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PacPrint13: where’s the litho? Andy McCourt’s ReVerb

Tuesday, 09 April 2013
By Andy McCourt
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PacPrint opens its doors in less than six weeks and in the current industry and trade fair climate, it must be congratulated for staging the event. Looking into the exhibitor list and floorplan, Andy McCourt discovers a markedly different show than ever before, and not a little irony in the digital-to-offset ratio.

May is the printing industry’s golden month as we put the turmoil of the first quarter of 2013 behind us and head to Melbourne for the National Print Awards and PacPrint, this year co-located with Visual Impact. A striking irony is that, as probably 1,000 people gather in the opulent Palladium room in the Crown complex, most of the awards given out will be for work printed on litho offset presses, with digital as newfangled minor categories.

Across the road in the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, by far the majority of floorspace and almost all the working presses, will be digital. With three notable exceptions, offset press suppliers are giving PacPrint a wide berth this year. The three exceptions deserve special praise and they are:

  • Cyber Australia, with Ryobi presses
  • Ferrostaal Australia, distributor of Komori presses
  • KBA Australia albeit with a small hospitality stand

Unless last-minute bookings are made for one of the many vacant stands, there will be no Heidelberg, no manroland, no Sakurai, no Hans Grohni, no Mitsubishi and no Goss, or any other offset presses. Yet the process by which only three out of 33 categories in the National Print Awards is recognized and produces maybe 16 per cent of Australia’s printing, takes up by far the majority of PacPrint and mostly on huge dazzling stands. Something is askew here, or there are messages to be heeded.

Certainly, ancillary offset equipment such as CTP, rollers, inks and bindery equipment will be there but presses themselves (or their suppliers) will be very thin on the ground, except for the three exhibitors mentioned.

The front-rowers inside the MEC, facing the Yarra and where the biggest stands traditionally are, are all mostly digital in their offerings. Lanier, Agfa, Fujifilm/Fujixerox, Currie Group, HP, Ricoh and Ferrostaal form the 8 mega-stands at the front of the Hall, with only Ferrostaal in the offset press game but even this company has just taken on a digital press agency in MGI of France.

In the middle row only Cyber is likely to have a working offset press –  Ryobi. All the rest are digital in either small or wide format: Canon, DES, Konica Minolta, Kodak, Epson, Kayell and EFI amongst many other smaller stands including press ancillary suppliers.

The back rows and sidewall are virtually all digital with Screen, Xeikon, Anitech, Positive Camtech, Princeton Digital, Jet Technologies, Pent Net and GBC amongst the larger stands. Carrying the flag for litho ancillaries and flexo however, are some PacPrint stalwarts such as Aldus Engineering, Venus Hartung, Hilton Laminating, Kurz, Jet Technologies, Muller Martini, KBA, PHE, Herben Numbering and Graph-Pac amongst others. Even BJ Ball has allocated its space to its Icon Digital paper brand.

The Visual Impact section bolted onto PacPrint is of course almost all digital, with screen process now representing less than 2 per cent of the industry.

There is no denying it, litho offset is under-represented at PacPrint and this highlights the reality of our industry at large. Digital is growing and prospering for both suppliers and customers. Margins are better, innovation is more visible and optimism is greater. Yet, digital processes currently produce only about 16 per cent of Australia’s marks on paper.

Digital users tend to be the kinds of companies that litho businesses were when they were prosperous – SMEs, family-run, five to 25 employees and not silly enough to burn their profit margins in chasing big contracts that hog press time but are unprofitable. A quote I’ve used before is worth repeating and it came from an old friend who ran The Printing Centre in London.

Martin Brazil (‘nutty’) was one of the first digital printers in the British capital and possibly the first to use a RIP to drive wide-format plotters as sign printers. I was in his shop when a lady from Time-Warner breezed in and demanded an urgent job be printed immediately on his Xerox Docutech.

“Madam, please explain why I should interrupt several profitable printing jobs going through my machine, only to lose money on your one job that will tie it up for three or four hours?” was his earnest question.

Let’s all hope and pray that the wrong-headed thinking that led to agglomerated private-equity backed sheetfed litho dinosaurs with no clue on proper costings, does not invade the digital print production space. It’s our last chance.

Congratulations again to PacPrint for staging the show against a backdrop of seemingly impossible odds. Show your support by being there!

4 Responses to “PacPrint13: where’s the litho? Andy McCourt’s ReVerb”

  1. April 10, 2013 at 8:48 am,

    Wilbur
    said:

    Will be interesting when Geon or Vega wins medals at National Print Awards , who will accept the award ?

  2. April 10, 2013 at 4:16 pm,

    said:

    Andy has always been an astute observer of our industry & writes about it with great insight combined with an obvious passion. This article is no exception. As a previous long term member of GAMAA (& now working with PIAA) I well remember numerous lengthy workshops that were conducted over the years about the future of printing exhibitions both here & overseas. I’m pleased to say our predictions were fairly accurate which may well have helped some of those more successful present day companies to be in the position they are in now.

    Well done Andy. Keep up the good work!

  3. April 11, 2013 at 5:25 pm,

    Andy McCourt
    said:

    Bruce; thankyou indeed for your kind comments. I can now say with 95% assurance, that Cyber will be the only exhibitor with working offset presses at PacPrint; a Ryobi 4/4 A1 and a 52cm 5 colour with coater. I’ll stick my neck out and say they will do very well as the sole Litho flag-carriers at the show, and take orders.
    Look forward to catching up with you and all old friends soon.

  4. April 04, 2014 at 4:03 pm,

    said:

    Am I authorized to post this on twitter?

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