Howell Printegrity Inkjet Solution Booth 225, Kodak Versamark D-Series Printing System Booth 400, Postpress Formscan, Inc. MagVision Booth 2087. EFI has PrinterSite Fulfillment in Booth 4212 and PAT Technology Systems has Varstar and Rotoworx (digital variable UV coaters) in Booth 667. I would say the tone of this outlook was optimistic, with the caveat that printers focus on the areas of growth. Some things are just not coming back. One surprise came from Smyth who announced, “Print isn’t print anymore.” He proceeded to show that, although printing in on the increase, if you took out non-print services it would still be declining. In other words, printers have successfully added a wide array of new services—from design and photography to database management, archiving and fulfillment-- to boost their bottom lines. The caution here, according to Smyth, is to “plan and execute a new business venture properly, have the right people, and respect that you will be competing with others who know more than you do about the new business.” Graph Expo should be a great place to get started looking for your new opportunities.