By Ed Marino of Presstek May 3, 2004 -- As I head off to drupa, I thought I would share some thoughts with you about where we are going--and where we need to go, in my opinion--as an industry. The reality is that JDF automation is but a small part of the answer to the issues confronting the printing industry. drupa 2004 is being touted as the “JDF drupa.” This sounds terrific, but the reality is that JDF automation is but a small part of the answer to the issues confronting the printing industry. The bigger challenge in 2004 and beyond is the streamlining of the overall workflow and the elimination of steps and processes that complicate workflow and result in longer job delivery times—in a business environment that has no tolerance for increased cycle times. As the JDF standard is finalized and truly becomes a widely adopted industry standard, our manufacturing processes will certainly become more automated. But automating an already complex process is less attractive in the long run than eliminating steps in the process altogether. The bottom line is that we must introduce more simplicity into the process of ordering, manufacturing and delivering print. We must make it easy for creatives (document originators) to envision the output that will be produced as a result of their creative efforts. And they must be able to acquire that printed output more easily, more cost effectively and with less lead time. All of the buzz around JDF strikes me more as means for the vendor community to perpetuate a complex situation in lieu of simplifying the process at its core. To be perfectly honest with you, all of the buzz around JDF strikes me more as means for the vendor community to perpetuate a complex situation in lieu of simplifying the process at its core. The reality is that the print process is still too skills based and unpredictable. We need to work harder to build simplicity and predictability into the process. Printing--even high quality offset printing--ultimately must become as easy as printing an attachment from an email message is today. Until we reach this goal, printing will continue to be a communications method that is avoided rather than sought out. And as we are all painfully aware, there are a multitude of non-print business communications alternatives available to today's creative and marketing community. They will continue to take increased advantage of those alternatives, at the expense of print, unless we make drastic changes. The real answer for our industry is to successfully mesh printing with these other technology forms and communications methods I believe that as a result of the force multiplier of the economic downturn and the astonishing growth of the Internet and electronic communications media, the printing industry has been given a "Wake-Up-Call"--and it is not too late to respond. The industry must aggressively respond to the challenges described above or face continued economic and market pressure from alternative communications forms. The real answer for our industry is to successfully mesh printing with these other technology forms and communications methods through digital implementations that deliver integrated multi-media campaigns. There will be multiple forms of print technologies, as well, that must co-exist to produce print. There will still be a need--albeit a declining need--for long-run high-quality offset printing. But the growing need is in high quality short run color, versioned communications, and even personalized communications. The print service provider of the future will have a full portfolio of digital printing capabilities at his or her fingertips and will meet customer needs by applying the most appropriate technology or combination of technologies on a case-by-case basis. No single technology will answer all the questions. No single technology will answer all the questions. We have worked hard at Presstek to bring to market what we believe are some of the solutions--not all, by any means--that will make our industry more competitive. And we have done that by applying both our innovative research and our imaging expertise to the development of new products and methodologies. But in doing so, we have spent a great deal of time listening to the needs of both aspects of our market--the print service provider and the buyer of print. Presstek, to a great extent, represents several of the methods of printing that I believe will define the future. One of those methods is Digital Offset in the form of the DI Press. DI offers the printer, in-house print shop and print-for-pay a way to economically deliver the short-run-color print that is the future of printing. Why? Because DI is the fusion of digital and offset technologies, blending the economics and quality of offset with the ease of digital printing and a digital workflow. The second method that is important to our future is the process-free preparation of printing plates without compromise to cost or quality. By eliminating chemical development from the plate making process, we are able to offer a more streamlined workflow, improved productivity and throughput, and eliminate the costs and hazards associated with chemistry. This is the future of our industry, and at Presstek, we will continue to dedicate resources to not only making these methods even better over time, but to continuing to deliver the kind of innovation that will keep our industry vibrant and relevant. JDF is a good thing. Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) is a good thing. But they are only part of the story. Hopefully by the time we get to drupa 2008, we will have realized this bigger vision of dramatic process simplification and ease of use that will drive customers to use print rather than to avoid it. We need to find a way to create more demand for printing and print-related services—and therefore growth in our industry—or else face the prospect of doom and gloom. I think we will get there. I believe by 2008 we will see a broader range of creative and useful offerings that will make print a more desirable communication method. But we cannot afford to suffer the same fate as the railroads. We must remember that in the end, we are not in the printing business--we are in the communications business. And our products, services and manufacturing processes must reflect that reality.