Archive for March, 2001

  • New head of Heidelberg Australia is Danish via South Africa

    He comes to the job after five years as head of Heidelberg’s Southern African operations. An EAC Graphics recruit his appointment is indicative of the emphasis the company s placing on the digital side of the industry. He is described as being “young and energetic” and takes up his post on April 1.

    Current managing director, Howard Dare has opted for retirement after coming back into the role last year. Previously he was in charge of Heidelberg Asia Pacific and before that head of the company’s finishing division, based in Atlanta.

    Previous managing director, Peter Foley, will continue in his new role as marketing manager, digital, Asia Pacific.

    Despite constant rumours of his own imminent retirement at the end of June, Rod Spencer, director sales and marketing, replies to all queries with a “no comment.”

  • Print 21 industry plan is officially launched

    A gathering of 50 industry people mainly from South Australia attended the launch on Friday March 9 at Lane Print in Adelaide. The twice-postponed launch was described as generally positive and an indication of what the industry can accomplish when it gets together. Concerns about over capacity and falling profit margins underlined the importance of the documents that will be widely disseminated throughout the industry.

    The document is the culmination of three years of research and consultation by industry bodies under the auspices of the Printing Industries Association (PIA). It consists of a three part publication: an executive summary which gives an overview of the process and the conclusions: a work book consisting of the research papers that have formed the basis of the agenda; a tool kit which has been produced by an industry consultant, Goran Roos.

    According to Trevor Hone, chairman of the Print21 Action committee, the tool kit forms the core of the document. It is designed to help printers apply the findings of the research papers to their own enterprise. Results from trial sessions where printers have worked through the tool kits have been very positive, said Hone. He expects more printers to become involved in trials after the official launch.

    Copies of the documents are available to the industry without charge and workshops to encourage their implementation will be held across the country.

    The working papers can be downloaded from the web site at

  • Xeikon in trouble – blames Xerox sales fall for profit loss

    A loss of $28m for digital press manufacturer Xeikon in 2000 was a result “far below our expectations” said Alfons Buts, president and CEO. He blamed the fall on fewer sales by Xerox of the company’s colour digital presses, the DocuColor 100, which this year accounted for 14% of total revenue as compared to 29% in 1999. In addition the integration of the Agfa DPS business added to costs rather than improving sales or margins.

    The news comes in contrast to a bullish release from rival Indigo where the ebullient Benny Landa, reports record revenues of $49.4m and a profit of $2.9m for the 2000 fourth quarter. Indigo increased its installed base by 50% last year, mainly with the rapid uptake of the UltraStream 2000 that was released at Drupa.

    “While we are optimistic about the future, we are also cautious regarding the competitive and economic environment. We gained market share in the commercial printing market in 20000 and expect this trend to continue,” said Landa.

    In Australia there is very little Xeikon sales activity following Agfa and Edward Keller’s withdrawal from the arena. Print & Pack has yet to launch its MAN Roland DigiPrint strategy while Xerox is focusing on its own successful DocuColour 2060. Indigo is continuing to increase its leading installed base with Michael Mogridge of ODIS about to announce new installations in coming weeks. He reports a lot of interest from commercial printers in the Ultrastream 2000 products.

  • Vio shuts up shop in Australia as management buy-out struggles

    The financially troubled venture between Scitex and BT is subject of a management buyout in London with Scitex reporting that an agreement in principle has been signed for the technology company to offload its shares. Speculation on the make-up of the final offer is rife with no one at Vio able to make official comment on the moment.

    The pull out is personally disappointing for local manager Richard Grieg who claims the company achieved the largest installed base in the Australian industry “by a long way.” With a core network of servers in Sydney Melbourne and Brisbane, the Vio system was adopted by over 100 local firms. Greig is continuing to assist custmers to migrate to other systems or to remain on the Vio internet access. He expects the company to shut up shop by the end of the month.

    Remaining players WamNet and local entrepreneurs D2P continue to struggle to gain market share. WamNet has broadened its focus from the graphic arts industry to service the entertainment and financial markets. Revenue models for digital delivery services have still to produce a viable income stream.

    In a related move Scitex will also sell its share of Karat, the in-line digital dry offset press, to joint venture partner KBA in return for future performance-related payments. KBA will take responsibility for manufacturing, sales and customer support of Karat digital presses worldwide. Some of the Karat technology has been used in the KBA Cortina, due for launch in 2002. But sales of the Karat have been disappointing since its official launch at Drupa as the market turns away from in-line imaging offset presses.

  • 2001 Print Awards – Rod Spencer is Man of the Year.

    Three printing categories missed out on a gold medal at the awards, with the judges deeming there was no entry of sufficient quality in one-colour printing, sheetfed self-adhesive labels and speciality or special printing. Overall there were 29 categories and a medal swag of 38 gold, 65 silver and 80 bronze was shared between 109 companies. NSW won the largest number of medals, but Victoria gained the most gold.

    The Heidelberg Award for Excellence in Craft went to PMP Print Victoria for a limited edition, hard-backed, jumbo size book, The Banksias. Published by Monash University it is the third and final in a series that began in 1982. Printed on rag paper from the Inveresk Company the stock was bought before the first edition was printed and has been in storage for almost 20 years. Just as well because the paper is discontinued and is no longer available. Echidna graphics did the design and repro was by Show-Ads Melbourne.

    The Agfa-Gevaert Award for the most creative use of photography in printing went to Phillip Howe of Melbourne Advertising Design for his Dalton Fine paper Calendar.

    Carol Riberger from the University of South Australia won the Australian paper poster design competition.

    Rod Spencer, director of sales and marketing Heidelberg Australia is the Graphic Arts Person of the Year.

  • IPMG bid for PMP attracts the attention of ACCC

    Professor Allen Fels’ regulators at the ACCC are examining the concentration of printing and publication distribution power that will occur if the union between Independent Print Media Group (IPMG) and PMP goes ahead. PMP is Australia’s largest commercial printing company with about 20 per cent share of the overall market. It has over 50 publication titles, including market leaders such as Elle, New Idea and TV Week. The new entity would see magazine distributor Gordon & Gotch in the same stable as rivals NDD and Impact.

    The deal will give IPMG a controlling 40 per cent in the enlarged PMP, crerqating a printing, publishing, prepress, distribution and services enterprise with annual sales of A$2.2bn. Significant rationalisation benefits are expected if the deal goes ahead.

    US-based director, Jim Donnelley, of RR Donnelley & Sons, one of the world’s largest printing companies, has stepped forward to replace Ken Cowley as PMP chairman following his sudden resignation. Cowley said he may not be able to contribute in a positive way to the transactions currently being considered by PMP because of potential conflict of interests.

    The merger was announced March 1 without formal reference to the ACCC, which admits it, was surprised. It is now canvassing opinion throughout the industry as to its effect on competition, especially in terms of printing capacity. If the reverse takeover is allowed to go ahead, approximately 80 per cent of heatset web printing in Australia will be under the control of the proposed super printing and publishing company. No formal response from the ACCC was forthcoming at time of writing.

    The merger comes as PMP management is under the gun for a profits warning to the sharemarket that sees the troubled enterprise post a dismal $45m profit as opposed to last year’s $59.1m. Analysts blame a significant drop in circulation numbers, averaging 10 per cent for the slump, as well as troubled publishing investments in Germany, the effect of the GST and the Sydney Olympics.

    The printing division performed well, increasing its returns by 3.6 per cent even though sales were down by 2 per cent.

    IPMG is privately owned by the Hannan and John B Fairfax families. The deal values it at $250 million. It has sheet and web prnting faclities in NSW, Queensalnd and Victoria. It owns the Courier Newspaper Group as well as a range of magazines. Managing director, Michael Hannan said, “Apart from areas where each group complements the other, the merger will take IPMG into areas in which we have not operated, principally books, directory printing, letterbox distribution and mass market publishing.”

    The roll call of printing and prepress companies that will comprise the new company is impressive. Although PMP has rolled all its entities into one printing division, with the exception of Griffin Press, division it comprises such industry icons as: Pac-Rim, Progress, Keppell, Pacweb, Canberra Press, Westernport, Wilkies, Swanweb, Prestige, West Web, and South Web. Production house Show-Ads is an integal part of its graphics operations.
    IPMG has Hannanprint, Inpack, Inprint, Offset Alpine, Craft Printing, Bolton Inprint and The Pot Still Press.

    The merger is subject to receipt of written confirmation from the ACCC that it has no objections.

  • CPI reports half-year slump

    Sales revenue for the six months was down 6.7% from $208.9m compared to $224 million in the previous corresponding period. Difficult trading conditions throughout the first half of the year even though volumes increased saw the fall in profits and revenues.

    CPI managing director, Ian Harry said that a number of other factors had “contributed to a volatile and challenging six months for the company, including a GST and Olympics induced slowdown as well as the general level of uncertainty concerning the directions of the economy.” He expects the second half to improve considerably but still reckons performance will be about 20% below that achieved in the second half of the previous year.

    Apart from being the largest supplier to the graphic arts industry CPI has become a diversified distribution company with supply lines in office and cleaning products. It has invested heavily in building an e-procurement system CPIT with a new $35 million state of the art computerised warehouse at Sydney’s Wetherill Park.

  • Xerox slashes workforce and battles bankruptcy rumours

    The sale will see the profitable Australian subsidiary of the company become completely Japanese owned if majority owner Fuji exercises its option to buy.

    Xerox is in a fire-sale predicament as it staggers from a fourth quarter loss of US$198 million. Following a series of disastrous reports last year, the ongoing red ink has seen the share market savage its stock price. The company is expecting to lose more money in the first quarter of this year, although it is predicting a turnaround in the future.

    In a bid to cut US$1 billion from its costs, the flagship US company slashed its workforce by 2000 last year with reports indicating it will follow up by cutting another 4,000 to 11,000 jobs this year. (Last year Xerox worldwide had a workforce of over 90,000). The sale of its 25 per cent of Fuji Xerox, estimated to be worth US$1.5 billion, is part of a plan to raise US$4 billion in asset sales.

    Xerox’s decline comes as a result of increased competition, a series of questionable management and operational decisions rather than as a result of any technology deficiency, according to industry analysts.

    The company’s strategy is turning towards the consumer market with the launch of its new range of Blue Dog desktop printers, designed in conjunction with Sharp.

  • Techno barrier broken for approved digital proofs

    Industry digital standards body, 3dAP, has broken the price barrier for approved digital colour proofing by giving the green light to the ColorTuner, an Epson large format DoD ink-jet engine powered by CGS software.

    The proofing sub-committee gave its seal of approval to the relatively low-cost solution, which costs approx $60,000 as opposed to an average of $200,000-plus for the four accepted high-end engines; the DuPont Digital Cromalin, Imation, Iris and the Kodak Approval. Files conforming to such digital proofs are accepted as meeting the standard for accurate printing results. All proofs are measured against a set of files output from a DuPont Cromalin EuroSprint.

    The entrance of the new solution is expected to open the floodgates to demands for similar DoD ink-jet solutions to be considered notably the CPI Black Magic software. High-end systems use a continuous flow inkjet system that claims to give a superior level of accuracy.

    Fuelled by the decision from major magazine publishers, ACP and PMP to move to filmless CTP production by mid-year, the 3dAP proofing sub-committee launched its new list of approved engines at a GASAA event in Sydney on Wednesday Feb 21. In addition to the inclusion of ColorTuner, the Kodak Approval proofing system received its long overdue recognition.

    The acceptance of the more modestly priced ColorTuner will be greeted with relief by smaller advertising agencies and trade shops that would otherwise struggle to justify the expense of a high-end solution. If they were unable to supply an approved proof with digital files they would be barred from supplying artwork to the major magazine printers.

    According to committee member Peter O’Hanlon of Seven Sydney, the standard of proof from the Epson came as a surprise. “We looked at the results under the usual 5000 Kelvin light conditions and measured the proofs by spectrophotometer. There was no question about the accuracy of the proof. These systems are getting better all the time,” he said.

    3dAP has also approved Adobe PDF as the approved file format for digital transmission.

  • DuPont re-enters flexo selling market after three years

    A major realignment of the flexographic supply market is underway following the decision by DuPont to take back direct representation of its products from CyraChrome as of March 1. The move comes three years after the giant US-based corporation decided to abandon active selling in Australia. The DuPont flexo supply contract formed the basis for industry identity, Michael Laird to establish his company, CyraChrome. The subsequent change of mind has undoubtedly caused some upset for the new player.

    In a bid to remain in the flexo supply market and to capitalise on its undoubted strengths in the sector, CyraChrome has sought the supply contract for Asahi Kasei, the Japanese manufacturer of flexo plates. Previously represented by Anderson & Vreeland in Australia, Asahi is widely recognised as a world-class supplier that has failed to make ground in the region. Flexography is widely used in the packaging industry and has seen its share of the overall printing market grow in recent years.

    Other suppliers in the flexo market here are BASF which is now represented by Agfa, and the US-based MacDermid, the former Polyfibron, which claims to be the largest flexo plate material supplier in the world. DuPont claims the largest share of the local market, although the situation is unclear because only MacDermid supplies liquid polymer products for the corrugated sector.

    According to Lindsay Rice, DuPont’s new man on the job, the decision to re-enter the market comes as the company prepares to introduce a range of new products, specifically Fast, a dry flexo plate-making system that does not use solvents. It is, as its name implies, fast, with a plate imaging to press time within 45 minutes.

    “The technology is changing rapidly, with new process and products coming on line all the time. Who better to deliver the new products to the market than the company that creates them?” asks Rice.

    While expressing his disappointment with the decision Laird emphasised that it was DuPont’s call. “We think we did a good job in the role, and we’ll be a strong competitor with the Asahi products, which I believe better suits the Australian market,” he said.

    Stock transfer begins from CyraChrome to DuPont on March 1.

  • Bureaucrat is new PIAA chief

    In a move widely interpreted as returning to its core strengths, the new CEO of peak industry body, Printing Industries, comes from a background in industrial relations. Garry Donneson will take up the post on March 5. One PIA staffer described his appointment as “a welcome return to stability.”

    Industrial relations policy has always been a major plank of the association’s activities, and is enjoying renewed focus in this age of enterprise bargaining. The appointment comes after three months of searching, a time when deputy director, Philip Andersen, again stepped into the breech to caretake the association.

    The choice of a senior NSW bureaucrat brings to an end a period of rapid change in the association that culminated in the breakdown of amalgamation talks with Australian Industry Group (AIG). The association sold its headquarters in St Leonards and moved to the Sydney CBD, a move that brought criticism from many members. Former CEO Luke Solly’s contract was not renewed.

    The new man is coming to the job at a busy time. Printing Industries is the major organiser of Print 21 as well as being co-owner with GAMAA of PacPrint.

  • Print 21 official release in Adelaide March 9.

    A series of industry education events at PacPrint in May and a further series of information nights at locations around the country will follow up the official launch.

    The document is the culmination of three years of research and consultation by a high-powered industry body. Its launch has been delayed at least twice. It consists of a three part publication: an executive summary which gives an overview of the process and the conclusions: a work book consisting of the research papers that have formed the basis of the agenda; a tool kit which has been produced by an industry consultant, Goran Roos.

    According to Trevor Hone, chairman of the Print21 Action committee, the tool kit forms the core of the document. It is designed to help printers apply the findings of the research papers to their own enterprise and develop methods of furthering it in a changing world.

    Results from trial sessions where printers have worked through the tool kits have been very positive, said Hone. He expects more printers to become involved in trials before the official launch.

    Copies of the documents will be available to the industry without charge and workshops to encourage their implementation will be held across the country.

    Although the publication of the Print 21report is a high point of the industry development process, Trevor Hone makes the point that it is only one part of an ongoing 12 point action agenda which will address the future of the industry.
    The working papers can be downloaded from the web site at