It struck me at some point in the half-day tour of the new xpedx Technology Center in Loveland, Ohio. I was asked by Dennis Killion, Director of Marketing for Graphics, what I thought. "You have a really nice combination of facility and people here". That's what struck me more so than the nice new hardware and software installed in the tech center. The people. Everyone I met who was affiliated with xpedx was solid. They seemed both very competent in their area of expertise and also very personable and easy to talk to and work with. Sometimes that combination isn't so easily achieved.

Somewhere Jeff Higgins is smiling. I remember at his retirement roast last year he spoke of his focus on people. This philosophy appears to be ingrained in the culture at xpedx. I found it a bit funny when John Torrey, VP & General Manager, ended the day he expressly mentioned that he wanted the takeaway to be the people. Mission accomplished John!

I was part of a handful of media who were welcomed to the new tech center that opened in suburban Cincinnati on April 6th. I was joined by WhatTheyThink's award winning editor Patrick Henry. Pat has a great post up at his new blog "A Printing Office" about his thoughts on the day. Pat gives a thorough overview of the tour and some great insights into things to come from xpedx.

Aside from being struck by the great facility and people, I wondered how the new center might affect what xpedx and companies like them do at trade shows. I have been hearing rumblings about more companies focusing on such centers and have heard of some even expanding their footprints lately. You will even hear whispers from some saying these will replace trade shows.

When asked during an open Q&A session how what they've built here would affect what they do at trade shows going forward, xpedx replied that while it did let them be more picky about what shows to go to they would still be involved in trade shows moving forward. In fact, at Print09 xpedx is "going big" as they put it. They'll have what they say will be the 6th largest presence overall and 2nd best placement (right next to Heidelberg). You get the sense that this is how they want to be seen - shedding the reputation as a small press focused manufacturer to now compete with the big boys. That's a message to their prospective customers as well. xpedx wants them to "Think Big", something that could turn into their Print09 theme.

I think you will see the trend toward a more focused approach on technical demonstration centers, but I'm unconvinced they will replace trade shows entirely. The built in efficiencies of getting hundreds through your booth to kick the tires versus the costs associated with flying multiple groups a year into a technical center seems to be at least a wash if not a net benefit to going to a show. It's an interesting question. What do you think?

Bill Stahl, Technical Demonstrator:

Dave Baker, Pre-Press Demonstration Specialist:

Entering the tech center:

Entering the xpedx Technical Center

Tom Weisenbach, Executive VP of Marketing & Sales, welcomes the group:

Tom Weisenbach welcomes the group of journalists invited to attend

Dave Baker demonstrates different plate making capabilities:

Dave Baker, xpedx

Bill Stahl demonstrates the Ryobi 755 with inline UV casting and foiling system:

Bill Stahl, xpedx

Don Coggswell and Bill Stahl present the 920 series:

Don Coggswell and Bill Stahl, xpedx

xpedx execs (L-R) Don Coggswell, John Torrey, Bill Van Buskirk, and Tom Weisenbach:

xpedx execs

The media:

The media