Archive for October, 2003

  • New NZ printing contracts boost APN

    The contract win to print the New Zealand national pay TV magazine Skywatch from December this year is a major win for APN’s commercial print operations. Reporting good forward print contracts leading into the busy pre-Christmas period the company is confident these developments will offset the weakening NZ dollar will have on its earnings.

    In a presentation to fund managers in New Zealand the company reported that The New Zealand Herald continues to perform above expectations, with double-digit revenue growth throughout the third quarter. Advertising volumes increased by 9.7% over the same period a year ago. Retail and national advertising led the growth despite a fall in circulation for the six months to September of 1.8%. This has spurred the company to launch a number of initiatives to get the circulation back up and it reports that current figures are 2000 copies ahead of last year, averaging more than 208,000 per day.

    The same growth in advertising is seen in the company’s regional newspapers in Australia where volume increased by 5.1%. Doubt remains over whether the company will restructure or sell its outdoor advertising business, Australian Posters. It is currently conducting a review to assess its future.

    The company is the object of intense interest from all major web press manufacturers as it looks around for a new press line at its Sunshine Coast plant.

  • Why buy a printing company?

    Properly planned and implemented, acquisitions offer a legitimate growth strategy for companies of all sizes. If they fail, they generally fail big-time. Colin Thompson gives some timely advice from the pages of Print 21 magazine.

    There are many legitimate reasons for acquiring another company. These include expanding your markets, acquiring people, systems and processes, adding new products, services and customers, achieving economies of scale, reducing expenses, creating opportunities for cross-selling, gaining new distribution systems and even eliminating competition.
    Ultimately, the reasons for contemplating an acquisition fall under one all-encompassing umbrella: the desire or need for quick and substantial growth.
    Growth is the only valid reason to acquire a company. If you want to grow incrementally, don’t bother with an acquisition.
    To understand if an acquisition makes sense for your business, ask three simple questions:

    • What are the different ways I could grow my business?
    • Could an acquisition help me achieve that growth?
    • What larger, strategic goals will that growth help me accomplish?

    Qualifying for acquisition
    Having a solid foundation in place is essential. Your people, systems and resources must be sufficient to integrate another company. A well-planned acquisition strategy with realistic plans in terms of expectations and time schedules is needed. Appropriate buy price and terms, with a realistic debt load should be coupled with a clear and well-executed people transition plan.
    Before making any M&A deals, ask yourself, will this acquisition increase our profits? Will it improve the balance sheet? Is the risk acceptable? If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to each question, don’t do the deal.
    To ensure a successful acquisition, get your strategy right first. Formulating an acquisition strategy requires four basic steps: identify your goals, consider other alternatives, establish key parameters for the deal and create a one-page acquisition criteria sheet.
    Once you have completed these steps, you’re ready to start looking for a company to acquire. Before diving headfirst into an acquisition, however, make sure you have the right foundation in place in your current business! Computer and information management systems, management teams, financial planning and human resources must be in top shape.

    To buy or not to buy
    Potential buyers should answer four sets of strategic questions before making an acquisition:

    • Does the company to be acquired clearly fit into my growth strategy?
    • Will the acquisition increase my competitive position or my profits, either through growth in revenues, efficiency gains, breakthroughs in technology or some other quantifiable measure?
    • Will the transition work smoothly?
    • Will the two companies integrate well, physically and culturally?
    • Am I paying the right price?
    • Do I have the right deal structure?
    • Does the present value of the cash I expect to receive from the deal exceed what I will pay for the business?
    • What synergies, either in terms of revenue enhancements or cost reductions, do we intend to achieve?
    • How and when will we achieve them?

    One of the primary concerns in any acquisition is how to control the risks. The first step in this process involves developing a good acquisition strategy. Other risk-management strategies include conducting effective due diligence, using the terms of the deal to get the seller to share in the risk, having a written transition plan and assembling an experienced taskforce to consummate the deal.
    If at any time during the deal the risk level exceeds the expected return, walk away.

    Finding the right candidate
    To guide your search for qualified candidates, develop a one-page ‘acquisition criteria sheet’ that outlines who you are, what you do and where you do it. You should also list your company’s core competencies and how you are financed. Identify what you’re looking for – the type and size of the business, where it could or should be located and whether you want to buy all or part of the business.
    Keep your criteria short and to the point. If you can’t fit the information onto one sheet of paper, you haven’t defined your criteria clearly enough.
    With acquisition criteria sheet in hand, you can now start looking for companies to acquire. An acquisition candidate can turn up in many different places. It might be a related company, a customer or a vendor. You might see a prospect at a tradeshow or industry association gathering. Don’t forget word-of-mouth from salespeople and, of course, the internet.
    Once a candidate meets your initial deal criteria, the next step involves assessing the potential synergies in the deal.
    Synergies come in two categories – performance breakthroughs and revenue enhancements. Without synergy in at least one of these areas, the deal will likely fall flat on its face.
    Successful buyers share four essential traits: discipline, persistence, patience and timing. Figure out what you want, stick with your criteria, take the time to initiate and develop relationships with potential candidates and be ready to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

    Due diligence: checking out the deal
    How do you know whether a potential deal will really work?
    Anyone acquiring another business should do detailed due diligence in three critical areas: marketing, financial and legal. Marketing due diligence involves taking a hard look at your assumptions regarding the company’s future revenue growth and profitability, as well as assessing the market’s key leverage points and how those might be changing. Financial and legal due diligence can be covered by examining four key areas: assets, liabilities, cash flow and revenue growth rate.
    Cultural due diligence is critical. This requires researching how the organization is run, how management reviews, evaluates and rewards employees and how management sets performance expectations.

  • Clancy column . . . the overflow . . . best bits . . .funnies

    A new Trendwatch reports says that optimism is returning to the printing industry in the US as 39% of companies expect excellent conditions in 2004.

    According to the report:

    • The number one planned investment is Macintosh workstations at 56% (up 18% from Spring 2003). Such a high increase in the annual top investment is further evidence that printers are starting to invest again;
    • “Variable data printing” is a sales opportunity for a record high of 13% of printers – but, more importantly, “variable-data printing” is at an all-time high as an opportunity among creative firms;
    • Multicolour sheetfed presses are at the lowest demand level ever in history of the survey, as less than 2,000 companies claim to be in the hunt for a press;
    • The number two sales opportunity for printers is, oddly enough, “helping customers with training” at 27% (up 19% from Spring 2003). Printers are finding that they need to work more closely with their customers to achieve the goal of optimal efficiency;
    • Two new sales opportunities for printers debuted in a tie as the number three opportunity: “broadening digital printing services” and “making our Web site more interactive.”


    EFI has gained control of Printcafe, with a majority of shareholders voting in favour of the takeover. Creo, one of the largest shareholders, abstained in the voting, preferring to take its case to court. It is currently suing Printcafe and EFI, alleging improper tactics during negotiations that saw it frozen out of the process. In a statement Creo said, “This result is what we have anticipated for some time. Creo expects to receive payment for our outstanding loan to Printcafe and to sell our remaining equity stake in Printcafe. The net proceeds to Creo will be in excess of $21 million.”

    On the other hand Guy Gecht, EFI’s CEO said, “We had a majority for the merger and we feel good about that. It was a difficult vote to speculate – but we were confident that we would win.”


    It’s a digital industry? Well, not quite, according to a report by PrintCom Consulting Group. Despite digital imaging technologies being around for over ten years, of the 32,970 US plants estimated to have use for the technology, only approximately 23% have adopted more than an imagesetter. The study reports the number of plants using some form of CTP imaging output devices (except imagesetters) in 2002 as follows:

  • Computer-to-Poly – 3,100
  • Computer-to-CTP metal – 3,730
  • DI Press – 930
  • __________________________________

    Kodak continues to enjoy its relationship with the printing and graphic arts industry, despite selling fewer products to KPG this year. Sales fell 14% largely because of what it terms ‘digital technology transition’ and the effect of continuing economic weakness in the commercial printing market. But it is still chuffed about its 50% ownership (with Sun Chemicals) of KPG, which has a leading position in digital proofing and digital printing plates. Kodak is also happy with its NexPress 50% (with Heidelberg), claiming that the company continues to experience good customer acceptance on its sales of NexPress 2100 Digital Production Color Presses despite a weak printing market, with average monthly page volumes for these units running higher than planned.


    In one of the sexiest naming naming coups of the year Scitex has brought a new monochrome printing system to the market called – JetBlack. Simple, strong, to the point, and sez all. It makes other digital companies’ naming programmes look less than inspired. The JetBlack is an addition to the VersaMark product family and is targeted to meet the high through put of high volume transactional printers.


    And penultimately, what proves to be, on reflection, a very fair comment.

    To The Editor.

    A quick note …

    I enjoy Clancy’s column – and head for it first.

    However, in my opinion, the nostalgia below (last week’s joke – don’t bother to search the archive, ed.) should stay in the past.

    Police do a difficult and dangerous job. Several good policemen have lost their lives as they go about their job.

    It is unlikely that Clancy would consider it appropriate to publish a “joke” about a printer dying because his head was crushed in a printing press – just doing his job?

    In my opinion the “joke” below brings no credit to Clancy, or your magazine, nor the printing industry. I hope that it doesn’t make it into print.

    John Horsley.


    And finally,

    New Rules For Employment

    SICKNESS AND RELATED LEAVE: We will no longer accept a doctor statement as proof of sickness. If you are able to go to the doctor, you are able to come to work.

    SURGERY: Operations are now banned. As long as you are an employee here, you need all your organs. You should not consider removing anything. We hired you intact. To have something removed constitutes a breach of employment.

    BEREAVEMENT LEAVE: This is no excuse for missing work. There is nothing you can do for dead friends, Relatives or co-workers. Every effort should be made to have non-employees attend to the arrangements. In rare cases, where employee involvement is necessary, the funeral should be scheduled in the late afternoon. We will be glad to allow you to work through your lunch hour and subsequently leave one hour early, provided your share of the work is done enough.

    YOUR OWN DEATH: This will be accepted as an excuse. However, we require at least two weeks notice as it is your duty to train your own replacement.

    RESTROOM USE: Entirely too much time is being spent in the restroom. In the future, we will follow the practice of going in alphabetical order. For instance, all employees whose names begin with A will go from 8:00 to 8:10, employees whose names begin with B will go from 8:10 to 8:20 and so on. If you’re unable to go at your allotted time, it will be necessary to wait until the next day when your turn comes again. In extreme emergencies employees may swap their time with a co-worker. Both employees’ supervisors must approve this exchange. In addition, there is now a strict 3-minute time limit in the stalls. At the end of three minutes, an alarm will sound, the toilet paper roll will retract, and the stall door will open.

    Thank you for your loyalty to our company. We are here to provide a positive employment experience. Therefore, all questions, comments, concerns, complaints, frustrations, irritations, aggravations, insinuations, allegations, accusations, contemplations, consternations, or input should be directed elsewhere.

    Have a nice week.

    The Management

  • Real time savings with online approval

    It was only a matter of time before David Graphics in Sydney moved its consultative approval process for new products online. According to Michael Ditchett, technical development manager, the potential for speeding up the process and facilitating the participation of everyone from the designer to the printer at the earliest possible stage in the development cycle, attracted his attention over two years ago. For about a year David Graphics has been trialling two systems. It has now settled on Real Time Image, the San Francisco-based proofing and product approval system.

    Ian Bain, sales manager; CyraChrome, Charlie Waye, RealTime Co-ordinator; David Graphics, Steven Stein, director of customer support; RealTime US, Michael Ditchett, technical development manager; David Graphics.

    “I knew there were time and money savings to be made by eliminating all the back and forwards with proofs and couriers. It just makes sense to move the approval process online,” he said.

    In one of the first installations of Real Time Image in the country, agent CyraChrome brought out Steven Stein, director of customer support, to get the system up and running while delivering high level training to David Graphics and one of its major customers. It is now online and Ditchett in turn is currently training other customers in the use and benefits of online product development and approval.

    Real Time Image is one of the leading collaborative proofing and remote approval products on the market. Its clever technology, Pixels-On-Demand, is an image streaming system that allows huge graphic files to be easily opened over the internet, often faster than could be done from your own hard disk. (The same patented streaming technology is used in the medical field for transferring CR, MRI and CT scan data for remote viewing and diagnosis).

    The streaming technology facilitates multiple users and allows them to collaborate on every stage of a product’s development, by letting them have access in real time to the original, full-resolution production files. This has implications for the whole process. For instance, the printer can be brought into the process right from the start, therefore able to advise on the best way of producing the job. It also gives the product manager absolute control over the whole process and eliminates the need for multiple proofs and the consequent interminable courier delays.

    Participants have access to every detail, no matter how slight. The legal department can scrutinise the required text, the die-cutting designers can check that the box is going to fit, the printer can even check the trapping, all with pixel level resolution files.

    No special hardware is required either, the files are accessed through a normal browser via the David Graphics’ website where registered individuals are issued a password in order to view the job. In David Graphic’s case these files are currently stored at RTI’s servers in the US, but within weeks the company will be installing a server at its Rosebery premises.

    According to Ditchett, using online approval has massively shortened the typical product packaging development cycle. “We’ve saved up to six weeks with one product, getting product onto the shelves well ahead of schedule. This means the customer has an opportunity to gain that much extra revenue, which can be quite significant.”

    There are now approximately 350 Real Time Image customers around the world, facilitating the operation of over 150,000 users. Among its graphic arts customers are such large printers as RR Donnelly and Quebecor World in the US and leading publishers such as Haymarket in the UK.

    According to Les Bovenlander, Real Time Image’s Australasian representative, using the system can bring tremendous added value to companies. “The value is in ’time to market’ for products, whether they be printed books and magazines or toys packed in boxes with high graphic content,” he said.

    “We have many customers in our region who are expanding their businesses either nationally, regionally or internationally, and they are quoting figures of three days less in production times for magazines and up to three weeks less in production times for packaging products.”

    David Graphics is a case in point, producing much of its flexo and offset files for printers in Melbourne, Taiwan, Thailand, and New Zealand. The need to have everyone concerned sign off on the job before the production of final chemical or digital proofs is integral to shortening the production cycle. It also slashes the cost of the approval process.

    According to Michael Ditchett, as far as David Graphics is concerned, Real Time Image sits somewhere between a value-added service to the customers and being a revenue generator. It certainly reduces the number of proofs required in the process but he believes it will take a long time before the final high-resolution proof is made redundant.

    “Digital proofing is moving very slowly, especially in flexo. In offset it’s a different matter. I don’t see Real Time eliminating the final proof, but it will get rid of all of the intermediate ones. And that has to be good for everyone,” he said.

  • Agfa opens major Asia Pacific plate plant in China

    The AUD $83 million plant is part of Agfa’s response to its worldwide capacity problems brought about by the rapid move to CTP. It claims the shift is marked by the more than 20 per cent annual increase in demand for digital plates. The Wuxi plant, which has the capacity to produce 25 million square metres per year, will initially concentrate on analogue plates, mainly the P51 for the China market, as well as the N555, a negative plate for the Australian and New Zealand newspaper industry. This latter will trial in Australia and New Zealand before Christmas. If successful, full-scale production will follow by the second quarter next year.

    Cutting the ribbon; Stefaan Vanhooren managing director Asia Pacific, (left) and Dr Ludo Verhoeven, ceo Agfa Gevaert, join local dignitaries cutting the ribbon at a colourful lion dance ceremony in Wuxi.

    Thermal plate production is scheduled to begin at Wuxi in the middle of next year with most of the product marked for export due to the very low uptake of CTP in China. Australia and New Zealand are regarded as major markets for the Chinese-made thermal plates

    Wuxi is a world class manufacturing site, built to European specifications, and designed to make the full portfolio of Agfa’s digital and analogue plates. Its location in China is the result of the company’s strategy to build a larger presence in what is a fast growing market. It is convinced the plant’s ability to shorten plate delivery time to customers in the Asia Pacific region, which constitutes 17.6 per cent of Agfa’s graphics turnover, will justify the investment. It also reinforces the Agfa presence in the Chinese market.

    Industry analysts estimate the Chinese printing plate market at 50 million square metres per annum. There are around 30 local plate manufacturers currently in the field with more than sufficient capacity to supply the requirements, plus a large presence by KPG and a small product stabilising plant from FujiFilm.

    A number of Australian and New Zealand industry identities made the journey to Wuxi to see for themselves the world-class Agfa manufacturing facility, (left to right) Terry Clark, APN Ellerslie Printers, NZ; John Shore, sales and marketing Agfa Australia; Bernard Cassells, managing director of CPI; Dan Blackburn, INL Fairfax, NZ; Gary Osbourne, APN Sunshine Coast; Koni Neuhofer, product manager Agfa; and Liam Roche, Western Australia News.

    Agfa’s management at the Wuxi opening claimed there were 80,000 printing establishments in China, although analysts discount this figure by at least 50 per cent. Many of the registered printing enterprises are little more than scratch copy shops. Thus despite China’s strong growth rate of seven to nine per cent, the viability of the Wuxi plant is heavily tied up with export success.

    Builidng on established relationships

    Agfa has had medical equipment and consumables manufacturing facility at Wuxi for almost a decade. According to Dr. Ludo Verhoeven, ceo, this was a major factor in deciding to locate at Wuxi, which is near Shanghai. “We feel at home in Wuxi. Our strategy is to confirm our leading position in printing plates, to make equipment a profitable business, to expand further in software and to focus on the fastest growing segments of the printing industry,” he said at the opening ceremony yesterday. “Building a factory of printing plates in China, the fastest growth area in the world is certainly consistent with this strategy.”

    Albert Follens, general manager graphic systems Agfa, said that the company intends to deliver more than plates to China. “We will offer our customers not only plates, but the full range of our solutions, comprising prepress equipment and software.”

    According to John Shore, general manager sales and marketing, Agfa Australia, the company will introduce the new plates from Wuxi with its customary care for the customer relationship. “All our products are delivered to the market only after we’ve run extensive tests and we’re fully satisfied they are suitable for local conditions. We have already done some testing of the N888 with customers on plates that came from Europe and the results are very good. The Wuxi product will have the same quality and is being produced to the same worldwide Agfa quality standards,” he said.

    Traditional dances were performed as part of the opening ceremony

  • Industry enjoys upswing in second half of the year

    The results back up anecdotal evidence of full schedules in this traditionally busiest time of the year, with one major company reportedly cutting back on Christmas leave in order to cope with increased orders. Business confidence is back on track with printers more optimistic than the same period a year ago.

    The good news is reflected in increased overtime levels and a surge in investment in plant and machinery.

    Significantly the increased production failed to spur a growth in jobs with the survey reporting a reduction in the numbers of staff and an increase in levels of wages and overtime. This is in line with the trend towards more automation and greater press capacity throughout the industry. However companies in NSW, Queensland, and Western Australia are forecasting they will take on more staff during the next quarter.

    There is no reversal of the long-term trend for selling prices to fall. Companies from all states with the exception of Queensland reported that average selling prices fell during the September quarter. According to Hagop Tchamkertenian, Printing Industries over the outlook period, companies from most states are expecting on a net balance basis either a reduction or no change in selling prices. Only respondents from Queensland are confident that selling prices will increase during the December 2003 quarter.

    “The outlook for general business expectations over the next six months remains favorable with survey respondents from all states anticipating improvements on a net balance basis. Queensland continues to be the most confident state with a net balance of 56.3 per cent of survey respondents forecasting improvements,” he said.

    Costs of materials rose in all states except South Australia where they declined. Over the outlook period, companies from most states are forecasting increased material costs. The most pessimistic forecasts on material costs are emanating from companies in South Australia.

    Despite the improved conditions there is little optimism that it will translate to the bottom line as the fall in selling prices erode profits. “The profitability situation seems to have deteriorated further during the September quarter with respondents from most states reporting on a net balance basis reduced levels of net profits. Respondents from Queensland and Victoria reported improvements in profitability,” said Tchamkertenian.
    “If forecasts hold, the December 2003 quarter may see improvements take place in net profits across all states.”

    The Printing Industry Trends survey is available from Printing Industries.
    Phone: 02. 9248 7300 or visit

  • Rural defends its Harris takeover offer

    Stung by suggestions that it would decimate jobs in Tasmania if it succeeds in gaining control of Harris and Company, Rural Press points to Harris’ own strategy of reducing the labour force, citing a statement in the annual report that staff numbers fell by 18 during the past 12 months with more to come. In what is becoming an increasingly heated barney, Rural challenges the Harris management to come clean on ‘exactly how many staff will be out of work under their plans.’

    Rural also denies that its bid started out as a hostile takeover, claiming it initiated contact with Harris and Company to discuss the acquisition before lodging its bid at $31 per ordinary share. In a statement to clarify its position, Rural criticises the Harris directors for rejecting the offer as financially inadequate, without providing an independent valuation, ‘despite having engaged the services of Melbourne-based lawyers, Sydney-based investment bankers, and a separate national public relations company.’

    It says Rural Press is about growing businesses, not destroying them and gives a commitment that The Advocate will remain as ‘an independent, passionate and parochial newspaper representing the communities of the northwest of Tasmania.’

    In making its case that it is able to offer a better future to the shareholders and employees of Harris, Rural Press says it is not a newcomer to the Tasmanian market, with publishing interests in The Examiner and The Sunday Examiner for the past 13 years. ‘Over this period we have established our credentials as a passionate publisher acting in the interests of all stakeholders, in particular the local community.’

    It also says that as a specialist web printer in all states of Australia it has a proven track record of growing web printing businesses in all markets including sites such as Ballarat, Canberra, Murray Bridge, and North Richmond (NSW), utilising similar equipment to that at Burnie.

    (Search archive = Harris)

  • Printers profit from being ‘green’

    “Not only does being a ‘green’ printer benefit the environment, it can be very profitable for the companies concerned,” said Printing Industries NSW Regional Manager, Tim Abrams,

    On Monday Printing Industries hosted a Cleaner Production seminar in Sydney featuring case studies from PMP and Focus Press. The studies demonstrated the gains to be made from adopting ‘environmentally friendly’ workplace policies and procedures (see cover story Print21 magazine October edition).

    Printing company representatives learn the benefits of Cleaner Production from PMP and Focus Press case studies.

    “The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) will spend this money to help a number of companies develop test cases to act as a template for other printers to follow,” Abrams said.

    “A reduction in waste equals a reduction in raw materials used. This in turn reduces energy and saves more money.”

    By implementing a ‘clean production process’ printers can achieve:

    • Better inventory and purchasing control to reduce wastes
    • Reduced air leakage in compressed air systems
    • More efficient use of electricity and energy
    • Better segregation of recyclable and land filled wastes

    “Currently 20 per cent of commercial waste disposed to landfill in the Sydney Metropolitan Area is made up of Paper and Cardboard. It’s up to us individually to lead by example to promote a cleaner environment,” Abrams said.

    NSW companies interested in the Cleaner Production project can contact Tim Abrams on 02. 9248 7300 or

  • Paper bargains for printers from Paper Spider

    The following paper stock item shaves just become available through John Grivas, the independent paper importer of Johis a well-known paper supplier who has pioneered merchanting on the web.

    The first item consists of approx 15 metric tonne of Australian Printers Offset 420mm 60gsm. This stock is currently located in Sydney.

    Price is $1350.00 AUD per tonne FIS Sydney only. Outside Sydney, pricing adjustment would be required.

    In addition Paper Spider has an amount of newsprint reel stock – 48.8gsm ex Indonesia, ready for immediate shipment. At high speed they’ve had some fibre lifting. It’s OK at low speed on single width older machines. This is start up tonnage off new machine. Condition of sale “no claim rights”.

  • Width Weight
  • 965 mm _ 157 Tonnes
  • 840 mm _ 17 Tonnes
  • 640 mm _ 75 Tonnes
  • 762 mm _ 31 Tonnes
  • 860 mm _ 8 Tonnes
  • 380 mm _ 88 Tonnes
  • 720 mm _ 4 Tonnes
  • 650 mm _ 7 Tonnes
  • Total _ 387 Tonnes
  • Price approximately USD570 per tonne CIF.

    John Grivas – Managing Director

  • Where Is The Profit In Variable Data Digital Printing?

    Since the advent of toner-based digital presses, marketers have endlessly repeated the mantra that this new technology would cause digital printers’ businesses to boom, because it brings variable data printing (VDP) capability – the ability to change the content and personalize each piece being printed with every turn of the cylinder. But, over the past decade, VDP seems to have provided more press releases, editorial ink and seminar sales than tangible profits for digital printers in the commercial printing market.

    The picture of VDP that has been painted again and again by marketers has been of an always-coming commercial printing market, in which there will be strong demand for full-colour materials, personalized during the printing process so that individuals receiving the materials will get 100% relevant content that addresses their personal needs, interests, ambitions, desires, physical attributes, preferences, buying behaviour, or any other characteristics that can be collected, entered into a digital database, stored, retrieved and output through a digital printing press.

    A nice image, to be sure, but unfortunately that picture has been repainted so often, it’s starting to crack and flake. Sources say a majority of digital commercial printers have never made use of the variable data capabilities of their digital color presses, and few plan to do so in the future. Does this mean that VDP is a failure? Let’s look at possible answers.


    It’s axiomatic that merely being capable of doing something does not necessarily imply that an immediate commercial success will follow. A case in point: The Wright brothers first demonstrated powered flight at Kitty Hawk, NC USA on December 17, 1903, by flying for 59 seconds over a distance of 859 feet. The media gushed and speculations about the future of flying were rampant — but no one immediately organized an airline.

    So, just because a toner-based digital press can print a new image with each turn of the cylinder — making variable data printing possible — does that mean there must be a stampede of buyers who want that commercial printing service? There apparently is no such relationship.

    Is it also conceivable that a very long path to commercialisation might simply have become the fate of VDP in commercial printing? Could the path from invention to commercialisation have been so arduous and intense as to have delayed arrival at the promised land of VDP in commercial printing for more than 10 years? Or, were the digital press marketers simply talking through their hats?

    Is there another possible answer – that VDP, even though performed with a digital printing press, simply doesn’t fit into the commercial printing picture, at all. Rather, that VDP makes a much better fit into other kinds of businesses, which specialize in providing marketing communication and customer relations management solutions to clients.

    Now, that is a distinct possibility and there’s some evidence that it’s the correct answer.

    Trendwatch Graphic Arts VDP Study

    The latter new insight, the notion that VDP more properly belongs in a new form of business that is wider in scope than commercial digital printing, has most recently surfaced in a just-released study, entitled Variable Data Printing: The Competitive Environment, published by Trendwatch Graphic Arts (TWGA) 1 .

    This 124-page report analyses the past 10 years of VDP and notes that it has passed through a “prolonged experimental phase” in the digital printing sector of the commercial printing industry. (That may simply be a nicer way to say that VDP never seemed to catch-on there.)

    After the initial “gee-whiz” response to VDP, digital printers seeking to make money with it found they had to climb a very steep learning curve about lists, databases, information technology (IT), high-speed RIPs, how to use VDP, and most importantly, who is a prospect for VDP? How to go about approaching them? What to offer them and how to price it? All this has proven to be quite a bit more than the digital commercial printing business they were used to. Instead, VDP has proven to be a very different kind of business.

    Like an iceberg, only 10% of VDP’s challenges initially show at the surface. The 90% that can sink a digital printer lies below, hidden in the murky depths of printer inexperience. Only after printers have embarked on VDP jobs do they discover how “different” it is from “regular” digital printing. But, by then, it can be too late to prevent losses.

    First, VDP is a “custom marketing business,” founded on being able to get incredibly accurate database lists to drive the VDP personalization process. Second, it requires high, in-house expertise in IT, a fast digital data network, plus prepress software and fast RIPs capable of composing personalized colour pages in an eye-blink. Third, it requires a crack, consultant-level sales force. Why? Because VDP prospects need education, help and hand-holding in understanding how to use VDP to best advantage. And, fourth, there is “the competition” – other means of creating personalized messages and getting them in front of the client’s prospective customers via the Internet and e-mail.

    These are reasons enough for VDP’s slow-growth in commercial printing, but there is one more: few-to-no success stories have appeared in the industry press about digital commercial printers “getting rich” with VDP.

    Why? Because every VDP job is essentially “unique” — as well as an experiment – so industry magazines having a large commercial printer readership with similar interests tend to see little value in publishing features about one digital printer’s offbeat success in producing a unique VDP job, whose like will probably never be seen by its readers. So, why bother? And, since nobody ever publicizes failures, printers never read about one another’s VDP mistakes. So, printers new to VDP just repeat the same errors, learning by trial-and-error. Ultimately, the steepness of the VDP learning curve causes most of these printers to turn back from personalization work.

    Competing methods and costs

    Consider, too, the highly competitive alternative to VDP, of personalizing high-quality offset colour pre-printed pages by passing them through a monochrome digital press. The result costs less and may look better than a VDP job. Digital colour has long been considered pleasing colour, and though there have been improvements, where colour quality is a key issue, the bias has been away from using digital colour and toward pre-printed offset colour.

    Now, let’s look at the cost of producing a mistake with VDP.

    Because VDP is very demanding of a perfect list database, any “glitch” in the list will result in a printed mistake that is at best unacceptable, and quite possibly, offensive to the recipient. Imagine receiving a VDP-produced brochure in which one letter is misplaced in every appearance of your first name? What would be your reaction? The cost-per-piece of VDP-produced colour material can easily run $2 to $3 per piece, so mistakes caused by a list with errors like that would prove painful.

    On the other hand, costs of a mistake with competing personalized direct-mail marketing letters or e-mail messages will rarely cost more than a few cents. The amount at-risk is one of the iceberg factors that makes VDP a much-higher-stakes game than many commercial printers foresee.

    For all of these reasons, acceptance of VDP in commercial printing quarters has been slow. Not the least of the reasons has been the upsurge of Internet marketing and e-mail marketing. Both offer virtually free message delivery over wide areas, plus the capacity for near-instantaneous response. An unprecedented degree of content, interactivity and animation are also now possible, thanks to advances in HTML, Java, and browser software. These present formidable competitive barriers to use of VDP.

    Next week: The New Breed: Finding Success with VDP

    George J. Whalen is a well-known writer-marketer-engineer who has specialized in graphic arts technology since 1984 and in DI and digital printing since 1996. Whalen is a frequent contributor to leading graphic arts, packaging and converting journals. He frequently writes about the real-world economic impacts of technology choices .He also serves industry clients as a technology marketing consultant and authors white papers and case studies. He writes from his home in Tarrytown, New York, where he lives with his wife, Joyce, and silky terrier, Radar. Whalen can be reached at 914-333-0085, or by e-mail addressed to

    1 The TWGA report cited herein may be purchased from Trendwatch Graphic Arts, a unit of Reed Business Information, through its web site:

    This article has been reproduced from Digital Demand – the journal of printing and publishing technology. For details of how to subscribe please contact Pira International at .

  • Indigo visionary, Benny Landa, gets the Reed Technology medal

    The Reed Technology Medal is presented to an individual who has made a major contribution to technical and scientific development within the graphic arts industry. Landa is being honoured for his many scientific and technological inventions, which have advanced the development of colour digital printing.

    Of the experiences that foreshadowed Landa’s eventual development of a digital color printing press, the first occurred when he was a youth in his father’s tobacco shop in Edmonton, Alberta. There he helped his father build a wooden photo machine and processing lab for the family’s growing passport photo business. Unlike the conventional photo studios, the “direct-positive” photo machine they built avoided the need for film— printing images directly on paper years before photo booths became commonplace.

    In 1970, while living in England, Landa became a founding director of Imtec, a micrographics research and development company. Imtec later became the largest European vendor of micrographics equipment (microfilm readers and reader/printers). Landa led Imtec’s R&D activities and invented the company’s core imaging technology. While researching liquid toners at Imtec, he worked on a method of high-speed image development that would later lead to his invention of ElectroInk, Indigo’s proprietary liquid electrostatic printing medium.

    When Landa founded Indigo in 1977, its original mission was to develop an improved photocopying process using an imaging medium based on the qualities of liquid printing ink, rather than powder toners. When ElectroInk became a reality in 1983, Landa pursued the idea of using it to replace the ink in offset printing, and thus make offset printing digital. A decade later Indigo launched the E-Print 1000, a plateless digital press combining Digital Offset Color printing technology and ElectroInk.

    Commenting on Landa’s naming as the recipient of the Reed Medal, Dr. John Meyer, director, hardcopy technologies lab, HP Labs, said, “Throughout the years of Indigo’s history, Benny Landa was not simply the company’s founder and CEO. He has been Indigo’s visionary, its inspiration, its leader.” He is also Indigo’s most prolific inventor, with more than 140 U.S. patents—and a hundred more worldwide.

    Landa’s nominators also focused on his pioneering technical and scientific contributions to digital printing, noting his extensive research on the chemistry and physics of using liquid toner electrophotography. Besides contributing to an improved understanding of the process, Landa is credited with improvements such as tentacular toner, which produces an image layer with higher cohesion and greater resistance to distortion through the interlocking of adjacent toner particles.

    Landa’s study of the materials that contact the toner layers during image formation resulted in the optimization of such properties as surface energy and compliance. His pioneering work also led to developments such as a binary ink system separating the two steps of electrophoretic motion of the toner to achieve high speed and a high-viscosity image and a heated intermediate transfer offset blanket. Landa is also credited with spearheading numerous mechanical inventions, ranging from systems for controlling and distributing the liquid toner to those for paper handling and cleaning the photoconductor.

  • Printers urged to play it safe on NPA deadline

    “We all know how hectic it gets for printers in the last couple of weeks before the Christmas break, so the best time to review any material that’s due to go to the judges is right now,” he said.

    The deadline for submissions is January 16, 2004, but Carrigan says printers should play it safe by ensuring their projects are in for submission well before the Christmas break.

    The call for entries to the latest National Print Awards began several weeks ago, amid news that the Awards have been given a new lease on life. The switch to a Friday means attendees both from Sydney and interstate can take a well-earned break after the show and be back at their businesses in time for Monday morning.

    The first of the new-style Awards presentations, under the banner of the Printing Industries Association of Australia, took place in Melbourne this year – and the move to Sydney for the next Awards will see further innovations.

    A major highlight of the 21st National Print Awards will be the industry sponsor awards – the Heidelberg Craft Award, the Agfa Award for Most Creative Use of Photography In Printing, and Australian Paper’s Award for Print Excellence.

    “The prestige and recognition that print companies derive from all these Awards is immeasurable so the focus should now be on getting those entries in, well before the judges get to work early in the new year,” said Carrigan, who also adjudicated at the first Asian Print Awards in Singapore last week.

  • WA Printing Industries Craftsmanship Awards 2003

    Michael Scott of Scott Print was one of the winners at the well-attended Western Australia Pica Awards. He is pictured with his award for producing the best work in the one or more colours, single sheet category.

    Daniels Printing Craftsmen
    Gold – Any number of colours, up to 16 pages, any cover
    Giant Steps Brochure

    Daniels Printing Craftsmen
    Silver – One or more colours, a single sheet
    John Campbell Brochure

    Lamb Printers
    Silver – Any number of colours, up to 16 pages, any cover
    Stirling Corporate Brochure

    Lamb Printers
    Bronze – Printed on any material
    WIM Wenders Postcards

    Bronze – Eurofruit

    Optima Press
    Silver – Nova 93.7fm Presentation Folder

    Picton Press
    Silver – Printed on any material
    Cottesloe Beach

    Picton Press
    Silver – Printed on any material
    The Twelve Apostles

    Picton Press
    Bronze – Any number of colours, up to 16 pages, any cover
    175 Hay

    Pilpel Print
    Gold – Australian Heritage Annual Report 2001/02

    Pilpel Print
    Bronze – One or more colours, a single sheet
    Atlas Pacific Limited

    QDI Direct Press
    Gold – Printed on any material
    St John of God Posters 6 kinds

    QDI Direct Press
    Gold – Printed on any material
    Artprints 6 Kinds

    Scott Print
    Gold – One or more colours, a single sheet
    Forester Estate Leaflet

    Simnett Press
    Gold – Any number of colours printed by a company with up to 10 staff including directors
    Bread – The Changing Scene

    Simnett Press
    Silver – Any number of colours printed by a company with up to 10 staff including directors
    David Reid Marketing Stationery Set

    Simnett Press
    Bronze – Any number of colours printed by a company with up to 10 staff including directors.
    Jarvis Estate Stationery

  • SA Printing Industries Craftsmanship Awards 2003

    Recipients of the long-term membership awards at the South Australian Picas: (back row) Chris Pfeifer, John Davis, Steve Mansfield and Adrian Landstien. (front row) Peter Lane, Claire Hayes and SteveThackeray.

    Awards have been listed in alphabetical order.

    Barossa PrintmastersGold PICA – Two or Three Colour Printing

    Barossa Printmasters
    Certificate of Merit – Labels – Sheet Fed

    Barossa Printmasters
    Certificate of Merit – One Colour Printing

    Barossa Printmasters
    Gold PICA – Country Category – One colour printing

    Bowden Printing Pty Ltd
    Gold PICA – Stationery

    Bowden Printing
    Certificate of Merit – Stationery

    The Bureau
    Gold PICA – Digital Printing – Inkjet Printing

    The Bureau
    Gold PICA – Digital Printing – other than convention ink

    The Bureau
    Certificate of Merit – Digital Printing – other than convention ink

    Cadillac Printing
    Gold PICA – Web Offset Printing – on uncoated stock

    Cadillac Printing
    x2 Certificate of Merit – Web Offset Printing – on uncoated stock

    Cadillac Printing
    Certificate of Merit – Web Offset Printing – on coated stock – press finished

    Carter Holt Harvey
    Gold PICA – Packaging

    Carter Holt Harvey
    Certificate of Merit – Packaging

    Colemans Printing awarded Best overall production – Northern Territory

    Collotype Labels
    Gold PICA – Labels – Sheet Fed

    Collotype Labels
    Gold PICA – Embellishment

    Collotype Labels
    Gold PICA – Labels – Roll Fed on Self adhesive – offset

    Collotype Labels
    Certificate of Merit – Labels – Roll Fed on Self adhesive – offset

    Collotype Labels
    Certificate of Merit – Labels – Sheet Fed

    Custom Group
    Certificate of Merit – Leaflets and Folders

    Cutler Brands Pty Ltd
    Gold PICA – Innovation

    Gold PICA – Digital Printing – using conventional ink – imaged on press

    Certificates of Merit – Digital Printing – using conventional ink – imaged on press

    Encompass Presentations
    Gold PICA – Country Category – multiple colour printing

    Finsbury Printing
    Gold PICA – Leaflets and Folders

    Finsbury Printing
    Gold PICA – Saddle Stitched Booklets, Catalogues, Magazines 4 or more colours any number of pages, self cover

    Finsbury Printing
    Gold PICA – Saddle Stitched Booklets, Catalogues, Magazines 4 or more colours, up to 16 pages, plus cover

    Finsbury Printing
    Gold PICA – Multi Piece Productions and Campaigns

    Finsbury Printing
    Gold PICA – Commercial Posters & Showcards

    Finsbury Printing
    Gold PICA – Booklets, Catalogues, Magazines bound by any method but Saddle Stitching

    Finsbury Printing
    x2 Certificate of Merit – Two or Three Colour

    Finsbury Printing
    Certificate of Merit – Stationery

    Finsbury Printing
    Certificate of Merit – Postcards and Greeting Cards

    Finsbury Printing
    Certificate of Merit – Leaflets and Folders

    Finsbury Printing
    Certificate of Merit – Book Printing – Limp Bound Books – 4 or more colours

    Finsbury Printing
    Certificate of Merit – Commercial Posters & Showcards

    Finsbury Printing
    X3 Certificate of Merit – Saddle Stitched Booklets, Catalogues, Magazines 4 or more colours, up to 16 pages, plus cover

    Finsbury Printing
    Certificate of Merit – Saddle Stitched Booklets, Catalogues, Magazines 4 or more colours any number of pages, self cover

    Finsbury Printing
    x3 Certificate of Merit – Saddle Stitched Booklets, Catalogues, Magazines 4 or more colours, more than 16 pages, plus cover

    Five Star Grafx
    Gold PICA – One Colour Printing

    Five Star Grafx
    Gold PICA – Saddle Stitched Booklets, Catalogues, Magazines 4 or more colours, more than 16 pages, plus cover

    Five Star Grafx
    Certificate of Merit – Saddle Stitched Booklets, Catalogues, Magazines 4 or more colours any number of pages, self cover

    Five Star Grafx
    x2 Certificate of Merit – Annual Reports

    Five Star Grafx
    Certificates of Merit – Commercial Posters & Showcards

    Graphic Print Group
    Certificate of Merit – Innovation

    Hansen Print
    Gold PICA – Calendars

    Hansen Print
    Certificate of Merit Country Category – multiple colour printing

    Hyde Park Press
    Gold PICA – Book Printing – Limp Bound Books – 4 or more colours

    Hyde Park Press
    Gold PICA – Postcards and Greeting Cards

    Hyde Park Press
    Certificate of Merit – Limited Editions and Art Reproductions

    Hyde Park Press
    Certificates of Merit – Commercial Posters & Showcards

    Johns’ Print Centre Pty Ltd
    Gold PICA – Screen Printing – any number of colours on a single sheet of paper or board

    Johns’ Print Centre
    Certificate of Merit Screen Printing – any number of colours on a single sheet of other material

    Kent Town Screen Printers
    Certificate of Merit Screen Printing – any number of colours on a single sheet of other material

    Lane Print Group
    Gold PICA – Saddle Stitched Booklets, Catalogues, Magazines 4 or more colours, more than 16 pages, plus cover

    Lane Print Group
    Gold PICA – Card Constructions and Mobiles

    Lane Print Group
    Gold PICA – Multi Piece Productions and Campaigns

    Lane Print Group
    Gold PICA – Annual Reports

    Lane Print Group
    Gold PICA – Self Promotion

    Lane Print Group
    Certificate of Merit – Booklets, Catalogues, Magazines bound by any method but Saddle Stitching

    Lane Print Group
    Certificate of Merit – Saddle Stitched Booklets, Catalogues, Magazines 4 or more colours any number of pages, self cover

    Lane Print Group
    Certificate of Merit – Multi Piece Productions and Campaigns

    Openbook Print
    Certificate of Merit – Book Printing – Case Bound or Limp Bound – 1, 2 or 3 colour text

    Openbook Print
    Certificate of Merit – Calendars

    PMP Print
    Gold PICA – Web Offset Printing – on coated stock – press finished

    PMP Print
    Gold PICA – Web Offset Printing – on coated stock – finished off-line

    PMP Print
    Certificate of Merit – Web Offset Printing – on coated stock – finished off-line

    Precision Labels Pty Ltd
    Gold PICA – Labels – Roll Fed on Self adhesive – offset

    Precision Labels
    x2 Certificate of Merit Labels – Roll Fed on Self adhesive – offset

    Price Screen Process
    Gold PICA – Screen Printing – any number of colours on a single sheet of other material

    Price Screen Process
    Gold PICA – Speciality or “Special” Printing

    Price Screen Process
    Certificate of Merit Screen Printing – any number of
    colours on a single sheet of other material

    Print Now
    Certificate of Merit – Leaflets and Folders

    Gold PICA – Small Printing Business Awards – with 4 to 10 Staff

    Rowett Print
    Gold PICA – Speciality or “Special” Printing

    Rowett Print
    Certificate of Merit Country Category – multiple colour printing

    Spectrum Labels Pty Ltd
    Gold PICA – Labels – Roll Fed on Self adhesive – letterpress or flexographic

    Spectrum Labels Pty Ltd
    x2 Certificate of Merit – Spectrum Labels Pty Ltd

    van Gastel Printing awarded Best overall production – South Australia

    van Gastel Printing
    Gold PICA – Limited Editions and Art Reproductions

    van Gastel Printing
    Gold PICA – Book Printing – Case Bound Books – 4 or more colours

    van Gastel Printing
    Certificate of Merit – Two or Three Colour

    van Gastel Printing
    Certificate of Merit – Booklets, Catalogues, Magazines bound by any method but Saddle Stitching

    van Gastel Printing
    Certificate of Merit – Book Printing – Case Bound Books – 4 or more colours

    van Gastel Printing
    Certificate of Merit – Packaging

    Gold PICA – Digital Printing – Inkjet Printing

    Certificate of Merit – Digital Printing – Inkjet Printing

    Watermark Printers & Stationers
    Gold PICA – Stationery

    South Australian Printing Industries Apprenticeship Award
    Peter Cotton Memorial Scholarship
    Awarded to Jane Hoskings, employed by Hansen Print, Naracoorte.

    Australian Paper Trophy Print Excellence
    Achieved by a 3rd or 4th year printing machinist apprentice
    Awarded to Scott McCall, employed by fivestargrafx.

    Presentations to Member Companies for Long Term Membership 25 to 50 Years

    The Abbey Press Printing Co Pty Ltd 30 years
    AL 25 years
    Arte Grafica Printing 27 years
    Australian Paper 33 years
    Douglas Press 46 years
    Eureka Corporate Group 25 years
    Four Hour Printing Service 27 years
    Lane Print Group 43 years
    The Little Para Printer 38 years
    Newland Printing 26 years
    Openbook Publishers 35 years
    Pan Print 26 years
    Precision Cutting Formes 25 years
    Robot Printing Co Pty Ltd 40 years
    Spicers Paper 75 years

  • Whole world printing

    Some years ago, ‘environmental fatigue syndrome’ caused interest and commitment to environmental issues to fade into the background. This happened as much from a reaction to the barrage of predictions of imminent planetary destruction from the enviro-scientific establishment, as from distaste for the radicalism of loony fringes such as the feral greens. There was a sense that these groups were using the environmental issue as a Trojan Horse to push their own anti-business and anti-development agendas. While there were obviously some valid environmental concerns, such as global warming and pollution, the hysterical level of debate turned many people off. Concern about the environment gradually slipped down the list of public awareness, and off the front pages.

    Since then the work of environmental activism has undergone a transformation, shedding a lot of its hysteria, adopting more sober and socially integrated strategies, and gaining from the application of solid science. The influence of the Kyoto Protocols brought governments into the agenda – even the Australian government, which refused to sign them. Environmental groups realised that having a share portfolio at the annual general meeting was more effective than a megaphone in the streets, and business started to add up the figures and found that care of the environment could produce solid bottom line returns.

    Environmental responsibility became a powerful influence among the major international corporations who realised that a brand can be seriously damaged by allegations of eco-vandalism, or anti-social behaviour. Nike is still suffering from accusations that it exploits Indonesian workers in its footwear factories and UK paper merchants were scared off carrying APPP Indonesian-produced paper by a Friends of the Earth campaign about destroying virgin tropical forests and orang-utan habitats.

    The role of the printing and graphic arts industry in the environmental debate has generally been defensive and dismissive. Printed material, newspapers and packaging provide some of the most visible elements in the public’s perception of the environmental problem. Litter swirling around the streets is primarily composed of printed material. And everyone ‘knows’, or thinks they do, that printing paper is made primarily by clear felling old growth forests.

    If printed paper is the most visible sign of the sector’s Achilles Heel, the printing industry itself does not have a great record when it comes to the environment. It has long been regarded, with a good measure of fact, as a dirty, polluting industry, producing goods that end up in landfill, from workplaces that reek of carcinogenic solvents and vaporising alcohol, using heavy element inks and coatings that almost defy recycling, and all the while cutting the cost of printing to maximise its commodity value. It is not a good environmental story and as a result the industry has tended to retreat to the bunker, citing the difficulties and the cost of implementing clean production methods as an excuse for doing little or nothing.

    The times they are a-changing

    But the climate in which we operate is changing and major corporations are leading the movement for better environmental practices. Larger firms commission 80 percent of all printing and these organisations, which often indulge in questionable environmental practices in their own businesses, recognise that their published documents provide a major opportunity to acquire environmental brownie (greenie?) points. The majority of annual reports these days proclaim that they are printed on environmentally responsible paper. It assists in delivering to the triple bottom line of social, environmental and economic responsibility.

    The move towards responsible corporate governance is not entirely altruistic; there are sound economic reasons for corporations to polish up their environmental credentials. The Dow Jones and the STOXX Sustainability Indexes list companies with good records for the growing number of fund managers who want to invest in sustainable enterprises with good triple bottom line policies. The DJSI currently has $2.2 billion invested in companies that meet its sustainability criteria. As explained on its website: “Post the technology boom, capitalism is becoming more civil and less arrogant, which will ultimately add to its [own] sustainability.”

    It’s not costly to be green

    Environmental responsibility has often been seen as an impost, by do-gooders, on the freedom of the business world to make money. However, in recent times it has become apparent that, while there may be extra costs involved in shifting to responsible production, there are very real benefits when the system is in place.

    David Fuller of Focus Press, in Sydney, operates perhaps the leading ‘green’ printing company in Australia. Among the many quality accreeditations and eco sustainable practices he ahas instituted is the use of alcohol-free printing with soy inks. (Read David Fuller’s story in this month’s Print 21 magazine – subscribe on the left hand side of this page.)

    While soy inks cost more than regular petroleum-based inks, in his experience they go a lot further, with the result that his ink cost is actually decreasing, while he is getting the benefits of cleaner production and better reproduction. With his cleaner environment, safer factory conditions and savings in waste, he is producing for the triple bottom line of social, financial as well as environmental responsibility.

    Focus Press is but one example of the push by leading printing companies to meet not only quality assurance requirements, but also to gain IS014001 environmental credentials. In the first place it means that large corporations and their buying agents, in dealing with accredited companies, have no concerns of being ambushed by activists on account of their publications – a solid marketing differentiation. There is also a growing realisation that these standards are integral in running efficient, high tech printing operations.

    The ‘green’ debate has moved on from simply protecting the natural environment to sustainable development, which includes protecting our standard of living while cleaning up our methods of manufacture, and the social impact of our activities. Corporations may want their annual report printed on environmentally responsible paper, without necessarily wanting it to be any less white and glossy than before. The companies that are able to provide these sustainability guarantees are leading the way into the new greening of industry.

    Public Eco-Efficiency Report

    This is the so-called eco-efficiency reward that informs the Australian Paper Industry Council’s Public Eco-Efficiency Report. The local paper industry, one of the most capital intensive manufacturing industries in Australia with nearly $4 billion of assets and with plans to invest another billion over the next five years, is also one of the most visible eco-targets for activists. Addressing itself to this reality it is promoting its environmental responsibility, applying the principles of eco-reporting, “recognising that operational costs can be reduced through improved environmental performance”.

    Improvements in the potentially hazardous process of bleaching wood fibre, are cases in point where Australian Paper has introduced ways of reducing the use of chlorine, the primary cause of dioxin concern. No elemental chlorine is used at Burnie, Wesley Vale or Shoalhaven mills, while Maryvale uses a much-reduced amount. The report maintains that “there are no detectable dioxins in the discharge of Australian Paper’s four paper mills”.

    All six members of APIC (Amcor, CHH Tissue, Kimberley-Clark, Norske Skog, PaperlinX and Visy Industries) operate under ISO14001, based on an Environmental Management System (EMS), which involves better data collection on risks and incidents, better employee awareness of environmental issues and more formalised reviews of issues, risk and opportunities in management reviews.

    Responsibility is good marketing

    Environmental responsibility is not only good common sense; it also provides a point of differentiation for savvy marketers. Raleigh Paper is currently positioning itself as a major supplier of environmentally responsible paper, with the publication of research that shows the demand for such paper is growing due to corporate and government pressures.

    It is upfront in the claim that it will not handle paper from producers that fail to meet its tests of forest certification or the chain of custody scheme. These are part of the Forest Stewardship Scheme under which timber for paper must come from forests that are certified and audited to ensure they comply with environmentally sustainable practices and principles. The company has on occasion knocked back paper that did not measure up.

    Another sign of the growing influence of environmental policies on the industry can be seen in the detailed Heidelberg Sustainability Report 2002/2003. The 96-page publication gives a detailed insight into the company’s business processes. “As the leading supplier to the print media industry, Heidelberg is committed to establishing a balanced relationship between profitability, ecological responsibility and social stability. In its report, Heidelberg takes stock of the economic situation, ecology and social responsibility, evaluates its progress and sets itself new goals for the next few years.”

    There are many reasons why the printing and graphic arts industry is moving towards taking up its share of the burden, not least of which is the prospect of saving money in the production processes. But more importantly, unless we take responsibility for conducting our businesses and living our lives in an ecologically responsible manner, the problems left for the next generation may impose an unpayable price.

    Today, Friday Oct 24, is your last chance to register for a free Whole World Printing Ecological Seminar that can improve your bottom line, reduce wastage and improve the environment.

    The seminar, at Printing Industries Sydney office on Monday 27 October, features a money making case study from David Fuller of Focus Press, and a PMP case study illustrated by PMP Engineer Mark Tannen.
    Contact Joe Kowalewski

    Ph: (02) 9248 7300

  • Strong Aussie $ undercuts PaperlinX performance

    The rising Australian dollar is reducing returns from PaperlinX’s expanding overseas merchant network while facilitating extra competitive imports, effectively bringing down prices for paper in the domestic market. This double whammy on the communication paper division has slashed the company’s profits despite good results from its other businesses.

    The likelihood of the Aussie dollar strengthening further bodes ill for the coming year. In addition, weak demand and depressed international paper prices continue to put margins under pressure, with little prospect of an early upswing in the cycle.

    According to David Meiklejohn, chairman, PaperlinX, in his address to the AGM, the new year has begun badly and the outlook is uncertain. “The creditable results from PaperlinX’s other business segments together with substantially lower interest costs were only able to partially compensate for the negative impact of the strengthening Australian dollar and the reduction in the Communications Papers results. Accordingly, for PaperlinX overall, for the September 2003 quarter sales and earnings were behind both our expectations and the corresponding period last year.

    “There are some signs of a pick up in paper merchanting activity in some key markets which have been in recession for over two years, most notably the USA. The outlook for the next twelve months remains difficult to predict as expectations of recovery on previous occasions have proved to lack resilience.

    “However, our strategic expansion and our focus on cost management has positioned PaperlinX to benefit from any improvement in activity.”

    The grim outlook came in remarkable contrast to the upbeat commentary on the annual report where 2003 was described as another year of consolidation and growth for PaperlinX. Highlights included the takeover and integration of the UK-based The Paper Company (formerly Bunzl Fine Paper).

    For the PaperlinX Group overall, sales increased by 22%, profit after tax was up 7% and a profit return before interest and tax on average funds employed of 12.3% was achieved.

    The company is now focused on the imminent acquisition of the Dutch-based Buhrmann paper merchanting division, it’s most ambitious takeover target yet. This will make PaperlinX the largest paper merchant in Europe. Regulatory hurdles have now been overcome and the deal is on track for closure in November. This now looks like a better deal with the final price for the division coming in at approximately Aus$1billion (€655 million) instead of the original Aud$1.25 billion (€746 million), which some analysts thought was on the high side.

    “This is a very satisfactory outcome for PaperlinX and its shareholders and represents a major strategic step for future growth,” said Meiklejohn. “The acquisition will change our company in important and fundamental ways as a significant proportion of earnings will now be generated from our paper merchanting business and the European market becomes a major part of that business.”

  • First KBA Karat 74s for Australia

    Industry sources point to Wayne Sidwell’s Wellcom, in conjunction with its print management company, iPrint, as the most likely purchaser of the two half-size, automatic DI offset presses reportedly on their way to Australia. The prepress company, which is in Melbourne and Sydney, is already into digital printing through the use of HP Indigo technology. A company representative refused to confirm or deny that it was interested in the Karat presses.

    The installation of two Karat 74s would represent a massive increase in the company’s print capacity and herald a new era in short-run offset printing in Australia. It would also mean a more proactive role for iPrint in the provision of printing.

    The Karat 74 has long been considered the most sophisticated of the sealed DI offset presses, suitable for installation outside traditional printing environments. It was originally promoted as ‘push-button offset’ with little opportunity for operator interference in its operation. Makeready for four-colour process in 15 minutes from run to run within one job.

    The Karat 74 uses a Creo laser to image Presstek PEARLdry aluminium plates with 20 plates per cassette, which due to the imaging configuration is sufficient for 10 jobs. The single impression cylinder consists of three segments, each with its own gripper. The press prints a four-colour image in two revolutions of the impression cylinder, thereby eliminating sheet transfer during printing and assuring exact registration.

    The arrival of the first Karat 74 presents KBA in Australia with the opportunity to develop service and maintenance support for the technology. Given the success of the press in the USA it is unlikely the first Australian Karat 74s will be on their own for very long.