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Print 2.0 - Print's Need For A New Operating System - Published by Howard Graphic Equipment

Print's Need For A New Operating System - Part 2


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By:  Nick Howard  |  Date: October 2013  |  Contact the Author
Part 1 | Part 2

Cont'd from Part 1


Our fears are not unlike those faced by printers 129 years ago. Nothing like the last 25 years. The Inland Printer saw a need to simply reduce the standard ten hour day to eight. Anything to save the industry as a whole, even reduced hours, was an option.

We, as an industry, are in a watershed change but now it’s not about updating a process or just reducing headcounts but reconfiguring a new print shop operating system. Hard costs like the mail continue to be detrimental. This time, communication medium does have a solution and it relegates Print to a smaller piece of the pie.

Blackberry’s fall from grace illustrates that not only print but on-screen, too, can be a perilous adventure. Blackberry, RIM, invented wireless email that connected to your computer. They created the exclusive Blackberry messenger (BBM), and they gave us a proper key board. Blackberry owned the hand-held smart phone market. In 2007, the iPhone then Google’s Android, changed all that. Just like the railroad boom and bust years, there will be more in the future.

There was a time not long ago when both the buyers, sellers and financers of printing machinery would take a chance even if the financial strength of the buyer was uncertain. The gamble was a calculated one. New digital offerings are not the reason for severe curtailing of litho sales. The culprit is attrition in print and the web enabled on-line print platforms that have re-defined whatever the former “Trade Printer” model was.

Our litho press manufacturers know too well that their leading press platforms will drive down costs considerably. At a recent plant visit, I discussed this very point with the plant manager of this medium size carton printer. They had just invested in a new German 6-color coater press, and had signed for another. His perspective was very succinct as he told me that the new press was the very first machine he had been involved in that did exactly what the manufacturer said it would. In fact, when I queried him on his comparisons to his older machines (year 2000 vintage), he boasted of an immediate 50% increase in productivity. This guy was pumped. I could see it in his enthusiasm. Even if it was 30%, that’s a big number. The press was running 16,000 iph on 0.8mm (0.032”) board and never stopped the whole time I was there.

Press builders worry about how the industry reacts to such big savings. After all, with all the chatter about digital instantly taking over litho – and it will eventually, as all press builders are investing in new platforms - the builders sense their current technology leaps are seen as bordering on irrelevant and providing nothing more than, say, adding a 9th track to an obsolete 8-track tape! I think, everyone could use a 30 - 50% cost savings don’t you?

Digital creep is already showing up in narrow web label and slowly killing of the 75 cm (29”) format. But, there is still developing to do and a definitive delivery system needs to be accepted before litho leaves us. Liquid toner appears to be the dominator in new devices coming onto the market. Whether it is Miyakoshi, HP, Zeikon, Konica-Minolta/Komori, Canon/Océ and Landa who seem to be in the forefront at the moment.

Not many printers can fathom a +one million dollar investment that is still in development for productivity mostly on one side of a sheet at speeds not seen since the handfed cylinder. But, the other more traditional spend of + two million dollars also seems to be on the backburner without any signs the industry feels confident enough to look beyond a couple years. Finance of a new press needs at least 5, if not 7 years, to bring down the monthly cost.

The Globe & Mail reporter Richard Blackwell’s article, The Recovery That Wasn’t, discussed KPMG’s C-Suite survey of Canadian executives and found among other things - “Many are also being careful about borrowing, and they are taking a cautious view in their long-term planning”. “We pay more attention to all expenses now, whether it is rent, payroll, or small things such as printing costs. I think most companies are like that today at least in the resource sector” – Mr. Chiarastella of Divestco says. If nothing more, the economy, in general, seem to be less comfortable with long-term debt especially when the future seems even harder to predict.

Even though to some of us the sales pitch from our Big 4 builders sounds similar and they all pretty much have the same benefits, litho sheetfed remains number one. I won’t be digging out my 8-track collection any time soon.

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