For the last several years, industry associations have been consolidating, or attempting to consolidate, to adjust to the needs of a changing industry. IDEAlliance has made six acquisitions over the last decade, according to its President & CEO David Steinhardt, including the SWOP color specification which led to IDEAlliance being one of the major global color management organizations; and IPA, which brought in premedia, media, content management and packaging and brand identity expertise. Epicomm is the result of the merger of NAPL/NAQP/AMSP and was rebranded to Epicomm last year. Now they have a plan to join forces under the IDEAlliance brand for a very interesting end-to-end knowledge base that will be able to offer unique capabilities to the industry.

About IDEAlliance, Steinhardt said, “Each new element we brought into the association brought dramatic changes in the organization. We have excelled at innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit within graphic communications. And Epicomm excels at management, implementation, business transformation, and that type of thing. These two organizations complement each other. We see Epicomm translating the standards, best practices and certifications of IDEAlliance into programs and services a company can use to improve its business.”

Ken Garner, Epicomm’s President & CEO added, “This proposed merger is the result of a joint commitment to take every opportunity to serve our members and the industry. For our respective boards, the litmus test is pretty simple: Will our members be better off as a result of combining the resources and all of the competencies of the two organizations? The answer to that is a resounding yes, in the opinion of our boards.”

I was surprised to learn that there is very little crossover in membership between the two organizations, with only 129 companies who are members of both, or less than a 4% overlap. The combined organization will have more than 3,000 members assuming the merger is approved. Epicomm is a North American organization, while IDEAlliance has members in other parts of the globe as well. In addition, Epicomm’s membership is comprised primarily of printers and suppliers to the graphic arts industry, while IDEAlliance’s membership is comprised of a broader spectrum of the graphic communications supply chain, including marketers, designers, advertising agencies, brand owners, and, of course, some printers and suppliers.

Steinhardt commented, “IDEAlliance has done a good job over the past 50 years of looking at the total supply chain. On the content creation side, those companies are dramatically changing the way they are doing marketing communications. It’s more than just the use of digital communications; there appears to be a resurgence of print and they are again experimenting with ink on paper. But as an industry, we need to understand the full scope of their evolving needs – how does information flow from the brand to the printer and back? Those are areas we are working on that will help printers better understand where the market is going.”

The other important aspect of this proposed merger is a more closed-loop approach to standards and technology best practices. IDEAlliance has done a great job of establishing and building on industry standards, but implementing those is not always easy. That’s where Epicomm’s expertise comes in. Steinhardt said, “There are great examples of innovation across the supply chain that need to be finalized and translated so that companies can use them.”

One example is an area of specific interest to me, and that is what is referred to as Extended or Expanded Color Gamut printing here in North America, but more appropriately (in my opinion) called Fixed Color Palette printing in Europe.  This is the ability to achieve most brand and other special colors with process printing rather than using special spot color inks. Pantone introduced its Extended Color Gamut guide for CMYK/OVG printing last fall, and IDEAlliance has been working on developing Extended Gamut specifications for CMYK that go way beyond GRACoL. There are many benefits for both brand owners and printers in the adoption of fixed color palette printing, but it is not necessarily easy to get there. With the combined IDEAlliance/Epicomm forces and competencies, members will have better access to not only the standards and best practices, but the “how-to’s” that are required to actually implement them. That’s the vision, anyway.

Garner concluded, “We have a joint commitment to serve the entire supply chain. If you have a bunch of groups linked together, one can’t be successful without all of the other links being successful. We want to look at the entire supply chain and determine how we can best serve it.”

Garner also stated that there would be no position eliminations within the respective organizations, and assuming the memberships approve the merger, IDEAlliance would move the 2.5 blocks to the Epicomm building. And for those overlapping members? The plan is that membership fees will remain the same for members of the respective organizations for two years. Companies that are members of both organizations will only pay one membership – the higher of the two.

It is exciting to see these two organizations coming together, and we hope their respective memberships approve the merger. Assuming they do, the combined organization will be hard at work between now and July 1 to get all of the details worked out. We’ll be staying in touch and following the story.

Oh, and that Extended/Expanded Gamut/Fixed Color Palette thing? Watch for a story from me in the next week or two with more details about this approach to offset and flexo printing that is increasingly being supported by big brands and printers/converters alike!

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been corrected to reflect the fact that Ryerson University was not involved in the IDEAlliance GRACoL Expanded Gamut project. Rather, this project is being conducted by the IDEAlliance GRACoL Working Group, and spearheaded by Ron Ellis, Don Hutcheson and Mike Rodriguez. Ryerson University is supporting Idealliance's research into optical brightening agents.