Archive for April, 2012

  • The other digital toner company – Print21 magazine

    When it comes to high-end digital printing engines, the spotlight is usually focused on the big players—Fuji Xerox and HP Indigo. However, Xeikon, the Belgium-based company that was in at the very beginning of the technology in the early 1990s, is still very much in the game. It is now making a bid to steal the limelight at drupa with the launch of its intriguing but highly secret Quantum technology, combining the advantages of electrophotography and inkjet. Patrick Howard went to visit Xeikon in Belgium to get some background on the iconic brand.

    The Xeikon toner plant at Heultje in the flat Belgium countryside backs onto an Agfa plant, a solid reminder of the history of digital imaging development. As with so much Belgium-based technology, Agfa was part of the genesis of Xeikon when it first came to market as a high-end digital printing press at the Ipex trade show in Birmingham in 1993—the same year Benny Landa introduced the world to the Indigo. Much has changed since the subsequent departure of Agfa, with Xeikon roller coasting through two decades of innovation, R&D, financial turmoil and buyouts. Today it is a stable and progressive graphic arts manufacturer, with a decent spread of technologies—basysPrint UV platesetters and flexo CTP—in addition to its core digital printing presses.

    On this damp, cold February afternoon, I’m getting a deep dive instruction on the secrets of toner production from Dr Lode Deprez, vice president consumables, Xeikon (pictured in at the toner filling line). An amiable chemist who has been with the company since day one, he takes pains to walk me through the process. For instance, did you know that when they’ve mixed and extruded the toner combination of pigment and resins, it is broken into micron-sized particles in high-speed mechanical mills operating faster than the speed of sound? The subsequent toner particles are separated; nine microns and above and five microns and below are returned to the mixing vat. Only those within the desired tolerance are processed further, to be coated with specially designed surface additives that are mounted to the surface of the toner particle. In the process the rough edges are smoothed, becoming what the company describes as ‘form-adapted toner’. This innovative ‘potato-shaped’ toner is further refined into the almost flowing state of dry toner that is the heart of the Xeikon imaging process.

    Toner manufacture is one of the important secret ingredients to the success of Xeikon. That, and its decision to focus on web digital printing, have gained it a substantial and loyal following in both the packaging/label and document sectors. Its one-pass LED-based printing technique delivers 1,200dpi resolution on the widest range of substrates.

    Ah yes… but!

    There is no mistaking the enthusiasm and dedication of Dr Deprez. In addition to the plant tour, I get a PowerPoint presentation on the innate superiority of dry toner over inkjet for quality, environmental friendliness and utility over the widest range of substrates. He enumerates a number of milestones of Xeikon toner development, lingering over the 2006 breakthrough that resulted in the form-adapted toner (FA) and onwards to the quality adapted (QA) toner that is the current benchmark technology of the company. This means there is a toner specially adapted to focus on the two core Xeikon markets; labelling and packaging, and document printing.

    Sometime during the afternoon, an air of unreality starts to creep into our conversation, despite Dr Deprez’s affable hospitality. It begins to dawn on me that despite making the journey to this chilly spot in the Low Countries, I’m not about to get any inside running on the upcoming new Xeikon imaging technology, Quantum, to be announced at drupa.

    This is a new twist to the toner saga whereby inkjet is combined with the pigment-based toner. Significantly it is technology that Xeikon bought from its inventors, a break from the tradition of in-house R&D. Without knowing what will be released at drupa, my best guess is that it is either toner delivered in a similar manner to inkjet, but without the liquid, or a lighter coverage of toner that retains superior image quality while increasing the speed to match inkjet.

    It is touted as being the foundation on which Xeikon will develop all its future product lines for document printing.

    The safest of them all

    The new technology is aimed squarely at the high-speed document business in commercial printing. This is where speed matters most. But it also means the company’s current self-manufactured toner will remain the key to its burgeoning packaging and label business. Xeikon is perhaps the only real competitor to HP’s dominance in digital labelling. Its engineers have developed many aspects of packaging and labelling print, including the unique one-pass opaque white for transparent or metallic media. According to Dr Deprez, there are unequivocal advantages in using toner-based digital printing for labels and packaging. Apart from the inherent quality differential that is enhanced by the application-tuned toner (QA-l), he believes it presents far fewer challenges when used in food packaging applications.

    This is a thorny issue for printing in general and inkjet in particular. Few inks and toners are given clearance for all types of food packaging and labelling. Despite some extravagant claims to the contrary, it all depends on individual cases. Certainly Dr Deprez is not about to claim that Xeikon toner is safe for every instance of food contact, but he does insist that it is the safest on the market. He claims this is an aspect of toner’s superiority, even to offset ink, when it comes to labelling and packaging. Xeikon toner meets FDA guidelines in the USA for direct and indirect contact with dry food substances.

    The decision to concentrate on web-fed printing is another defining characteristic of the Xeikon process. Across both the industrial and document sectors, it prints using a web in perfecting or simplex mode. This one-pass patented technology is hugely productive giving up to 260ppm (15,600 pages per hour). Where this will end up with the new Quantum technology is a matter of speculation, but even with the existing format it is a very fast digital press.

    It tends to be forgotten in all the hoopla about the new digital B2 presses to be introduced at this drupa that Xeikon is a B2–format digital press and has been for years. With its 500mm imaging width and the ability to image documents of almost any length, it is a remarkably versatile press. This has given Xeikon a handy niche in large format poster printing as well as making it a highly productive engine for everything from transpromo to magazine work.

    Whiter shade of paper

    During the afternoon, Dr Deprez returns to the environmental story of Xeikon. It is obvious he sees the ongoing recycling problems with inkjet and electro ink as a decided advantage for dry toner.

    For those who came in late, the problem derives from the difficulty of de-inking inkjet paper. This is a vital part of the recycling process necessary for the production of most printing paper. It has caused a furore in Europe where, in 2008, the inkjet manufacturers, such as Océ, HP, Kodak and Ricoh, formed the Digital Print De-inking Alliance (DPDA), in part because of dissatisfaction with the pre-existing paper manufacturer-backed International Association of the De-inking Industry (INGEDE). Water-based inkjet print can only be separated from paper with considerable difficulty during the widely-
    used flotation process—mainly because there are no particles to float to the top. DPDA advocates adding a bleaching process to the proceedings, something which INGEDE says is expensive and doesn’t actually change the composition of the fibres, so the colour may reappear. It also advocates that electro ink paper be only recycled for cardboard.

    This debate could be seen as fairly academic at present as inkjet represents such a small part of the overall paper mix, but if the projections for the new generation of high-speed presses are met that will change dramatically. DPDA says this window gives it plenty of time to come up with a solution but Dr Deprez is not so sure, as the small amount of inkjet already causes a decrease of the whiteness of recycled paper.

    He believes dry toner, such as Xeikon’s, is the only environmentally responsible digital imaging process. It is easily de-inked and has no volatile organic compounds or heavy metals. He maintains the new Quantum technology will be equally green.

    Up and down and around

    When the former Punch Graphix changed its name to Xeikon last year, it not only added weight to the brand, it also drew a line under the sometimes troubled financial past of the company. Xeikon now is a relatively broad-based graphics manufacturer, active not only in digital presses but also in UV-offset plate imaging and flexo plate production. It is a mid-size technology firm, financially secure with an established user base around the world and, importantly, now has access via the flexo plate business to many more label printers who may be scoping the advantages of digital printing.

    In Australia and New Zealand, Grish Rewal’s Melbourne-based Absolute Electronics represents the brand and services the 15 or so machines in the market. He is delighted with the renewed energy and profile of Xeikon and is confident in the technology, especially for industrial and label processes.

    There is much in its IP portfolio that Xeikon keeps under wraps. The toner plant at Heultje has no-go areas, while the details of Quantum technology remain obscure. On the way back to Antwerp, I made a last attempt to wheedle more information from Dr Deprez but without success. For the details of Quantum we’ll have to wait until drupa.

  • Battle for Memjet as Silverbrook fires back

    “We are devastated that Australia’s best and brightest scientists and engineers have been made to take annual leave from our Australian facilities. We have had to pay the staff on the Memjet project from our own pockets since February, while our US-based Memjet customer has over  $22 million in outstanding invoices owing to Silverbrook Research.” – Kia Silverbrook.

    The battle for Memjet moved into full metal jacket mode last week with Australian inventor and entrepreneur, Kia Silverbrook, launching a stirring rebuttal of the allegations of fraud and trickery against he and his partner Janette Lee from Oklahoma-based investor George Kaiser’s tax entity, GKFF. Insisting the UK court has jurisdiction to hear the case, he derided claims that he and Ms Lee were at fault in the breakdown of the Memjet development partnership that has consumed $600 million over eight years.

    He insists the claim is designed solely to eliminate him and his company, Silverbrook Research, as minority shareholders prior to Memjet being sold for a price between $2 -$5 billion. “This US-led group is trying any means to gain control of the patent portfolio, which they licence, but have not created and do not own,” he claims.

    The court case proceeds against the background of the dissolution of research and development company, Silverbrook RS, in Sydney, where the staff are on enforced leave until next week. There are also allegations that some have been made redundant without receiving their benefits. Silverbrook claims the US backers have frozen badly needed money, refusing to pay an outstanding $22 million in an effort to take over the company’s IP.

    In a detailed witness statement lodged with the London court, Silverbrook refutes every one of the claims made against him and Lee. He makes the point that George Kaiser, the leading investor, is not party to the claim against him and that the head of GKFF, Frederick Dorwart, is also head of the firm of lawyers bringing the case.

    The protracted commercialisation of the Memjet technology has put increasing strains on the relationship between the Australia and US partners. After nine years the development partnership finally broke down in June 2011 when it was declared the Memjet companies would require an extra investment of between $250 million and $400 million to break even. Ms Lee accused the Memjet management of spending considerable time on issues such as option plans, bonuses and salary increases while they failed to meet sales targets, achieving only 8% of predictions. They also failed to raise $250 million in capital as promised.

    All parties have now come to the recognition that the best, possibly only, way forward for Memjet is to sell the company and the technology to a large technology firm, such as HP or Canon. The legal battle is over how it is sold and by whom. The Americans fear that due to the fragmented nature of the original Silverbrook corporate structure, they will not be able to account for all the necessary IP. Silverbrook reckons the Americans just want him and Lee out and be left with liabilities so they can maximise their profit from any sale.

    There seems little doubt the memjet technology is a disruptive inkjet printing technology, already successfully integrated into working printing equipment, notably by Nick Mansell of Rapid Machinery in Sydney and sold throughout the world. The cost and difficulty in bringing it to commercialisation – it began in 1997 and has over 5,000 dedicated patents – has cast a pall over its groundbreaking stature.

    In his witness statement Silverbrook claims… many companies have attempted to develop what the Memjet technology achieves. Canon has spent at least $1 billion in several attempts to achieve it. Philips made three unsuccessful attempts over a period of around six years, each costing over $200 million. HP has spent several billion dollars in several attempts, and has come the closest to succeeding, although its solution is inferior to the Memjet technology. Many other companies, including Xerox, Sony, Fuji-Xerox, and Samsung, have also tried and failed. It is a technology, which is deceptively simple in concept, but enormously difficult to implement in practice.

    The danger is Memjet will become bogged down for years now in court battles across the world.

     

  • RMIT dumps print training – printing industry outrage

    RMIT University will close the book on its International Centre of Graphic Technology (ICGT) centre in 18 months as falling apprenticeship numbers force its hand. The Printing Industries Association of Australia said it was “shocked and dismayed.

    David Currie, CEO of Currie Group and a long-term supporter of the Institute and of printing training around the nation, also said he was, “Mortified and shattered as a result.” Currie Group has provided millions of dollars in equipment and support and is at a loss as to why the decision was taken.

    The shock announcement follows a series of 2011 investments that saw ICGT’s press hall at RMIT’s Brunswick campus install a purpose-built climate controlled pre-press facility. Currie Group alone has contributed two Shinohara offset presses, a HP Indigo 5000 digital engine along with a state-of-the-art Horizon finishing line.

    The training centre is also nearly a year into a five-year agreement signed with Heidelberg for a 2006 model Speedmaster SM 52-8-P, an installation that marked the first time print apprentices has access to an eight-colour perfector press. RMIT has invested more than $1 million in the past three years into the ICGT.

    According to John Barnes, director of TAFE at RMIT, the university is already in consultation with industry stakeholders to ensure a niche-training organisation steps up to serve their requirements. “We shall be working with every apprentice and their employers to ensure that all current training programs are completed. All existing programs will be taught until completion,” he said.

    “Unfortunately, the printing industry has been experiencing long-term difficulties in sourcing apprentices. In turn, this has cut numbers at the ICGT to the point where its activities are no longer viable. The education industry is changing and we at RMIT are putting our efforts into growth areas which reflect our strengths as a global university of technology and design – areas of high growth and high demand.”

    An “extremely disappointed” Bill Healey, CEO of Printing Industries, believes it is imperative for the industry to act quickly and collectively to remedy the situation.

    “While the announcement is extremely disappointing we must be proactive in finding a solution, not just for Victoria and Tasmania, but for the industry nationally.

    “Apprenticeship numbers have been declining over many years and all publically funded training providers have been experiencing difficulties in justifying stand-alone training organisations in their states. Industry needs to step in and take control of its own destiny and look to creating a national approach to apprenticeship training,” he said.

    Healey said the PIAA has been exploring the feasibility of establishing a single national training arrangement to ensure the needs of the printing industry continued to be met into the future. “Such an arrangement would focus on improved efficiency and better promotion of a nationally consistent training pathway for apprentices.

    “We are currently preparing an application for funding to look at the future of apprenticeships, in conjunction with the Australian Metal Workers Union. Given the RMIT announcement, this will need to be fast-tracked,” said Healey.

    He called on the Victorian Government to ensure ongoing funding is provided to enable the industry to meet its skill requirements. “We believe this is essential if our members are to retain a place in the multi-channel communication world of the future,” he said.

    Printing Industries will be meeting with RMIT as matter of urgency to ensure apprentice training in Victoria and Tasmania continues for existing and new apprentices during the 18 month RMIT wind-up period.

    Ron Patterson, state manager for Printing Industries Victoria and Tasmania, is disappointed by the announcement after working with RMIT over a number of years to develop a new approach to industry training

    “A great many people have been working to create a better system for our apprentices and a modern, relevant curriculum to attract more apprentices into our technologically driven industry, so RMITs decision to bail out is not welcomed.”

    “However it won’t deter us and I am confident that any consolidation of training agendas would be welcomed by suppliers who are regularly faced with having to provide expensive equipment to multiple sites. Consolidation could lead to a better allocation of costly resources and to closer co-operation with industry. We must focus on achieving this as quickly as possible,” said Patterson. ”

     

  • Your 1st rock concert? Alison Stieven-Taylor at the NPA

    The National Print Awards (NPAs) was back in Melbourne this year at Crown Casino. With helium filled gold star-shaped balloons, John Farnham belting out Playing to Win (not live) and TV host Julia Zemiro (she was live) as MC, I could have been at the Logies, which were held in the same room earlier this month, save for the sea of black suits and the lack of sequins and high heels.

    Zemiro relied on her Rock Wiz banter to keep things moving asking presenters and winners alike what their first concert was – and of those she didn’t ask many were happy to share their rock concert stories whispering in her ear as they went past to collect their awards. Or maybe they were telling her their marital status? She did ask a few including a very bemused John Wanless, President of the NPAs, if they were single.

    While there was much backslapping and bonhomie, and a lot of laughter at the revelation of some first concerts – Depeche Mode and the Bay City Rollers among them – this year the NPAs gave off an air of fatigue that may be a product of the hammering the industry has taken by the digital revolution and the GFC. A steady diet of doom and gloom and recognition that the sand many chose to stick their heads in was in fact quicksand, has contributed to collective exhaustion.

    Wanless, whose first concert by-the-way was Ian Dury & the Blockheads, referenced the music industry as one that has survived massive changes transitioning from vinyl and cassettes to CDs and downloads. It is a good comparison, however, the music industry is not buoyant, and today there are fewer players in the market, attrition that continues as more bands release their own materials and by-pass the record companies altogether. The positive here is that more music is being made than ever and where there’s creation there is opportunity to sell services.

    Simon Lane, from Fuji Xerox, who this year has joined Heidelberg and Currie Group as the main sponsors of the NPAs, said in 2012 there will be a 100 million tablets in the US alone. “The industry is changing, you know it and I know it. I won’t tell you digital print is the future, but it is a device. The business still needs to change. In an online, mobile connected society relevance is the key…”

    Not taking away from the truth of his words, we’ve heard this all before. Change isn’t coming it’s well and truly here. It’s no longer just about what kit you’re operating. It’s about services, value adds and enhanced waffle – one salient point Lane made is that print sales people are not as professional as the people they are selling to.

    On Friday night the 450 strong crowd was remarkably decorous. Zemiro actually had to urge them to applaud, something I haven’t witnessed before, and there were only a few occasions when she pulled the schoolteacher routine with “eyes to me”. But the excitement that has been evident in past years was missing. Perhaps suppliers, and their customers, are more burdened by the thought of drupa, which is just around the corner. Certainly there has been much made of this drupa as a ‘make or break’ show.

    Alastair Hadley, who stood in for Andy Vels Jensen, gave the Heidelberg speech. Hadley will retire this year after a lifetime in the industry. Known for his irreverent manner, and quick wit, he quipped that in the future if printers become an endangered species then Sir David Attenborough could be invited to host the Awards.  Has anyone checked Attenborough’s diary?

  • More digital printers for the industry – PIAA

    Developing a multi-skilled digital print workforce and formal recognition of existing workers’ skills are two key recommendations from a report addressing workforce challenges facing Australia’s printing industry. The report is the result of a two-year Skills Formation Strategy by the PIAA and Skills Queensland.

    Neal McLary, general manager for Printing Industries QLD, said the report outlines recommendations to ensure the industry would have the workforce it needs for the future. “The rapid introduction of digital technology – in particular digital presses, high level copying systems and wide format printers – is having a significant impact on the printing industry across Australia and the world,” he said.

    “For the estimated 5000 printing companies in Australia this means an increasing need for workers with skills and experience across digital printing. It is important the industry has a co-ordinated approach to workforce development and training of its existing workforce and a plan to attract new entrants.

    “With funding and support from Skills Queensland, we have conducted wide-ranging industry research and consultations to identify and implement short and longer term strategies to meet the skills and labour demands of digital printing.”

    Rod Camm, CEO of Skills Queensland, said today’s competitive labour market makes it critical for industries to be committed to workforce planning and to grow and skill their workforce in line with future demand and skill requirements.

    “The advance of the digital economy is changing skills and labour demands across industries and creating new job opportunities as well as increasing the need to upskill existing workers to meet changing consumer demand,” he said.

    “The printing industry is facing a rapidly changing skills environment and our investment of $240,000 has supported the industry and its leaders to formally research, discuss and address the common skills and workforce issues being faced and to develop a workforce development strategy to meet these challenges,” he said.

    Camm finds it encouraging that the industry – through the PIAA – has committed to owning the strategy in the long term and implementing recommendations across Australia.

    The final strategy report, Ensuring access to a trained and work-ready workforce for the printing industry, includes 25 individual recommended actions from new strategies to market the industry and its career and lifestyle opportunities through to the delivery of more relevant and contextualised training.

    “We are working towards the two strategic objectives of attracting and retaining high calibre people and creating a training and education system which works with the industry,” said McLary. “To grow the workforce we need to not only sell the industry and the career opportunities available, but also make better use of the capabilities and resources of digital system suppliers to deliver training.”

    According to McLary, some of the recommended actions were already underway including those related to recognition of prior learning, use of vendor training as a potential pathway to qualifications and promoting a better understanding of the industry training package to ensure more relevant training and course selection.

    The report and strategies are available for download online www.skillsformationstrategies.qld.gov.au/resources/printingindustries_finalreport.pdf

  • A Lean First at Mystique

    Victorian printing company Mystique has achieved new heights of business sustainability by becoming the first Victorian printing company to successfully complete Printing Industries’ competitive manufacturing program, LEAN & Green.

    All employees participated in the 18-month program, which focuses on removing waste from every facet of the business. Waste is defined broadly as the use of any material, energy, effort and time that does not lead directly to the creation of a product or service.

    Darren Greene, managing director of Mystique, said the whole company benefitted from the measurable and tangible improvements achieved during the process. “It had positive effects throughout the entire company from reception through to the sales team, our pre-press department, press, finishing and dispatch. We couldn’t be more delighted,” he said.

    The project was initiated and managed by Mystique’s Environmental Manager, Mat Eldred, who had the task of keeping everyone on track in conjunction with Printing Industries’ training partner SkilledForce who provided the on-site support and printing industry expertise.

    “Added benefits were delivered from the fact that this whole experience resulted in a terrific team building exercise that brought us a much improved ‘complete loop’ in communication that would have otherwise been hard to achieve,” said Greene.

    Pictured: The entire Mystique Lean Team celebrate at the recent graduation ceremony. (l-r) Mystiques Sales Manager Neil Maynard, MD Darren Greene, Environmental Manager Mat Eldred with Skilled Force Victorian Manager David Galbraith.

    According to David Galbraith, training facilitator at SkilledForce, Mystique’s program provided a great deal of satisfaction over the implementation period as he has watched the development of almost 30 employees who also received a national recognised qualification.

    “Mystique is now able to clearly measure their output from each of the various departments and will be able to go on to seek additional ongoing continuous improvements from here,” said Galbraith.

    Bruce Lowery, manager for member services at Printing Industries Victoria, said competitive manufacturing was making inroads throughout Victoria with an increasing number of companies embarking on the program, a trend being reflected around the country.

    “Our LEAN and Green program has some 2,000 trainees around Australia undergoing training in both competitive manufacturing Certificate 3 and Certificate 4. That’s a great result,” said Lowery.

    Lowery said the PIAA, through its partnership with SkilledForce and Applied Training Solutions (ATS), was often able to assist companies obtain government funding towards the training costs.

    “We must acknowledge the generous funding from the Victorian Governments ‘Skills for Growth’ program as well funding from the Commonwealth Government which is currently assisting many Victorian companies to achieve similar improvements,” said Lowery. “This is clear evidence that both governments have a genuine desire to assist the Australian manufacturing sector, which can only be a good thing.”

    Organisations wishing to know more about the competitive manufacturing should contact their local Printing Industries office for more details or visit www.leanandgreen.com.au

  • Issue 521 April 24 2012

    The good and the bad of printing is clearly on display this week as RMIT closes the industry’s largest training centre in Melbourne while the National Print Awards rocked on celebrating quality and craft amid calls for resilience in the face of adversity. A bright spot comes with the scale and effectiveness of the Coles card production and mail out; 16 million personalised cards – it doesn’t come much bigger than this.

    This is the printing weekly news read by over 8,000 industry professional in Australia and New Zealand. We look forward to  your tips and news items, so please continue to send them to us at NEWS
    You can also follow us on Twitter.

     

     

  • Rasmussen’s 3rd top tip – be objective and develop options

    Owning a printing establishment is a lonely business.  Most businesses have less than 20 employees, so it’s usually up to the owner to make the key decisions, frequently with few if any people to confide with. It is commonplace that information / advice is sought from the accountant, who they see a couple of times a year, the family, who get the routine daily update, and friends and or suppliers in the industry.

    So the really tough questions, like “how am I going to exit this business?” are put in the too hard basket till the last minute, and decisions are made with a lack of real objectivity or without due consideration of the market realities.

    The person they usually turn to, to supply guidance and advice to these hard questions, is their accountants, their trusted advisor. And therein lies a potential problem – because rarely do the accountants understand the business sale market. They don’t have comparable sales evidence, market values of plant and equipment, knowledge of the buyer’s needs, and industry knowledge.

    What the accountants do have, however, is objectivity in areas such as tax, cash flows and compliance.  So, they should be included in the process, but should generally not be the only external party involved in the exit plan.

    An extreme example I came across was where I appraised the business at $1,200,000, the accountant appraised it at $3,000,000. False expectation was created. What the accountant relied on was written down values of equipment, the fact that the vendor had been in the industry for many years, and over the top multiples.

    Accounting formulas don’t have check books attached

    I’m always wary when businesses have been valued solely on the numbers and formulas. It is far too simplistic that values are based on multiples of profit. The owner, more often than not, gets a false sense of real value, and plans accordingly.

    There are obviously numerous other considerations to establishing a business value – client type, client mix, client spread, client growth potential, staffing, machinery, management, sales personnel, building leases, and market trends, market niches, buyers in the market, and terms of sale to name just a few.

    A good friend of mine works as a car wholesaler. When buying cars, sellers frequently say to him, “but the Red Book Guide says my car is worth X, why are you only offering Y?”  His response is always, “the Red Book Guide does not have a cheque book, I do!” i.e. it does not matter what any formulae says the business is worth, it’s what someone is prepared to pay.

    What’s going to happen to your business’s sales in the “twilight period”?

    By ‘twilight period’ I’m referring here to the four years leading up to the planned exit of the business. In this period proprietors should be taking a realistic and objective view of what will happen to their business, in particular what will happen to their sales and profitability. Common mistakes made are:

    • Thinking they have seen the worse and sales and profits will pick up
    • Thinking their top clients are ‘safe’
    • Thinking new clients will enter at the same rate as in the past

    The norm I see when I start to market businesses where the owner is wishing to retire is that in this twilight period most businesses have experienced falling sales and falling margins, top clients have left and there are very few new clients. The proprietor has also run out of puff, they just want out.

    Had they taken a realistic view of what would occur, they would have made other decisions. Staying as is in this period is possibly the worst decision to make.

    There are of course exceptions to the rule. The question those entering this twilight period should ask is,  “how am I going to avoid being in the norm? (falling sales, falling profits, losing clients, unable to find new clients)”

    Because if you can’t provide an objective and realistic answer to this question, the result of being in the norm, is lower business value when it comes time to sell. Planning is imperative, but a plan based on unrealistic goals, is a wasted exercise. Be objective, be realistic, but do plan.

    Develop Options

    In the twilight period you should consider different options. Your business, in most circumstances, needs to change to get the best end value.

    One option you may consider is to trade on, take the money out, run down the equipment. In many instances this is the best option. Many owners I speak to after I have appraised it say “if that is all my business is worth now, I’m better off trading on, taking as much profit as I can, and in 3 years, I’ll sell and take what it’s worth”. I usually respond that this is a perfectly good plan, on the proviso that you can take the profits you think you will, that you don’t run out of puff, and that when the time comes to sell, you stick to your plan and sell for what it is worth. i.e. you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you’re going to milk the business, great, but don’t expect a great return after you’ve done it.

    I encourage you to develop some different options, with some a little out of the square.  And then work through each, with a good dose of objectivity. Where possible work with the facts, take off the rose coloured glasses and work with the market realities. Engage those in “the know.”

    One thing of which I’m certain –those proprietors that develop objective and realistic plans for the business in the twilight years,(and implement them), will certainly have the best chance of reaping the greatest rewards, when it comes time to exit.

    Richard Rasmussen is the principal of Ascent Partners, a business that within the Australian / NZ printing industry, offers Business Appraisals, Business Sales and Business Consultancy services. He can be contacted via the web site, www.ascentpartners.com.au or via phone – 1300 887 648 /0402 021 101.

  • PANTONE Color Bridge Coated. Code GG6103N

    AUD $270 (including postage + GST)

    Bridge solid PANTONE colors for process printing or web design.

    The PANTONE PLUS SERIES COLOR BRIDGE Set provides process colour simulations of all solid PANTONE colors – including all 644 exciting new hues – in a convenient side-by-side comparison format, on coated stock.

    This year alone we’ve added 84 new Blushes and Pinks, and clean and vibrant new Blues, Greens and Violets. Now graphic designers, pre-press professionals and printers have more colours than ever to unleash their passion and let their creativity soar!

    An invaluable multi-use colour reference tool, COLOR BRIDGE can be used to select and specify solid PANTONE colours, to determine how a PANTONE colour will appear when reproduced in CMYK, or to create optimal display of PANTONE colours on monitors and web pages. HTML and sRGB values are provided, for applying colour selections across media.

    All new colours have been specially formulated to print using a uniform ink film thickness, making them easily matched on press. Ink formulations are provided to aid printers in mixing colours. Includes colour index, lighting evaluation tool, digital image colour-correction tool and software to update your design applications with the latest colours.

    • Contains all 1,737 PANTONE solid colours, on coated stock
    • Portable fan guide format
    • Process matches with CMYK screen tint percentages displayed next to each solid colour
    • sRGB and HTML values for solid colours
    • Colours bleed for ease and accuracy of checking colours
    • Text-weight paper stock
    • PANTONE COLOR MANAGER Software for updating PANTONE colours in popular design applications
    • Colour locator index
    • Each colour identified with a distinct PANTONE number or name
    • Icons mark colours that can be satisfactorily reproduced in CMYK and/or RGB
    • Includes ColorChecker® Lighting Indicator to aid in lighting evaluation
    • Includes ColorChecker Primer for colour correcting images

       

  • PANTONE Color Bridge Uncoated. Code GG6104

    AUD $270 (inluding postage + GST)

    Bridge solid PANTONE colours for process printing or web design.

    The PANTONE PLUS SERIES COLOR BRIDGE Set provides process colour simulations of all solid PANTONE colours – including all 644 exciting new hues – in a convenient side-by-side comparison format, on uncoated stock. This year alone we’ve added 84 new Blushes and Pinks, and clean and vibrant new Blues, Greens and Violets. Now graphic designers, pre-press professionals and printers have more colours than ever to unleash their passion and let their creativity soar!


    • Contains 1,737 PANTONE solid colours, on uncoated stock
    • Portable fan guide format
    • Process matches with CMYK screen tint percentages displayed next to each solid colour
    • sRGB and HTML values for solid colours
    • Colours bleed for ease and accuracy of checking colours
    • Text-weight paper stock
    • PANTONE COLOR MANAGER Software for updating PANTONE colours in popular design applications
    • Colour locator index
    • Each color identified with a distinct PANTONE Number or name
    • Icons mark colors that can be satisfactorily reproduced in CMYK and/or RGB
    • Includes ColorChecker® Lighting Indicator to aid in lighting evaluation
    • Includes ColorChecker Primer for color correcting images
  • PANTONE CMYK Guides Coated and Uncoated. Code GP5101

    AUD $230 (includes postage + GST)

    Pantone accuracy and convenience for four-colour printing!

    The new PLUS SERIES CMYK guides contain 2,868 CMYK colours, chromatically arranged for smoother transitions between colours and more intuitive selection.

    These guides are an ideal way to visualize, communicate and control colours for type, logos, borders, backgrounds and other graphics treatments.

    Compatible with today’s digital workflows. Screen tint percentages are provided to enable accurate colour reproduction.

    Printed using bio-friendly, ISO-certified inks. Text weight paper is used, to match popular print specifications. Includes colour index, lighting evaluation tool and design software.

    Set of two guides, coated and uncoated.

     

    • 2,868 process colours
    • Chromatically arranged
    • Screen tint percentages are provided
    • Two-guide set on coated and uncoated stock
    • Text weight paper substrates
    • PANTONE COLOR MANAGER Software for updating PANTONE colours in popular design applications
    • Colour locator index
    • Includes ColorChecker® Lighting Indicator to aid in lighting evaluation

     

  • PANTONE Essentials. Code GPG301

    AUD $855 (includes postage + GST)

    The PANTONE ESSENTIALS contains all solid, solid-to-process and process only colours – including 644 new colours added since 2010, with 84 added just this year – in a stylish, easy to transport carrying case.

    Bundle includes:

    • Formula Guide Solid Coated
    • Formula Guide Solid Uncoated
    • Color Bridge Coated
    • Color Bridge Uncoated
    • CMYK coated
    • CMYK uncoated

     

  • PANTONE Metallics Guide Coated. Code GP1507

    AUD $235 (includes postage + GST)

    Set of two guides give your more than 600 dazzling metallic colour choices – and saves over individual purchase!

    PREMIUM METALLICS is our all new book of 300 sizzling metallic colours developed in response to the rapidly rising popularity of these special-effect inks. PREMIUM METALLICS have greater brilliance, can be easily coated without any loss in luster and have a longer life after printing without fear of tarnishing or blemishing.

    Our Metallics Guide features an expansive palette of 301 exquisite metallic colours that add luminescence and elegance to projects that call for a refined look. An additional page demonstrates the effects of a gloss aqueous coating when applied to the seven metallic base colors.

    Pantone is the only internationally recognized color communication system. You can specify PANTONE Colors with confidence even if your manufacturing is half a world away.

    Fan guides are chromatically arranged, for more intuitive colour selection. Ink formulations are provided. Coated stock only. Set of two guides.

    Includes:

    • 300 new premium metallic colours formulated with non-leafing, coatable inks
    • Broad palette of 301 colourful metallics; seven base metallic colors shown with and without a gloss overprint varnish
    • Chromatically arranged fan format
    • Text-weight paper stock
    • PANTONE COLOR MANAGER Software for updating PANTONE colours in popular design applications
    • Ink mixing formulas in parts
    • Each colour identified with a distinct PANTONE number or name
    • Colours bleed for ease and accuracy in checking colours
    • Includes ColorChecker® Lighting Indicator to aid in lighting evaluation
  • PANTONE Premium Metallics Guide Coated. Code GG1505

    AUD $160 (includes postage + GST)

    The PLUS SERIES PREMIUM METALLICS is an all new book of 300 dazzling metallic colours developed in response to the rapidly rising popularity of these special-effect inks.

    PLUS SERIES metallic colours have greater brilliance, can be easily coated without any loss in luster and have a longer life after printing without fear of tarnishing or blemishing.

    Fan guide is chromatically arranged, for more intuitive colour selection. Ink formulations are provided. Includes design software. Available on coated stock only.

    • 300 new premium metallic colours
    • Formulated with non-leafing, coatable inks
    • Chromatically arranged fan format
    • Text-weight paper
    • PANTONE COLOR MANAGER Software for updating PANTONE colours in popular design applications
    • Ink mixing formulas in parts
    • Each colour identified with a distinct PANTONE number or name
    • Colours bleed for ease and accuracy in checking colours

       

  • Initial newsletter

    There is a new website as well as this new email news bulletin. It’s all very exciting for us here at Print21 and we hope you share our sense of a new era in printing and graphic arts communications.

    Print21 is the longest established online news service in the region. We first started sending our weekly email news bulletins in 2001 – not counting specials we’ve transmitted 519. This is 520.

    Print21 is read by over almost 9,000 industry professionals in Australia and New Zealand. You’ll notice we have a revamped comments facility with each story. We want to hear from you and of course, we ask you to continue to support our faithful advertisers.

    We rely on your tips and news items  so please continue to send them to us at NEWS

    You can also follow us on Twitter here.

    Here’s to the next decade of Print21 – online and magazine.

    Patrick Howard
    Publisher

  • Andrew Price worries PaperlinX will go broke this year

    Shrugging off his recent defeat in an attempt to unseat Harry Boon as chairman of the paper merchant, Andrew Price is scornful of Toby Marchant’s promise to return the company to profitability by 2014.

    In a return to the guerrilla campaign he is waging against the board, Price describes the CEO’s plan as nothing more than a sham designed to buy time from the shareholders and avoid accountability. Price claims that Marchant is unable to forecast the sales and profit situation within the timeframe.

    “How can you credibly say that a reduction in overhead will restore profitability by 2014 when you admit that you have no idea what the sales and gross profit will be for the same year,” said Price in a press release.

    “At the EGM I pressed the Chairman to at least provide earnings guidance for 2012 and he refused. Trying to get the Boon/Marchant team to commit to foreseeable targets is like trying to nail jelly to a wall,” said Price. “I couldn’t care less about pie in the sky promises for 2014. I am worried about 2012 and the possibility of insolvency this year.

    The renewed criticism comes after members of the board, including Marchant increased their personal shareholdings in the company. This was a bone of contention at the recent EGM where Price accused the members of not backing their own company.

    There is no doubt the Price campaign is a continuing distraction for the company, which today announced a restructuring of its brands, rallying behind the name Spicers to better project a strong identity.

    Price has said he will not challenge Harry Boon again for the chairmanship of the company, but it appears that does not limit him from delivering trenchant criticism and dire warnings.

     NEXT WEEK! Don’t miss an Exclusive Feature here as Toby Marchant talks to Print21 on the challenge to the board posed by Andrew Price, the corporate strategy he believes will turn around the company and the future of the paper and printing industry.

  • Drupa snooper – The change will do you good

    Welcome to drupa Snooper number eight. Only one more to go before the show itself – when your ‘Snoops’ will come directly from the Messe aisles and laneways of Düsseldorf itself. By the way, now that drupa Snooper has gone viral it has been adopted by two of the most innovative exhibitors at the show, Memjet and Landa Nanoprint 

    Now the build-up has commenced; the stand-builders are erecting their ephemeral gin-palace citadels; the electricians are wiring up what will be the world’s largest printing factory for two weeks and the hotels are jacking up their rates five-fold (it’s true even for mediocre places where the normal €60 nightly fare has become €260 – one German booking website has even disabled the ‘under €200’ option from its search engine!); what’s it all about?

    Friends, it is about change. Never before in drupa’s sixty-year history, has the event portended so much change. It is not just incremental or evolutionary change. To our industry, this drupa may represent the equivalent of the asteroid that hit planet Earth 65 million years ago and killed all of the dinosaurs.

    Imagine you were a scribe in 1450. After a busy day scrivening, you hear news of a new device that will reproduce beautiful text faithfully from hand-cut type letters. As you quaff your cup of Malmsey-wine with colleagues down at the Scrivener’s Arms, you reflect on how this might affect your livelihood; a noble craft that has endured since ancient times. A few cups later and a chat with your pal Desiderus Erasmus, you bid farewell saying “It’ll never catch on you know – this printing thing from Gutenberg. People want their books hand-written by us and beautifully illuminated.”

    “Too right,” replies Erasmus, who went on to account for about 20 percent of all the world’s book sales by the early 1500s – printed of course. But Scribes still exist of course; the Reformation and education saw to it that we all learnt how to write for ourselves and DTP made us all printers too. Nevertheless, in a marvelous example of enduring respect for craftsmanship, there still exists in London, the Worshipful Company of Scriveners, established in 1373 and, in its own unique way, still going strong.

    Ring in the changes

    Change is the only constant and I see at this drupa, evidence of so much change in the way we as an industry will be doing business, the kind of careers we will be offering our youth, the geopolitical shifts in influence. To get your mind around change, I have selected a few quotes about the subject:

    “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”
    This came from Harold Wilson, Prime Minister of Britain twice in the 60s and 70s. His challenge was to try and make post-imperial Britain relevant in an uncertain world.

    “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
    I like this one from psychiatrist and contemporary of Freud, Viktor Frankl since it drives straight to the heart of what afflicts our industry. Evidence abounds that the Printing Industry can no longer change the world’s communication dynamics, so it is time to look inwards for re-invention.

    Even 400 years BC, Greek tragedian Euripedes observed: “What can we take on trust in this uncertain life? Happiness, greatness, pride – nothing is secure, nothing keeps.”
    And finally from Robert C Gallagher: “Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.” The only reason this is here is because I think it is funny. However, it could equally apply to drupa hotel rates and a €500 note.
    So what are the change dynamics of this drupa that so affect our immediate futures?

    Change deals:

    When exciting new technology comes along, those who have funded it like early returns. This encourages OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) deals to be done, accelerating the adoption of the tech and also allowing companies who have resisted change for years to catch-up quickly. Remember Nokia made gumboots before it made mobile phones. Here are the digital deals known to date, including one you are reading here first:

    • Memjet – Océ: an industry source says expect to see a wide format iteration using Memjet printheads. Note Océ, not Canon at this stage. Oce is known to have been working with Memjet but the company can not confirm nor deny if an Oce-Memjet product will be ready for drupa.
    • Memjet with others – Delphax, LG, Lenovo, Lomond, Astro Machine Corp, Colordyne Technologies, Xanté, Japan Electronics Inc, Imaging Systems Group, Own-X, Rapid Labels
    • Heidelberg – Ricoh
    • Komori-Konica Minolta (including another B2 digital sheetfed press)
    • Ryobi-Miyakoshi
    • Manroland (web) – Océ
    • KBA – RR Donnelly
    • Timsons – Kodak
    • Screen – Ricoh Infoprint
    • Hunkeler – with anyone who makes a digital web press
    • Fujixerox – Miyakoshi and Impika
    • Esko/Videojet – X-Rite/Pantone

    What can be seen from the above is that offset manufacturers are turning to established digital vendors for their digital products. One exception is KBA who, through their development partnership with RR Donnelly, claims that the RotaJET 76 is ’the only German-manufactured digital press.’ The printheads, however, will almost certainly not come from Germany, and my understanding is that the Océ ColorStream 3500 is made near Munich which last time I looked, is in Germany. Standout non-digital players include Mitsubishi, Sakurai, Hans Grohni and Akiyama/Goss, with Presstek doggedly sticking to the DI type of fixed-data ‘digital’ press, with a loyal following.

    Whether the Landa Nanographic process will be licensed to others or OEM’d; or sold solely as a Landa product remains to be seen after drupa. Speaking of Landa, CEO Benny Landa is delivering a keynote address on the opening day in the drupa Cube area entitled:

    “Print in the Digital Era: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the iPad” – not to be missed, which brings me to change force number two:

    Change from mass market to mass customization

    This is the big one and probably why so many all-analogue printers ‘don’t get it.’ The mass market started in 1940s and 50s as the post-war economy and baby boomers surged ahead. Print experienced massive growth and, when colour came along for magazines and catalogues, the advertising world seized upon the opportunity to pump billions of dollars into promoting mass-market products. Newspaper circulations boomed, great and even not-so-great literature sold by the millions.

    Today, in all aspects of social behaviour, we are moving away from mass markets and closer to targeted, zoned and personal markets. This demands that printed products must follow their customers’ lead and, to quote Mike Ferrari – a 30-year veteran from doyen of mass marketing Procter & Gamble – “The analogue supply chain can no longer cope with this.” Ferrari is speaking in the drupa Cube on day two, 4th May. Remember, he is a guy who has purchased billions of dollars in mass packaging over time and yet he says: “Several brand name companies are already relying on a digital supply chain. They are already profiting from faster turn-around times. I therefore recommend that all companies that produce products for end consumers to consider digital processes – and quickly!”

    I’ve heard printers express despair at the shortening of orders and the IT demands of changing content for both small batches and, worst of all, single products or pages. Take heart – the market is still ‘Mass’ – it’s just ‘Massively Customised’ now and all you have to do is change the way to think.

    Change print-web-mobile

    So you still think drupa is all about hawking heavy metal, mashed up trees and oil by-products? Change that thought right now! It’s about trends and new processes. If the good people organizing drupa, (and bear in mind the drupa President is also CEO of the world’s largest heavy-metal print manufacturer, Heidelberg), have seen fit to incorporate online, mobile, iPad and other electronic media in its main message, why not you?

    Print in almost all of its forms is part of a Galaxy of media and communications that reflects the contemporary state of the human condition. This means, as Benny Landa has so eloquently put it, we must “stop worrying and learn to love the iPad.” To that could be added the SmartPhone, Facebook, Twitter, the X-Box and anything else that your ten-year old child likes to interact with. In return we can teach them to learn to love books, magazines, newspapers, great graphic design, personalized wall art, photobooks, smart packaging and snazzy signs.

    Change the world

    Finally, a word of change for this spangled orb, this sapphire and emerald jewel of a planet on which we live. Print has to continue the already-begun good work, to become a totally sustainable industry that takes no more from the Earth than it puts back. Aqueous inks, no chemistry plates or no plates, zero waste and emissions, power-efficiency, managed forests for pulp, zero tolerance of environmental vandalism to produce paper and clean, safe, harmonious workplaces – these are just a few of the steps underway that will help us to thrive in perpetuity.

    Drupa is the world’s largest trade fair dedicated to the printing and allied graphic media industries. Held every 4 years, it opens on May 3rd at the Messe Düsseldorf, Germany and closes on May 16th. The Printing Industries Association of Australia, in conjunction with Eastern Suburbs Travel, is organizing tours including a pre-drupa ANZAC-themed tour of Gallipoli and beyond. For details please contact Marty, Vicki or Sonia on
    02 9388 0666 or estcolovelly@optusnet.com.au