CPIA Strategy 08 – Protecting your profits

The annual Canadian Printing Industries Association senior management conference, Strategy 08, recently wrapped up. More than 100 industry executives and others traveled to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to meet with peers, network and share insights with a range of speakers. Sub-titled “Protecting Your Profits,” much of the focus was on improving business operations, particularly through recruiting and retaining employees.

After a day of golf, which raised nearly $5,000 for the Canadian Printing Industries Scholarship Trust Fund, the two-day conference opened with a keynote from Gord Griffiths, president and CEO of Grafikom.

Griffiths provided the audience with a capsule of insights and lessons learned from more than 40 years in the industry at companies such as RBW, Lawson and Jones, Quebecor and Cenveo. He suggested that printers should be more innovative and be less modest about going to customers to promote ideas for new products or how to save money. Griffiths also encouraged printers to participate in associations to promote the industry, especially to young people – a theme that was echoed throughout the conference. He also recommended that printers should partner to compete against the “megaprinter” and go after a larger opportunity as well as to recognize that competition comes principally from outside the industry.

Louise Kralka, vice president of sales at Phipps Dickson Integria in Montreal and in-coming chair of the CPIA board, moderated a panel discussion that focused on the customer: “Do you really know your clients’ needs? What makes a print buyer tick?”

Kelsey Ewart (4th year), Keri MacLellan (4th year), Lissa Davey (3rd year), Holley Chiborak (3rd year)

Margie Dana, founder of Print Buyers International, Jane Morrison of Colour in Halifax and Louise Marcil of Pulp and Paper Canada, via teleconference, shared their insights. All emphasized fast turnaround, different types of printing and the increasing importance of environmental factors, which developed into another key conference theme.

After lunch, motivational speaker Peter Davison energized and entertained the crowd with his talk on how to “Energize Employee Engagement.” Davison stressed the importance of promoting an emotional connection between the employee and his or her work and of treating each employee as an individual and important contributor to the whole.

The CPIA is a participant in the U.S.-based trade association Printing Industries of America/Graphic Arts Technical Foundation. Gary Jones, director of environmental, health and safety at PIA/GATF, spoke about the Sustainable Green Printer Partnership Program. Jones noted that the push for green printing is very much market driven. He discussed the various components of sustainability, including the product, the process and the envelope (the physical production environment). Jones then described the SGP program and how printers can participate. (More information is available at www.sgppartnership.org.)

Michael Makin, president of PIA/GATF, Ruby Thomas, VP operations Harmony Printing, Jim Mayes, owner of ColorCraft of Virginia, Jeff Ekstein, president/CEO of Willow Printing.

The guiding principles of the SGP are aspirational; improvement is an on-going process. He stressed the need for both a systematic (step by step) and systemic (all aspects of the operation) approach. Green printing is very much about reducing waste – and therefore cost – and instituting lean manufacturing principles can be an important component of that.

However, it is not only environmental factors that lead printers toward lean manufacturing. With print under relentless margin pressure, the need for on-going process improvement is even more important.

Transcontinental has long been a leader in instituting lean manufacturing processes, and we were fortunate to have Transcontinental’s corporate vice president of efficiency and innovation, Réal Boulet, discuss the company’s approach and use of lean manufacturing techniques, including Kaizen.

Transcontinental’s operating philosophy focuses on five key elements: strong leadership, mobilizing and engaging employees, improving business processes, optimizing operational performance and customer focus. Boulet stated “In our industry, improving quality is reducing waste‚Ķor reducing lead time.” Lean is about eliminating sources of waste and shortening cycle time.

Michael Makin, president of PIA/GATF, Ruby Thomas, VP operations Harmony Printing, Jim Mayes, owner of ColorCraft of Virginia, Jeff Ekstein, president/CEO of Willow Printing.

Day two opened with Marie Eveline discussing the Canadian Printing Industries Sector Council. The Council provides a national forum for collaboration, provides a leadership role in skills development and is working to improve the industry’s image as a career destination. Just two years old, the Council has already published a review of education and training programs, provided a needs assessment and is developing a skills and technology roadmap; the Council has also started developing skills standards for a variety of operations. Publication of a Labour Market Study has been postponed until after the election.

Following Eveline, Pascal Longpré of Mercer Consulting discussed how people issues can affect a merger or acquisition.

The highlight of the program was two panel discussions. After a brief presentation by PIA/GATF (and former CPIA) President Michael Makin on diversifying and moving into ancillary services, Jeff Eckstein of Willow Printing, Ruby Thomas from Harmony Printing and Jim Mayes of Colorcraft of Virginia discussed their move away from simple “ink on paper,” including digital print, special effects and mailing and fulfillment services.

The conference was attended by a number of students from Ryerson University’s School of Graphic Communications Management. Four of them discussed their passion for the industry as well as their hopes and aspirations. Not only was it an enjoyable hour, but it injected a healthy dose of youth, optimism and vigor. Indeed, printers of all sizes should be encouraged to participate in higher education internship programs and look to hire new grads.

Kevin Lanuke, founder and president of Blitzprint in Calgary, spoke of his journey from offset printer to digital printer to providing communication tools to help customers achieve their dreams. He spoke of the cost of opening niche markets and of the importance of a strong balance sheet – something that strikes close to home in the midst of the current credit meltdown.

The conference closed with an update on the current pulse of Canada, provided by John Wright from Ipso-Reid, a leading polling firm. Wright spoke both of Canadians’ attitudes and behaviour; he also provided an update and insight into the current election.

The final event was the Gala Awards Reception, where CPIA Awards of Merit were given to Mike McInnes (Transcontinental, Brampton) and Kris Bovay (Pacific Bindery Services, Vancouver). CPIA Supplier Award of Merit recipients were Cyndie Crysler of Muller Martini, Brian Ellis of Heidelberg and Graham Thompson of Vertex Graphic and Business Equipment in Vancouver. Dave Potje of Twin City Dwyer Printing in Kitchener received the Distinguished Service Award. The second annual Young Printer Award went to Todd Cober of Cober Printing in Kitchener. Don Gain of Harmony Printing and Rémi Marcoux, executive chairman of Transcontinental, received Honourary Life Member Awards. In his comments, Marcoux highlighted the two key trends of 1:1 and personalization and of developing a multi-channel platform.

Next year’s Strategy 09 Conference will be in Toronto, Nov. 10-12, 2009. For more information check out www.cpia-aci.ca.

John Zarwan is a PEI-based consultant focusing on business development and profit improvement. He provided drupa highlights at the Strategy 08 Conference.