Archive for April, 2010

  • Tassie boy takes top apprentice award

    20-year-old Stuart Heather from Huon Valley News wins 2009 Tasmanian Apprentice of the Year.

    Heather, (pictured), who began his apprenticeship three years ago at the Tasmanian newspaper and commercial printer, said that he was “surprised and excited” when he was awarded the prize, which included a $1000 cheque from Heidelberg, a trophy and framed certificate, and two tickets to attend this year’s Tasmanian PICA awards at Hobart last week.

    “This award is a good thing to have under my belt to go forward in the industry,” he said.

    Heather was attracted to a career in printing after hearing about the profession through one of his best mates, who works as a print finisher. “What I like best about printing is the variety of jobs,” he said. “I enjoy printing a newspaper and then also doing business cards, books and letterheads; you’re not stuck doing the one thing all the time.”

    The five nominated apprentices recommended by RMIT University were each interviewed two weeks ago by Ron Patterson, Printing Industries Association general manager Victoria/Tasmania and Danny Roach of the Tasmanian Regional Council.

    “We are very happy to see the high caliber of apprentices coming through the system, the award is a prestigious one and the decision wasn’t easy,” Patterson said.  “After much deliberation, we decided that Stuart stood out as the deserving winner.”

     

  • Standard bearers face uphill battle: Print21 magazine article

    After some quick wins by local printers following the introduction of the AS/ISO 12647-2 colour standard, now comes the long, hard campaign to consolidate these gains and win the hearts and minds of all printers as to the benefits of standards-based printing. Simon Enticknap surveys the battle that lies ahead.

    Nearly two years after its adoption as the Australian standard for offset print, the AS/ISO 12647-2 colour standard continues to be a key topic of interest among local printers. Along with environmental accreditation and how to survive the GFC, ISO compliance is near the top of the agenda for most forward-thinking print companies.

    But while the arrival of ISO standards-based printing has certainly attracted a lot of interest, its implementation across the industry has been decidedly patchy. Led initially by the larger print groups – the likes of Geon, Blue Star and IPMG – the use of standards-based production methods has now spread to many second-tier players, companies that are already well-known for the quality of their output and which regularly win awards in various competitions. That’s still a long way off from being an industry-wide standard however, and the number of print companies which are not ISO-compliant still rank in the majority.

    While interest in ISO standards is high, the barriers to its implementation remain formidable for many printers, not the least of which is a certain amount of confusion as to what constitutes ISO certification, what’s involved in achieving it and what the end result really means for printers and their customers.

    Keep it in the family
    The benefits of printing to a known standard are now well-documented. They include greater control over the print process, more repeatable, consistent colour results, reduced waste, faster make-readies, higher productivity, increased customer satisfaction and fewer re-prints due to errors. As a result, although intended primarily as a technical standard, ISO 12647 is increasingly being promoted as a business tool, one which will improve a company’s performance both internally and in its dealings with customers.

    Andreas Johansson, (pictured) sales director with colour specialists Kayell Australia, believes that by being a part of the ISO family, so to speak, Australian printers are better placed to benefit from international print contracts. Large corporates with headquarters overseas who are looking to market locally will seek out printers who are ISO compliant because they know that by using such suppliers they can provide the same artwork and same proofs and get exactly the same printed result as anywhere else in the world. The demand for ISO standards is simply a fact of globalisation.

    The consequence is that printers need to think about ISO compliance as more than just a colour management issue, says Johansson.

    “The guys who have embraced it have got more benefits out of it than they expected,” he comments.

    Similarly, says Johansson, large corporates are under pressure to be good environmental citizens by reducing waste, and one of the ways in which they can do that is to look at their print suppliers; ISO 12647-2 compliance is acknowledged as being instrumental in helping to reduce waste and material consumption so, apart from the reassurance it brings from a colour perspective, its implementation also indicates that such printers are efficient and focused on cutting waste.

    ISO not for all
    On the other hand, not all printers want to do work for companies with head offices in Europe or the US. Indeed, Soeren Lange, (pictured) colour management specialist at Heidelberg Australia & New Zealand, says printers should think very carefully about going for ISO certification if there’s no benefit to be had from marketing it to their customers. Certainly they should aim to print to a standard – for all the benefits outlined above – but, according to Lange, the current fascination with ISO has tended to obscure the fact that the most important element is being able to print to a standard in the first place. Lange says he has even been approached by printers who want the certificate in order to show that they can print to ISO but without doing anything to implement colour management or a standards-based approach. Such thinking is topsy-turvy.

    “The market is listening, the market is aware but the general level of knowledge is way behind what it should be,” he comments.

    Heidelberg offers a number of different colour management options under its Print Colour Management (PCM) scheme, including press optimisation, and Loren says that in some cases printers have sought to become ISO-compliant without taking the final step of becoming certified with an external assessor such as Fogra. The key objective for many printers, he says, is just being able to print consistent, repeatable colour.

    “Everyone with a four colour press should be able to do that,” says Lange. “They are printing colour work so it should be reliable.”

    In the end, it may just be a few print companies which seek out full ISO certification, says Lange, those which perceive there is some value with their customers in doing so. Based on what has happened in Germany where ISO certification has the strongest following, Lange says there may be only about 50-60 companies locally who go all the way to certification, the majority being content simply to use the standard as an internal quality measurement tool. Indeed, he says, there may be no advantage in every printer becoming ISO certified as one of the main benefits of having it is to use it as a market differentiator, a value-add to sell to customers. It’s much harder to stand out from the crowd when everybody looks the same.

    Size is no barrier
    While the bigger print groups have been quick to opt for independent assessment, usually via Fogra, Russell Cavenagh (pictured) at DES believes there is no reason while smaller companies shouldn’t follow in their wake. He points out that any small print business which wants to grow must eventually seek to take customers off larger rivals and one of the ways in which it can do that is by showing that it can print to the same standard. He dismisses suggestions that ISO is ‘too hard’ for smaller printers, pointing out that, for companies looking to expand, ISO implementation is a far more cost-effective way to increase press capacity than buying another press.

    “You implement ISO for one reason only – and that’s to make your business more efficient,” he comments. “So if you’re a small business trying to grow, you do that in order to become more efficient.”

    While printers cite cost and time as the main hurdles to ISO compliance, in the end it all comes down to the management mindset; business owners have to believe that this is something worth doing for the sake of their company. Speaking at the recent Pathways to Profit seminars organised by DES, Ulrich Schmitt, head of quality management at Fogra, highlighted how ISO marks a shift from the craft-based traditions of the printing industry to one of industrial production where process takes precedence over individuals. As such, ISO and standard-based printing can be a real challenge to the culture of a print business and one with far-reaching implications.

    Whenever entrenched attitudes and work habits are confronted, the natural response is resistance. It requires a commitment from all staff to change and can be particularly threatening to those workers and managers whose positions rely on their ownership of a specific knowledge and expertise. ISO printing is a silo-buster, forcing co-operation between prepress and pressroom and introducing a culture of transparency where everybody’s faults and failures are brought out into the open. The numbers don’t lie.

    Room to be creative

    Equally though, Ulrich Schmitt is keen to point out that standards do not kill creativity but rather give it room in which to flourish.

    “What we are trying to do with standardisation is to release a lot of energy,” he says. “The ISO standard doesn’t limit printers to do a better quality. It says this is the average, the baseline that every company can achieve under normal conditions.”

    By fixing on a standard goal, the print process itself becomes more regulated and predictable, freeing up resources to focus on more than simply ‘getting the job done’.

    “When you do standardised print where resources are efficiently used, you have a lot of time left in the creative process which can be used to make the job better – these resources are released which you can use to focus more on the customer’s interests and on special jobs. The plain jobs with plain requirements get done faster,” says Schmitt.

    “I’ve seen companies that say ‘Now we can do things which are not covered by standardised production’. They release these creative people in the print process to create new ideas.”

    So will standards set you free? The battle may be long and hard but the spoils of victory await those prepared to take on the challenge.

  • Follow the leaders to the future: James Cryer’s commentary

    Age is no barrier when it comes to running a successful printing business, writes James Cryer, who believes that it is time to start harnessing the wisdom of our elders.

    To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, the collapse of one printing company is an unfortunate accident, but two in the one month is just sheer carelessness. Just like the death of a loved-one, we as an industry should feel the reflected pain and take no joy in such events.
     
    But being human, we also feel a sense of glib relief that the corporate Grim Reaper has passed us by. Are any of us so perfect that we can hurl sarcastic comments at these companies as if we are models of rectitude when it comes to managing a business?
     
    I’m referring, of course, to those two giants of the forest who crashed spectacularly in the month of April: Pettaras and Chippendale. There have been others of course  who had less heroic corporate histories, but we tended to put Pettaras and Chippos on a pedestal – and for good reason.
     
    They were ornaments of the industry: Pettaras for its outstanding award-winning reputation and Chippos for being the underdog that joined the big league. And putting aside the temptation to make petty swipes, they were leaders in their sectors: proud, assertive, confident, enjoying a certain cache, and perhaps even the envy of other companies who could only dream about their high-profile reputations.
     
    These were not the companies you’d bet on in the "least likely to succeed" stakes.
     
    So what went wrong?
     
    The definition of an idiot is someone who keeps making the same mistakes after being told the remedy. We as an industry do tend to keep making the "same mistakes". Ideally, as an industry, we should wish to learn from these "mistakes" – not in a gloating sense that "we’ve survived and they haven’t", but in a constructive sense of "what should we be doing better" collectively, as an industry.
     
    Are there any common threads that link these two unfortunate collapses? Maybe.
     
    One of the strengths of our industry, is that it’s built upon the rock of the fierce entrepreneurialism of self-made men. Virtually all of our managers are from within the industry. But it can be lonely at the top, so where does a "self-made" MD turn to when times get turbulent and other skills, such as financial, operational or logistical expertise are needed?
     
    If Pettaras and Chippos had the benefit of "outside" directors and/or consultants, would they have made the same decisions that possibly lead to their demise?
     
    I know it’s easy to be critical after the event, but are we too parochial in our management structures?
     
    There is, however an answer, and it’s on our doorstep. We as an industry are very quick to chuck out our more mature members (yes, the ones who have made all the mistakes and learned from them), and toss them on the scrap-heap.
     
    There is a vast reservoir of intellectual and managerial talent just waiting to be utilised in our industry, if only we could get over this mind-set that all managers have to be under forty. These older, more mature "elders" can often bring a clearer perspective to the owner’s more narrow day-to-day vision and provide an often inexpensive resource or sounding-board to our typically younger leaders. In other words, we have a vast resource available, if only we would make use of it.
     
    In a perfect boardroom setting, there will be a mixture of young and old, daring and conservative and – dare I say – male and female. Our industry desperately needs the mixture, the ying and yang of diversity. Let’s start with a unique "talent bank" – only apply if your over fifty, and/or female, and/or have no experience in the printing industry.
     
    I’m very mindful of the excellent example which Dennis Cooper set in offering his services, but there must be many more like him with a wealth of experience to offer.
     
    It would be relatively simple to create such a data bank, and the rewards could be priceless. Any volunteers? 

  • NZ campaign keeps print a part of everyday life

    2000 print buyers targeted through direct mail as part of PrintNZ’s Part of Life initiative.

    Aimed at asserting the importance of print at a time when the medium is frequently frowned upon in preference to electronic media, PrintNZ’s chief executive Joan Grace (pictured) believes the campaign is the most comprehensive initiative undertaken by PrintNZ.

    “Our aim is to provide positive information about print and the role print plays in everybody’s life and therefore, why it should be an essential part of any successful marketing campaign,” she said.

    “The messages extend to the often tricky area of environmental impact, where it has been vital to source information and highlight the significant improvements made by the New Zealand print industry in reducing its environmental impact.”

    There are two major parts to the campaign.  The first phase, via direct mail, has targeted 2000 print buyers including people working in advertising, marketing and communications.

    In May the second phase will target consumers via multi-media advertising. A website: www.partoflife.co.nz  has been set up to reinforce the Part of Life campaign. 

    According to studies the Part of Life campaign has followed on from research into consumers’ and print buyers’ perceptions of print. The research found consumers enjoy the quality, portability, tangibility and freedom of print. In particular they love relaxing with a good book or magazine. Consumers also have concerns about the environmental implications of using and disposing of print.

     

  • Paragon Printing picked up by Print Media Group

    Iconic Wodonga business becomes part of Print Media Group.

    The troubled forms printer, which entered voluntary administration in March, has been living in hope of finding a buyer ever since its surprise fall. Privately owned Australian organisation, Print Media Group, which specialises in manufacturing and print solutions delivery, has stepped up after weeks of speculation as to whether or not any business would take on the challenge of buying the company.

    As part of the deal, Argus Solutions Limited, (which last year bought Moore Business Solutions, of which Paragon Printing was once a part of) has formed a strategic alliance with Print Media Group. The major terms and conditions of this relationship have been agreed in principle. The parties expect to
    formally document this alliance within the next month.

    "The ASV-PMG alliance provides us with substantial opportunities for earnings growth by broadening the services and customer base of complementary businesses which derive substantial revenues," said David Glavonjic, (pictured), CEO of Argus Solutions.

    A statement from Print Media Group said that: “This has been a very complicated process given all the circumstances surrounding Paragon’s legal status. We have been working closely with the AMWU, administrators Hall Chadwick, and Moore Australasia to find a solution. All parties have greatly assisted us in this endeavour.”

    As part of the purchase, Paragon Printing is set to change names to South Pacific Print Group.

    According to the Print Media Group, much still hangs in the balance for Paragon Printing. “The operation’s success will depend on the amount of support given by Paragon’s customer base.  Our ability to re-employ and grow the number of staff will be dependent upon the level of support received from existing Government and Corporate customers that utilise the products manufactured by Paragon.”

    was a key driver in the decision.Lisa Stark, general manager sales and marketing, Ducor and spokesperson for Print Media Group, said that aligning the company with Paragon Printing “There is a lot of product exclusively manufactured at that [Wodonga] plant in Australia,” she said. “If we lost that capability, the only alternative would have been offshore.”

    She added that the strategic partnership with Argus Solutions would strengthen the future and evolution of South Pacific Print Group. “Argus have made a commitment to channel a certain amount of work through the facility, which will help us as we look for various business streams over time,” Stark said.

    Moore Office Products, which also entered VA with Paragon Printing, was this month sold to Penfold by Office Choice.

  • Pushing the envelope pays off for printers

    Sydney printers learn to expand their vision and incorporate marketing into the business offerings at Print20/20 seminar.

    Guest speakers, Michelle Sheehan, director, marketing and business development at Pitney Bowes Australia and Michael Durie, marketing consultant at Australia Post highlighted to the audience the need to transform traditional print jobs into something that makes a lasting impression and keeps customers coming back for more.

     “The traditional print-on-paper market is changing, but not necessarily declining,” Sheehan said. “The mailstream is an opportunity for printers to sell the total business solution, increase revenue per customer, increase average order value and provide more of a one-stop-shop creating more loyal customers.”

    Pictured: Marketing gurus, Michelle Sheehan and Michael Durie, bring their knowledge to the printing industry.

     

    Printers must also learn to manage data correctly for their customers to ensure the success of a print job. “Data needs to be up-to-date,” Sheehan urged. “The last thing you want is to be sending out a piece of dead mail.”

    She also recommended the use of technologies such as envelope design and address validation software, automated folding and inserting machines in helping the aesthetic value of the finished product. “Printers can do more for their customers by making the envelopes looking more professional, appending barcodes for postal discounts. A mail piece needs to look professional,” Sheehan said.

    Those who fear the demise of paper-based mail should be alert, but not alarmed, according to Durie, who sees the print and direct mail industries as being intertwined. “In 2010, print does pay off,” he said. “Direct mail is targeted, tangible and you can measure the results.”

     

  • Digital print boost at Uni of Wollongong

    Océ wins contract to increase black and white production from15 million to more than 20 million impressions per year.

    In the three months since the University of Wollongong Print Centre installed its new production engines, it is on target with more than five million impressions so far.

    The Print Centre is unusual among educational printing facilities in that it also operates as a thriving commercial printer for outside customers, under the name of South Coast Graphics. South Coast Graphics was bought by the University Print Centre two years ago when it was seeking to move off campus and saw the purchase as a means to further develop its business to commercial clientele. The premises, which were extended after the move, bear the name of both businesses.

    Print Centre Production Manager, Garry Piggott, said the decision to move to Océ equipment came about when existing contracts for digital equipment and prepress and workflow software came up for renewal earlier this year.

    “We wanted to explore our options and we were concerned that our software didn’t allow us to output to other printing equipment, which limited our options considerably,” he says. “We spoke to a number of vendors about the issue, including Océ, who set up a demonstration of Océ PRISMAprepare software which easily handled prepress and also allowed us to output to any vendor’s printing equipment. It eliminates the restrictions we experienced before and future proofs the investment.”

    Photo Caption (above): Max Chiodo, General Manager, University of Wollongong Print Centre, with the Centre’s new Océ VarioPrint 6160 Gemini press

    To replace the previous fleet, they have installed an Océ VarioPrint 6160 Gemini press, an Océ VarioPrint 4110 and integrated hole punching and booklet making, as well as the Océ PRISMAprepare software.

    “Because the Océ VarioPrint 6160 is able to print both sides of the paper instantaneously with perfect back-to-back registration, it becomes a highly productive unit for us, in that more than 90 per cent of our output is double-sided. These two units have replaced three print engines and are still giving us increased output,” Garry Piggott says.

    Quality was also a concern for the print centre for both university work and for outside customers.

    “As a longtime offset operation, South Coast Graphics has a good reputation for high quality and it was imperative those standards did not drop in the revamp. In fact we consider the quality to be superior to the previous equipment and more reliable as well.

    “Our commercial customers are just as happy as the university customers and the staff are happy with the reliability, which has virtually eliminated downtime.”

    The revamp has also enabled the University Print Centre to overcome a production bottleneck in the print room, which necessitated staff time on unproductive manual labour, collating punched documents.

    The new printing systems allow for the insertion and printing of double-sided tabs, inserts from any tray, colour splitting and inline punching reducing additional shifts which were commonplace prior to the revamp.

    “All in all, it’s been an excellent investment and the beginning of a good partnership with Océ which will really work to the good of our digital production,” said Piggott.

  • ***Advertisement: Ascent Partners 28 April 2010***

    Quality Client List for Sale in Melbourne. $775,000 plus sales, quality end of the market – stationery, flyers, general jobbing, multiple award winner. Mix of direct clients and designers, with good growth potential. Sell price $125,000 ONO plus GST includes web site, on line print management system, quality … read more.

    Quality Client List for Sale in Melbourne. $775,000 plus sales, quality end of the market – stationery, flyers, general jobbing, multiple award winner. Mix of direct clients and designers. Sell price $125,000 plus GST includes web site, on line print management system, quality systems (ink mixing, spectrophotometer, etc).

    Assistance will be provided to ensure a smooth transfer of clients.

    This could be a great opportunity for an A3 printer wanting to gain additional sales, and enter the quality end of the market. Alternatively this list could be ideal for an A2 multicolour printer who should be able to leverage their larger format production capacity to increase sales to this list.  

    Ascent Partners offers a dedicated business sales service to the Australian printing industry. Ring Richard Rasmussen (0402 021 101) or visit web site, www.ascentpartners.com.au for more information

     

  • Log on to free GASAA PDF webinar

    Canon’s Will Parker sheds some light on PDF-X Workflow and standards compliant PDFs in upcoming GASAA webinar this week.

    Held this Thursday, 29 April from 10.30am – 11.30am AEST, the webinar will be facilitated by Will Parker of Canon, who will offer his perspective of digital production press output and how standards-based PDF printing can help illuminate the way for those needing to handle digital workflows in a word predominantly equipped to handle “plate-centric, four-or-more separated Postscript.”

    According to Garry Knespal, GASAA executive officer (pictured), this is a topic of great importance to the printing industry locally.

    “With the increasing interest and commitment to standards based printing across the industry in Australia we are faced with the challenges of understanding a new set of parameters which define how and what we print,” he said. “Participate in this webinar to up-skill, for free, in the convenience of your own office.”

    To register, email events@gasaa.asn.au with the subject line Register Thurs 29 April Webinar – PDF-X.

  • Green pages bring gold for Parallax Design

    A sustainability report for Finsbury Green earns Adelaide design firm global recognition at London Designers and Art Directors Awards.

    The South Australian company won in the Brochure and Catalogue category, Its entry, the 2009 Finsbury Green Sustainability Report (pictured) was selected out of 20,000 others and was awarded for its originality, strength of idea and strong visual impact.

    Based on the premise of “making green normal, one page at a time”, each page was tinted green, becoming heavier at two per cent increments per spread, gradually turning the report from white to green.

    Matthew Remphrey, creative director at Parallax Design, was excited that his company’s work was chosen amongst entries from designers around the globe. “The award recognised both imagination and technical application within our industry, so to have our design named as one of the best in the world is very exciting,” he said.

    Rodney Wade, national environmental and technical manager at Finsbury Green, was pleased with the report’s design, which he believes is important for “the only genuine sustainability report in the industry.”

    “We were delighted to work with Parallax; they came up with a fantastic concept,” he said. “The comments from our clients have been exceptional; we’re very proud of the publication and the design values that went into it.

  • Penguin punished for pasta disaster

    Book publisher, Penguin Group Australia, pays the price for sinful typo in its latest Pasta Bible.

    7000 copies of the book were recently pulped and reprinted, costing the company  a reported $20,000, after it was discovered that a recipe contained the instructions ”salt and freshly ground black people”, instead of “black pepper.”

    Penguin’s head of publishing, Bob Sessions, told  The Age that that furore was a storm in a teacup, citing spell check as responsible for the slip. ”We’re mortified that this has become an issue of any kind and why anyone would be offended, we don’t know,” he said. “ … proofreading a cookbook is an extremely difficult task. I find that quite forgivable.”

    The original version of the book had already made its way to some stores before the mistake was picked up on. Sessions added that upset customers who already bought a copy of the offending version are able to obtain a new copy.

    The incident highlights, among other things, the power of the printed word.

     

  • Letters, feedback, get it off your chest: 28 April 2010

    Problems at Chippendale gets Phil Heaton thinking about what the industry must do to avoid a similar plight. Write in and let us know your view on this, or any other of our stories.

    Re: Chippendale given the chop by administrators

    It’s a sad day for the industry to see a print powerhouse like Chippendale go under and there is only one group to blame and that is the equity partners and the management of Chippendale for mismanaging the changes needed in print today.

    It had been happening for many months and was out of control. Chippendale had a lot of great staff that were mismanaged by a top heavy, bureaucratic management structure that would not listen to the print people and work with them to restructure the company to adjust to the ever changing world of print today.

    Yes, it had massive firepower and a diverse, supportive structure in packaging, direct mail and creative bindery. It was a salesman’s dream operation. However it had drivers that did not know commercial print and treated the workers with disrespect. Too many chiefs and too many beans to count with other motives. There was only one way: their way, with a cowboy riding the donkey.

    Print must diversify and embrace the new technologies such as LinkedIn, Bluetooth, Twitter, mobile phones and the internet and data management.

    Paper sales across the board are down by at least 15 per cent. It’s a shrinking market however there is plenty of opportunities for the right people. We need to work with the new technologies and focus on change and entrepreneurial abilities to market print differently. Print is a support to the overall marketing need for immediate and measureable response rates.

    In addition, the trend that we all have seen is for a more targeted print spend by clients with shorter runs and the growth of the digital print market. The quality is great and the medium is so flexible with the interaction of available and targeted data.

    I wish all the talented workers at Chippendales all the very best and in the future ensure you back the right horse.
    Phil Heaton

    *******

    Re: Letters, feedback, get it off your chest: 21 April 2010
    To Richard Holland:

    Do you care to share with the forum what your company actually spends directly on paper? Or are you talking over your head about what your suppliers (meaning printers) are selling your finished goods at?  You talk it up, but how many people does your company employ in a manufacturing sense? Big talk, nil substance. Good luck with your next order of business cards …
     
    Name withheld

  • Weathering the storm of uncertainty: Print21 magazine article

    After a string of recent failures, we have become increasingly de-sensitised to printing companies entering administration or receivership. But after a leading light of the Sydney print establishment – Pettaras Press – appointed administrators, there have been calls for a re-think on how insolvent businesses can be helped. Andy McCourt explores the minefield of insolvency law and suggests we need to look towards the USA for a better system.

    Anyone can get into financial distress – anyone at all. Look at Greece, Iceland and Spain – entire countries technically ‘trading while insolvent’. It’s not new. In the late 1500s, King Phillip II declared Spain bankrupt, thus becoming the first sovereign state in history to go broke. The equivalent of his fleet of expensive 10-colour perfectors was, of course, the Armada.

    More recently, a worrying raft of administrations and liquidations have blighted the Australian printing industry and the impact on lives, jobs, tax revenues and both secured and unsecured creditors is alarming. What can be done? The simplistic and unacceptable answer is ‘just don’t get into trouble’.

    The most famous bankrupt in printing history was the man himself – Johannes Gutenberg. Court documents from 1455 show that he owed Johann Fust 2,000 guilders and was successfully sued, with Fust getting the print shop and half of all printed Bibles. There must have been a ‘scheme of arrangement’ since Gutenberg moved and re-started a print shop elsewhere.

    A slave to debt
    Insolvency laws were originally introduced to protect creditors, not the debtor. They allowed for punitive action against the debtor, his assets and even his family. In ancient cultures such as Greece, if a citizen could not pay debts, he and his immediate family became ‘debt slaves’ to whomever the debt was owed, until it was paid off with labour. However, under the Hebrew system, there was provision for a discharge of debts every seven years, with the 49th year being a jubilee where all debts were forgiven.

    So what is the insolvency situation in Australia today? To be frank, we lag behind counties like the USA where court-appointed administrators can examine the bigger picture – not solely the interests of creditors – and work towards restructuring a business so that jobs, houses, health and the greater good of the community are preserved. Commonly known as ‘Chapter 11 Bankruptcy’, the US system enables a company to continue trading under an administrator appointed by a judge, and be protected from actions by creditors for a period of time. A prominent example of this is World Color (formerly known as Quebecor) which entered and exited Chapter 11 and is now being acquired by Quad/Graphics in a $1.2 billion deal.

    Current Australian law tends to favour the winding-up or forced sale of companies in trouble. Why? Keeping in mind that, in Australia, only individuals – not companies – can declare bankruptcy, administrators are appointed to run companies either at the voluntary request of the directors, or by compulsion when a creditor forces the issue. Either way, the courts are not involved – an administrator is not appointed by a court.

    Once appointed, an administrator is then personally liable for any new debts incurred by that company. This somewhat draconian risk is what drives many administrators to favour a ‘quick exit’ from the business. The better ones will explore turning-around or selling the business and returning it to profitability but, so long as the Damoclean Sword of personal liability for debts exists, if the opportunity for a fire-sale or liquidation gets the nod of creditors, this is the road most often taken.

    Having said that, the Federal Government is currently reviewing Australia’s insolvency laws and, in January this year, the Treasury released an insolvent trading discussion paper which is available on the treasury.gov.au website. The gist of it is that there should be a ‘safe harbour’ for companies to be rescued, outside of an external administration. This is good news, but tragically too late for many companies. For an independent analysis of the proposed insolvency reforms, PricewaterhouseCoopers has kindly offered this  link.

    Give folk a chance
    Creditors often have directors’ guarantees to cover trading debts and more than once I have witnessed families losing their homes when their business goes broke. This is clearly not acceptable in a modern free-enterprise and fair society where everyone has the right to explore the Australian dream. Certainly, dishonest traders rorting the system should be prevented from benefiting from any ‘safe harbour’ changes to insolvency law but the majority of printing businesses I have seen in trouble are far from dishonestly run. They are run by good people who deserve a chance to weather the storm.

    Currently, it is against the law to trade whilst knowingly insolvent. The proposed reforms will, effectively, enable ‘safe harbour’ trading while insolvent, so long as steps are being taken to restructure the business.

    Roll on those reforms. In the end everyone will be better off, including creditors.

    Unfortunately, for some great printers, they will be too late.

  • Printers cause suppliers bad debt pain

    The number of credit insurance claims in the printing industry continues to rise around Australia and New Zealand.

    According to National Credit Insurance Brokers (NCIB) claims statistics, during 2009 the paper and printing industry made over $8.8m in credit insurance claims. This ranks paper and printing in the top five claiming industries of 2009 behind building/hardware, electrical wholesale, advertising/media and engineering.
     
    Paper suppliers who use trade credit insurance as a means of protecting themselves against the risk of a bad debt, lodged over 100 credit insurance claims via NCI in 2009.
     
    According to Kirk Cheesman, (pictured) managing director of Australia and New Zealand’s trade credit insurance broker, NCIB believes that “The paper and printing industry is trading in a tough environment,” he said.

    “Suppliers have increasingly been seeking support in assessing their Trade Debtor Risks by using Trade Credit Insurance, out sourcing debtor assessment and monitoring services and requesting further data including financial statements from their debtors.”
     
    Cheesman added that the paper and printing concerns are not just limited to Australia, but also New Zealand and the Asia region.  

    Last year, Cheeseman told Print21 that it was growing harder for companies to gain insurance. "Insurers have been hit hard with credit insurance claims and their hunger for trade credit insurance in the printing industry has decreased," he said.

  • Spending slow down hits Heidelberg hard

    Cautious investment behaviour leads to Heidelberg’s fall in sales and profit for the 2009-10 financial year.

    Preliminary incoming orders fell to €2.371 billion, down from €2.906 for the previous year. In addition, preliminary sales also fell to €2.306 billion, down from €2.999 billion. As a result, Heidelberg’s preliminary operating result came to €-130 million (the previous year’s figure was €-49 million).

    According to Heidelberg’s CEO, Bernhard Schreier, (pictured), the financial year was “a difficult market environment”. He is hopeful of the company’s ability to break even.

    “A marked upward trend was evident in the second-half of the year, which was primarily influenced by the traditionally strong fourth quarter,” he said. “Now, the aim of our further cost-cutting measures introduced at the end of March is to achieve a break-even operating result for the next financial year, assuming stable economic development and furthermore an economic value added in all areas of business in the medium-term.”

    CFO, Dirk Kaliebe, also noted an upward trend in the fourth quarter – 1 January to 31 March 2010. “We recorded a further increase in our sales volume of around 24 per cent on the previous quarter and, for the first time since the economic and financial crisis started, we achieved a positive operating result, excluding special items,” he said.

    Staff have felt the brunt of these tough conditions. The Heidelberg workforce numbers fell by 1,524 in the fourth quarter of 2009/10. The company now employs 16,496 across the globe.

     

  • Jenrite joins HP in New Zealand expansion

    Large format digital print, Jenrite, partners up with HP.

    Prior to the appointment of Jenrite, Digital Vision was the sole channel partner in New Zealand for HP Scitex industrial and commercial products and shared with Jenrite the HP Designjet range including the HP Designjet printers with HP Latex Ink Technology.

    Shane Lucas, director of HP Graphic Arts South Pacific, said that Digital Vision will still work in conjunction with the company. “Our long-term relationship continues with Digital Vision who will maintain focus in the industrial and commercial signage markets with its portfolio of HP Scitex and HP Designjet products. Jenrite will concentrate on the commercial graphic and signage sector where it has a solid national presence,” he said.

    With origins in laminating, 20-year-old New Zealand owned Jenrite expanded into the large format digital print market in 2004 providing a range of solutions and consumables to its commercial customer base.

    Jenrite director, Steven Kemp, (pictured) said the inclusion of the HP Scitex and HP Designjet commercial products would expand the company’s offering enabling Jenrite “to capitalise on our success with the new HP Designjet L25500 latex inks printer and allow a return to the flatbed market.”

    Lucas believes that the two companies will both work to increase HP’s reputation in New Zealand. “Jenrite’s appointment, together with Digital Vision, strengthens our channel presence in the New Zealand market and expands the product portfolio our channel partners can offer to their customers maintaining HP’s position as the only end-to-end digital printing solutions provider in the market,” he said.

     

  • Government grant drives Print Domain digital growth

    Shy Tasmanian publisher aims for national digital print venture.

    Smithton-based Jamala Press, which is owned by Print Domain, was one of 36 businesses in Tasmania’s north and west to receive funding under the newly launched $17 million North West and Northern Tasmania Innovation and Investment Fund.

    The joint $17 million initiative of the Australia and Tasmanian Governments was launched in response to factory closures in the region, including PaperlinX’s recent announcement that it would close its Burnie paper mill.

    Funding for the local businesses ranged from $50,000 to over $2 million. Jamala Press, which, in addition to Print Domain, publishes the local community newspaper, The Circular Head Chronicle, received approval for $87,845 which, according to a government release, will be used to “purchase latest digital technology digital printing equipment to establish a digital printing branch in north west Tasmania that will service digital print clients around Australia.”

    It is expected that the funding will also allow for increased employment at the company.

    Management from Jamala Press declined to comment on the funding and plans for digital development. Print Domain also has a Gold Coast office in addition to two Tasmania offices, and produces a variety of jobs from business cards through to books. Jamala Press’s weekly newspaper, The Circular Head Chronicle, has a circulation of 2,154 and boasts to be “a proudly parochial voice for the local area and its people.”