Industry execs tell us how they see the print market on the eve of Graph Expo by Noel Ward, Executive Editor of and Managing Editor of trade show coverage for September 24, 2003 -- Trying to get a bunch of printing industry executives into one room--even a virtual one--is difficult at best. And the proximity of a major trade show like Graph Expo makes it pretty much impossible. So we did the next best thing. We got them all to answer the same set of questions to give you a better understanding of how these industry leading companies see the market, what their customers are asking about, and what they are looking for as they go intothe biggest print show in North America. Due to scheduling issues--like I said, these guys are hard to nail down--we are running the virtual interview in two sections, one today and another on Friday. In this installment (appearing in alphabetical order) we have Carl Joachim, Vice President of Marketing for Oce PrintingSystems USA; Jean-Luc Meyer, Vice President Marketing, Digital Publishing Solutions, Imaging and Printing Group, Hewlett-Packard; and Homi Shamir, CEO of Scitex Corporation and CEO and President of Scitex Digital Imaging. WTT: Other than the economy and sales, what do you see as the most important issues for printers today? Joachim: Our customers, like all print operations, are under tremendous business pressure to provide value to their customers, while controlling costs and maximizing profitability. To compete successfully and to achieve these business objectives, they need to produce more sophisticated documents in shorter timeframes with superior quality--in converging environments. As a result, there is a real drive to become more competitive, more productive and to reduce costs and operate as leaner, more efficient organizations. Several trends are impacting our customers. Key among them is the continuing evolution of the convergence trend, which mandates that organizations find ways to accomplish more with fewer resources. These demands in turn require that vendors to develop and provide solutions that meet these needs-with greater versatility, flexibility and of course, a lower total cost of ownership. Responding to this challenge, Océ set about to develop the recently released Océ VarioPrint cut-sheet digital printing systems and Océ VarioStream continuous-forms digital print solutions. Both families of production-class systems are designed to maximize versatility and flexibility and both have recently been recognized by IDC, an independent research firm, for delivering the lowest total cost of ownership in their classes, in several categories. Océ intends to continue addressing important trends like convergence with powerful combinations of hardware and software solutions that give customers production-class versatility, flexibility, reliability, and performance. Meyer: The big issue is that printing has become increasingly commoditized in the traditional offset space. Commercial printers often take unprofitable jobs to keep their customers, yet they do not always have the controls in place to really see the impact on the bottom line (most often negative). It is very hard to make money doing things the way they have always been done, using traditional methods when customer requirements are changing. Finally, smaller commercial printers are getting competition from the quick printers who have digital products and can provide convenience and price for "good enough" quality printouts. All of those trends, are causing printers to consolidate or go out of business. Shamir: Printers need to embrace new technologies and understand the convergence of digital and traditional methodologies as end user companies look to better communicate with their customer, on a one-to-one basis. This one issue applies to all segments of the printing industry and it's the one that, when addressed, will give printers the competitive edge. WTT: Are there any particular types of applications your customers are asking about and trying to implement? Joachim: Our customers come from a variety of different industry segments. As such, they produce a wide range of applications, in varied environments, using a diversity of resources. However, the common thread that links all of our customers is the need for a way to get their systems to work together as one. Print operations today are struggling with the challenge of attempting to manage multiple printing devices, multiple platforms, and multiple print streams, often in multiple locations. Challenges like the need to resolve the frustrating incompatibilities of multi-vendor environments, the need to eliminate the unnecessary expense and inefficiencies of idle time and downtime, and the need to build profitability while ensuring document integrity are having a significant impact on the way print operations do business today. Today's businesses and commercial printers need more flexibility and greater ease in combining graphic arts applications and digital workflows. They need to be able to handle new job types, drive new revenue-generating opportunities, and do more with less. Océ answers this need with PRISMA. Océ PRISMA is a family of cross-vendor, production-class workflow management software solutions that experts count on to maximize the performance and cost-effectiveness of their operations-independent of system, location, or print device. With PRISMA software, our customers benefit from enhanced functionality in operating environments, in office networks and in commercial print environments. Whether they're manufacturing and publishing books or printing color documents with near-offset quality, versatile Océ continuous forms and cut sheet printing systems combined with PRISMA workflow software give our customers the power to achieve new levels of production efficiency and seamlessly manage applications and workflow in any environment. Meyer: Yes. Customers are increasingly asking for shorter runs and quick turnaround time. This trend will only increase, and soon, personalization will become mainstream. Companies like HP are realizing that digital is more affordable, which drives demand. The availability of software applications is also making it easier to create customized documents. Shamir: Re-purposing of the bill and statement. Companies are looking at better communicating with their customers via the bill and/or statement in order to retain customers, cut costs and increase revenue by “up selling” and “cross selling.” Other requests from commercial printers include support for an ever increasing range and types of substrates required to serve a highly creative end user base. WTT: Do you see pent-up demand for new equipment and applications, but that printers are hesitant due to the soft economy? Joachim: Certainly, succeeding under tough economic conditions is forcing customers to be more flexible, more capable and more able to adapt to handle all types of jobs and applications. Consequently, what we're seeing is an across-the-board emphasis finding ways to operate more efficiently, more effectively and do more with less. In short, customers need to be able to process more job types using fewer pieces of equipment. And that's one reason why Océ is doing so well in today's difficult economy. Our families of VarioStream production-class, digital continuous forms printers and VarioPrint cut sheet printing systems are specifically engineered to enable customers to run virtually any application on a single machine. They can run black and white customized applications using variable data, color applications, and even MICR-encoded transactional applications--all on a single machine. The bottom line-we offer customers a solution that allows them to print any data stream and any application on any system. And that's helping companies to more with less to achieve their business objectives. Meyer: Printers know that the industry is at a turning point. The challenge for commercial printers is to pick the right supplier. This is where HP's entrance in this market place -- with its reputation for high quality, reliable products, state of the art technology and the ability to transform a market by with our enterprise and agency connections -- is a reassuring factor to the commercial printers. HP is already a leader with the early adopters. The larger majority may be a bit more cautious, but it is HP's mission to work with them and increase their comfort level when moving to digital printing. Shamir: There is no doubt … when the economy is soft companies look to hold onto their capital and maximize current equipment. Technology developments have created a pent –up demand. I would like to add, however, that printers do not have to be hesitant, but should research and select a technology solution that will both serve their competitive needs now and provide the path for growth for the future. WTT: Other than leads and sales, what are your company's goals at Graph Expo? Joachim: Océ remains intently focused on showing customers how they can be more productive, more flexible and more effective in today's tough economy by teaming PRISMA workflow management software with our next-generation families of robust, reliable, and ready-to-run, VarioStream 7000 continuous-forms printers and VarioPrint cut-sheet, digital printing systems--the first family to bring production-class performance to the work center. We do this within the framework of helping customers "do more with less"--whether that means working with a partner to provide a flexible finishing option or by providing all-in-one systems that combine monochrome, highlight color and MICR capabilities in a single system. Visitors to Océ's booth will benefit from knowing that unlike other vendors who are just in the initial stages of developing a software solution to help customers manage their workflows, Océ already has the industry's leading solution in PRISMA workflow management software. Attendees can look forward to more integrated solutions that will provide them with a streamlined, efficient workflow that enables them to get work done faster, easier, and with tremendous savings in time and money. Meyer: HP is on a journey. Our goal at Graph Expo is to build on the success of the previous show and continue to instill confidence in the mind of commercial printers that HP is THE company to bet on for their digital printing needs and that the time is NOW to jump in the digital bandwagon. We already have market leadership with our digital presses and large format printers. Now we want to reinforce that leadership position and be where the decision makers are, to talk to them, and to share our plans and progress to date. Shamir: Graph Expo is certainly one of the premiere shows for the printing industry and is an ideal venue for companies to reach an audience representing many markets with varied requirements. Because of the opportunity this shows affords, a first goal is to increase the awareness of show attendees to the full range of digital printing solutions available from Scitex Digital Printing, whether full process color, spot color or monochrome digital printing and whatever the application. Also, with the emphasis today on CRM and one-to-one marketing, we also need to increase the awareness of color and variable data and the impact the two can have when used in conjunction with each other. And, finally, perhaps the primary goal is to simply reach as many people as possible with the message that an affordable digital printing solution is available today from Scitex Digital Printing. Carl, Jean-Luc, Homi---thank you all for participating in this virtual meeting. We appreciate your insights and perspectives. Have a great show in Chicago.