Archive for May, 2001

  • More news….more news….short takes

    Like a lamb to the…

    Federal Minister McGouran may have thought he was in for just another round of rubber chicken and platitudes when he came along to the Print21 luncheon at PacPrint. If so, he was in for a shock. As the only pollie that came within cooee of the exhibition, the hapless Minister for the Arts and the Centenary of Federation, copped a full serve about the neglect of the industry by governments from irate chairman Rod Spencer. It’s a sign of how deep an impact the exchange made that in his speech he mentioned Rod Spencer’s name at least half a dozen times.
    And very respectfully too.

    Silver lining time

    Gary Seidl of Screen had the worst imaginable start to his PacPrint when thieves got at the shrink-wrapped pallets containing his G4 Macs. They unwrapped the plastic, cut the bottom out of the cartons, removed the Macs and resealed the whole shebang for the theft to be discovered on delivery to the Exhibition Friday morning. As Gary said, it’s not the Macs but what they were loaded with – all the drivers and the settings for the full-on production display that comprised the Screen stand. Frantic calls to Japan and a marathon reprogramming effort by his staff saw Screen up and running when the show opened Tuesday. “Heroic” is the word Gary uses to describe the way the staff rallied around.

    Coffee, tea or sushi

    The proliferation of coffee machines on stands at PacPrint meant that for at least this scribe it was a case of caffeine overload during the five days. Hard to pick the most accomplished coffeemaker but the girl at CreoScitex stand would be hard to beat. However the standout had to be the kimono-clad hostess at the CyraChrome stand who served sushi and Japanese beer to weary aisle farers.

    Many were called, some were shaven

    Cancer research got the benefit of CreoScitex management and staff head shaving on the Thursday night. Surrounded by a cheering throng, victims were led up to be shaved as people threw money. Even Garron Helman, managing director, got shorn, a little closer than he wanted seeing as how he was off to China the following week where the skinhead look fails to impress. ‘Cool and laconic’ Steve Dunwell, got away with having his luxuriant locks dyed a brighter shade of puce.
    They drummed over $1,700 for charity.

    Midnight oilers

    Publishers of the GX Report, Peter and Maggie Coleman did sterling work in producing the show’s only daily. Working late into the night and using Canon’s digital technology they came up with a bright newsy sheet everyday. Only those of us who’ve tried that caper know what it takes and how long are the morning hours.
    Well done you two.

    No fears from consolidation

    One of the most positive aspects of this PacPrint was the number of new, specialist suppliers who appeared as if from nowhere. Over 30 per cent of the exhibitors were first timers. This lays to rest any fears about the growing scope of the larger suppliers. The “total solution” philosophy shows no sign of mopping up the myriad of independent suppliers.

    Favourite of the show (personal)

    My favourite item at the show was Avon Graphics’ A Guide to Enrich Print. This folder was designed by David Lancashire Group, with repro by ShowAds, diemaking by Dacelo Engraving and printed by PMP Print. It contains a complete run down, with examples, of embellishing and embossing processes from holographic foil to complex die cutting. Trevor Hone says he is going to make it widely available to the industry with a print run of 60k, so if you get a chance pick one up.
    If part of the problem is that print is thought of only as a commodity these days, the guide shows how to make it stand apart as a thing of beauty.

    Cutest application

    Just because they can, the brains trust at Fuji Xerox got together to develop an application specifically for the show. The Australia LiveCard was designed so that Joe Public with minimal computer savvy can print out a photo ID of himself. Although it began as an exercise in doing something novel for the show, the application is now being taken to trademark status.

    Best (and worst) joke told at PacPrint

    Heard the one about the two elephants falling over a cliff.
    Boom, boom!

    That’s all.

  • When are you gonna call?

    PrintPlanet.com, the leading on-line community and research firm in the graphic arts industry, has just completed a survey with 158 print buyers in the USA. The survey focused on the number of sales calls and meetings print buyers had with print vendors.

    The questions asked:

    Estimate the number of new sales “telephone” calls you receive each month from print related vendors trying to gain business.

    Estimate the number of NEW print related vendors you actually meet with over a period of a year.

    Overall, 54 per cent of these buyers said they receive three or more calls each month from print vendors seeking a relationship with their firm. 36 per cent said they receive two calls or less each month and nine per cent said they received no calls from new print vendors. (one per cent had no opinion.)

    In the question related to actual new meetings, 17 per cent said they have five or more meetings a year with new print vendors. 58 per cent said they meet with less than five print vendors a year and 22 per cent said they do not meet with new print vendors. (three per cent had no opinion.)

    Companies with less than $50,000 in print spending a year are less likely to be contacted. Only 41 per cent said they received three or more calls a month. Conversely, 63 per cent of buyers with print budgets well over $50,000 get three or more new calls a month. Very large buyers (describing their annual spending at over $1 million) are most likely to conduct new meetings with print buyers with 37 per cent saying they meet with five or more new vendors a year.

    Commenting on the results, Randy Davidson, CEO of PrintPlanet.com, said there is more work to be done. “Each time we conduct a survey related to habits of print buyers, we uncover more questions to answer. These types of surveys are really best viewed through each individual organization. If you are a buyer, are you giving print vendors a fair look? If you are a print sales rep, are you making enough calls?” Davidson added, “Interestingly, most every print buyer spending over $1 million a year said they meet with new vendors. The numbers show this to be a more accepted practice for companies with larger budgets.”

    PrintPlanet.com provides news, interviews, eCommunities and research to nearly 25,000 subscribers at its web site. The company also supplies syndicated content to industry web sites including news feeds, search engines, discussion forums and research. For more information about this survey, visit www.printplanet.com/surveys.html

  • PaperlinX increases US base

    PaperlinX Limited has announced that it is expanding its North American paper merchanting business with an agreement to acquire Coast Paper, the leading independent merchant of high performance printing and office papers in Canada. This is in line with previous statements of the company’s intention to build on the Spicer’s bridgehead into the North American market.

    “Coast Paper is an excellent addition to our North American merchanting business, complimenting our existing business in the USA, Spicers Paper, which is already an established and profitable business,” said Mr Ian Wightwick, Managing Director of PaperlinX. “Coast Paper has a similar structure to our existing North American business, leading to immediate synergies, which will enhance returns. This acquisition further strengthens our position as a major independent printing and office paper merchant in North America. Combined sales in North American will exceed A$800 million per year, which is an excellent position for further expansion.”

    “Coast Paper has an excellent management team, a reputation for superior service, a diverse and long standing customer base and strong relationships with key paper manufacturers, complementing our existing suppliers. We plan to capitalise on these strengths.”

    Coast Paper was established in 1941 and is headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, with branches across Canada in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg and Toronto. Annual sales are A$290 million, and it employs 315 people.

    The acquisition will be debt funded and earnings per share positive in the first full year. It will be effective from 1 May, 2001.

    “We have defined PaperlinX’s International growth strategy to develop further the merchanting business which is already operating in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, USA and now Canada.” Mr Wightwick said. “We believe PaperlinX brings to the consolidating global paper manufacturers a multi country presence offering superior customer relationships, supported by state-of-the-art distribution, logistics and e-commerce systems. We look forward to further developing in the major international markets.”

  • Industry tools up for free

    Printers will be able to access, without charge, a suite of sophisticated management and production tools, the Toolkits, to implement in their enterprises, following the release of the final part of the industry strategy, Print 21.

    The Toolkits have been designed expressly to deal with the planning and strategy issues facing members of the industry. They are the result of almost three years of extensive consultation and the participation of many printers and prepress professionals during which time the particular issues that define the industry were identified and addressed.

    The strategy document was released in March this year whle the Toolkits, which chairman Trevor Hone describes as the “core of the document” were presented to the industry at PacPrint. Unlike a similar initiative undertaken by US printing associations, the Toolkits are being made available free of charge to all professionals within the industry here to encourage their wider adaptation.

    The Toolkits consist of programmes that allow printers to conduct in-depth analysis of their businesses, measure how they are going against industry standards and, in the words of John Flynn president of PIAA, “develop business plans based on strategic investment decisions, medium to long term operational plans and effective marketing strategies.”

    “The industry is predominantly made up of small to medium size firms, who don’t necessarily have the expertise or resources to develop a business planning process that is specific to the industry,” he said.

    “The Print21 Toolkit provides a framework for printers large and small to be able to do a detailed analysis of their business and to develop business plans based on strategic investment decisions, medium to long term operational plans and effective marketing strategies.”

    Print21, also known as the Printing Industries Action Agenda, has been developed over the past two years in a partnership between the PIAA, GAMAA, Australian Paper and the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science and Resources.

    Print21 Chairman, Trevor Hone, said the initiative was in response to industry and government concerns over research indicating that the printing industry, one of Australia’s largest manufacturing sectors employing over 100,000 people, was experiencing a slow but steady decline in margins and profitability.

    “These are challenging times characterised by technological change, new publishing environments and increasing globalisation,” he said. “We are a strong, vibrant and forward thinking industry, but we need to come to grips with these issues if we are to continue to grow and prosper.”

    A website has been developed to provide printers with online access to the Action Agenda research.

  • Senate’s decision could cost 500 printing jobs

    Australians pay less than either UK or USA readers for such popular titles as the Harry Potter series due to the vigorous local book printing industry. On the other hand Australian students pay more than their overseas counterparts for technical and scholastic books which are almost all imported.

    These figures from the Printing Industries Association of Australia (PIAA) failed to deter a Senate Sub-Committee from approving changes to the Copyright Act. The changes if passed in Parliament will see the end of the 30-day parallel imports rule. The rule currently gives Australian copyright holders the exclusive option of producing the work for the Australian market within 30 days.

    Printers, publishers and the industry associations claim that the 30-day rule is essential for the maintenance of a thriving book printing and publishing industry in Australia. It has allowed the build-up of a sophisticated book printing sector that delivers lower priced volumes to local readers and is beginning to develop an export industry to the USA. Its main protagonists are Griffin Press and McPhersons.

    In a dissenting minority report ALP Senator Jim McKiernan opposed the passage of the bill, while the Democrats appear to have sat on the fence “recommending” the Government return to the Competition Principles Agreement.

    Senator McKiernan’s report said in part:

    “It is not clear that parallel import provisions restrict the competitive process, or that the costs of such restrictions exceed the benefits.

    “This conclusion is particularly true for the book industry in Australia. There are over 250 publishers employing more than 4,000 people. In 1998-98 they sold more than 110 million books (60 per cent Australia) and published nearly 7,000 new Australian titles.

    “Sales exceeded $1,000 million, of which more than $100 million were exported, mainly to the United States ($40 million), New Zealand ($25 million) and the United Kingdom ($17 million). These figures are consistent with Australia having a thriving and competitive industry. They are also consistent with the view that parallel imports are not impeding or restraining the competitive process.”

    In its submission to the sub-committee the PIAA maintains that,

    “…the changes mooted here will have a dramatic impact on the structure of the industry in Australia. We know from discussions with major book printers in this country, that we will be looking at a loss of book production in the order of $35 million, and that will involve of the order of $13 million in lost paper production.
    “We estimate that will entail a loss of up to 500 jobs and the impact will be very largely felt in regional Australia, most notably, Maryborough in Victoria.”

    According to Hagop Tchamkertenian, economist with the PIAA, if the Federal Government decides to push through with the bill, before the election, it will require both the Democrats and the ALP in the Senate to block its passage. This now seems unlikely following the Democrats’ input into the report.

  • End of the road for Diamond

    The Sydney and Melbourne operations of Diamond Press, one of Australia’s largest commercial printers, are to close throwing 350 employees out of work. Ferrier Hodgson partner and joint administrator, Brian Silvia, said the decision followed exhaustive discussions with parties interested in the purchase of the Melbourne business.

    “Unfortunately these discussions did not result in a sale price that would provide the best outcome for creditors,” he said. “Diamond Press will complete projects currently in progress, but will be progressively closing down its operations in both Sydney and Melbourne.”

    Advertisements in major newspapers this week will seek expressions of interest from employment agencies capable of helping the workers move to new jobs. The Diamond Press work force is regarded as one of the most skilled and cohesive in the industry.

    Founder John Spira called in voluntary administrators on March 30 following what he described as an unprecedented downturn in the 29-year-old company’s business in the third quarter of the financial year. In the year 1999/2000 Diamond Press had a turnover of $115 million.

    The sudden crash has fuelled speculation on the dynamics of the industry and focused attention on the full report being prepared by Ferrier Hodgson for the second creditors meeting next month. According to Spira the business slump that led to his decision was the result of the slowing economy, increased competition and the impact of the US dollar on paper prices.

    It is expected all employee entitlements will be met.

  • PacPrint proves a great success

    A total of 27,245 visitors passed through the Melbourne Exhibition Centre over five days last week, attracted by the most comprehensive array of printing and imaging technology to be seen this side of the equator. Exhibitors were unanimous in agreeing that while the numbers were slightly down (3 per cent) the quality of visitor to this year’s show was considerably higher in terms of decision-making capacity and serious buyers than in the past.

    “I believe the results for PacPrint 2001 are tremendous,” said Rod Spencer commenting on the attendance numbers. “The industry itself has undergone significant change in the five years since the last PacPrint. There are fewer small printing shops, for example, and a push towards streamlining productivity.”

    In his opening speech he was scathing about the lack of Federal and State Government support for the industry, drawing attention to the failure of even one politician from any party to attend the official ceremony. He blamed this on the industry’s traditional reluctance to stand up for itself and urged its members to do so in this federal election year.

    “We are one of the major manufacturing industries, with members in every electorate, including the marginals. We can make a difference,” he warned.

    When the show closed five days later he paid tribute to the PacPrint Board and workers, claiming the show was the best ever.

    “As Chairman, I am delighted with the outcome from this year’s show. We all worked incredibly hard and as a tight knit team to put together what can only be described as the greatest trade exposition this country has ever seen. I would like to extend my thanks and congratulations to all the exhibitors who went out of their way to make this show visually and cerebrally spectacular,” he said.

    “From an exhibitor’s perspective, Heidelberg Australia & New Zealand more than realised its objectives for the show. We had a massive show and the activity on our stand never waned. The exposure a show like PacPrint affords Heidelberg is invaluable. Our investment certainly has been worthwhile.”

    Several exhibitors reported record sales and interest in their products. One exhibitor, Michael Laird of CyraChrome, said the company had increased its market presence in all product areas. “We did especially well with the CGS ColorTuner proofing solutions which simply walked off the stand. A major magazine group came to the show and signed up for a complete CGS workflow system.”

    Wim Herben summed it up, saying that taking a stand at PacPrint is “is a small investment for a damned good return.” Herben Numbering Equipment had sold all the equipment on its stand in the first two days, with multiple orders to fill at the close of the show.

    The Graphic Arts Merchants Association of Australia (GAMAA) and the Printing Industries Association of Australia (Printing Industries), co-presenters of the show, agreed that this year’s PacPrint was a success.

    Angus Scott, President, GAMAA: “PacPrint was an excellent show for both suppliers and visitors alike. The enthusiastic response of the exhibitors meant that there were extremely high quality stands, which attracted an enormous number of qualified sales and excellent future prospects.”

    John Flynn, National President, Printing Industries: “This year’s PacPrint 2001 was an outstanding success. The credit belongs to the organising skills of the PacPrint board and to the thousands of printers who took this unique opportunity to see the best machinery, prepress software and print management tools.”

    The next major trade show in Australia is PrintEx03 in two years time in Sydney, followed by PacPrint again in four year’s time in Melbourne.

  • News items… short takes… more news… contact us with your news.

    Hitting the wall

    High profile Sydney prepress house Prestige Colour has closed down after the administrators were brought in. Founded by Ian Mason, the long-established enterprise ran into re-financing problems and did not make the cut.
    The doors were closed Friday April 27 with some customers complaining that they could not gain access to the film of their jobs. Over 20 employees have been let go and are now dependent on the success of the receivers in realising trade debtors for their entitlements.

    The devil is in the detail

    Negotiations on the management buyout (MBO) of the Blue Star Group in New Zealand and Australia appear to have stalled. With combined revenues of $700 million across its print division, the US-owned company is one of the largest commercial printing businesses in Australasia.
    Since the revelation of the MBO by CEO Tom Sturgess in early March and an optimistic statement that “transactions are moving along briskly and we would anticipate making further announcements shortly,” nothing further has been heard.
    The company has ten printing businesses in New Zealand and five in Australia where there are persistent rumours that it is interested in entering the heatset web printing market.
    Watch this space.

    Big! How big?

    Australian Paper’s machine glazing (MG) cylinder at the Maryvale No2 packaging paper machine developed a crack last month that puts it out of operation. It’s going to take six months to get a new cylinder manufactured. Six months?
    This is a big wheel. Apparently the cylinder is so huge that it must be kept turning. If once it stops, it bends out of shape under its own weight – which is why there are no second-hand MG cylinders lying around.

    Scrooge lives

    Adobe employees in the US and Canada are being forced to take personal time off during the first week of July. The company has decided to shut down its operations in a bid to save $4m.
    Is this because Adobe is in crisis, can’t meet its bills, is losing money? No. Adobe PR director Cheryl Edwards admits: “this is a cost cutting exercise.” The company, second largest producer of desktop software after Microsoft, claims it is on track to meet targets of 15% year on year growth and a 31% operating profit margin for Q2 ending June 1.

    Money to burn

    Communications service provider, WamNet has been in damage control since the announcement that its US parent company was seeking extra finance and had cut 105 positions. Following the spectacular crash of rival Vio, the market is jumpy about cash flow rumours like these.
    According to a report in US newspapers, WamNet has racked up $475.8 million in losses from its founding in 1994 to 2000, and profitability remains a distant goal. Last year, the company reported a net loss of $186 million. Negative net cash flow topped $105 million, almost double what it was in 1998. And, though revenue rose 63 percent to $40.4 million for the year, interest payments on its $677 million debt totalled $47 million.
    Local representatives made the point that the latest finance raising of $30 million took place in February and that it is in the nature of its high-tech style of operations. Management insists WamNet will be profit this year.
    Meanwhile local rival D2P is enjoying the new-found prosperity that came with securing backing from technology company EFI in California. John Weichard maintains that the company has the most customers in Australia and with sites in the US and Europe the locally developed technology “has gone global.”

    Lend a hand

    The Research Implementation Working Group in the International Colour Consortium is seeking input to help guide improvements and future extensions to the ICC specification. They are hoping industry professionals will take a few minutes to answer the questions based on their experiences in colour management on web site :
    If you prefer to send comments directly, please send to (mike.rodriguez@rrd.com) in the US or to Stefan Brues (brues@logosoft.de) in Europe. The ICC-Survey would like to thank the Heidelberg Digital Imaging Association (www.hdia.org) for providing the resources to host this survey.

    Who does what?

    PrintPlanet.com, the leading internet community serving the graphic arts industry, has just completed a study of print buyers in the United States. The study focused on whether print buyers cared if printers outsourced some of their jobs to a third party and if they even know. The survey was conducted with 197 print buyers from a variety of industry segments.
    The questions asked:
    Does your primary print vendor use other third party companies to produce some of your items?
    Some print vendors use other companies to help produce jobs when they do not have the capability to do it themselves. What is your view?
    The results:
    Almost half of buyers (47%) said they were aware that their printer did not produce all their work. Only 16 percent of buyers said they did not know and 37 percent said their printer did not job out any of their jobs.
    When asked their thoughts on a printer outsourcing their job, 43 percent said as long as the job was done right, they did not care. 37 percent of buyers said they wanted to know so they could evaluate other options and 18 percent said they did not care, but would like to know. 2 percent had no opinion.
    Check out PrintPlanet.com, one of the most useful graphic arts sites on the web at: http://www.printplanet.com

    New man on deck

    Managing Director of PaperlinX, Ian Wightwick, has announced the appointment of Tom Engelsmen to the position of Executive General Manager, Australian Paper, effective in June.
    The appointment follows a re-organisation of senior management at the time at PaperlinX’s successful merger with Spicers Paper Limited.
    “Tom brings with him a wealth of experience at a very senior level to PaperlinX and a knowledge of the international pulp and paper industry”, said Wightwick. “We are pleased to have been able to secure his services, and look forward to his contribution to our growth”.
    Tom Engelsmen’s most recent role has been as CEOwith CMI Corporation, an Oklahoma City, USA, based manufacturing company.

    The moving hand once having written…

    UK paper manufacturer, John Dickinson Stationery, is developing digital impregnated paper to work with an electronic pen. It is claiming the development as the breakthrough that will take paper into the digital age. The paper will be printed with an almost invisible pattern of dots acting like a map. A special Anoto pen both writes conventionally on the paper and remembers its path through the dot map. This information is transferred to a computer via Bluetooth technology and used on screen as an editable image.
    The paper is expected to be available early next year.

  • Quark has designs on packaging

    The arrival of an update to the new Quark packaging program, QuarkWrapture, brings shrink-wrapped desktop design programs to one of the last bastions of specialised workstations.

    QuarkWrapture adds a CAD capability, which is essential for packaging construction to its graphic design capabilities. This allows designers to create a virtual package in a single file and generate a 3-D rendering of that package at any time. It allows users to conceptualise designs for bottles and cans, which has been one of the product’s most-requested features. Electronic mockups can be delivered in popular file formats, speeding the design approval process.

    The package is entering a market where Barco software has long enjoyed hegemony in Australia along with Adobe PhotoShop and is priced to provide fierce competition.

    QuarkWrapture 1.5 includes several new features for better package visualisation. A material manager and variable rendering attributes such as finish, texture, and thickness, give greater control over elements of the virtual 3-D mockup. Users can change lighting intensities, camera focal length, and background colour in the mockup palette for more realistic package previews.

    Multiple pieces can be rendered as a single scene in the Mockup palette, and each piece can be individually selected and repositioned.

    Several existing QuarkWrapture features have been enhanced in version 1.5, including high-resolution graphic support and new export options. In the new version, 3-D renderings can be exported in Macromedia Flash or as TIFF files, and the animated folding sequence can be exported as a QuickTime movie.

    The magnification feature of QuarkWrapture has been significantly enhanced for high fidelity viewing of the virtual mockup, and the new version supports page sizes of up to 96″ x 96″ to facilitate designs for point of purchase displays.

  • ACCC knocks back PMP/IPMG merger

    It was always going to be a close call whether the ACCC would allow the two largest print companies to get together. Last year even IPMG went on record, as saying it did not think a merger would be allowed. Industry opposition was strong, especially from the magazine publishers who would have no other place to go for print or distribution.

    When the third largest player in the heatset web market, Diamond Press put itself into voluntary liquidation the day after the proposed merger was announced, the grounds disappeared for claiming adequate competition in the sector.

    The ACCC found that the $630m merger would contravene section 50 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 which prohibits mergers and acquisitions that will have the effect, or are likely to have the effect, of substantially lessening competition in a market.

    “IPMG and PMP are the two largest commercial printers in Australia. They own the majority of heat set web presses in Australia,” said ACCC Chairman, Professor Allan Fels. “These presses are used to produce high volume magazines, newspaper inserts and retail catalogues. The merger of PMP and IPMG would give them more than 75 per cent of this market, worth in excess of $1.5 billion per annum.

    “Market inquiries were conducted with a large number of customers with varying printing needs. These inquiries indicated that smaller printers using other printing processes such as sheet fed printing are unlikely to provide a competitive constraint to the merged parties.

    “Inquiries also indicated that the potential for magazines, inserts and retail catalogues to be printed overseas is limited.

    The ACCC also concluded that the proposed merger is likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition in the Australian market for distribution of magazines to retail outlets.

    “Magazine publishers rely on distributors to manage the supply of their publications to the large number of retail outlets which sell magazines,” said Professor Fels. “The merger of the distribution businesses of IPMG and PMP would give the merged firm more than 50 per cent of the distribution market, with much of the remainder controlled by a subsidiary of Australia’s largest magazine publisher, ACP.

    “The proposed merger raises significant concerns as to the ability of independent magazine publishers to secure competitive distribution”.

    PMP has indicated that it will not seek to appeal the decision and resolved to cease all negotiations aimed at merging the two companies. It concluded that the concessions likely to be required to address the ACCC’s concerns would substantially reduce the value of the merger to shareholders. IPMG on the other hand was of the opinion that the deal could still be struck.

    The failure throws the plight of PMP into harsh relief. The largest printing company in Australia is battling low share prices and falling profits. Its magazine stable is consistently under performing and only the printing division is making headway.
    Its new chairman, Jim Donnelly, once of R.R. Donnelly in the USA, often touted as the largest printing company in the world, recognised this in a statement after the decision was made to go it alone.

    “The Board is acutely aware of PMP’s unsatisfactory share price. The company continues to vigorously pursue the wide range of initiatives arising out of the Strategic Review completed earlier this year. The sale of the European publishing business is proceeding as planned, while the sale of property.com and closure of Pacific Intermedia have been announced as part of the rationalisation of the company’s loss making emerging businesses.”

    As part of the interim 2001results announcement, the company disclosed that it would not pay an interim dividend.

    Meanwhile IPMG is turning its attention towards Diamond Press, long a rival and a neighbour. Expressions of interest are still being sought under an extended negotiation period granted by creditors and neither the administrators nor IPMG would comment.

    The acquisition of Diamond Pres would be in keeping with the vigorous growth strategy employed by IPMG in recent years. Its Sydney/Melbourne axis would complement the company’s activities and the strong skill based of the Diamond Press team would be welcomed by any printing company.

    However, interest in acquiring Diamond Press remains high in the industry and a tussle for control is on the cards.

  • First edition of JDF from the new CIP4 organisation

    The recently formed, Geneva-based organisation, International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress (CIP4), has released version 1.0 of the eagerly awaited Job Definition Format (JDF). JDF, an emerging standard for the graphic arts and printing industries, is an XML-based print workflow specification.

    As an open standard, JDF will benefit print buyers and print service providers by simplifying the job specification process, by ensuring cross-vendor system communication, and by automating many of today’s manual production processes with a flexible, universal Job Ticket (JDF).

    The specification is available immediately at www.cip4.org.

    The Australian industry has a unique opportunity to get up to speed on this latest workflow development, thanks to the presence of Heidelberg JDF experts at PacPrint. Heidelberg was the founder of the original CIP forum, predecessor of CIP4. Catch the JDF demonstrations at the Prinect ‘glass house’ on the Heidelberg stand at PacPrint.

    Collaborative support for JDF by technology vendors, hardware manufacturers, eCommerce vendors, print production companies, and others involved in printed communication is expected to enable efficient end-to-end print supply chain workflow.

    JDF promises to integrate authoring, production, management, manufacturing, delivery and MIS control. This will allow system and software developers to extend existing high performance systems, to develop new, highly-configurable systems and to create a new level of process integration in the industry. It will see print jobs created with all their specifications from colour management to print densities to folding requirements embedded in the file.

    eCommerce companies will be able to directly integrate this production workflow into print management systems, accessible via online web sites. End users can look forward to more cost-effective workflow automation.

    “NexPress is a partner member of CIP4 and an aggressive advocate for open standards,” said Venkat Purushotham, president, NexPress Solutions. “NexPress is working with other members to help insure that the appropriate components of graphic arts variable data printing – and digital printing specs in general – are incorporated in the Job Definition Format (JDF) Specification.

    “JDF will provide a reliable and open job ticket standard that NexPress will incorporate, in conjunction with our support for an interoperable Portable Digital Master (PDM) for content markup based on PDF. The JDF job ticket standard will be an essential component of our end-to-end system solution for the digital press marketplace and will assist NexPress in providing the industry a guaranteed level of interoperability – open access – that will help drive new opportunities for digital colour printing.”

    Other CIP4 participants reinforced this view.

    “This collaborative effort on JDF brings together key players in the printing industry and validates the role of open, robust workflow standards towards realising new supply chain efficiencies,” said George Cacioppo, Vice President of Internet Printing, Adobe Systems Incorporated.

    For further information about CIP4 and its Job Definition Format please refer to the web site www.cip4.org.

  • Buzzle takes $20m bite out of Apple.

    Few of the individual owners of the 30 stores that came together last year to form computer retail and service consortium Buzzle will be able to retain their businesses. Many are resigned to walking away from formerly profitable stores in the wake of the crash, according to industry sources.

    Since principle creditor Apple placed the company in receivership last month, six of the stores have closed as administrators KPMG struggles to find a buyer for all or part of the beleaguered group. The casualties are the Buzzle stores in Heidelberg and La Trobe in Victoria, Chermside in Brisbane, McMahons Point, Burwood and Capital Square in Sydney.

    The group owes Apple a reported $20 million and represents one third of the company’s distribution network in Australia.

    Some of the best-known Apple resellers submerged their identities in the ill-fated group, which this time last year was talking up its potential to be listed on the Stock Exchange. Choice Connections in Sydney, DesignWyse in Melbourne, GM Computers are but some of the major players that hitched their wagons to the Buzzle star.

    According to a report in ITNews, Rob Kloester, of DesignWyse, having reached an agreement with Apple, intends to take back control of his high-profile business and continue trading under its old name.

    Apple was cautious in its response to questions only saying that it has survived the loss of retail outlets before and expressing confidence that the Buzzle collapse will not severely dent performance targets. Apple claims an 85 per cent market share in the graphic arts industry.

    Reasons for the collapse are varied but most agree that internal communications, inadequate accounting procedures and management failures contributed to the problem. All the stores were supposedly viable concerns prior to the amalgamation.

    Most of the Buzzle managers and shareholders were guarded in their responses to questions. KPMG would make no comment.

  • Largest ever industry show, PacPrint 2001, is a full house

    With the show set to open next Tuesday at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre enquiries are still coming in for more space, despite a record 17,550 square metres already sold. Organiser Norm Lembke for Reed Exhibitions said he might be able to squeeze in one or two small stands, “but that’s it. It’s a full house.”

    Preregistrations for the five-day event are continuing to boom with a thousand plus coming in every week now. Total numbers are in excess of 17,000, more than half the expectation of 30,000 over the week. A large New Zealand contingent of over 300 are assured of attending but organisers maintain that this is only the tip of the Kiwi iceberg with many more industry types making their own way across the Tasman.

    The visitors will see more exhibitors and stands than ever before. There are over 280 firms exhibiting at the show, the largest ever, rebuffing fears that industry consolidation is leading to fewer suppliers and a lack of choice for customers. And despite the emphasis on the IT-aspect of the industry (“More think than print and ink” is the PacPrint slogan) heavy metal is still alive and well with at least two exhibitors requiring the floor under their stands to be reinforced to prevent presses from crashing through to the carpark below.

    Graphics On-Line readers will be able to keep abreast of developments at the show with daily bulletins posted to the web site. A reminder log will be sent to jog your memories.

    If there is any particular aspect of the industry you want covered, any question you want asked of suppliers on your behalf, drop me an e-mail and I’ll do my best to get you the information. If you want to speak with me at the show I’ll be contactable at the GASAA stand or phone me on 0411764 130.

  • McPherson’s buys Australian Print Group (APG)

    Improved production, industry consolidation and the low Australian dollar are the drivers behind the takeover. The deal doubles the size of McPherson’s printing with APG’s $40 million turnover boosting projected total revenue to over $160 million.

    Both companies have major plants in the Victorian town of Maryborough and according to George Gatehouse, CEO of McPherson’s the move “expresses confidence in the future of book manufacturing in Australia, and in the community of Maryborough.”

    Chairman, Ray King, said that McPherson’s had increased its focus on the printing industry, particularly book printing where import replacement opportunities were being created by the low Australian dollar.

    “Cost advantages enjoyed by offshore printers have historically resulted in more than half the books sold in Australian being printed overseas. Consolidation within the domestic industry and productivity improvements will add further impetus to the Australian book manufacturing industry becoming seriously globally competitive,” he said.

    Managing Director David Allman served notice that McPherson’s was ready to take advantage of the current turmoil in the industry.

    “The printing industry is going though a period of change and whereas some businesses are doing well, there have been a number of recent casualties caused by the economic downturn. McPherson’s intends to capitalise on these emerging opportunities,” he said.

    APG will be integrated into the McPherson’s Group effective immediately, with Martin Lovegrove, McPherson’s Printing Group Maryborough Plant Manager assuming responsibility for both plants. McPherson’s will spend the next few weeks examining ways to best integrate the two organisations, but at this stage it is expected to keep each operating in its existing manner.

    The other major Australian book printing firm is Griffin Press, part of the troubled PMP stable.