Archive for December, 2004

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

    Looking back at some of the highlights reminds us that 12 months is a long time and gives cause for pause as we imagine what the next 12 months will bring. Here’s a brief review of some of the year’s highlights and low spots.

    ——-

    January: FedEx buys Kinko’s for US$2.4 billion. The printing and copy chain will be integrated into the air-courier company, increasing the number of drop off points for mail and parcels. We’re still waiting to see any sign of the corporate makeover

    Printing Industries moves its HQ west from the Sydney CBD to be closer to its members. Better member access to training courses was one of the benefits to flow from the relocation from Sydney’s CBD to suburban Auburn. Staff are still being weaned off lattes and developing a taste for kebabs.

    February: Fairfax closed its Spencer Street printing plant and found itself on the nasty end of an industrial dispute. 86 planned redundancies turned out to be against the enterprise agreement signed only months before and the workers were kept on without having any work to do at full pay until the middle of next year. Now that is clever industrial relations.

    Following its takeover of Jaeger Paper, Melbourne paper dynasty KW Doggett Fine Paper moves into recently vacated Raleigh Paper premises in Sydney. Since then a paper price war is heating up in the city between Doggetts and Moirs, producing bargains for the customers. It’s still going on – something’s got to give.

    March: Agfa bought fourth largest plate manufacturer Lastra as the consolidation drive got to red-hot levels in the plate sector. The deal put Agfa so far out in front as the largest player in the sector no one is ever likely to catch up. Film sales , of course, continued to nose dive.

    Long established stationery firm, WC Penfolds slid into ignominious administration, allowing Bob McMillan to snap up its 2.5 million shares in Penfold Buscombe. This brought his strategic stake in the publicly listed company to 13 per cent, but if he had dreams of being the largest shareholder, this week’s news about PMP put the kybosh on them. However, there are still some twists left in the rope.

    At the 21st National Print Awards Penfold Buscombe won the Heidelberg prize for excellence, while McMillan’s won the new Agfa award for the Most Creative Use of Imaging. Websdale Printing won the Australian Paper Apprentice of the Year award. There’s a synergy happening here, what with the benefit of hindsight.

    April: Penfold Buscombe paid $7.5 million to takeover Pongrass, which owned Websdale Printing. CEO Alistair Hill continued to pick the eyes out of the Sydney market paying $2.7 million cash for one of the industry’s iconic printing companies. Alistair is gaining widespread recognition as being one canny operator.

    End of an era saw CPI exit the prepress sector. Buffeted by the loss of FujiFilm the year before the industry’s former largest supply company passed its prepress customers over to Agfa and sold its Wetherill Park hi-tech warehouse to re-focus on its core business of paper and ink. The supply side is as merciless as printing.

    May: drupa 2004 finally opens is doors after months of build up. A fairly decent swag of Australian and New Zealanders made the trip to Düsseldorf to marvel at the sights, eat asparagus and drink beer. Michael Mogridge of HP Indigo declared that the cost of holding the show was greater than the combined profits of the exhibiting companies and no one tried to prove him wrong. It was the best of times, it was . . . well, you know the rest.

    Back home one of the longest legal cases in the industry’s history drew to a close with the findings for Fuji Xerox in its battle with Seven Sydney over the suitability of the DocuColor 70 and 100 four years before. There were still to be some protests and appeals but the battle was over. Roger Morgan was entitled to say, “I told you so . . . but being the gentleman he is, he refrained.

    In New Zealand APN created a new publishing division ahead of a stock listing, which made it one of the largest listed companies in New Zealand. The new division – APN New Zealand National Publishing – is headed up by Ken Steinke, chief executive of The New Zealand Herald, with Rick Neville as deputy and Sarah Sandley as publisher. APN is one of the quiet achievers of the industry,

    June: One of the more depressing events of the year saw prepress firm, Graphic Synergy close its doors with the business being sold to Alfred Johns. It was the passing of an era and brought home to many the changes in the prepress world. The reluctance of high profile owners John Coote, Barry Patterson and Bob Schofield to create redundancies among long-term staff was given as one of the reasons behind the failure. A classic lesson in where nice guys finish.

    Goss and Heidelberg finally got their deal over the line following months of tough negotiations. Heidelberg keeps a 15 per cent stake in the enlarged company, which has almost doubled in size. The deal means that Goss is likely to be the largest web offset press manufacturer in the world. In the local market Heidelberg chief Andy vels Jensen was sorry to see it happen. He had the largest market share.

    July: Pacific Publications picked up Murdoch Magazines for $77 million. The deal includes Better Homes and Gardens, Marie Claire, and Men’s Health. Matt Hanbury of MM was one of the industry’s true professionals. IPMG was tipped to keep the printing contract despite Pacific’s close ties with PMP. At the end of the year Kerry Packer’s ACP still owned the ballpark.

    In the USA Presstek bought bankrupted A.B. Dick after the 120-year-old press maker filed for Chapter 11 in the US to protect it from creditors. Presstek paid US$40 million for the iconic brand and announced its intention to compete in the offset market, not only as a plate and imaging company but also as a press manufacturer. It has to be the bravest call of the year.

    Aug: That the print skills shortage is getting worse was confirmed when the number of vacancies for skilled tradespeople in the printing industry jumped 45 per cent during the past year. With 15 per cent fewer apprentices going through Australian graphic arts colleges every year, the increase is the most dramatic of any manufacturing industry. Print skills is the sleeper issue of our time.

    Agfa got out of its consumer imaging division as worldwide digital camera sales are set to reach nearly 53 million units in 2004, after outpacing traditional cameras last year. The loss-making consumer imaging division was sold to a management buy-out/buy-in team. Agfa now focuses on its Graphic Systems and HealthCare operations. Nobody buys a film camera anymore.

    September: News Ltd ramps up $half-billion investment spree for its Australian operations as Lachlan Murdoch, News Limited chairman, announced a $217 million upgrade and expansion of the company’s Chullora print centre in Sydney to create the country’s largest and most advanced newspaper printing plant. There is good money in print publishing.

    Printing Industries changed its constitution to allow companies that don’t employ workers under the graphic arts award to be members. According to Gary Donnison, CEO, the move will give the industry a truly representative voice. The Association is showing signs of living in the 21st century after all.

    Esko-Graphics bailed out from commercial printing citing fierce competition and price pressure. The Belgian company cut off further investment in violet-light CTP saying the market is served by many suppliers and shows little or no overall industry growth. That sounds like sense talking.

    October: A Chinese gravure company came sniffing around looking for Government money to fund a production facility here. Printing Industries were very suspicious and had a place at the table when the company pitched the government. It turned out to be more of a sales office than a production facility, We don’t need to fund companies to export Australian jobs.

    South Australian printing company Finsbury Green nailed its colours to the mast by declaring it is not only green in practice but also by name. After cleaning up at the SA Picas, Ernest Orel, managing director, confirmed the change of identity to Finsbury Green Printing, He said that after five years of work on the company’s environmental credentials everything it did was green. He also claimed to be making pots of money.

    The biggest research project undertaken for the Australian printing industry got underway when Printing Industries commissioned consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (Deloitte) to undertake a project to examine the paper and printing industry by sector, by major product category, and by process. The study is being sponsored by Swanbank Paper, the fine paper mill on the drawing board for Queensland. Expect it out early in the New Year.

    Nov: Volker Wagner, a Canadian printer who arrived with the intention of showing the Australian printing industry how it’s done, departed three years later after administrators were called in for his Teldon Print Media Group. An ambitious plan to consolidate small-to-medium size printing and graphics companies in the Sydney hit the rocks when expected returns failed to materialize. Nothing wrong with the idea, just the execution.

    The first and second Fuji Xerox iGen3s in Australia went into Rapid Digital (formerly Rapid Reprographics) in what proved to be ‘the party of the year.’ Rapid Digital’s proprietor Ron Anderson and his team spared no expense or effort in ensuring the night was a success and that the iGen3 era in Australia was inaugurated with suitable style. It’s nice to see some pizzazz come back into the industry.

    December: blueline media, publisher of Print21Online news bulletin, takes over publishing the industry business magazine, Print21. Patrick Howard, Publisher and Executive Editor, said the long-term close relationship between Print21 and Print21Online has proved a defining aspect of the industry’s media over the past four years. He subsequently would like to apologise to readers for the disgraceful editing job on the final issue of the magazine put out by former publishers Niche.

    Russell Jones, managing director Amcor, and Peter Sutton, managing director Amcor Australasia both resigned from the packaging giant following revelations from four executives who set up their own business after leaving the company in September. This is proving to be one of the messiest corporate imbroglios in recent times and promises to carry on into 2005.

    ——-

    And that’s it. Thanks for all your support and encouragement over the year. Have a great break and we’ll be back with the first news bulletin on January 20, 2005.

    And finally . . . this from prankster Andy vels Jensen is guaranteed to bring a smile to your careworn pre-holiday faces.

    Study the picture carefully. Depending on how well you are able to concentrate you should be able to make out a giraffe in 20 to 30 seconds.

  • carries industry’s hopes in Sydney to Hobart

    However it will be his first time at the helm of his 60-foot Nautor Swan, Lady Godiva, one of the most beautiful yachts operating in Australian waters. Commanding a crew that he admits is tending towards middle age, at least, he is pleased with the yacht’s handicap and is confident of a good showing.

    The annual arrival of Lady Godiva into Sydney Harbour for race preparation, from its winter anchorage in the Whitsundays, is a welcome sight for many of Currie’s customers who vie for the pleasure of an afternoon cruise during the festive season. All December long the luxury craft, which boasts a state of the art sound system with a 100 CD stacker, can be seen ploughing the harbour with a full contingent of happy sailors.

    After the race it will spend some time at its home berth at Royal Brighton on Port Philip Bay.

    This year there was a hair-rasing interruption to race preparations when the yacht was loosed from its moorings in the dead of night at the Cruising Yacht Club in Rushcutters Bay. Five ropes and a power line were untied and the yacht pushed out into the channel. A solitary crewman asleep below decks was woken next morning by Water Police banging on the hull as the yacht drifted perilously close to rocks at Elizabeth Bay.

    Kids mucking about, thieves who did not realise there was someone on board, or even more sinister explanations remain mere conjecture in the absence of security videos. Suffice to say that Mr Currie was not amused.

    So, keep an eye out for the elegant lines of Lady Godiva on the three or four day trip down the east coast after Christmas.
    And never discount a handicap placing.

  • Book printing blues – Federal Minister responds to Andy McCourt

    In this, my final news commentary of the year, I’d like to share with you some extracts from a letter The Hon Ian Macfarlane MP, Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, has written back regarding the state of Australia book printing.

    “I too would like to see more Australian print businesses winning contracts to print books about Australia and Australians, for sale in the Australian market. However, the Government believes the best way to achieve this is through improving the industry’s global competitiveness, rather than imposing printing restrictions on publishers.”

    “Competitiveness and sustainability for firms in the global economy today are underpinned by productivity, innovation and appropriate strategic positioning based on the competitive essence of a business. This is especially the case in increasingly knowledge-based industries where the printing industry has a major role.”

    “Specifically for the printing industries, the Australian Government also provided $48m in assistance through the Enhanced Printing Industry Competitiveness Scheme (EPICS). This program was developed consistent with the findings of the Printing Industries Action Agenda. It supported firms in the industry generally to enhance the competitiveness of the Australian Book Production industry by encouraging innovation, infrastructure development, business development and training skills formation.”

    “A number of the studies undertaken through EPICS for the benefit of the book production industry also had spin-off benefits for the wider printing industry. One of the EPICS projects undertaken by the PIAA was a study of the industry’s international competitiveness. I understand the report highlights a number of reasons why Australian printers may not be considered to be competitive with Asian print businesses and suggests actions that the industry might consider to improve its ability to win business in competition with its international counterparts.”

    “The Government has demonstrated a commitment to the continued health of the Australian printing industries. I believe good foundation work has been done through the Action Agenda and EPICS program. It is now up to the industry to work with others in its value chain, including publishers, to enhance its capability and competitiveness.”

    My Call

    There can be no doubt that Ian Macfarlane is well informed on our industry. Since EPICS and the Print21 Action Agenda, the overall industry is in better shape as a result of mergers, the exit of inefficient producers from the industry and general economic conditions.

    However, the specific area of colour books, other than paperbacks, remains fogged up with misunderstanding, misinformation and a detachment from reality that defies the factual evidence.

    The answer to the question Why do publishers print offshore and ship back into Australia for local consumption? is easy – because it’s cheaper.

    The answer to the question Why can Guandong Province, PRC, printers quote 50 –30 per cent lower prices than Australia? is more complex, and in some cases downright worrying.

    Saying it’s up to Australian book printers to compete efficiently without any form of incentive is akin to sending our Olympic swimmers to compete with 10Kg of lead in their Speedos!

    It’s not a level playing field out there Minister!

    The Government’s own Measuring the International Competitiveness of Australian Book Producers report identifies the on-costs (Super, Payroll Tax, Leave, Workcover Insurance) faced by Australian printers as between 29.7% and 35.23% depending on which state. One printer said real on-costs are more like 40%.

    In most of Asia, the on-costs are five per cent or less.

    Guandong printers earn around 50-60 cents an hour. Is this a way for Australia to become competitive perhaps? They have the same presses, supposedly pay the same for paper ( which they don’t) so should we cut everyone’s pay by 95 per cent to be ‘competitive?’

    How about abandoning Australia’s proud environmental achievements in the forestry/pulp industry, such as the fantastic Swanbank coated paper mill near Ipswich, Queensland? Hang the EIS, let’s get back to polluting.

    Why? Because much of China’s pulp comes from the world’s largest pulp mill, Aracruz in Brazil. Heck, who needs Amazon Rainforest, the natives and biodiversity it contains anyway. Also, when Australia and most western countries boycotted paper and pulp from Indonesia’s APRIL Company, which clear felled Sumatra virgin forests, guess where they found a ready market for its pulp?

    Additionally, the world’s biggest natural softwood timber resource is in the Russian Far East. Much of it is illegally felled by cartels connected to the Russian Mafia with truckloads of it crossing the Sino-Russian border to be pulped and made into paper. Don’t laugh – UN studies have shown up to 40 per cent of the total Russian economy is controlled by the Vory y Zakone (Thieves in Law), or mafia. They have ‘legitimate businesses’ for all manner of goods – including trees. Anyone doubting this, I will happily refer to the UN, US and UK government reports.

    USA printers are suffering too

    It’s the same in the world’s biggest print town, Chicago. The Business Ledger there reports that some printers have lost 20per cent and more of their work because publishers decided to ‘ship overseas.’

    Joe Orlandino of Edge Publishing said “Even catalogues, brochures and directories for our local Chambers of Commerce are shipping overseas. I find it reprehensible to go to a Chamber event and hear people say ‘buy local’ when they are jobbing work overseas. When confronted with that, they stick their head in the ground. They act like they don’t know or don’t want to know.”

    Sound familiar?

    So, we do not need lectures from Book Publishers or Ministers about how uncompetitive our book printers are. What we need is action to stop books entering Australia that are:

  • Printed on paper from non-sustainable, threatened or illegally sourced fibre sources and without a genuine ‘chain of custody’ certificate.
  • Printed on paper that may contain high levels of dioxins and other chemicals that were made illegal in Australia years ago. Children put books and book parts in their mouths and we have already seen ‘toxic toys’ banned because of harmful chemical content.
  • Printed using exploited, slave or child labour.
  • This is not a call for protectionism. Far from it. It is illegal to import elephant Ivory and tiger skins into Australia because they are threatened with extinction. Why should we countenance making their habitats extinct? There is plenty of good ‘clean’ paper to be had but, of course, it costs a little more. Swanbank will be leading the way when it’s up and running.

    Faced with the current situation, Australian book printers can not win back more than a trickle of colour bookwork from offshore on price. It’s futile to try, no matter how brave the effort. The best you can do is open up a factory in China or Vietnam and try to repatriate some of the profits.

    For the government to say “well, we’ve thrown some dollars at it to compensate for GST, now it’s all up to you” is naive in the extreme. The motor industry, textile/ clothing/footware and other manufacturing areas receive massive Government assistance. Book printing receives very little.

    We have even seen senior ministers officially endorsing books about Australia, which are then printed offshore. Inadvertently maybe but it’s hardly “demonstrating a commitment to the continued health of the Australian printing industry.”

    Of course, globalization is at the core of the argument. It’s not right to say we can export X and Y but not import Z. Fair enough, our markets must be open, but let’s apply the same standards to imported books as have to be applied for domestically-produced ones.

    So let’s try and ‘bring our books back home’ in 2005. But we can’t do it without Government awareness and support. Ian Mafarlane’s interest in and knowledge of the book printing industry is no doubt earnest and well-intentioned. In him we have an excellent conduit to Government.

    Make your views known to him at:
    The Hon Ian Macfarlane MP
    Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources
    Parliament House
    Canberra, ACT 2600

    Wishing you all a joyous, blessed and relaxing Festive Season. See you in 2005.

  • Creo is the latest to be sued for using JPEG compression

    The contentious case is being vigorously defended by Creo, which does not believe it infringes the patent in question, and moreover believes that the patent is invalid and unenforceable. JPEG is widely used in the graphic arts industry especially in electronic file transfers, delivering substantial file compression.

    Since the Forgent claim first surfaced three years ago the company claims it has received more than $100 million from licensing the patent to over 35 different companies in Asia, Europe and the United States. Many of the largest graphic arts manufacturers, as well as some standards organizations, refute the company’s ownership of the technology.

    The case revolves around United States Patent No. 4,698,672 (the ‘672 Patent), which the company claims has both a solid technical pedigree in that it was created by research scientists well known in the image compression community, and applies to the JPEG technology.

    According to a press release from Forgent the ‘672 Patent relates to digital image compression, and fields of use include digital still image device used to compress, store, manipulate, print or transmit digital still images such as digital cameras, personal digital assistants, cellular telephones, printers, scanners, and certain software applications.

    The JPEG Committee, which looks after the international standards, has the following statement on its website on reference to the Forgent action www.jpeg.org

    In 2002, it became widely publicised that one or more companies were making claims in some countries that they had patents which they believed read on the original JPEG standard IS10918-1. The JPEG Committee produces standards, which have a global basis, and are unable to comment on the validity of such claims, or potential infringement by particular implementations within specific jurisdictions. No such claims have (at January 2004) been registered formally through the appropriate channels at ISO and ITU-T, so far as the Webmaster is aware.

  • Clive Denholm moves on from Worldwide Online

    David Shimmel, formerly the franchise manager, is acting general manager of the fast-growing group while the board looks around for a replacement. Denholm says he will retain his seat on the board and his shareholding in the company, but is looking forward to some time off.

    In the ten years since Denholm initiated the ‘hub and spoke’ printing system in Perth the group has grown to be the third largest print franchiser after Kwik Kopy and Snap Printing. It currently has 66 sites around Australia with 20 per cent growth and Denholm recently moved to Melbourne to be closer to the east coast action where he sees most potential. There is no suggestion that the decision to leave was forced upon him.

    “After a while you get tired of getting onto planes. I want to spend more time with my family,” he said. “I’m looking forward to taking a few months off, but I’ll still be involved with the company on a board level.”

    He indicates that he may look at becoming involved in the supply side for the group at some stage.

    Worldwide Online Printing is largely owned by the principals behind Scot Print in Perth.

  • Swanbank paper mill gets the green light

    The proposed $1.2 billion paper manufacturing facility in South-East Queensland is set to become Australia’s premier production base for coated fine paper.

    The company also announced the appointments of paper industry stalwart Joe Foster as its chief executive
    officer and John O’Connor as marketing director.

    Swanbank Paper director, Sam Winston Smith, said the announcements were significant milestones in the
    development of the Ipswich facility, which will produce around 400,000 tonnes of coated fine paper a year
    and employ about 250 people once it is operational.

    “To my knowledge, this is the first EIS approval for greenfield white paper manufacture in Australia in over 50
    years, which is a great achievement,” said Winston Smith.
    “The addition of Joe Foster to our team is also fantastic news. He brings vast paper industry knowledge and
    experience with him, which will give us an upper hand when it comes to the many opportunities that are open
    to us.”

    Australia and New Zealand together currently consume about 400,000 tonnes of coated fine paper each year
    and about 330,000 tonnes is imported.

    “The paper industry has a strong future in Australia and I’m excited to be joining a company that is dedicated
    to developing the most efficient, cost effective and environmentally friendly paper mill in Australia,” said Joe Foster.

    “This is a growing market and the construction of Swanbank Paper means the Australian economy will save
    up to $450 million a year in import costs. It will also give us the potential to establish a strong export industry
    to meet rapidly increasing demand in the Asia-Pacific region.”

    Foster was previously managing director of paper merchant Edwards Dunlop Paper and prior to that, was
    CEO of leading office products supplier Corporate Express. O’Connor has extensive experience in supply chain focused operational and senior executive roles in
    Australia, Europe and North Asia. Most recently he was Director of Supply Chain for PMP Limited, Australia’s
    largest printing and digital premedia business.

    The manufacturing facility, which the Queensland government has declared a project of state significance,
    will be located on 35 hectares at the proposed 2,200 hectare Swanbank Enterprise Park in Ipswich, which is
    50 km west of the Port of Brisbane.
    Modern technology supplied by Finnish firm Metso Paper will enable the facility to produce a world-class
    product that will be internationally cost competitive and environmentally friendly.

    Australian Paper’s Tasmanian Wesley Vale mill is the only other producer of coated fine paper in Australia and currently
    produces about 68,000 tonnes a year.

    “With bankable feasibility and pre-engineering studies already completed and now with EIS approval, we are
    confident we will quickly secure the financial support needed to begin construction of the plant,” said Foster.
    “Indicative support for the project from the financial community is good and we expect competitive funding to
    be secured within the next six months.”

    Construction of the facility is expected to take about two years to complete with a peak construction force of
    850 people.

    The EIS was subject to an extensive community consultation process with a broad range of stakeholders. An
    important part of Swanbank Paper’s plan is to develop a local training and employment program in
    partnership with Ipswich City Council and local education institutions with the aim of maximising local
    involvement in the project.

  • PMP gets out of sheetfed printing

    As part of the agreement the two publicly listed companies will enter into a long term strategic
    relationship under which Promentum’s Penfold Buscombe business will provide sheet-fed
    printing services to PMP. This year PMP’s sheet-fed operations generated annual revenues in excess of $50 million. The addition of this amount of printing will lend further credibility to Penfold Buscombe’s claim to be Australia’s largest sheetfed printer.

    The integration of the businesses is expected to begin February 2005.

    As an integral part of the transaction, Penfold Buscombe and PMP will enter into a Print and
    Co-operation Agreement with a minimum term of five years. Promentum will refer to PMP as preferred supplier all web printing orders it receives in the course of doing business, while PMP will do the same for Promentum with regard to sheetfed printing.

    Promentum will issue PMP approximately 14.1 million of its shares at an agreed price of
    $1.70 per share as consideration for the transaction (implying a transaction value of $24
    million). As a consequence, PMP will become the largest shareholder of Promentum with
    approximately 26 per cent of the enlarged group.

    PMP has committed to retain its shareholding in
    Promentum for at least three years (except in circumstances of a takeover offer being made or
    a Scheme of Arrangement being proposed for all Promentum shares). PMP will appoint a non-executive director to the Promentum Board.
    The transaction is subject to approval by Promentum shareholders.

    According to Promentum CEO Alistair Hill, the latest transaction will pose no problems for the acquisitive company, which this year has already absorbed Websdale Printing. “The PMP sheet-fed business is an excellent
    strategic fit for our Penfold Buscombe business and enables us to strengthen our presence
    in each state. We will now have the leading market position in Queensland, New South
    Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Penfold Buscombe has a track record of successful integration of acquisitions, ensuring a smooth transition process and maximizing revenue opportunities.”

    According to PMP CEO David Kirk the company’s sheetfed printing, while important, is not the company’s main area of focus. “We have a major management
    focus and improvement plan for our core web printing business; by contrast, sheet-fed has
    not been given the management time and capital the business requires and deserves.

    “This transaction provides a neat solution to the future of our sheet-fed businesses, and the major customers of those businesses – including PMP – in conjunction with the leading sheet-fed printer in Australia.

    “The management and employees at our sheet-fed sites worked hard to improve
    performance in 2003/4 – and in all cases succeeded in doing so. We are very pleased to
    have found such a solid future for these businesses with an expert, broadly based and well
    capitalised sheet-fed player.”
    Kirk indicated PMP would book an accounting profit from the sale of approximately $12
    million. PMP will retain its Zillmere and Cheltenham sites.

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

    The next show will become Label Summit Asia in 2006 and take place on 10-11 October at the Intercontinental Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand. This follows a trend, which is seeing Bangkok become the regional hub for the printing and graphic arts industries. In recent times the Asian Flexo conference has taken place there while the Thai government, with tax-free set-up breaks, is committed to making the country into an export powerhouse for printing.

    ———————————————-

    Label press manufacturer Nilpeter confirmed that the numbers at last month’s Singapore Labelexpo show were down, even as it picked up “a reasonable number of leads” for its latest press– the FA-3300, which it demonstrated with eight UV-flexo printing units, a freely-interchangeable ‘drop-In’ rotary screen unit and a cold foil station for metallised effects.

    Sales director, Jakob Landberg, said that although there were a number of Australians and New Zealanders there, most of the visitors were from Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Local label printers are undoubtedly looking forward to the LATMA show in the Barossa Valley next April.

    ———————————————-

    You have to hand it to Ron Anderson of Rapid Digital, who is quickly assuming the highest profile of any digital printer in Australia. The spectacular opening of his new digital print hub in Artarmon two weeks ago set a new standard in sheer show business power. It had everything; stretch limos, red carpet, entertainers, food, drinks and speeches, and the genuine surprise unveiling of the second Fuji Xerox iGen3 in Australia. Hollywood lost a great producer to the Australian printing industry.

    You can see it yourself. In true Anderson style the whole affair is now available on the web – www.rapiddigital.com.au/RapidVideo_content.html

    Go and take a look – it’s worth it.

    ———————————————-

    One genuinely moving moment in the Rapid Digital launch, amid the pizzazz and hoopla, was Fuji Xerox managing director Phil Chamber’s recognition of the role in the introduction of the iGen3 to Australia played by the late Michael Stone, who died tragically last year. In an industry that usually has little time or inclination for looking back it was a nice acknowledgement that sometimes we lose good people along the way.

    Vale Michael.

    ———————————————-

    Did you know there are 39 different forest certification schemes operating? This proliferation of ways to ensure that paper is produced from sustainably harvested forest explains why it is so difficult to get any sense out of paper mills and merchants when it comes to the environmental credentials of their products.

    According to a story by Andy Scott in Print Week the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) has now put up a web site www.forestrycertification.info to help make comparisons of the different schemes. It may allow print buyers to make a more informed choice about the paper they use.

    ———————————————-

    And finally . . . just a quick one that hits close to home.

    Did you hear about the new website dedicated to Morse code enthusiasts?

    It’s www dot dot dot, dot dot . . … . . … . .

  • Book Club –

    A new edition of Pocket Pal is always an event in the printing and graphic arts industry. First published in 1934, this indispensable reference work has long been the authoritative introduction to the graphic arts for artists, designers, publishers, advertisers, students and buyers of printing. It has also proved to be an indispensable handy reference guide for printing professionals.

    A new edition of Pocket Pal is always an event in the printing and graphic arts industry. First published in 1934, this indispensable reference work has long been the authoritative introduction to the graphic arts for artists, designers, publishers, advertisers, students and buyers of printing. It has also proved to be an indispensable handy reference guide for printing professionals.

    Pocket Pal is the ultimate argument solver, jam packed with facts, figures, diagrams and illustrations of all major imaging processes. It provides detailed, concise information on prepress, press and post press, with individual sections on paper and a graphic arts glossary. Readers will find information on types and typographies, including proofreading, type, colour charts and digital prepress.

    The 19th Edition is edited by Frank Romano, RIT School of Print Media (Michael Riordan, RIT, Assistant Editor) and builds on the millennium edition’s initiative to bring digital printing into the mainstream of the industry’s reference. The result is a thoroughly up to the minute reference work that also retains the solid background knowledge that has made it such a favourite for generations.

    Pocket Pal is easy to read, an inexhaustible resource, and provides printing and graphic arts professionals with the wherewithal to fully understand all facets of their industry.

    –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

    To buy Pocket Pal: Graphic Arts Production – New 19th Edition and to browse the Print21Online Graphic Arts Library click here:www.bluelinemedia.com.au/index.cfm?pageid=shop&productType=1

  • Buying printing online threat or opportunity? – news commentary by Andy McCourt

    Australian and New Zealand online print procurement sites are proliferating with names such as weprintit.com.au, worldwide.com.au, and the marvelously-named, digiwedoo.com.au an Adeleide shop equipped with HP Indigo colour. Website www.4print.com.au will even find you an online printer anywhere in Australia or New Zealand.

    Much of the printing on offer is at very sharp prices. For example, the following special offers can be seen and purchased online, and only online.

    Special Offer 1
    500 A4 full colour flyers, 90gsm laser bond $139.80
    1000 A4 full colour flyers, 90gsm laser bond $182.39

    Special Offer
    500 A4 full colour flyers, 150gsm gloss $312.42
    1000 A4 full colour flyers, 150gsm gloss $380.25

    Special Offer 13
    500 business cards, full colour, one sided $88.55
    (with acknowledgement and thanks to Minuteman Press Perth, www.mmpress.com.au)

    Delivery is Australia-wide and prices include GST. The A4 full-colour laser per-sheet price is 30 cents.

    Record growth rates for print

    October issue of Inc. Magazine, the USA’s leading publication for small and medium-sized businesses, ranked 500 fastest-growing private companies. Online digital print-on demand provider Mimeo.com, Inc. www.Mimeo.com ranked #186 on the list, with annual sales growth of 733%.

    The list is full of businesses with print-related services. At #16 is CSG – Commodity Services Group – a procurement organisation claiming to save its customers 18% on goods and services. Print is one of its major offerings. CSG grew 4,439% in 2003-04; turnover was $13 million. Another print-paper services company, e-copy, was #92 on the Inc.500 list with a 1,555% 03-04 growth.

    At #183 was printingforless.com which grew 933% by offering ‘real lithographic CMYK printing on Heidelberg presses.’ Other names that crop up on the Inc.500 list include theprinters.com, printinc.com and the americanpublishinggroup.com.

    In Australia, the growth of Worldwide Online Printing has been widely reported over the past two years. The big chains Snap and Kwik Kopy both opt for ‘login’ access to online print buying, and direction to the nearest franchise.

    The trend is summed up by ACT-based Printingonline.com.au which has been set up to take advantage of the internet to make professional full colour printing available online to anyone, to any business, anywhere in Australia who needs quality printing and has an internet connection.

    MY CALL

    It’s the second coming of internet-based print procurement. This time it’s for real, billions of dollars in print orders will be primarily conducted online within the forseeable future. How many traditional print businesses can boast growth rates in the hundreds, even thousands of per cent?

    The emphasis is on ‘procurement.’ The commoditisation of printing slots it neatly into supply-chain management and there is no better way to manage your supply chain than exclusively online. Everything is logged, trackable, and identifiable. It’s like e-bay.

    If you think you can hide in ‘up-market quality craft-based printing’ think again. Offset online printing is growing too with progressive operators building marketing-based websites with strong sales pitches for all types of work.

    The good news is that anyone can do it. Your existing business can grow exponentially with a new approach to marketing, building business relationships with buyers online. But it’s not just about having a website or accepting emailed PDFs, it’s a total culture of online business, transferring the trust and goodwill from bricks-and-mortar business into the virtual world. There’s a knack, even an art to it, so do your homework. Take as much care in building your e-commerce website as in buying a new press.

    Could you run your business without a phone line? In the not too distant future, it will be nigh impossible to operate without a good interactive website.

    Take an open-slather approach and don’t limit online commerce to ‘privileged customers.’ Everyone with an internet connection is a potential customer.

    I recall in 1985, at Dynamic Press, a grand Sydney printing house run by the van Werren family, patriarch Arrie van Werren grabbed a fax from his machine and pronounced excitedly, “Here, another order by fax and we haven’t even met the person!.”

    That was then. The internet is now. Plan and implement your online strategy. Make it your #1 New Year 2005 resolution.

  • NGP extends its role to digital printing

    Initiated at the second annual meeting for NGP partners, the new steering committee will drive the cross-vendor initiative. “NGP has reached the next level of industry involvement. The number of different organizations now represented on the forum committees is proof that NGP is a true industry initiative,” said Tim Daisy, NGP Chairman. “The ultimate winner here is the end user, the printer who sees their personal business partners and vendors represented and bringing him greater value.”

    Responsibility for raising the group’s profile within the industry and promoting its work rests with Wilton, who recently transferred to Creo HQ in Vancouver.

    “This is an exciting time for the NGP partners as the number of integrated solutions developed passes 140,” said Wilton. (pictured front row third from right at the NGP meeting). “The industry can expect many more value-adding solutions to come in the future as more manufacturers recognize the benefit of being part of the initiative.”

    The new Digital Print Forum in NGP has been created to deliver the value of integrated solutions to digital printing. This new forum provides the opportunity for additional digital printing vendors to participate in the Networked Graphic Production initiative.

    The forum will address the evolving needs of commercial printers looking to integrate their offset workflows with their digital printing operations, and provide more flexible, cross-vendor solutions. As well, digital printing vendors will be able to further integrate digital printing operations with other prepress systems, adding value to digital printers’ investments in the future.
    More than 40 print industry vendors are members of Networked Graphic Production. NGP Partners have developed more than 140 pairs of integrated solutions that provide a seamless flow of job and production data across the entire production process.

    Increased efficiencies through automation, integration, and cross-vendor interoperability are the goals of Networked Graphic Production. This is being made possible through the definition of a standard set of NGP interfaces, based on the JDF standard.

    By adopting this JDF interface, each of the NGP Partner solutions will be able to communicate with one another, thereby creating a family of solutions that can be combined to provide a seamless flow of job and production data across the entire production process. For more information about Networked Graphic Production, visit the official web site at www.ngppartners.org.

  • Canon launches its KPG-enabled proofing solution

    The new alliance uses the Canon CLC1100 series printers with the KPG Matchprint Professional Server – a RIP server unit that processes and manages print jobs to deliver high-quality, accurate colour results.

    “Through this partnership with KPG, Canon has responded to customer demand for colour accurate results with each and every print,” said Steve Brown, National Segment Manager, Production and Graphic Arts division. “Whether these customers are in design agencies or prepress shops, the need to repeatedly produce precise colour is universal to them all – and is the mark of an excellent business, rather than a merely competent one.”

    With its patented “Colour Locking” technology, the Matchprint Professional Server handles device calibration, compensating for a printer’s own variations (which can even include its local environmental conditions) to ensure colour consistency from proof to proof and also from proof to the final print job – whether printed digital or sent to offset.

    Designed for professionals

    Design agencies are a key market for the Canon/KPG product combination.

    “This solution gives designers much greater colour control than if they were simply working from their design package direct to the printer,” said Brown. “With the designer being able to convey the colours in their design in such a true manner, the client knows exactly what they are signing off on.”

    At the heart of the Matchprint Professional Server is a software RIP, incorporating KPG’s Colour Fidelity Module (CFM). It is this module that processes and colour manages jobs within production workflows. It provides consistent and accurate colour transformation of digital files resulting in completely accurate prints.

    Prepress shops area a target market

    Another market for the Canon/KPG solution is in prepress shops, where the need to perform “rework” – repeating a print job over and over until its colours match the customer’s expectations – is a major financial concern, especially to smaller operations.

    “One of the things I hear every time I speak to a prepress shop without a colour solution is how much money they lose in rework,” said Brown. “By adding a KPG Matchprint Professional Server to an existing CLC1160 or 1180, or by purchasing a complete solution from the beginning, they can start saving money from the first proof or short-run colour job they put through the printer. It also makes a nice adjunct to any Canon wide format printers a prepress shop might employ.”

    With the short-run digital printing market showing signs of real growth, prepress shops can no longer afford to be printing material on behalf of customers without a branded colour accurate proofing solution.

    Pride in partnership

    Critical colours, such as those in company logos, branded packaging or fabrics, are reproduced to their specified standards because of the accurate spot colour simulations provided by the PANTONE licensed colour engine embedded in the Matchprint Professional Server.

    “We are pleased with our partnership with Canon and feel this will be of great benefit to both our companies and the graphic-arts industry as a whole,” said Ross Gilberthorpe, Business Development Manager, KPG. “Combining the Canon printers with our award winning Matchprint Professional Server and our graphic-arts expertise, customers will benefit from offering consistent, accurate results with complete confidence from the first print.”

    “Canon is extremely proud of every printing device it sells, with high performance a characteristic of each machine right out of the box,” said Brown. “Naturally, when it comes to critical printing work, where customer satisfaction is paramount, we do understand the need for RIP devices and are extremely proud to deliver this Matchprint solution in conjunction with KPG.”

  • Two new Xeikon digital engines for Australia

    So far the identities of the first two companies to buy new Xeikonsin Australia in over four years are being kept quiet by Warren Davey of Xeikon Australian and New Zealand. He indicates the reports are true but is bound by customer confidentiality from disclosing who they are. However it is believed there is a machine for Sydney and Melbourne customers.

    According to Davey the sales vindicate his belief in the successful strategy of Xeikon in opening a dedicated local operation.

    “We have set up with a single focus, which is sales and service of Xeikon machines and nothing else. This puts us in a unique position because we are the only digital print vendor that focuses purely on high volume, high quality digital printing systems,” he said.

    The local installations echo the revival of the company’s brand overseas where it seems to have overcome any doubts concerning its long-term viability. “New customers don’t buy machines
    of this level without being satisfied with the on-going viability [of the company],” said Davey.

    Much of the company’s renewed success has come from the new 5000 engine, one of which is going to one of the local companies. The other install is supposed to be of an older model.

    During the official launch of the Xeikon 5000 in February in Belgium, Xeikon announced that it would sell at least 60 new presses before the end of the year. It achieved the target early thanks mainly to a successful showing at drupa.

    A recent initiative sees Xeikon partner with paper company Stora Enso to establish a joint venture, Stora Enso Digital Solutions. The scheme is to conduct the sales, service and development of the ‘Stora Enso DBS powered by Xeikon’ on-demand CD and DVD packaging line. Stora Enso Digital Solutions will serve disc producers such as the music, film, games and software industries.

  • ColorPak takes over Castle Graphics

    In a neat piece of symmetry Gary Lingard started Castle Graphics about 10 years ago, after his departure as the former CEO of Wadepack (when it was still under the original family ownership).

    Gary was replaced at WadePack by one Ashod Nassibian, who now has made his mark by selling out to CHH.

    The fit between Colorpak and Castle Graphics is a logical one bringing together a strong cartons prionting powerhouse plus industry leading labels capability. Both companies are focused mainly on the pharmaceuticals and cosmetics sector.

    The offer was reportedly 50/50 cash and equity, and it will be “business as usual” at Castle until end of this year at least. In 2005 the plan is for them to be integrated into the new, yet-to-be-built, customized facility, which ColorPak is soon to start constructing at Regents Park in Sydney.

  • Top Amcor executives fall in anti-competition scandal

    Peter Brown, a previous managing director of Amcor Australasia who has been acting
    as a consultant to Amcor since his retirement, has had his contract terminated
    immediately. Amcor has made it plain that all those who have left will receive only minimum entitlements.

    The company notified the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
    (ACCC) in November that it believed it had breached competition laws. According to a report by paper and packaging industry analysts, Industry Edge www.industryedge.com.au the
    instigation of the notification to the ACCC appears to have originated when the four previous
    executives of Amcor Australasia resigned set up a business known as
    Australasian Manufacturing Consulting Group following their departure.

    It is reported that Amcor had prior knowledge
    of the executive’s intent, and when they left it took action to ensure client details
    remained the sole property of Amcor.

    Information that has since been handed to Amcor by the four executives led to the company notifying the ACCC and accepting the resignations of Jones and Sutton. The Board has said it is still unaware of the full extent of the circumstances arising from potential infringement of competition laws by Amcor Fibre Packaging.

    In a statement Amcor said, “The company’s investigation is at an early stage. To
    date, its investigation has revealed that certain of its officers and employees
    appear to have entered into and given effect to arrangements which constituted
    cartel arrangements in the corrugated box business.”

    “It is not intended that any additional payments (whether by way of accrued
    performance payments or payments in lieu of notice or otherwise) will be made
    to them.”

    Chris Roberts, Chairman of Amcor, will act in the interim as executive chairman,
    Louis Lachal (EGM Operations) will become acting COO, and Daryl Roberts,
    currently Group GM Fibre Packaging will become acting MD of Amcor Australasia.

  • Heidelberg to manufacture small offset presses in China

    Initially planned to produce folders, the small-scale facility, at a location yet to be determined, is destined to produce the first non-German assembled Heidelberg presses. Although the first presses are some way off, after the hiring and training of a work force, they will likely be versions of the basic PrintMaster series.

    At the end of year press conference in Heidelberg this week, driven by a vision of continuing hard times confronting the industry, chairman Bernard Schreier forecast that only by continuing reduction in costs will the press manufacturer survive. While discounting any immediate likelihood of merger or alliance between the major press manufacturers, due to the current trend of increasing orders, he predicted that at the first sign of a downturn the pressure to consolidate the manufacturing side of the industry would return.

    Despite the China venture he expressed his belief that the experience and technology capability of the company’s Weisloch plant in Germany will ensure its survival in the face of low cost competition, at least for the next few years. Currently the company is experiencing a five per cent lift in sales, with a first half order intake up 23 per cent.

    Pragmatic futures ahead

    Stripped of its digital and web press divisions and buoyed by its first profitable quarter in nearly two years, Heidelberg is trusting its future to customised, innovative, offset sheetfed presses and increasingly sophisticated consultancy services. Confident that the digital sector, which he left behind this year, will not pose a threat to conventional commercial offset over the next three or four years, Schreier presented the pragmatic face of a company that must sail very close to the wind.

    He maintained that the cost reduction programme, which has seen Euro 270 million taken off the operating charge of the company over two years, must continue, although he was short on specifics. He made the point that further reduction possibilities in the German environment are limited, a clear indication of the thinking behind the company’s manufacturing future in low-cost China.

    According to the Schreier view of the future, the emerging economies – what he termed the BRIC countries; Brazil, Russia, India and China – will deliver the increase in volumes of printed material. The sheer number of presses going into the developing countries – last year Heidelberg delivered 1,000 printing units to China alone – combined with their low cost base, will make them increasingly effective competitors in an emerging global market for basic, commodity-based printing.

    In these countries the rate of increase in the amount of printing will exceed that of the growth in GDP, while in the industrialised countries it will be two or three per cent below.

    However Schreier pointed out that as 88 per cent of the world’s printing is currently done in the industrialised or developed world, the emerging markets should be seen as an opportunity, not an emergency exit. For printers operating in the developed economies increasing specialisation and flexibility are the keys to survival and prosperity.

    An increasingly large part of Heidelberg’s production is geared towards making customized presses for this developed market. At the press conference, fellow board member Jürgen Rautert claimed that in Europe 30 per cent of print shops would disappear in the first half of this decade.

    The ones remaining will require more sophisticated presses to deal with increasingly specialised markets. Among the examples he cited was the delivery last month of the longest sheetfed press in the world. Sporting the mind-boggling nomenclature of CD102-LY+8+YLYLY+1X3, the 16-tower behemoth is designed for flexographic printing before and after four-colour perfected offset with a final offset unit for matt coating. Rautert predicted that customized presses will comprise almost 50 percent of Heidelberg’s total production by 2008.

    This end-of-year press conference was a lot more sedate and less dramatic than last year’s where Schreier dropped the bombshell that Heidelberg was getting out of digital and web presses. The company now has a lot less on its plate and it is clear that the chairman feels vindicated by the decision to cut the haemorrhaging web and digital divisions.

    “Divesting was good. Looking at the NexPress sales we would not have made it. In the future Heidelberg will be lean and mean with an increased customer presence in consultancy and service,” he said.

    And it will be building presses in China.

  • A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers