|The date April 14, 1912, seems meaningless
at first, but most people are
acutely aware of the events that transpired
on this day, close to midnight, as
the then world’s largest passenger liner
brushed an Atlantic iceberg 400 miles
south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.
For the next century, the story of
the Titanic, of both gallantry and cowardice,
has been told in countless books
and movies, articles, music and plays.
Maritime emergency drills strike me
as an interesting parallel to our industry.
During seaboard training, crew members
practiced hard and long on what to
do when a ship is in distress. Keep your
head, and your passengers, calm. Provide
them with all available life support, including
efficient access to life boats.
Countless drills practiced over and over
again are invisible to the client, who
should have a seamless trip.
Then disaster strikes – the real thing –
and pure panic hits the crew, passengers,
pets, anything and anyone on that boat.
All of the drills and practice, detailed
emergency procedures, best laid plans,
fall by the wayside. And sometimes, as
with the Titanic, women and children
are not always put first. The crew sometimes
jumped into boats and grown men
forget chivalry in favour of survival.
Panic, which can quickly turn into outright
terror, simply causes people to do
things they normally would not.
Companies in today’s capital equipment
business, press manufacturers for
the printing industry, currently face such
panic out in the marketplace, that you
would almost think they are employees
of the White Star Line tasked to the
maiden voyage of the Titanic.
Price of persuasion
In manufacturing centres like Germany
and Japan, a traumatic toll has indeed
played havoc on the traditional methods
of supplying equipment. Suppliers at one
time controlled the process of supply
and delivery. Machine installations were
detailed, almost exactly. Many people
with different skills would arrive to commission
your press. This would usually
including a brief stint with experts flown
in from headquarters as well.
The printing industry within all modern
economies is hard pressed and this
pushes manufacturers to do more for
much less. As I discussed in my last column,
the bubble effect has not hit other
developing countries yet, but it will in
time. There is extensive catch-up press
technology needed in most of the developing
world, and this only provides a
brief respite in the global print game for
the press makers.
Over the past two years, all of the
major press manufacturers, even those
who show positive numbers in developing
countries, have been forced into relatively
quick contractions. Unlike other
industries, where rapid increases in
speeds and performance are more constant,
new manufacturing is not growing
in either sheetfed and web press production
There is no time, even less money, it
seems to go through all of the installation
or acquisition checks and balances.
The industry at large is no longer willing
to pay for so called traditional R&D
spend and bygone manufacturing costs.
As result, what was once a well orchestrated
situation, purchase and installation
practices have turned into pure
pandemonium. It is now survival of the
fittest, as if floating on a distressed ship
lost in the high seas. Certainly the economy
and maturation of online content,
published on either mobile or wired Internet-
enabled computers, have greatly
compounded the current panic in the
Is this the End? Quick opined answer:
No. As a company that has had to deal
with the realities of the Internet I see
great possibilities. As an industry, in general,
most involved in printing realize the
communications environment needs to
shift some of its focus back to printing,
and its ability to remain as a sound
medium relative to the internet. It is
not, of course, so much that we need to
convince ourselves on the effectiveness
of printing, but rather convince more
potential buyers of print.
Cost of delivery
Our opportunity to invigorate the buyer
is at hand again. Nothing beats a great
printed piece arriving by mail. As great
an impact as email has had on our society
over the past decade, email as a sales
tool also has severe limitations. In fact,
email, when used as a sales tool can
quickly become its own worst enemy.
I would argue that email, once the
great direct marketing tool for delivering
personalized messages, has become a
tool for reaching the masses – even more
so than today’s data-driven printing. I
think it is safe to suggest that the average
working North American will get literally
hundreds of unsolicited emails every
week, offering everything from light
bulbs to vacations.
Even without considering the impact
of junk filters, the problem with people
now all but ignoring unsolicited emails
will only continue to grow, as the opt-in
bylaws cannot be governed, computer
gurus better automate their addresssearch
bots, and as third-party contact
lists pick up more and more names. Like
most businesses, my company understands
printing’s major advantage over
email, in that physical addresses change
far less regularly than virtual ones.