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Drupa snooper – The change will do you good

Tuesday, 17 April 2012
By Andy McCourt
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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

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