Archive for August, 2007

  • Shades of success: X-Rite acquires Pantone

    The deal sees Pantone become a new business unit within X-Rite, which expects to incur cash restructuring costs of $5.5 million in the first year and $6.5 million of annual operating expense costs in year two.

    Both companies blend well together, according to Tom Vacchiano, CEO of X-Rite. “Larry Herbert and his team have built Pantone into a very successful business and we are delighted that it will now be part of the X-Rite family,” he said.

    “This iconic brand is the perfect complement to X-Rite’s business, bringing Pantone’s expertise and market position in colour communication and standards to our colour solutions product offerings. We believe that this strategic acquisition will provide value for our shareholders, customers, employees and partners.”

    Ian Clare, managing director of DES, was unable to comment on the deal and whether Pantone would now be distributed any differently throughout Australia and New Zealand; but the purchase does give DES the full spectrum of colour-related products in the Transtasman.

    This purchase is reflective of growing industry consolidation, according to Jim Summers, president of GMG and X-Rite partner. He told Whattheythink.com that it did not pose a threat to rivals, who are few and far between.

    “This is another example of consolidation in our industry,” he said. “But it is an area where neither company has much in terms of competition, especially following X-Rite’s acquisition of Gretag. Kudos to Pantone. They are really the McDonald’s of colour specification.”

    Expected to be complete by the end of this year, the acquisition will focus on developing X-Rite’s range of offerings, global presence and revenue base, along with achieving synergies in marketing, operations and administration for both companies.

    Having previously worked together, Larry Herbert, CEO of Pantone, foresees a productive future for the two. “Pantone and X-Rite have enjoyed a strategic partnership in providing colour management solutions for the digital imaging market for the last two years,” he said.

    “Our company is wholly committed to colour communication and inspiration and we are enthusiastic about combining our growing business with X-Rite to apply even greater resources to this work.”

  • Pantone goes full steam ahead with new colour system

    The new system is not intended to replace the accepted line of Pantone Matching System products, Goe is instead a response to the changing needs of creative and printing communities.

    "Pantone Goe was created from the ground up to answer the needs of designers for a colour communication system which offers more colour choices that are easy to locate and specify," said Richard Herbert, president, Pantone.

    "The System was built with the latest knowledge of advanced colour science, colour measuring techniques and digital colour display and print environments to ensure that the new system would be extremely versatile and effective in the rapidly expanding world of digital design, animation and print."

    Three main components exist in the Goe System. They include: Pantone GoeGuide, a colour selection and specification guide, Pantone GoeSticks, a book of adhesive-backed chips and myPantone palettes software, interactive software for colour selection and palette building.

    Herbert believes that the three components work individually, and as a whole. "Combined, they take advantage of the latest technology to offer everyone in the creative and production workflow a simpler, more complete, more in-control user-friendly process from the start of inspiration to the realisation of their project," he said.

  • Diversity the key to skills shortage

    Guest speaker Dr Sharman Stone, Federal Minister for Workforce Participation, provided a positive insight into the benefits of a more diversified workforce, and outlined the various assistance measures available to printing  companies offering employment opportunities to various groups within the  wider community.

    Dr Stone was joined by Paul Dickinson from Plus40, a national employment,  training and advocacy service for Australians aged 40 and over. His theme  centred around encouraging employers to look at the pool of workers aged  over 40 not because it is smart for business, but because it is  becoming an essential labour source for the future.

    Both speakers cited falling birth rates and the projected concentrated loss of  workers during the next few years with baby boomers retiring en masse as a  real challenge for business in planning for its future.

    "The  pool of young workers is shrinking," Dr Stone said. "We need  to fill that gap but similar shortages in other developed countries like the  UK and US mean it’s just not possible to do that with skilled  migration.

    "The  best answer is to increase workforce participation among the 21/2 million  Australians of working age who are not currently employed.

     "As  a government, we have made it a priority to look at ways to encourage greater  participation through tightening the rules around disability support and  unemployment to ensure people who can work are encouraged to do so.

    "We  have also introduced a range of measures to make it easier for businesses to  employ from these groups, including contributing to workplace modifications,  pre-employment training or retraining, the provision of wage subsidies, and  even integration training for existing staff."

    While  it was impossible for Dr Stone to address each under-represented group individually,  she urged business leaders to ‘put aside the stereotypes’ and  investigate groups such as indigenous workers, older workers, and people with  disabilities.

    "The overwhelming challenge for printing businesses in future will be to attract  and retain people with the skills and capacity they require. Next time you’re looking to fill those vital vacancies, I would encourage you to  cast your net wider and take advantage of previously untapped and  under-utilised groups to build a successful future," she said.

    This  view was supported by Mr Dickinson, who said the labour market was changing  so rapidly that printing business must prepare themselves or suffer even more  severe staff shortages in the future.

    "While the pool of young  workers is shrinking rapidly, the good news is that for every young worker  coming onto the market today there are seven or eight job-ready workers in  the 45+ age group," he added.

    Dickinson said that many of the perceptions about this group – that they are more  expensive, less flexible, harder to train and more likely to leave or retire  – were completely false.

    "Older workers are actually less concerned about money, and more likely to want  flexible workplaces where they can make a positive contribution and have  their skills and experience valued. They generally bring a much higher level  of skill and experience to their work, are keen to learn and extend those  skills, and they are statistically far more likely to be with your company  for a long time," he said.

    One of the major challenges for all graphic arts businesses in future will be the ability to attract and retain good staff. The message at the Printing Industries CEO’s forum, from both government and private sector, is clear: Diversity is the key to future success.

    Further information on how to increase diversity at work can be found on the federal  government’s JobAccess website www.jobaccess.gov.au and  at the Plus40 website, www.plus40.com.au

    (Pictured l-r) Ron Patterson, Printing Industries, general manager – Victoria  and Tasmania, and national sales manager; Paul Dickinson, organisational  psychologist from Plus40; Dr Sharman Stone, federal minister for Workforce  Participation and Ray Keen, Victorian regional council president.

  • Spread your wings for drupa 2008

    Printing Industries supa drupa industry tour has a selection of seven available tours covering 3, 4, 7 or 14 nights. In addition a range of optional excursions are available for those wanting a break from kilometres of walking through dozens of exhibition halls.

    Tour delegates have several flight options to choose from to get to Düsseldorf. You can fly to Düsseldorf from one of several European airports or you can fly to Frankfurt and catch the train direct from the airport to Düsseldorf main station or airport. Travel time by train is about 80 minutes compared to 50 minutes for the flight.

    Lufthansa German Airlines
    You can connect with Lufthansa flights in Singapore, Bangkok, Shanghai, Osaka, Tokyo, Los Angeles or Seoul. From there you fly to either Frankfurt or Munich and connect to Düsseldorf. It is also very easy to turn your ticket into a Round-the-World fare at no extra cost (other than additional taxes).

    Emirates
    This is the fastest connection. One-stop all the way from Australia to Düsseldorf.

    Qantas/British Airways
    There is a choice of two routes. Qantas to Frankfurt and then by train to Düsseldorf or the long way around flying to London and connecting back to Düsseldorf.

    Obviously there are many other airlines and connections. To discuss tour options and your flight requirements please the supa drupa tour operator, Gerd Wilmer, at Landmark Travel on (02) 9977 7100.

    The supa drupa head hotel is the Hotel Amadeo, which is centrally located in Mönchengladbach and has excellent transport connections to the drupa showground. Other hotel accommodation is also available to meet the varying needs of delegates.

    Drupa is held from over two weeks from 29 May  – 11 June 2008 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

    More information, including multi media tours of Mönchengladbach, a virtual hotel tour and the supa drupa brochure is available on the supa drupa website or by contacting supadrupa@printnet.com.au

  • Letters, feedback, get it off your chest: 30 August

    Dear Editor,
    Re: Why are printers ignoring Generation Y?

    There are several issues at hand that have led to the situation of a skills shortage in the graphic arts industry; however the first issue that comes to my mind is a lowering of standards in training and not enough quality training.

    Traditionally, training was technical college-based where teachers developed lessons from a detailed syllabus and curriculum. Now, to please employers we have training packages with insufficient detail, which can be delivered on-the-job.

    Because of the lack of specific detail related to a competency, training packages can be interpreted differently and are more like broad, very basic assessment tools. Using standard learning resource material developed from the training packages would definitely improve consistency of training; however, this is not a current requirement. Training from standard learning resource material would still be flexible because these learner resources are not equipment or software specific.

    So-called training has now replaced real education which is what is really needed to develop skills over time. In some countries like the U.S and parts of Europe you can study areas of our industry to diploma or degree level, yet it seems all we want to do as far as training is the bare minimum. I bet those countries do not have a skills shortage.

    If employers choose to deliver training just on-the-job will it be delivered by a suitably qualified, skilled trainer? Will the training be delivered in a structured and meaningful way to benefit the learner? Will the important under pinning knowledge related to a skill be emphasised? Will sufficient time be allocated at the workplace to enable effective learning to evolve?

    The current training arrangements from the outside look attractive because they are very flexible and the employer does not have to sacrifice productivity, if they choose not to send the employee to TAFE or another training facility. However, I do believe that this has also led to a lowering of standards in training and consequently, contributed to a skills shortage.

    In my opinion, when it comes to training, there should be a slight shift in focus from the employer to the employee. Let’s not just try to keep the employer happy but also the employee, who is the recipient of the training and the future of our industry. The successful companies in our industry listen to their staff and believe in them, and encourage further quality training, which of course will benefit both parties. My message to employers is realise the potential of your staff and treat them as valuable assets. Fulfill their training needs and reward them accordingly, otherwise you will lose them. Further training of staff will make their work roles more interesting and in general, raise the profile of the whole industry – something that is desperately needed to attract new prospective staff. More quality training is therefore also a positive step towards combating the current skills shortage.
     

    Vick Tsaccounis
    Teacher
    Graphic Prepress
    TAFE NSW

    Dear Editor,
    Re: $31 million printing press set for Tasmania

    Glad to see you tried, as I did, to come up with some details about the new Hobart press. And also drew a blank. I’m not sure whether this was bloody laziness to find out – or what.
     
    It’s incredible how impossible newspaper organisations can be in parting with basic information. If all businesses were as difficult, there wouldn’t be much worthwhile business news published.

    (Name withheld).

  • Training is key to improving staff skills says Printing Industries

    Adin Coup, NSW training and allied associations administrator, Printing Industries is on a mission to encourage employers that a trained workforce is a valuable workforce.

    "We don’t hesitate to maintain or upgrade our machinery, update software programmes, constantly look to new technology to remain competitive and minimise wastage. We implement OHS systems and procedures to reduce accidents and minimise down-time," he said.

    "So why not apply this same management process to the other major asset in your business – your staff. For significantly less than companies spend on their machinery, they can show their staff that they are valued at least as much as the machinery.

    "As everyone knows, good reliable staff are hard to get, so maintaining them with the same commitment shown to machinery and other assets is certainly backing a winner".

    Coup said relevant and regular training could ensure reliability, efficiency, cost effectiveness, loyalty and commitment from employees.

    "That’s why we have introduced a range of courses, many of which are free via government subsidies," he said.

    With certificate and diploma courses eligible for government funding, printing employees that meet the criteria are now able to train for free in areas such as:
        •     Frontline Management
        •     Lean Manufacturing
        •     Business
        •     Warehousing

     Other recently introduced or upgraded courses include:
        •     Colour Management
        •     Print Production Management
        •     Print Awareness and
        •     Print Sales

    For more information, contact Adin Coup at Printing Industries 02 8789 7300 or visit www.printnet.com.au for more details.

  • No hit-or-miss with Fuji Xerox marketing tool

    Design to help print providers enhance their variable data publishing services by managing data for direct marketing campaigns, HitList aims develop stronger relationships between digital print enthusiasts and marketing organisations through personalised printing, reduced mail costs and better tracking of campaign results.

    Data is a force to be reckoned with and should never be under-estimated according to Eliot Harper (pictured), production workflow marketing manager at Fuji Xerox. "The key to any successful direct marketing campaign is data," he said.

    "Incorrect or poor quality data severely impacts the campaign response rates and return-on-investment. By offering a solution to database accuracy, the value of customised communications becomes a high value marketing proposition that is hard to deny."

    Stand-alone deployment, data control and improved data quality are the main benefits for HitList users which Steve Hall, marketing manager believes helps partners and their clients to develop profiles of their customers.

    "The importance of making your marketing message relevant to individual recipients means companies must develop rich data and establish permission-based marketing," he said. "HitList, together with Fuji Xerox’s cross media, variable data solutions brings intelligence to direct marketing, lowering costs, whilst significantly increasing response rates."

    Pre-release feedback from customers has all been positive and promising, Harper said. He believes that direct marketing campaigns can now reach the heart of consumers effectively.

    "HitList provides the missing link in direct marketing," he said. "Print providers can now harness high impact opportunities for their customers – via document personalisation, data tools and digital production – with truly measurable results."

    A 60-day trial of HitList is available by registering at www.hitlist.net.au

  • Cielab goes national with BARBIERI resellers

    Increasing interest in custom calibration and ICC profiling equipment, is behind the recent signing of two resellers for BARBIERI electronic equipment.

    Independent colour-management specialist cielab was appointed the sole Australian and New Zealand agent for BARBIERI electronics’ wide-format products in March.

    Colour specialist Michael Rooney, who established cielab in 2006, said the success of the BARBIERI electronic products in Australia sped up his plans to appoint resellers.

    "Initially, we’ve signed Advanced Sign Supplies and Starleaton Digital Solutions – two very competent companies with whom we share the business philosophy of customer service and high product quality," he said.

    Paul Szep, of Advanced Sign Supplies, Brisbane, has been involved in the wide-format digital print industry for 20 years, and is a believer in the importance of colour management. "Since purchasing our BARBIERI demo unit, we have seen first-hand that this is indeed the simplest and most accurate colour-management device," he said.

    Jeremy Brew, of Starleaton Digital Solutions in Sydney, said BARBIERI’s range of colour-management equipment plugs perfectly into Starleaton’s product offerings for wide format printing and finishing. 

    "BARBIERI electronic is known for the quality of its optics, and this is important to us in achieving great results for our customers. When we first looked at the range, we immediately ordered a Spectro Swing for our own use!" 

    Both Szep and Brew agree that being able to offer customers products with the ability to easily produce profiles for backlit materials was a major factor in their decisions to sign as resellers.   

    "We know we’re able to offer our customers a higher quality solution with the BARBIERI product.  Cielab have proven their expertise to us, and we look forward to working with them closely," Brew said.

  • New Zealand newspaper gets a $30 million facelift

    "The new production facilities will give The Press the capacity to push production boundaries, raise standards and give readers a better end product," said Chris Jagusch, general manager.

    The new printing press will be equipped with state-of-the-art colour capabilities and speed and specialised publishing equipment to manage pre-printed sections and packaging. Printing for the southern edition of the Sunday Star-Times and other community newspapers will also take place on the new press.

    The usual suspects – KBA, MAN Roland and Goss – are each battling it out to be chosen as the supplier. Ditmar Zutt of MAN Roland said that a final decision was yet to be made. "It’s up in the air at the moment," he said. "The three of us [KBA, MAN Roland and Goss] are waiting to see what happens."

    Space limitations mean that the new press and publishing equipment will be located outside of the existing premises in Cathedral Square, which Jagusch described as "too restrictive to house the type of technology and support facilities required for modern newspaper production."

    "About 80-90 staff … will need to relocate to the Greenfield site," Jagusch explained. "We will consider selling our Cathedral Square site."

    Expected to be operational in 18 months, the new facilities will aid the development of The Press considerably, according to Joan Withers,(pictured) Fairfax Media’s New Zealand CEO.


    "Combined with the continuing investments we are making in new editorial systems and the integration of New Zealand-wide news gathering, this initiative will give The Press the infrastructure it needs to continue to grow, and serve the needs of the newspaper’s circulation area well into the future," she said.

    "The Press has an exciting future as a newspaper, and as a business."

  • Dubbo printer calls: are you interested?

    Printorana is a small offset printing business that remains part of the printing hub of Dubbo and its surrounding suburbs. Not even five years of drought has dried up this business which has a turnover in excess of $360 000 pa with a staff of four.

    The owner, a long-time printing identity is looking to retire due to health reasons but hopes that Printorana will live on. With four printing presses, increased workflow can be easily achieved without further investment in machinery. All current work comes through the door, with only radio advertising and word-of-mouth to inform others.

    Dubbo is an ever-prospering town that combines country life with consumer comforts. Complete with a university campus, a lively business centre, motels, theatres, restaurants, wineries and a fine assortments of clubs: the RSL, bowling, golf and tennis club means that you’re a far cry from the pub with no beer.

    Interested parties should call manager Lidsay Baker at work on 02 6882 6661.

  • Epson moves up to take on 60” wide format market

    Epson’s long-awaited entry into the large format sector is certain to trigger a fierce battle for market share as rivals seek to prevent it from gaining a similar dominance to that it already enjoys in the photo and proofing market. The new printer will use Epson’s new UltraChrome K3 ink with Vivid Magenta, which the company claims delivers a colour gamut equivalent to conventional 12-colour ink sets.

    At a media briefing in Sydney on Tuesday, samples of the high-quality output from the 11880 were freely available and lacked none of the photo quality punch and true to life gamut achieved with other inks sets in the format. The engine is also the first to use Epson’s new MicroPiezo TFP (thin film piezo) print head with 360 nozzles per inch for each of the nine ink cartridges.

    According to Craig Heckenberg, Epson business unit manager, the October release of the Stylus Pro 11880 has already caused a rush of orders from print-for-pay customers. He is confidant Epson will prove to be as equally successful in the larger format as it is already in its traditional photographic, fine art and proofing markets.

    The 11880 is part of a wider release of Epson products including four new Stylus Pro 880 series large format printers with UltraChrome K3 ink with Vivid Magenta for colour critical printing applications – Stylus Pro 4880, Stylus Pro 7880, Stylus Pro 9880 and Stylus Pro 11880. In addition there are three new Stylus Pro 450 series four-colour printers for the architectural, engineering and print-for-pay markets with increased print speeds up to 60 per cent faster than Epson’s Stylus Pro 400 series using a new production mode setting that dramatically improves throughput in production intensive environments.

    New eight colour ink technology

    As the name suggests eight-colour UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta expands the already large Epson colour gamut. A breakthrough new pigment ink chemistry developed by Seiko Epson allowed the creation of a higher density form of magenta pigments. Epson then worked with professional photographers and print companies to fine tune the printer driver, ink and print head to produce prints with expanded gamut in blues and reds without losing any brilliance and colour depth in other colours of the spectrum.

    A real production machine

    Epson’s new Ink Repelling Coating for the print head and automatic nozzle check combine to eliminate down time by minimising and detecting nozzle clogging before it becomes serious, and to eliminate paper waste used during the cleaning process. It uses a sensor near the print head that counts the electrical charges on the ink droplets as they are fired. A lower than expected electrical charge means insufficient ink was fired, so the print head cleaning process automatically starts.

    Because both photo and matte black inks are mounted and active on the Stylus Pro 11880 users save time and money as the printer immediately and automatically switches between the two black ink modes as required. Each of the eight UltraChrome K3 colours (including photo and matte black) has its own individual 360 dpi nozzle set on the print head so the Stylus Pro 11880 does not need time to switch between photo and matte black. High capacity 700 ml ink cartridges ensure the printer can run unattended to complete long print jobs.

    To increase productivity the Stylus Pro 11880 has professional media handling capabilities accepting roll or cut-sheet paper from A4 up to 64 inches wide and up to 1.5mm thick poster board. It has a built in automatic media cutting system and an automatic take-up reel system as standard.

    It can print a barcode and text on partially used paper rolls to record how much paper is left and what type of media it is, allowing users to confidently switch between paper types and rolls for different jobs.

    To minimise paper use the Stylus Pro 11880 can also print many Borderfree sizes on media from 8 x 10 inch through to 54 inch.

    New image processing technology

    To complement the enhancements introduced by UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta, the Stylus Pro 11880 uses Epson’s new Image Processing Technology, a new image half toning algorithm that improves print speed and produces more stable half tones and an even better print quality in both high and low resolution print modes. Clearer half tones are readily visible in the details of higher colour saturation patches.

    Epson’s new Image Processing Technology further improves Epson’s grey scale stability – the core requirement for accurate colour printing – by reducing colour twist, which brings out greater detail in shadows and supports stable shadow gradation across all tones.

    The Stylus Pro 11880 is up to 2.6 times faster than previous printers. For many production environments where time is a valuable commodity, this reduction delivers substantial time savings and greater revenue opportunities.

    The Stylus Pro 880 series printers will be available in October with recommended prices of: Stylus Pro 4880 – $2995, Stylus Pro 7880 – $5395, Stylus Pro 9880 – $10895, Stylus Pro 11880 – $22995 Ex GST.

       
       

       

       

  • Fairfax hints at small steps for the future

    When the company presented its 2006-07 financial results last week, chairman Ron Walker announced that Fairfax had "caught up with a number of lost years."

    Major achievements for the 2007 financial year included the merger with Rural Press; the acquisitions of the Border Mail and Riverina Media Group; news online initiatives such as Brisbanetimes.com.au, Businessday.com.au and afr.com.au and circulation growth in its largest publications, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Australian Financial Review.

    "During this past year, Fairfax Media has continued to implement its strategy of growth and diversification, resulting in a significant strengthening of the company as a diversified media group with strong platforms for future growth," said David Kirk, CEO.

    Kirk said that the integration of Rural Press with Fairfax Media is currently proceeding well and should continue to do so. "We are fully on track to deliver cost synergies flowing from the merger of approximately $45 million," he said.

    Implementation and execution will be the focus for Fairfax over the coming year, with the company’s focus lying in: integrating Rural Press with Fairfax Media, relocating the Sydney headquarters to One Darling Island, completing property plans for the new Melbourne headquarters and completion of the acquisition of the radio and video production assets of Southern Cross Broadcasting.

    With these steps well under way, there are no current plans for new purchases. However, Kirk told the Australian Financial Review that if the opportunity were to arise, Fairfax would consider it.

    "We are always open to small print or online acquisition," he said. "But there are no major deals around now."

  • Prinergy seminars give users what they want

    First unveiled at this year’s PrintEx (for which it earned a prestigious Print 21 Hot Pick), Kodak has been busy making its way around the country promoting the software to business nation-wide.

    Demonstrated by Rich Ramirez, technical support, the session’s – which some Sydney members complained was delivered too speedily – showed audiences new features including the Adobe PDF print version, Prinergy Hub and Spoke, new linierisation curve, workflow plan automation and tiff download improvements.

    The seminar was divided between advancements to Prinergy Evo and Prinergy Connect. Evo can now be used independently of Prinergy and is accessible by multiple Prinergy users.

    Pictured: Rich Ramirez, technical support with Simon FitzGerald, national sales manager, graphic communications group.

    "Evo now has more functionality," Ramirez said. "It has back up and restore functionality that a lot of people have been wanting for a while."

    New features in Connect include the ability to create and assign free form text notes to a job, rules-based automation, the ability to run on a Windows 03 server, layered PDF versioning and the opportunity for print service providers to personalise Prinergy to match their business needs through adding details such as proof due dates, CSR and operator names.

    "The notes mean that CSRs don’t even have to get on the phone and talk to each other," Ramirez said.

    Napil Abdel, sales manager at Mosaic, demonstrated how fellow workflow specialist Tharsten and Kodak can work together by creating a job in Tharsten and sending it over to Prinergy with ease.

    "Tharsten has gone further than some other companies out there – it sends over imposition information as well," he said.

    Abdel believes that breaking through the fourth wall with an interactive presentation is an important way of engaging with potential customers. "From the MIS point of view it shows that JDF integration is real and not just available in a brochure," he said.

    The Sydney event drew a crowded room of over 50 people, many of whom were existing customers according to Sue McQuate, software trainer. "I’m thrilled by the attendance," she said.

    Pictured: Napil Abdel, sales manager, Mosaic with Sue McQuate, Kodak software trainer.
    Numbers in both Sydney and Melbourne were so strong that Kodak staff are now preparing to hit the road again. "We are planning similar events in Queensland and Western Australia along with a second Prinergy day in Melbourne," said Gord Weisflock, market development.

    "A lot of customers mentioned that it is hard for them to keep up-to-date on technology and appreciate Kodak for having events like this."

  • Private equity vs owner operator – the game is on: Print 21 magazine article

    Some people believe that consolidation is a fact of life in business, as inevitable as the turning of the tides or the setting of the sun. In this worldview, the big fish grow stronger, gobbling up the little fish until eventually there are no more little fish to eat and they can grow no more (unless they eat each other). It’s a phenomenon that’s been witnessed in other industries, some of them closely related to printing, and so, naturally, it seems it must happen here as well. Undoubtedly, in a shrinking market, there is plenty of scope for amalgamation, takeover and merger activity, but where will it all end and what will the industry look like when it’s finished?

    New Zealand has been living with this kind of entrepreneurial activity for longer than the Australian market; after all, the main consolidating players, Geon and Blue Star, have their roots in the NZ market and their modus operandi is perhaps more familiar here. (Blue Star has four sheetfed printing operations in New Zealand – McCollams, Nicholson Print, Printlink and Securacopy; Geon has six NZ operating businesses – Albion Graphics, BFG, BPG, Brebner Print, PrintCo and Kiwi Labels.) Both groups have spread their operations across the Tasman and are now approximately of equal size.

    Even long-time watchers of the New Zealand industry, however, are forced to acknowledge that the current scenario is like nothing ever witnessed before. True, consolidation has always taken place, with companies rising and falling, expanding and deflating, but what makes it different this time around is the huge influx of private money, impossible to resist or repel, and the fact that the industry seems to be getting rapidly smaller.

    Prices heading south
    The one over-riding concern (perhaps fear is too strong a word) among printers is that the current changes will drive down prices in the industry. In this scenario, the big two companies will be able to leverage economies of scale, particularly on consumable items such as paper, and subsequently promote lower prices for print, further eroding already thin margins. The massive press capacity of the major players – as demonstrated by the new Geon site in Auckland due to come on stream – will also be able to soak up whatever the market demands like blotting paper, leaving little else for the remaining players to fight over.

    Paranoia or legitimate concern? What are the odds on a price war breaking out – and has it in fact already started? Views are mixed about this and it should be noted that there is no hard evidence that the large groups are winning share by lowering their prices. Equally, everybody acknowledges that printers will always try to compete on price, but they are also very aware of anyone trying to undercut a fair market return. From time to time there are outbreaks of price cutting in every market, perhaps as a business tries to capture market share or as a precursor to some other market activity, such as further consolidation. So is this happening now? Reports are inconclusive although there is always someone, somewhere who is losing market share and prepared to point the finger. Everybody agrees though that price wars are bad for the industry, a short-term response to market pressures that inflicts damage on margins from which the industry rarely recovers – but that doesn’t stop them from happening.

    Taking a more positive attitude, printers also aware that not every print customer will want to go to a large manufacturing-type operation, preferring personal contact and a hands-on approach. This is especially so for regional printers who are usually hard wired into local businesses. One printer reflected that "there will always be Geon customers that I don’t want and I have customers that Geon doesn’t want." Well, you can always live in hope. What this suggests though is that, as the industry changes, new opportunities will always present themselves, gaps in the market where people who are smart or innovative or flexible or simply bloody good at what they do can carve out a niche.

    And when it comes to being all those things – clever, innovative, flexible etc – the Kiwis seem to do it better than anybody. Indeed, if there is an apparent lack of concern (real or pretend) about what is happening, it may have something to do with the fact that New Zealanders are old-hands at adapting and doing whatever it takes to stay in the game. Time and time again, you hear as a preface to some comment the phrase, "Well, the market here is so small …" Well, it’s true – the numbers are tiny compared just about anywhere else, but the result is the flexibility, the openness to new ideas, the fast adoption of new technology and the efficiency of operation required to stay alive in a small pool. Nimble and quick, the little fish thrive in an environment where, to date, no one can be sure if big fish will survive.

    Competition breeds winners
    While there may be a lot of talk about preparing for the price war to come – and it’s worth noting that expectations here could produce a result that nobody wants – few printers we spoke to had any doubt that they will survive and even thrive in this ultra-competitive environment. With an average printing business employing less than ten, downsizing and cost cutting can often be quite dramatic and effective, especially in the short term. The sense is that most of the businesses that have closed down, been amalgamated or otherwise left the industry have been in the main centres, especially Auckland. The regional printers, for instance those we spoke to in Christchurch, are well-established and balanced and confident they can resist the raids from the centre. Because the regional markets are so small, most printing companies have an export mentality, even if they are only sending print to another part of the country.

    From all indications, the advent of the larger groups is not likely to have a significant effect on the make-up of the industry. Which begs the question, if the consolidators do not succeed in reducing the number of independent operators where does that leave their highly geared strategies? Can they achieve the radical transformation of the industry in the face of what appears to be a very determined resistance?

    To some extent, printers are already looking beyond what is happening now and wondering how the end game will play out. What happens when private equity decides to leave the industry? And on what terms will it do so? Certainly, there is the expectation that the PE players are only in it for the short term. As soon as they spot an opportunity to leave the industry with a profit they will do so, either by splitting up companies and selling off different parts or by making the business look as healthy as possible and then floating it. People are also very aware that a lot of damage can be done to the industry in the meantime but they recognise that these things come in cycles and that the main point is to ride them through. What comes around will come around again.

  • The winds of change – people moving, leaving, news: 30 August

    Kristie snaps up marketing role
    Landing the position as marketing communications coordinator has provided Kristie Hokin (pictured) with the best of both worlds.

    She’s always had an involvement with the graphic arts, but has a particular interest in marketing and was keen to explore this further. "I wanted more of a marketing communications role and this have given me a chance to combine these skills with my graphic arts background," she said.

    Looking after events, generating leads and dealing with most aspects of communication are some of the duties her position involved and, so far, everything is

    going well.

    "I’m loving it," she said. "It’s really hands on and I enjoy meeting everybody while still maintaining my marketing interests."

    Pictured: new Kodak employee Kristie Hokin.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    RMIT teacher heads to Europe
    Print teacher Ross Hall (pictured) is being sponsored by LATMA Victoria to attend Labelexpo Europe 2007.

    Held from 26-29 September in Belgium, the annual exhibition displays the latest technologies and trends in the label industry which Hall’s students at RMIT could gain from.

    "I feel this will not only benefit my own education, but also my present and future apprentices," Hall said. "I’m looking forward to presenting my learnings and observations to the label industry upon my return."

    As president of LATMA, Victoria, Peter Petran said the opportunity for a teacher to see the latest in label technology was driving their sponsorship. "Because the label industry is a significant sector in the Australian printing industry, it is vital that those who are educating our next generation of label printers have the opportunity to see, hear and experience the very latest in technology and trends," he said.

    "Ross is a very dedicated teacher. LATMA Victoria believes our sponsorship of his trip will be well worthwhile for this important Australian industry."

     
  • Sydney’s Wentworth Courier gets a new look

    As of this week, community issues will take precedence with other changes including: a news review page, a bigger sports section, new real estate pages, a full page eastern suburbs entertainment guide, more letters to the editor and increased social and fashion coverage.

    "We’ve increased the news content significantly, whilst adding flair and personality throughout," said Cumberland Newspapers general manager, John Webster.

    "Even though we have valued David Jones’ front-cover commitment to the Wentworth Courier … the paper will be able to tackle community issues more forcefully on page 1."

    The redesign has been managed by editor-in-chief Bob Osburn and design editor Simon Mellick. "The new design, along with more individual stories throughout the paper means more views aired, community concerns raised and more action on issues that matter to our readers," said Osburn.

    With an average of 300 pages, the Wentworth Courier has a circulation of 48, 000 copies distributed to 96,000 readers throughout Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

    Got a view on this story? Drop us a line and <a
    href="mailto:opinions@print21online.com">let us know</a>

  • Why are printers ignoring Generation Y?

    Mark McCrindle of McCrindle Research found that the supply of young people in the workforce is low, due to the ageing of the Australian population and the relative decline in the number of young people.

    "Occasionally in history, rapid technological change combines with massive demographic change and with one generation change society alters altogether," McCrindle said.

    "Today we are living in one such era."

    Key findings in the report were that 30 per cent of the total workforce is employed on a casual basis, while for Generation Y this has risen to over 40 per cent, and that employers have to ensure Gen Y are effectively trained and managed for work outcomes and productivity to be maintained.

    The printing industry is not adequately promoting itself to those who fall inside the Gen Y age bracket, according to McCrindle.

    "I don’t think they are doing enough," he said.

    "When it comes to apprenticeships, many people say that Gen Y aren’t interested in those traditional trades so we look to older and overseas workers when we have a whole TAFE industry to get young people into traditional trades [like printing]."

    Printing Industries CEO Philip Andersen agreed that the skills shortage would be around for a long time, but added that there are also procedures in place to attract youth.

    "We are now in the midst of a technological revolution affecting the way traditional production is handled and creating a new myriad of communication products and services. With this comes the need for people with new skill sets, in particular Generation Y people who have been brought up with technology and would relish technology-based careers," he said.

    "We are currently working with the Institute of Trade Skills Excellence to get a star rating for Registered Training Organisations to provide employers and potential employees with a guide to what they can expect from the many different training institutions."

    Part of the solution lies in throwing some light on an industry that is all too often associated with the dark ages. Effective marketing will go a long way in doing this, McCrindle said.

    "The industry has to reposition itself as offering real careers," he said. "In the early 90s, the accounting industry re-branded itself. It once had a daggy reputation but they turned it around and made it attractive. The military has also done quite well in promoting itself to young people."

    Anderson recognises that this is often the case. "Poor perceptions of what the industry can provide still abound," he said.

    "Our film Imagine: A World Without Print? took a step in the right direction of changing these perceptions, but it’s only one step on a very long road. We are working with government and the various skills councils to get better results for the industry including wider promotion of the skills packages to young people."

    Industry identity Colin Bowd sees the DVD as merely a starting point in what must become an ongoing conversation with youth.

    "The DVD was a good start but we need some evolution from it," he said. "Going out to visit schools is a good idea."

    Being dynamic and proactive will win out, McCrindle believe. "We’ve got to show young people not just the dirty old factory out the back but the fact that printing is 21st century and involves innovation, new technology, entrepreneurism and all the things that Gen Y want," he said.

    "It [printing] is more than dirty hands and overalls."

    Andersen concluded that: "There are no simple solutions for the skills shortages and, as the McCrindle research shows, no quick and simple solutions to fix it."