We all look forward to hearing the Graph Expo Must See ‘Ems announcements at Executive Outlook. Attendees at Graph Expo can take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of the panel of experts who judge the submissions to help prioritize their vendor visits at the show.  But there is another aspect of the work this 16- person panel does that GASC has not spent a lot of time publicizing in the past.  The panel also identifies Commercial Print Survival Technologies - the most critical and fundamental technologies a commercial printer must have to profitably survive.

Last year, WhatTheyThink covered this aspect of the Must See ‘Ems process.  In 2006, the panel designed MIS as THE most important technology a printer should implement for future success.  This year, we checked in with Bill Lamparter, who coordinates the Must See ‘Ems process, to get a peek into the 2007 results.  While the actual Must See ‘Ems are a closely held secret until they are announced at Executive Outlook, we were able to get an early copy of the technology designations and wanted to share the results with our readers as they prepare to head to the show. 

View this Must See 'Ems Sneak Peak ( 90 kb pdf)

Don’t Miss MIS!

Once again, the Technology and Product Selection Committee has identified MIS as the leading technology printers should be implementing.  So why aren’t more companies jumping on this bandwagon?  There are lots of options for implementation, and the prices range widely.  Any firm can afford this investment - and in fact, according to the committee, NO firm can afford NOT to make this investment.  The panel agrees that MIS has become the core technology around which customer interfaces, scheduling, production control, integrated automation, and business workflow are built - Lamparter characterizes MIS as the “centralized brain of the industry’s most advanced and profitable companies,” saying that the ability of MIS-challenged print companies to survive is suspect.

Digital Divide

The number two identified technology was the full spectrum of digital production printing - toner and inkjet, monochrome, spot color and process color.  As I have been interviewing printers for various purposes over the last year or so, it seems that just about everyone I talk to is installing digital in some form of hybrid production operation.  Lamparter points out that there will be more digital printing equipment and more pages of digitally printed material at the show than offset equipment and its sample output at Graph Expo.  That’s quite a shift!  And, of course, as you have been reading in the pages of WhatTheyThink, next year’s drupa is already being dubbed the inkjet drupa.

However You Define It...Workflow Is Critical

Third on the list was workflow, although Lamparter indicates that there was not a clear consensus among the panelists as to what workflow means.  Different folks from different parts of the industry have different perceptions.  For some, it might be prepress focused; for others, it embraces the entire plant.  Nonetheless, the majority of panelists felt that having an efficient flow of electronic and physical production was essential to profitable survival. 

The Rest of the List

The panel ranked the rest of the list as follows:

4.   Information Technology

5.   Web-to-Print

6.   Color Management – Prepress

I found it fascinating that what one used to consider core to Graph Expo ended up at the back of the list, including Litho Press Automation, Computer-to-Plate, and Preflight Software and Skills.  In fact, they were described as second tier in importance. 

This second tier group also included the concept that whatever technologies printers use and however they are deployed, printers need to work to provide a unique capability and product that is unique in an existing market or would create a new market. It could be a digital product, special effects generated with coating techniques, or even scented varnishes (see our story on Concord Litho).

RFID earned a mention, but the experts seem to think it is more of a future thing.  Nonetheless, there will be opportunities for Graph Expo attendees to look into this area.

Lots to See and Do

Graph Expo is shaping up to be an exciting show.  As you plan your time there, we at WhatTheyThink hope this technology preview will help you identify where best to spend your time.