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Record numbers hit the Gold Coast for Stream Solutions Conference

Thursday, 16 August 2007
By Print 21 Online Article
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“It’s definitely the best,” he said. “The level of positive feedback has been great.”

The annual event drew 125 delegates from around Australia representing the majority of the large printing companies in the industry. The attendance of so many significant printing suppliers reinforced the central role Stream Solutions is playing in the industry these days. Printers at the conference admitted they were there to network with Stream personnel and gain a better understanding of what was required to gain more work. The whole conference took place on the Gold Coast over two days filled with partying and occasional discussions about printing.

In his opening address, Price addressed the year’s biggest news for Stream and all those associated with the company – its acquisition by Toll in July this year.

“This financial year has been a big year for Stream Solutions,” he said. “The company is hot property in the printing market and caught the eye of many potential buyers – including private equity groups – but in the end, Toll won out.

“The main advantage is that it’s still business as usual; “we’re not changing our model in any way – there are no management changes internally,” Price explained. “It’s given us the backing and impetus to take Stream to the next level.”

While many printers fear the threat of Asia, Price dismisses the threat and sees it as a country that is important to Stream’s market., especially now that TOll is the sole owner.

Pictured: Attention please: Andrew Price opens the conference

“Toll brings to us its footprint in Asia. That footprint makes expansion into Asia easier for us; that will be part of our strategic growth in coming months,” he said.

The conference included a question and answer session where audience members could tackle Stream executives over any queries they have about the company’s methods. Price’s news about Asia sent suspicion throughout the room prompting one member to ask: “Will Stream send any work to Asia?”

Price volunteered that the nature of printing means that not all work will or can be sent overseas. “China has been and will be a source of supply,” he said. “Will it ever become a major source? No.”

Industry consolidation also aroused curiosity and concern. But these developments are not always bad for the industry, according to Price.

“There’s room for consolidations, mergers and acquisitions,” he said. “If you look at these consolidations, there are only a couple that have actually impacted on Stream. We are a customer of GEON and Blue Star – we buy off both of them.

“In this industry, there’s room for more than two. It will never get to the point where there’s only one dominant player.”

Brain food is the colour of …?

Colour management and information sharing were two dominant themes which ran throughout the conference. As customer’s expectations towards their printers grow, learning the rules of colour management is essential. The topic was covered at length by guest speakers Will Parker, Canon; David Crowther, Chromaticity and John Nagle, Stream.

“Colour management is a complex science but it’s easy to manage with the right methodology,” Parker said. “We have to get smart in the way we tackle files. Colour management is a process of understanding the customer and their files. We need to be agile with the way we handle colour.”

Pictured: Geoff Brennan, Stream Solutions with John Nagle and David Crowther

But if colour management is important to customers, it isn’t always the same with all printers. Some admitted to being bamboozled by the content, which one member dismissed as “bullshit.”

According to one source, it’s not that printers don’t care; they just need to be taught the right way. “Some of the presentations would have gone over their head,” the source said. “A lot of the guys in that audience haven’t been to university and wouldn’t be used to being taught in that way.”

Drop-in-drop-out sessions broke through the fourth wall of the conference, providing audiences with a chance to visit Stream business unit heads from companies such as Coca Cola, Centrelink and the Victorian government. As a new account, members were all keen to flock to the Coca Cola stand.

Pictured: Attendees drop in … on Telstra

“Coca Cola is the number one brand in the world so there’s a lot of printers wanting to work with us,” said Tracey Read. “We explained our methodology to them and our expectations towards colour management. We’re trying to make sure that the red is consistent for all products.”

Information sharing is something that has been pivotal to every one of Stream’s conferences, said Geoff Brennan, organiser of the conference, who finds it rewarding to know that attendees are challenged. He shouldn’t get too many complaints from those who made the trip. The general consensus was that the conference is a good chance to catch up with others and improve their business at the same time.

Pictured l-r: Paul Towset, Telstra PMU; Nick Lam, Victorian Government PMU; Bruce Gray, ANZ PMU; Tracey Read, Coca Cola PMU; Phil Turner, Centrelink PMU and Eddy Athanassiou, national sales operation

“It’s a great opportunity to network. I come every year,” said Steve Foster of Cumberland Stationery. “I go to a lot of these conferences but none of them are like this. Here, your rivals aren’t your rivals and it [the Gold Coast] is a great location.”

For Theo Pettaras of digitalpress, flying up from Sydney to attend for the first time was well worth it. “I appreciate the opportunity to get a better understanding of Stream’s business model,” he said. “It’s very informative and you get a feeling that they [Stream] are really trying to create the best possible systems.”

Pictured: Great mates … Andrew Price and Geoff Brennan at the gala dinner

Ask Price what makes the conference different from any other and he’s quick to admit that: “The conference is part of our supplier management. We have a strategic plan in the way we deal with suppliers and this conference forms that plan.”

Price is also quick to admit that the conference “isn’t a commercial event … we’re selective about who we invite”. Capping off the day with a motivational speaker, gala dinner, supplier awards and comedy event, the conference might have been about business, but there was also plenty of time for printers to let down their hair and dance to the band’s closing song, a cover of Valli Frankie’s ‘Oh What a Night.’

More like two days.

Pictured: Big night out …printers rock on at the closing night

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