Think this is another article on digital printing? Surprise, it isn't! In fact, these are the recent words of Gerd Finkbeiner, CEO of the world's second largest printing press manufacturer and market leader in web fed printing, MAN Roland Druckmaschinen AG. At the drupa 2004 Press Kick-off Feb 26 in Augsburg, Germany, Finkbeiner described the future of the printing industry as a services sector that will play a leading role in the communications business. He is urging printing companies to transform themselves and utilize all the opportunities that automation offers. Finkbeiner's recommended first step is to analyze precisely what customers want and need, and then have the courage to invest in the equipment required for their specific applications.

Finkbeiner also urges against vendors pushing in equipment where there is no business basis, no business plan, and states that this has contributed to the decline. His remarks are sprinkled with terms such as added value, service providers and consultative selling.

I applaud this CEO's view. When digital printing came on the scene, it brought with it some different ideas about business development. As the new kid on the block, it was able to open minds to certain concepts on running a business, how to sell and to whom, customizing services for the client, selling value not price, the importance of marketing and opportunities for new revenue streams. None of these were the norm. But, neither was there a hundred-year history of behavior to overcome. These are the same good business practices that must be employed by companies selling traditional printing today if they want to continue to succeed.

No one likes change. But, according to Finkbeiner, the number of printers is down 40% over the last 10 years. The rumor that a major press manufacturer is divesting business divisions is sobering. As this CEO points out, Production may be the basis for the printer, but service provider and adding value for the customer is the future.

Having mixed feelings that all is well with the economy, and that drupa 2004 will put the industry on track for sustained growth, Finkbeiner cautions that it isn't and it won't. Although the global economy is improving, he points out that growth rates are still not sufficient to stimulate the printing industry. He sees the challenges all around, especially in advertising. The deep recession in that industry has resulted in confusion about the right model for the future. Will it come out of the vendor printer, the buyer and agency brainstorming together? Will it be an integrated marketing campaign that uses all channels in some optimum blend? Finkbeiner sees the printing industry in the middle of a far-reaching transformation process which involves capacity adjustment and demands new business models. The CEO tells us that cost cutting alone has not produced answers. The industry needs to change. We must all work on new, fresh impulses that will lead the way to the future of print.

At drupa, MAN Roland will have fewer exhibits than is normally the case. Less iron makes sense because that is not where they perceive the solutions to be. Instead, the company will focus on total integration with a higher level of cooperation, communication and advisory services. MAN will highlight three drivers considered to be critical Applications, Automation and Added value.

Look for live production of nearly 50 print products. The booth will have special emphasis on seven showcases: commercial printing, publications, packaging, services, networks and future/innovations. Selected high-tech solutions will include being an open cooperation partner in PrintCity, and a total integration pioneer with printnet (the production management system for printing and publishing workflows.) Together with Optimus, Agfa, MBO and Muller Martini, ppi Media will create a complete commercial web workflow on a JDF basis. A fully-automated production process from transferring data to the finished product is already a reality.

The added value, according to Finkbeiner, occurs when media service providers embrace consultative sellingunderstand what the customers really wants and offer print products customized for the solutions they are seeking. He urges ending the impersonal relationship with end users through print buyers. MAN Roland will add some value of its own with life cycle management, consulting, improved utilization rates, and bringing the cost of ownership down 20%-30%.

This company sees itself as a reliable and innovative partner for the industry into the future, viewing the press as an enabler. Thus, its theme, WE ARE PRINT. Through the brand WE ARE PRINT, according to Thomas Hauser, Head of Corporate Marketing and Communications, we want to express self-confidence and spread optimism and courage throughout the industry. Print is a key technology for modern society and cyclical downswings can't change that. With the present cut-throat competition, people tend to equate economy with the buying price, but the real issue is operating costs over a product's entire lifecycle. Man Roland admits to not always having the lowest selling price but points to often having solutions for their customers that are economically superior.

The MAN Roland drupa 2004 Press Kick-off attracted journalists from 50 countries. The evening entertainment took place at the MAN Roland Museum, where talented pianists played Mozart concertos on four pianos. I go to a lot of concerts, and I have never seen four pianos simultaneously!. I would like to suggest that the components of the printing industry also have the potential for beginning to work together more in concert. Hopefully, drupa will get us thinking about this as we look for fresh, new impulses.