Editor’s Note: At ON DEMAND, Mohawk Digital Papers presented several new offerings. Of note, Mohawk announced a new color copier initiative - Themed Paper Makes the Difference - with a new Digital/Color Copier swatchbook. It features selected items of Satin 2.0, Navajo, and 50/10 Gloss that have been chosen for their ability to produce professional color copier results. The company also showed a new package design for digital papers. It is the first major redesign in over ten years. The new Mohawk packaging will roll out this month with the new Digital Papers for Color Copiers campaign.

Mohawk Papers Mills, Inc. is a leader in the manufacture of premium printing papers. From its flagship grade, Mohawk Superfine, through patented Inxwell products, Navajo and Options, Mohawk has engineered its papers to provide optimal performance for offset sheetfed, and web as well as for digital printing.

Chris Harrold is Manager, National Accounts and Business Development for Mohawk Paper Mills. He is responsible for the development of new business through the company’s national account relationships, with emphasis in the area of digital printing. Chris joined the Mohawk sales team in 1990, as district sales manager, responsible for the printer and merchant community in upstate New York and Canada. He has a masters degree from the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology.

QUESTION: Mohawk makes and sells a complete line of digital papers. Tell us a little about the products and what makes them stand out from the competition.

Chris Harrold: Mohawk is the only mill offering a full range of premium papers for color digital printing. The mill has carefully selected products that meet the narrow performance limits required by digital presses and then further refined those papers to optimize their print quality, runnability, and reliability. In addition, we carefully track equipment changes to ensure that appropriate sheet sizes and basis weights are available when the presses become available in the market.

QUESTION: Mohawk Paper launched the line of digital papers in 1998. How has the market for digital papers changed since then? How do you see the future?

Chris Harrold: One of the best things I heard during the internet boom was that people tend to overestimate the impact of technological change in the short term and underestimate its impact in the long term. Since we never quite believed the overly optimistic projections about digital printing in the early days, we have not been disappointed in the recent lowering of expectations. The digital market has grown nicely for us since the beginning and has continued to grow despite a slow commercial printing market. We expect digital printing to continue to replace offset pages, that the distinctions between digital and offset will to continue to blur, and that new markets will continue to emerge.

QUESTION: Is Mohawk Digital Papers a separate business unit or a division of Mohawk Paper? Explain the business structure and sales channel.

Chris Harrold: Mohawk Digital Papers is very much a part of Mohawk Paper Mills. The papers are line extensions of existing Mohawk product lines and are designed to meet the commercial printers need for multi-platform papers that work on a wide range of printers, copiers, and presses and can be used in a variety of end-use applications. Our papers are sold primarily through franchised merchant distributors.

QUESTION: What distinguishes digital printing paper from traditional offset paper?

Chris Harrold: The qualities that set offset papers apart: formation, brightness, and smoothness are essential to digital printing papers. Mohawk happens to excel at these. In addition, digital papers are made to lower moisture and feature a slightly different conductivity. We have also expanded the range of basis weights and sheet sizes to meet the feeding limits of particular pieces of equipment.

QUESTION: Tell us the process behind designing a new digital paper. Where do ideas for a new paper come from?

Chris Harrold: The market. We work with printers, equipment manufacturers, and merchants and are willing to try just about anything to meet the needs of emerging markets. Our new color copier initiative is a good example. Two years ago we began seeing color copiers show up in commercial print shops. Our hunch that quick printers and commercial printers would soon be looking for a broader range of printing papers for their copiers has been born out in early reaction to the new line: Mohawk Digital Papers for Color Copiers.

QUESTION: What is the prognosis for paper sales and prices? Do you see the demand increasing over the short-term?

Chris Harrold: Thats a broad question. Commercial printing paper has historically tracked the GDP. In the last few years the market has become much more complicated, with the decline in volume grades due to electronic alternatives and the flood of off-shore papers. The economy seems to be picking up and with it paper demand should increase somewhat. Whether this will affect the larger situation remains to be seen.

QUESTION: Mohawk sponsors an annual design competition. Tell us about the competition and why a paper company is interested in spotlighting good design.

Chris Harrold: Premium paper mills like Mohawk have long focused on the design community as a way to educate and inspire those who are known to specify branded papers for commercial print projects. The design competition honors designers and printers who work hard to maintain quality standards in a highly pressured environment; it provides a showcase for beautiful samples on our papers and creates opportunities for relationship-building events.

QUESTION: What do you wish your customers knew more about when it comes to choosing a paper for their projects?

Chris Harrold: The significance of paper in the greater value of the print job. Papers quality has a direct impact on print quality characteristics like fiber formation and surface smoothness play a critically important role in the final print quality of a digital print job. If a customer has made the substantial investment in a new digital print device, it only makes sense that they use the best quality paper engineered to showcase the capability of their equipment.

QUESTION: Finally - many vendors are examining their role in trade shows and how to better connect with end users. Tell us why Mohawk exhibits at a show like ON DEMAND.

Chris Harrold: The On Demand show has clearly become the highest profile US event for the digital printing market. Mohawk remains committed to our Digital Papers portfolio and providing the emerging digital print community with legendary Mohawk quality tuned to the latest technology. This is a great show for us to launch new products, marketing initiatives and build awareness for our brand. This year we introduced a new marketing focus on those products from our digital offering that are right for new digital color copiers.

Thank you Chris for sharing your thoughts.