In preparing for the recent WhatTheyThink webinar, Inside drupa 2004, I had the opportunity to speak with two of our industry's executives who expressed similar thoughts about the future of our industry, and I wanted to share their insight with our readers.

Yves Rogivue, CEO of MAN Roland, Inc., and Ed Marino, President and CEO of Presstek both indicated that while their companies are, of course, focused on the development of products that deliver high quality printed output, their primary focus, as we begin to enter a period of (we hope) economic recovery, is in working to make the printing industry more productiveto position printers to do more with less. Here's what they had to say.

Improving Productivity

Rogivue: Any business, in order to be more profitable, has only three alternatives: increase prices, increase the revenue base, and/or lower the cost of manufacturing. At drupa 95, before the boom, it was all about increasing equipment capacity with faster presses. Today, 80% of our sales are justified by the ability to lower the cost of manufacturing. Often in making sales, we may take out two or three presses and replace them with one. Since there is not a lot we can do to help printers raise prices, we are investing in, and focusing on, other two alternativesincreasing revenue and lowering the cost of manufacturing. In short, MAN Roland wants to be the marketing partner to North American printers, helping them find new customers and retain old ones, while energizing marketplace overall.

Marino: drupa 2004 is being touted as the year of JDF workflow. This sounds terrific, but the reality is that JDF automation is only a small part of the answer. The bigger impact in 2004 lies in streamlining the overall workflow and the elimination of steps and processes that complicate the work flow. As the JDF standard 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 be able 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.


Marino: JDF strikes me more as a 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.

Rogivue: I recently read some TrendWatch survey data that indicated 32% of printers surveyed said that CIM was not relevant to their business. If people switch off as soon as they hear CIM, they are making a mistake. The phrase paper thin' doesn't even begin to describe the condition of printers' profit margins these days. CIM is the Holy Grail that will get printers out of the squeeze. And not only the big players, but the small to mid-size printers as well. Printers must get their act together in terms of lean manufacturing. It will make them more cost effective, more price competitive.

What Is Your Outlook for the Future?

Rogivue: You've heard the expression starting off with a blank piece of paper. It is an expression of optimism, an expression of boundless possibilities, an expression of limitless hope. Well, starting off with a blank piece of paper is what printers literally do, every day, thousands of times a day. It is no wonder our industry is home to so many entrepreneurs, so many innovators, and so many forward-looking thinkers. Even though times have been rough in recent years, in the long run our industry has the spirit and the smarts to make the most of whatever the marketplace brings for drupa 2004, and for another century of drupas at least.

Marino: Hopefully, Drupa 2008 will realize the vision of dramatic process simplification and ease of use that will drive customers to useand not avoidprint. Demand creation is a wonderful thing. We need to find a way to create demand and therefore growth in our industry or else face the prospect of doom and gloom.

I believe vendors, by listening to their customers, will finally get it by 2008, and we will see creative and useful offerings that will make print a more desirable communications method. We cannot afford to suffer the same fate as the railroads. We have to remember we are not in the print business, we are in the communications business.

The Productivity drupa?

Rogivue and Marino bring up a good point. Perhaps instead of calling this the JDF drupa, we should call it the productivity drupa  after all, the key advantage of JDF is making the end-to-end (multivendor) workflow more productive. Our ability as an industry to ensure that print remains a competitive communications media is the key to our future survival. The good news is that, from the vendor side, tremendous progress is being made to make this a reality. And we expect to see a lot of post-drupa implementation on the service provider side as well.