by Patrick Henry October 6 , 2003 -- It always takes a day or two after leaving Graph Expo for the show's familiar cacophony to fade from the visitor's ears: the rattle and thump of the heavy machinery; the broadcast-perfect tones of the actors leading the half-hourly demos; the vast white noise of the aisle-flooding crowds. Only in the relative quiet of the aftermath do the words of conversations and briefings begin to make their significance clear. So, as a post-show postscript, we offer this miscellany of comments from people who in our opinion said things eminently worth repeating about the state of the industry as they encountered it at McCormick Place. If their remarks share a thread, we think it's the speakers' implied declaration that printing technology has finally crossed a threshold into new territory bearing scant resemblance to the country left behind. Now there is a new set of assumptions to work with and a new frame of reference to construct. For example, it was surprising to hear the phrase “evolutionary vs. revolutionary” used so little at the show. Once upon a time, this well-worn scrap of rhetoric keynoted nearly every deep discussion and spouted from nearly every learned lip. But this year, it was as if everyone had come to Chicago agreeing that the “evolution” of printing simply has brought the medium to where it ought to be, and that “revolutions,” whatever else they may be, are just distractions from the far more urgent matter of making money with the tools at hand. Perhaps a new way of thinking, speaking (and writing) about graphic communications is beginning to displace the old. Listen: "Printers are recognizing the need to upgrade their platforms. They understand that today, being competitive means continually increasing productivity. It's no longer practical to pay off the cost of a press in seven or eight years, and then run it for another 20. Those days are gone. Press manufacturers must cater to a demand for design flexibility in their equipment. Nobody wants just a plain-vanilla, six-color 40" coater any more. Press manufacturers should be prepared to deliver special one-off designs for specialized applications." —Stephan Carter, president Komori America Corp. "Thanks to improvements in technology, we're able to go to a customer and say, if need be, “We haven't been able get the color just right, but we'll correct it by making a new plate.” With our equipment, it might take 15 minutes to image a new plate, and another five minutes to hang it. So, a plate remake isn't the catastrophic interruption that it once was, and even though our plate remake rates can be high on some jobs, we're willing to go that extra mile for the customer." —Brian W. Mason, CEO, Great Western Industries, a Dallas, Tex. provider of folding cartons, POS materials, collectible cards, and secure printing "In the printing industry today, CIM (computer integrated manufacturing) is the difference between survival and success. It is the hallmark of printers who are thriving while everyone else seems to be running for cover." —Yves Rogivue, CEO, MAN Roland Inc. "CIM is here, it's working, and it's available for real people. The bindery is no longer the second-class citizen of CIM." —Werner Naegeli, president and CEO, Muller Martini Corp. "Printing has been loath to get its message out. We need to change our focus. It is hard to fathom how print has settled for such obscurity in the face of other media. Printers must stop trying to position themselves as alternatives to other printers and start positioning print as an alternative to competitive media. As an industry, we've failed to deliver a consistent, coherent message about the advantages of our medium. " —Michael Makin, CEO, Graphic Arts Technical Foundation/Printing Industries of America (in remarks at the announcement of The Print Council, a business alliance promoting greater use of print) "Several current trends could drive up demand for printing: decreased use of telemarketing (despite uncertainty about the fate of the do-not-call registry); decreased volume of spam thanks to spam-blocking technology and anti-spam legislation; and the commercial-skipping feature of the TiVo home television recording system. Because of these constraints on competitive media, print is at the verge of a new and significant growth period. " —Paul Reilly, board chairman, CEO, and president, Mail-Well Inc. (in remarks at the announcement of The Print Council) "Print's real value proposition is simple: The high value-add in any plant is the finishing. Printers who overlook this fact mislead themselves. They think they're printers, but they're not—they're finishers. No customer ever orders or buys flat sheets of paper. If you are an in-plant, the critical need for rapid turnaround times requires the finishing to be in-house. If you're going to be an in-plant, you need to be a finisher. Print begins with postpress. The printing is only a part of it. And no matter what kind of job it is, print finishers have remember that production variables must always be anticipated and accounted for. Paper still comes from trees, and God didn't make any two trees alike." —Larry Tanowitz, senior vice president, postpress, Heidelberg USA "Technically speaking, these are not great times for the early innovators. The technology advantage that they enjoyed and depended on for a competitive edge has been opened to all competitive manufacturers. In many cases the early-adopter stage of technology has been improved upon by manufacturers who have developed systems later. This means that the smaller printers now have access to technology that seemed totally out of their reach even a couple of years ago. Discernable differences in performance between 'high-end' products and other makes of presses are few, if they exist at all. This results in an overall lower cost to the late adopter at little or no difference in the quality of the press or the product it produces. " —Ernest Bardocz, president, Grafitec America "For us, 'top quality' means being the opposite of a racing horse, which performs well under a certain set of conditions, but not under others. " —Winfried Gleue, president and CEO, Hostmann-Steinberg, a global provider of printing inks ------------------------------------------------------------------------