Featured on Howard Direct

Featured on Howard Direct


By:  Nick Howard  |  Date: March 2010  |  Contact the Author
I needed a fax machine for home. That’s how it started. Now, buying anything electronic isn’t quite like buying, say, a book. The store was filled with all sorts of desktop faxes - some with copier and scanning features, others with auto feeders. Almost all were under $500.00.

That’s when I started thinking about our business of print. No doubt you have read articles chronicling the industry’s need to change. All sorts of material have been written describing new techniques, tools, and the like. I read them too and generally pass them off as nice but that’s about it. Back to the store for a minute. That’s when it hit me. What all these people are really trying to say is somewhat muddled up and technical - but true and inevitable.

We must, as an industry, create new products! That’s it really - and we are not doing it fast enough. Think about it. I bought a fax/copier that had loads of technology for $500.00. Go back a few years and the same type of machine would be thousands, if available in the compact size it was. The companies that make this equipment have lots of competition so they need to constantly come up with creative new ideas and bring them to market for less each time. We have to come up with new ideas and reduce the costs to produce them. If we don’t, the conventional idea of printing on paper will slowly be eaten away by other technologies.

Printing equipment manufacturers already realize that their market is shrinking. Since 1990, press equipment has been available automated. These manufacturers are pushing the technology envelope in order to further reduce non chargeable makeready time. But, it’s getting harder for them to sell this because most of the potential market does not create new products. Therefore, printers do not see the need to buy a press with similar but faster technology. I think, this stems from the general lack of creativity amongst us.

But, look around and you will see that some already figured the “new product” idea out. They are the ones that already have CTP, perhaps, have a 4 over 4 perfector and still realize that even this technology isn’t necessarily the answer. These plants are moving into other mostly unknown areas to create “new products”.

UV printing has been around since the 50’s - so it isn’t new. The early days of UV were horrendous. Poor inks, drying systems, dot gain issues, etc. Now, this technology is stable and growing like a weed. Those “new product” guys are printing on substrates other than paper. Since the vast majority can’t, this becomes a “new product” when combined with innovative creativity.

Take a 16pp brochure printed 4/4. Everyone can do that. But, how about the cover printing in hexachrome ™, UV spot coated, with one section printed on metallic paper. Then add some personalization, embossing, or in-line die cutting to the insides. With low make-readies, the costs of this work can be competitive and a definite drawing card for your clients.

The hardback book industry is a business looked upon as “old technology”. This is because those that ran the big plants in the 60’s and 70’s chugged along with old equipment and were never able to compete with other cheap labor countries. But, do you know that all sorts of new efficient case binding equipment exists for those who see how they can use it for today’s new products?

New products come from design out and need to be created. We are not too creative when we struggle to keep margins at acceptable levels. There has to be a way for each company to set aside time and people in order to develop “new products”. This can be done while we still carry out our normal “yesterday” work. There are so many possibilities that they are endless. Start now! If you need any help visit your local electronics store and look for that home fax machine.

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