Archive for January, 2015

  • Epson charts its high-tech way in 2015

     Inkjet printers and virtual reality glasses are just part of the numerous technology offerings promoted by Epson at a start of year event to celebrate its Asian Cup sponsorship.

    Epson is coming off the top of a stellar share price rise that has seen the value of the company soar since a reorganisation two years ago saw it exit the optical eyewear business. In the interim its stock market value has increased exponentially.

    According to Bruno Turcato, managing director Epson Australia, the company now is poised to expand into new areas well beyond its traditional roles of printers and projectors. In addition to launching its revolutionary Precision Core inkjet technology and engineering it across all its printers, Epson is advancing into futuristic products such as Moverio smart glasses that allow wearers to traverse virtual reality in combination with real world image capture.

    Inkjet is more environmenatlly sustanable than laser printing, said Craig Heckenberg (right) with Bruno Turcato at the technology seminare yesterday.

    At yesterday’s event held at the HQ of the Asian Cup in Walsh Bay Sydney, Turcato spoke of the breadth of the company’s product range, including its development of robots, a giant step from its origins. in addition, Craig Heckenberg, GM sales & marketing. spoke on the relative advantages of the Epson range of inkjet printers when compared to laser printers. He is confident the market will adopt the simpler and cheaper technology in the near future.

    As a principal sponsor of the Asian Cup, Epson can seemingly do no wrong, when it comes to picking winners … well, finalists at least.

  • Australian Paper accused of dumping uncoated cut-sheets on USA.

    In the middle of prosecuting its own anti-dumping case against foreign paper producers, the local manufacturer is named among other producers from China, Brazil, Portugal and Indonesia of exporting unfairly priced imports to the U.S.

    Four paper manufacturers – Domtar Corporation, Packaging Corporation of America, Finch Paper, and P.H. Glatfelter  – have joined with the United Steelworkers (USW) union to file anti-dumping petitions with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission. They accuse the exporters of selling uncoated paper in sheets, weighing between 40 and 150 gsm, and having a GE brightness level of 85 or higher, at predatory prices.

    Australian Paper is the sole producer of uncoated sheets in the country and in the face of intense overseas competition is having to rely on its export market. The level of local competition is the basis of its own anti-dumping petition to the Australian Government.

    Kunihiko Kashima, CEO Australian Paper, is looking for a reversal of proof to combat dumping here. He wants the importers, mainly from China, to have to prove the low-priced paper landed here is not dumped, not the other way around.

    When questioned about the US claim the company responded by saying it was aware Australian Paper has been included in a much broader petition and we are currently preparing our response.

    According to the US antidumping petition, products from the five targeted countries increased 44 percent from 2011 to 2013 and another 40 percent from January-September 2013 to January-September 2014. The imports increased despite declining U.S. demand. During that time, shipments of certain uncoated paper from US manufacturers declined by 8 percent from 2011 to 2013, and another 9 percent from January-September 2013 to January-September 2014.

    “Since 2011, eight U.S. mills that produce uncoated paper have been forced to close in the face of increasing unfairly traded imports, resulting in the loss of thousands of paper jobs,” said Leo W. Gerard, USW International President. “The Labor Department has certified workers at seven of these mills to receive Trade Adjustment Assistance, after concluding that imports ‘contributed significantly’ to these closures. Foreign predatory practices targeting America’s producers and workers, including tens of thousands of our members, are the root cause of production declines and job losses.”

    “Competition makes us a better, stronger company, but it must be fair competition,” said John D. Williams, President and CEO of Domtar. “This petition asks the government to look at the facts and make any adjustments required to establish a level playing field.”

    “Foreign paper manufacturers are taking advantage of the unfair trade practices of dumping and subsidies to undermine U.S. manufacturers,” said Mark Kowlzan, CEO Packaging Corporation of America.

    Under the antidumping and countervailing duty statutes, the ITC is expected to make a preliminary injury determination in early March 2015. The Department of Commerce is expected to issue preliminary determinations in April 2015 and in the antidumping duty investigations in June 2015. All of the investigations will be completed within 13 to 14 months.

  • Issue 676 – 30 January 2015

    It’s been a good start to the year for the printing industry in Australia and New Zealand. An air of optimism and confidence is in stark contrast to the doom and nervousness at the beginning of last year. As I go around meeting with printers the general atmosphere is one of positivity that trading conditions are improving … it’s good to see.

    Let’s look forward to a great 2015.

    You’re one of more than 700 industry professionals across Australia and New Zealand reading Print21.

    Patrick Howard
    Publishing editor

  • EFI is making a motza on its way to $1 billion

    Wide format and software technology developer posts a record revenue for 2014 of $790 million up 14% as it closes in on the CEO’s goal of a billion turnover by 2016.

    Coming off the back of the largest ever Connect Conference in Las Vegas, for the quarter ended December 31, EFI reported record revenue of $211.1 million, up 7% compared to fourth quarter 2013 revenue of $197.2 million.  Despite unfavourable currency shifts when compared to previous years, the company is still one of the most profitable suppliers to the industry.

    “Solid fourth quarter results wrapped-up another terrific year for the EFI team, delivering 9% revenue growth and a 14% increase in EPS, despite the significant negative impact of foreign exchange in the second half of the year,” said Guy Gecht, CEO of EFI.

    “Our ongoing focus on innovation across our entire product line-up is helping our customers around the globe win new business and boost profitability. We are getting increasingly confident in delivering on our $1 billion revenue target for 2016 while hitting the higher end of our profitability range.”

    Industry analysts are expecting further acquisition moves by EFI this year. While organic revenue growth is good, it’s unlikely to be good enough to crack the big billion in time for 2016 without acquiring other companies. EFI has a history of aggressive acquisitions to spur growth. This year’s Connect Conference was one of the first where there was no announcement of a significant takeover.

    Possible areas of opportunity would be in buying a manufacturer of flatbed wide format machines, to fill a notable gap in its technology offerings.

  • Women in Print 2015 – cornflakes and champagne

    The early birds may very well catch the worm but they also get to meet with other early risers over breakfast and share stories of how it is for women working in the printing industry.

    Women in Print is back on again this year with a five breakfast meetings across the major capital cities in March. Speakers have not yet been finalised but the ever-popular women-only events have taken on a life of their own with a growing groundswell of enthusiastic supporters.

    Established by Heidelberg, Women in Print provides an opportunity for all women working in the Print and Graphic Media Industry to network and to also hear from leading women speakers. The organisers say the full programme will be releaed shortly but here are the relevant dates for your diaries:

    Melbourne – Tuesday 17 March

    Sydney – Wednesday 18 March

    Brisbane – Thursday 19 March

    Perth – Tuesday 24 March

    Adelaide – Wednesday 25 March

    Stay in touch by ‘liking’ Women in Print on Facebook or visit the website for updates

    For more information:

    Inge Pullar

    Heidelberg Australia/New Zealand

    03 9263 3356

    Inge.Pullar@heidelberg.com

    Major Sponsors of Women in Print are:

    Heidelberg, GAMAA, Media Super and PIAA

     

  • Alpha Label gets its first HP Indigo label press

    The shift towards digital production in printing continues with the increasing market dominance of the brand from Currie Group.

    Looking for a competitive edge and in pursuit of an expanded customer encouraged the St Marys-based Alpha Label to break into digital print production. It decided on a HP Indigo WS6600 press as the press best suited for its needs.

    According to David Poole, managing director, it is the versatility of the press that makes the difference.

    “We’re always looking for a competitive edge, as well as ways to provide better service to our customer base and potential new clients, and the HP Indigo WS6600 Digital Press has given us the opportunity to offer a real point of difference,” he said. “With the machine’s unrivalled speed and efficiency, we’ve been able to produce more work at a faster rate, without compromising the quality that our customers expect.”

    Mark Daws, general manager ANZ – Labels & Packaging Division, Currie Group, is chuffed with the decision.  “It’s great to see another label printer expand their services into digital. The new press offers great potential for Alpha Label to increase its customer base even further by delivering high-quality work on a range of applications.”

    Alpha Label prides itself on accommodating all label types, both in the longer and shorter run markets. Producing labels at up to 40 linear metres per minute in colour for a wide range of applications, the new HP press will allow Alpha Label to offer greater flexibility for its customers.

    Steve Donegal, country manager, Indigo and Inkjet Digital Press Solutions echoed the encouragement. “It’s very exciting to see a successful printer like Alpha Label get into digital for the first time. We’re looking forward to seeing how the company will diversify its offering to provide an even greater range of labels and packaging options for its growing customer base.”

    The digital colour gamut offered by the HP Indigo WS6600 Digital Press will streamline the company’s operations by eliminating the time previously required for colour separation, mounting plates on the machine, registration and colour-matching. With up to seven ink stations on the press, high-resolution prints are now ready to go immediately and any changes can be manipulated on-the-spot.

    The new addition will generate significantly less waste for the business, with the machine’s enhanced print quality reducing the margin for error. The higher throughput of the HP Indigo WS6600 Digital Press will also decrease the average setup time between jobs, minimising the waste created when preparing the machine. The press also supports several eco-certified substrates, as well as environmentally friendly primers, varnishes, and adhesives.

  • Issue 675 – 28 January 2015

    The National Print Awards has had a turbulent time in recent years, but its allure and prestige remains undimmed. Along with Pride in Print in New Zealand, the two competitions provide an enduring focus for the printing industry. The passion of craft-based competition may no longer be the deciding factor in our manufacturing industry, but being recognised by your peers as the leader in your field is still worth more than gold.

    Entries for the NPA close this week as do ‘regular’ entries for Pride in Print. You can’t win unless you’re in.

    You’re one of more than 7000 industrial professionals across australia and New Zealand reading Print21.

    Patrick Howard
    Publishing editor

  • The pressure’s on labels – Andy Mcourt

    Labels and short run packaging are being seen as some kind of El Dorado by digital equipment manufacturers, as click rates in the cut-sheet digital sector go even lower. There is unquestionably an over-supply of available digital label presses in a market where one or two players dominate and demand has yet to even remotely reach A3 cut-sheet proportions.

    Andy McCourt

    The battle line in the war of digital label production appears to be between electrophotographic means of production versus inkjet. There is perhaps a third front, in hybrid machines from mainstream flexo press makers who remain agnostic towards digital processes so long as they support the high-end results of multi-unit narrow web converting. Gidue recently launched it’s M5 ‘digital flexo’ press which automates just about everything except plate cylinder changes. Gidue uses the term ‘digital’ to describe the automation processes, not the way ink is laid down, which is still via photopolymer plates. However, the M5 claims job changes as fast if not faster than true digital and gone are the days of changing ink pans and aniloxes for special colours – all colour calculations are made digitally in the Esko prepress software which works in harmony with the expanded seven-colour Flint ink set.

    The Gidue example shows how traditional press manufacturers are keeping the faith with flexo and using ‘digital’ as a marketing term rather than true plateless digital where variable data is possible. Elsewhere in this issue, Print21 European correspondent, Nessan Cleary, takes a deep dive into the latest available technology, so this article looks more at the market, its roadmap and aspirations.

    How big is the market?

    Market size estimates and predictions vary wildly for the label sector. This is partially due to the fragmented nature of the industry, where producers are fiercely protective of their contracts and some labeling is conducted as part of the manufac-turing process, in-mould and shrink sleeve labels for example. However, one source that has proved very reliable is Mike Fairley, founder of the Labels & Labelling Expos and director of strategic development with the London-based Tarsus Group plc. Fairley has authoured many books on labeling and conducted deep research over a 35-year career.

    His 2011 estimate of the size of the global label market at sales value was USD$73 billion. Given CAGR (compound annualized growth rate) from several sources is between 4 and 7 percent; taking the more conservative figure this would mean that in 2015, the global sales of labels will be around US$85 billion (AUD $97 billion at current exchange rates).

    By drilling down to the actual suppliers of label converting stock such as Avery Dennison and UPM Raflaltac, the Fairley research estimates that approximately 42 billion sqm of labelstock is converted by around 30,000 converting businesses worldwide.

    The driving factor for the strong growth in labels is the world’s increasing demand for packaged foods, products and beverages. Even fresh produce can carry small labels on the mango, apple or banana skin. It comes as no surprise that the furnace of this growth is in the Asian markets of China and surrounds. India, for example, has a very low per capita consumption of labels and yet a burgeoning middle class developing with consumer tastes akin to developed countries. The US annual label consumption is around 15-16sqm/pa; Scandinavia 17-18 sqm/pa. Europe is at 8 sqm/pa but China has yet to reach just 2 sqm/pa – with a market potential of 1.3 billion people! India uses even less than one sqm/pa of labelstock per capita and presents 1.2 billion potential consumers.

    Mind-boggling figures of this magnitude should really drive home the opportunities presented to Australian packaged goods and labeling companies by the Free Trade Agreements announced last month, for both exports and joint manufac-turing ventures in those countries. As market-stall retailing changes and becomes an organized ‘chain’ business in these emerging countries; so packaged food and goods will rise, along with the labels that brand them.

    On the topic of branding, the highest proportion of labels printed in the world today are for private-label brands; WalMart, Aldi, Tesco, Coles, Woollies and so on.

    Digital’s place in labels

    What is digital’s place in this exciting boom market of label production? In truth, while digital has garnered an immense amount of publicity and does indeed show a lot of promise for the future, particularly in developed economies like Australia, it still accounts for only about 4 percent of global label production. Doubtless this will grow because there are more digital label presses being sold into markets. Between 20 and 25 percent of all new label presses are digital, but production volumes are lower albeit with higher value-per-label.

    Surprisingly, over 40 percent of the world’s printed labels are of the wet glue-applied variety, not self-adhesive, and these are typically printed by the millions on gravure or flexo presses running at great speed – not the realm of digital at all.

    Best estimates put the global installed base of narrow web digital label presses at around 2,500 for 2014 ( out of total label presses installed of about 29,000), with HP Indigo claiming a whopping 68 percent of these. Xeikon, with dry toner electrophotographic (EP) engines, claims around 10 percent with the remainder being inkjet and minor EP players. EFI Jetrion currently leads the installed base of inkjet presses but most of these are in ‘secondary’ label sites such as electrical tagging; safety labeling; manufacturer’s statutory markings and so on.

    Inkjet digitally printed labels are set to grow but make no mistake about it – EP liquid and dry toner presses are not going away; they still control the majority of digitally-printed labels and will do for some years to come. Long before the HP Indigo ws6000- series, was the pre-HP Indigo Omnius, so Indigo has effectively been in digital labels for about 15 years. Most colour inkjet label presses have been around for less than three.

    All the same, inkjet’s growth in digital label production will be on a strong upward trajectory. The arguments in favour are all too compelling; faster, lower cost-per-label, use of unprimed stocks, aqueous UV cured inks, white ink, wider web widths and so on. Screen’s Truepress Jet L350UV, distributed by Jet Technologies here, ticks all of these boxes and also solves the converting side with the just-announced JetConverter. This line even includes a flexo station, foiling, semi rotary die-cutting, twin rewind, matrix stripping – it’s a converter’s dream in a mini 50 metre per minute package and can work inline or offline.

    At the lower end of digital, there are many EP and inkjet ‘desktop’ machines that are intended to print on pre-cut stocks and offer little in the way of converting Memjet alone lists twelve label OEM partners, all offering similar engines at 9 or 18 metres per minute and not much converting with the exception of ColorDyne.

    A word on Rapid

    There used to be another Memjet OEM – Australia’s Rapid Packaging who showed the first working Memjet machine at Ipex 2010 and went on to apply its considerable converting expertise to turn the technology into a proper label press line that could die-cut, laminate, rewind and strip. Memjet ‘boned’ Rapid in October in mysterious circumstances – they just would not give a reason and Rapid said they were dumbfounded at the arbitrary axing of an agreement due to run until 2017, leaving them with almost $2 million in stock engines that Memjet would not allow them to build into their presses.

    Despite a good ‘shirtfronting’ (thanks PM), Memjet would not talk, only to say, “… it’s natural there will be an ebb and flow in our OEM partners.” Ebb and flow? Memo to Memjet: the worldwide $80 billion label industry is a major player in branded goods marketing and is a close-knit community of highly technical and experienced professionals who want to work with trusted partners – who don’t ‘ebb and flow’ like the tide. In Rapid, you have excommunicated a much respected label press manufacturer who exported machines to 54 countries and then put their faith in Memjet as its digital platform, sharing their own R&D and actually making Memjet technology work in a commercially-available machine for the first time.

    Non-critical desktop machines can perhaps tolerate perfidity in support and supply but working pay-for-label printers respect continuity, support, commitment and a trusted partner who ultimately helps them pay the rent and wages.

    With over 40 manufacturers of digital label presses today, it’s a buyer’s market so there is a need to be selective and analytical in choices that fit each individual company’s production requirements. Some inkjet machines are approaching the lower end of flexo print run capabilities and this alone delivers infrastructure benefits by eliminating plates and analogue makeready.

    Label printing is a great place to be but, as with all gold rushes, it’s not an El Dorado. Even if you find the gold; it requires refinement.

  • 500 Australian newspapers in new print ad service

    The Newspaper Works has launched the Newspaper Locator, an online tool to help media agencies better plan newspaper media campaigns.

    The tool, hosted on www.thenewspaperworks.com.au presents 500 newspapers across Australia, grouped into established television broadcast areas to assist multi-platform campaign planning.

    The Newspaper Locator provides users with searchable information for each masthead, including: name, location, distribution postcode, publisher network, type (national, metro, regional, community), frequency, paid or free, advertising contact details, emma readership data, and circulation.

    According to Mark Hollands, CEO, The Newspaper Works the free simple on-line mapping will help solve channel planning issues. “Our research shows that accurately planning newspaper campaigns is something media agencies can find time-consuming, so we’ve created the Newspaper Locator to help solve that.

    “Our Newspaper Locator is a free, simple online mapping tool that makes channel planning more efficient. It will be most useful for those who plan across regional and community newspapers and are unfamiliar with the areas or the titles available.”

    Designed to integrate seamlessly with campaign planning, search results can be downloaded and added directly into planning documents.

    The launch of the Newspaper Locator is being supported by a trade marketing campaign across print, online, PR, direct communications and social media. You can view the launch video here.

     

  • National Print Awards & regular Pride in Print entries close on Friday

    Entries in the premiere awards in Australia can be delivered to your local Printing Industries office in person up to 5pm this Friday 30 January 2015.

    This is the first year printers can enter their work directly into the National Print awards. In the wake of changes to the State-based Pica system direct entry is required, even for those prizewinners in the regional competitions. Entries will be judged in February by the expert panel of judges headed by Luke Wooldridge.

    Direct delivery to Printing Industries offices will avoid any complications or risks to larger and fragile entries from handling at mail centres. Special courier delivery of all entries will make sure they are received in Melbourne in time for the NPA judging.

    It’s a little different in New Zealand with Pride in Print. Regular entries close this Friday but late entries will be accepted up until the end of February. These will attract an increased fee.

    The Pride in Print awards will be held on Friday 1May 1, 2015 at the TSB Arena in Wellington.

    NPA winners will be announced at the Presentation Dinner in Sydney on Friday 15 May, 2015, an event which will provide a fitting close to the industry’s PrintEx 15 exhibition.

    This time around the NPA is comprised of  17 separate categories and three major Sponsor Awards from Heidelberg, Currie Group and Fuji Xerox.

    Download your entry form here or contact Print Awards here for more information.

    NPA entries must have been produced between 1 September 2013 and 30 December 2014, and must be printed and finished in Australia.

    Additional Award

    The Fuji Xerox Effectiveness Award is awarded for the most effective use of digital printing technologies. The award is judged by representatives from Fuji Xerox Australia. Entry into this Award is via a separate entry form available HERE.

    Alternatively you can contact the organisers at printawards@printnet.com.au

     

  • Admark soars to the heights with Smaug

    The fearsome dragon from Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movie on the fuselage of an Air New Zealand 777 wins the Best of the Best Award for the Hamilton-based printer.

     ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ proved a winner for the New Zealand company at the Specialist Graphic Industry Association (SGIA) Golden Image Awards held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Admark submitted four entries, won an award for each of them, and was presented the supreme accolade; 2014 Best in Show: Digital Creativity.

    According to Laurie Pilling, CEO, the honour recognises Admark Visual Imaging as “the best printer in the world.

    “It’s a marvellous accomplishment for a New Zealand business to be selected as the best digital printer in the world,” he said. “The commitment and expertise within the Admark team is remarkable and makes us all very proud.

    “When we win awards on the world stage, it demonstrates that Admark is among an elite group of companies in the world of printing excellence. To win the Supreme Award in the world is like winning the Best Picture at the Oscars, an achievement that we are all incredibly proud of.”

    The 54-metre long graphic made up of 372 panels was produced on the company’s 3M Scotchprint 2000 electrostatic printer at its Hamilton factory. Designed by David Taylor, who works closely with the Jackson studio in Wellington, the image has to withstand the freezing temperature of down to minus 70 degrees.

    It took four days for the Admark team to apply the “most sophisticated sticky label” to the aeroplane, which travels a regular rout from Auckland to London via LA, with side trips to Tokyo. It is the latest in a long series of aircraft graphics by Admark, which has also worked with Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar, to name a few.

    “We are the world’s leading aircraft graphic producers. Our design, printing and production methods mean that Admark can print on almost anything from food and product labels, to large-scale graphics for tankers, boats and aircraft. If you can dream it, we can print it, ” said Pilling.

    In addition to aircraft graphics, the Hamilton company of more than 50 employees, produces labels and screen printing. In addition to the fairly rare 3M electrostatic printer that produced the Smaug image it also uses, Epson, HP Latex and Vutek technology.  After knuckling down to get through the financial crisis, it is now in good shape and looking to expand again. “We came through the financial crisis very well. We changed our strategy at the time to one of survival. Now we’re ready to grow,” he said.

    The SGIA Golden Image Awards attract entries from all corners of the world. They are recognised as the global standard for excellence in screen and large format digital printing. Several judges said this year’s awards were one of the toughest competitions they’ve judged and any award given out is an extraordinary achievement. Only one Gold medal is awarded in each category each year.

    “Receiving one of these awards places the winner at the very top of the world’s leading printers,” said Johnny Shell, SGIA’s Vice President of Technical Services. “Achieving such high quality indicates remarkable control and ability!”

     

     

  • Issue 674 – 25 January 2015

    OK, so a lot of what happens in Vegas has to stay there, but it’s not all backjack, boot scooting and Elton John. The EFI Connect Conference proved to be a hardworking, focused affair for the hundreds of printing industry IT & workflow professionals who made it to the Wynn Hotel last week. Here’s a wrap up, delayed by time shifts, but it’s only about what happened inside the conference halls. The rest stays in Vegas.

    Happy Australia Day.

    You’re one one of 7000 industry professionals across Australia and New Zealand reading Print21.

    Patrick Howard
    Publishing Editor.

  • End-to-end workflows, 3D printing, and getting Benny out of bed – that’s a wrap for Connect

    More than 1000 of the printing industry’s brightest and brainiest IT and print production managers finish four days of intensive interfacing with EFI’s software systems in the Wynn Hotel Las Vegas. Patrick Howard reviews the industry’s premiere ‘think fest.’

    There was a time, not so many years ago when printing software was relegated to a scrappy MIS in the office corner, production control relied on job bags, and CRM was something the sales people took care of. It’s not like that anymore and if further proof was required of the now central role of software in the print production process, the intensity of this week’s Connect 2015 conference in Las Vegas puts the argument beyond dispute.

    In the past decade, EFI has acquired, developed and is now promoting the widest range of software programs in the industry, from Pace and PrintSmith to PrintStream and the enterprise level sophistication of Technique, Radius and Monarch. Announcing its intention to rationalize the delivery of the many levels and add-ons into Suites – Enterprise; Midmarket; Stand Alone etc.– EFI used this Connect to highlight the vital importance of software in the printing industry.

    In recent years, the company has acquired a remarkable number of software companies, notably Prism and Techniques, insofar as the local market is concerned. Prism especially was the closest Australia and New Zealand came to having a default workflow. It is now in ‘maintenance only’ mode, which means it will be supported but no longer developed.

    This presents customers with challenges as well as opportunities to move to a more future-oriented software. The decision to only maintain the software is indicative of EFI’s pragmatic market-power strategy. It buys software and then encourages the users to migrate to one of the mainstream platforms it is developing for the future.

    If its sometimes aggressive drive for growth has ruffled some customers, the end result can be gauged by the impressive array of educational and training sessions at Connect. EFI now has software suitable for every part of the industry. I counted more than 200 different educational breakout sessions and user group forums, apart from the general sessions.

    This is a highly technical eco-system with all software now integrated into end-to-end workflows that will further drive industry automation. As I wandered in and out of the different rooms, it became apparent the participants were operating at a high level of technical detail that left amateurs, such as me, for dead. This was a highly particular, almost geekish, conference with that peculiar intensity that IT and production managers generate when they focus on workflow. Just because it was held in Las Vegas doesn’t mean it was all for fun and games.

    Supporting the software: Darren Hardman (left) and Chris Sledge of IPMG were part of the international Technique's User Group.

    I spoke with a number of attendees from Australia, such as Chris Sledge and Darren Hardman from IPMG, who have just completed a two–year, enterprise-wide installation of Techniques. They were in Las Vegas having been the primary instigators of the Techniques User Group. According to Sledge they want to be sure that EFI recognizes there is plenty of support for the software to encourage it’s continuing development.

    As for me, the presentation of 3D Systems guru Avi Reichental, proved a highlight. It took the form of a ‘fireside chat’ with Guy Gecht, CEO – the second in two days – but it presented the audience with the technical and business reality of ‘accretive manufacturing’ and the opportunity it presents the printing industry.

    As he said, there is no road map, there is only discovering opportunity and taking it, but in a fascinating exposition he did illustrate how 3D printing is going to be perhaps the most disruptive of all new technologies in the 21st century.

    And speaking of ‘disruptive technologies’ Benny Landa, father of digital printing and inventor extraordinaire, had his sleep disrupted by Guy Gecht via a video Skype call to Israel in the middle of the night. Good old Benny played the shtick to the hilt, waking in faux surprise to confront a video audience of over a thousand printers in the US.

    Wakey! Wakey! Time for Nanoprint to come to the party; Benny Landa in bed.

    There is the ongoing gag between the two dating from last year’s Ipex, when Landa maintained he was waiting for the EFI super RIP required to drive his Nanoprint engines, while Gecht insisted it was the engine development that was holding it up. Either way, Benny from his midnight bed, claimed that he’ll be ready to take the technology to market by next Drupa in May 2016.

    Talking to some of the EFI guys later, they’re pretty confident they’ll have a powerful enough RIP to drive the B1 digital packaging press. It will likely be the fastest Fiery RIP developed so far and will facilitate the further expansion of digital printing up the food chain.

    Computerized workflow has moved from the margins to the centre of the printing industry. The former ‘geeks’ are now the master of the process. EFI has become the 800 lb. gorilla in the sector and few printing companies in the future will function without using some of its software products.

    In Australia it has acquired some of the leading talent in the sector, such as former Prism honcho, Kathy Mitchell. Many local printing companies this year will be faced with the decision of what to do… hang tough with Prism and fall behind or decide to move to Pace, Monarch or Technique.

    Go to man for Productivity Suites, Nick Benkovich.

    With well-known Australian expatriate Nick Benkovich is driving the development of the EFI Production Suites in San Diego, while another, Rohan Holt, creator of Metrix, latterly of Wollongong, now in Seattle, is leading the integration of his  layout and imposition software into the wider offering, Australia enjoys an influential role in the development of EFI’s software.

    Next year, I expect to see many more Australian and New Zealand printers making the trip and taking the opportunity to shift their production up a gear … taking advantage of the software development investment from the industry leader.

     

  • “Print is the doorway to digital” – Tom Quinlan, CEO RR Donnelley at Connect, Las Vegas

    The second part of that is … “digital is the doorway to print,” and it encapsulates the relationship between one of the largest printing companies in the world and the internet age.

    It’s a marker of the stature of the EFI Connect conference that it attracts the heavy hitters and leaders of the industry. For more than an hour, Tom Quinlan, leader of the $12 billion US print company, RR Donnelley, sat on stage at the conference in Las Vegas to be quizzed about his business and the state of the industry by Guy Gecht.

    His perspective proved unique, wide-ranging and valuable to share, especially his belief that the printing industry, at least in the USA, has recovered to where it was a couple of years ago. He was also confident and optimistic on the future of print in an internet age based on the complementary roles between it and digital.

    A big advocate of printing as the most valuable physical contact with customers, he frequently refers to his business as ‘print communications.’ He believes the days of non-personalized communications are over with the $110 billion print market in the US an essential part of ‘the omni-channel marketing experience’ for customers.

    RR Donnelley is active in mining the data that is increasingly driving the communications market. Quinlan regards his team as being able to analyze customers’ data even better than they can and suggest ways it can be used in the mix.

    This is removed from the traditional print provider role but it is indicative of the continuing evolution of technology and services that has made the company the size and success it is today. That growth came on the back of a fairly constant series of acquisitions over the years based on his philosophy of looking for customers, capacity and cost in a target, with the aim of how it can feed into Donnelley’s service offering.

    He says the days of companies being bought from positions of being in distress are over, with the survivors i.e. the printing businesses still operating, doing much better now.

    On technology he would not be drawn on whether Donnelley’s would ever buy another offset press, but he did share the strategy that despite its leadership position the company is looking for tech partnerships through a Workbench division. This is based on the knowledge that ‘we don’t know what we’re missing.’ It involves working with start-ups, entrepreneurs and app developers to stay up with the game.

    Some fireside, some chat; Guy Gecht (left) with Tom Quinlan on stage at Connect.

    It’s a valuable admission from someone with so many resources at their command and one that all the attendees at Connect can relate to. That’s partly why we’re here.

    As it proved I didn’t get an opportunity to ask Tom Quinlan about his intentions in Australia. I did hear there were two RR Donnelley representatives at the recent Galley Club meeting in Sydney before Christmas. What could they be doing there? Either taking book printing work offshore to its plants in India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines or looking to add another international production plant to its mix?

     

  • EFI goes for its ‘CS’ moment with launch of Productivity Suite

    Linking up the industry’s leading array of print-focused software into one integrated offering will give printers an end-to-end workflow at every point. Patrick Howard reports from Las Vegas.

    No one has as many different soft wares for the printing industry as EFI, a fact that becomes plain in the Connect meeting space at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. I counted 16 demonstration booths for software alone, not counting the number Vutek inkjets on display.

    In a year when the pace of acquisitions slowed for the software giant, although revenue at around (US)$790 million continues to climb towards the magic $1 billion target in 2016 targeted by the CEO, Guy Gecht, rearranging the product line is the main focus. According to Gaby Matsliach, the new GM for productivity software, the move towards the integrated offering will future proof printers’ investment in the company’s products.

    At the opening session of the largest ever EFI Connect conference two hours ago, he announced the launch this quarter of a comprehensive portfolio of products to be framed as the Productivity Suite. With centralised portfolio product management to ensure that the different elements are always released together for rapid deployment, the aim is to make end-to-end workflow available as a single investment.

    With almost every software in the hall is wearing a ‘new’ badge on them signalling different versions, bringing them all to market at the same time is a major strategic advantage. It means there will be no bottlenecks with previous iterations when new and faster software is launched.

    New products, such at Metrix and DirectSmile, will now be seamlessly developed alongside the more foundational programs such as Monarch, Pace, Radius and PrintSmith. While printers will still be able to buy updates and products as standalone modules, the intention clearly is to give the printing industry an out-of-the-box Productivity Portfolio, similar no doubt to the way Adobe has developed its Creative Suite (CS) offerings.

    EFI is a more balanced company at this Connect with Mark Olin, CFO, (pictured on thumbnail) announcing that its revenue is now evenly split between inkjet and software. While there’s no doubt the star product continues to be the Fiery RIP, Vutek’s move into LED wide format has given the technology a significant advantage. It provides a significant offset to the development focus of software and workflow.

    Two additions to the EFI workforce are rohan Holt (left0 who sold his Metrix business to EFI 18 months ago, and Roland Schmidt, long-term Asia Pacific manager for DirectSmile, who moved across this year.

    Olin sounded confident that the massive investment from EFI in research and development would continue to keep the Fiery RIP ahead of the game. Xerox, Konica Minolta, Canon & Ricoh are all here and all have new Fierys to drive their latest releases.

    The opening session of the Connect Conference was short and sweet with attendees splitting up into smaller focus groups to get down to the details of the industry’s leading intelligence offerings. Over the next few days I will be sitting in on some of them to find out what’s new and how it affects overall workflow.

    See you soon.

     

     

  • LEP adds another shift in Melbourne

    Four months after opening its Port Melbourne plant LEP is adding an extra shift each day to handle the workload. The extra production is indicative of the move towards hub printing across the industry with all the major ‘trade’ printers – CMYK Hub and Hero, as well as LEP reporting growing volumes. The shift towards outsourcing capital equipment investment in presses is shaping the industry.

    With LEP’s new equipment bedded down, a company press release says its production processes have been running smoothly almost since day one of its operations. The Port Melbourne facility will now operate two shifts daily, five days a week. The extra shift will effectively double its production output, with a sixth day each week used for general maintenance, cleaning and for overtime during busy periods.

    The company is now recruiting to fill positions needed for the extra shift.  According to John Bromfield, LEP CEO, the southern plant has been very well received by customers. “We’re thrilled that our new facility in Port Melbourne has been so readily accepted by our customers in the southern states. After just four months we are boosting our production hours to handle the volume of work they’re sending our way.

    LEP installed fibre optic cable at its Port Melbourne site late last year, which it says has greatly improved real time communication and processing on site. The company’s Queensland facility already runs three shifts daily, five days per week.

  • Issue 673 – 21 January 2015

    There’s nowhere in the world like Las Vegas, and there is no printing industry event like the EFI Connect Conference, which opened yesterday … well actually today Las Vegas time. The time shift is deadly, which is why this issue of Print21 is running a few hours later. I’m here in the gambling capital of the USA as a guest of Connect to bring you news of the event as it happens, and there’s plenty to tell. So stay tuned for news updates. Follow me on Twitter and check back for breaking news.

    You’re one of more than 7000 industry professionals across Australia & New Zealand reading Print21.

    Patrick Howard
    Publishing Editor