A year in review and looking forward

Here’s a brief month-by-month summary of some of the more notable highlights and lowlights of 2009. In general, print shipments and exports were down each month, often in double digits. But there was some good news too.

JANUARY

• Toronto’s ReproArt went big with HP, installing five new presses. • VistaPrint boasted a revenue increase of 32 per cent over the same second-quarter period last year. • A printing error on some 1,000 OLG Scratch & Win tickets was made at Pollard Banknote in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario resulting in a wave of negative publicity as well as undisclosed payouts to those affected.

FEBRUARY

• Transcontinental Inc. revealed that it will axe about 1,500 jobs over the next year – about 40 per cent in Canada. • Quebecor World laid off 160 at its Richmond Hill and Aurora, Ontario plants.

MARCH

• St. Joseph Communications will relocate its Toronto-Thorn and Richmond Hill operations into a new 140,000-square-foot facility in Concord, Ontario along side its existing 300,000-square-foot location. • R.R. Donnelley opened its new financial services centre in Calgary. • Hemlock Printers of Burnaby, British Columbia received a 2008 Heidelberg Eco Printing Award for the most sustainable print shop.

APRIL

• KBR Graphics in Montreal was named exclusive Canadian distributor for all KBA sheetfed presses, service and parts except for British Columbia. • Specialties Graphic Finishers, the oldest bindery in Ontario according to President Norm Beange, turned 70.

MAY

• Fujifilm Canada announced the newest addition to the Onset family – the Onset S20 UV digital flatbed press as well as the launch of the new Onset website (www.onseteffect.com ). • CPISC secured $1.4 million in funding over the next three years to continue to address skills development issues within Canada’s print industry.

JUNE

• The Xerox Research Centre of Canada in Mississauga, Ontario was named one of the top 10 places where employees thrive by Your Workplace Magazine. • Fraser Papers filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada and in the U.S.

JULY

• Fujifilm Dimatix launched its new Spectra Polaris PQ-512/15 printhead.

• CPISC received $651,000 to fund a new program called Career Focus, which will subsidize the salaries of up to 13 new employees at printing companies in its first year.

AUGUST

• Toyo Ink Group unveiled a new series of products – UV Eco Soy Process Inks. Made from soybeans, the Eco Soy ink has a very low environmental impact.

• Selected copies of the September 18 issue of Entertainment Weekly Magazine featured a revolutionary technology: video-in-print. CBS inserted thousands of small video screens into the magazine.

• Warren Werbitt, CEO of Montreal-based Pazazz Printing was inducted into the NAPL Soderstrom Society, an organization that recognizes the contributions of industry leaders.

SEPTEMBER

• Quebec’s Simon Beauchamp won Bronze in the offset printing category at the WorldSkills Contest.

• Scientists at Xerox built a new technology, Natural Language Colour, that can translate human descriptions of colour into mathematical algorithms.

• Graphic Arts Magazine re-launched its website at www.graphicartsmag.com with several new features including video interviews with industry leaders.

OCTOBER

• Heidelberg announced a new environmentally-friendly line of consumables including Saphira Bio Press Wash and Saphira Bio Ink.

• CPISC released its third human resources paper called Filling the Gap, dealing with finding employees able to operate new machinery and understand the benefits of new technologies.

NOVEMBER

• MGI appointed KBR Graphics as its new Canadian distribution partner and Standard Finishing Systems appointed KBR as its exclusive dealer for Standard Horizon products throughout Ontario.

• National skill standards and occupational profiles for output and colour specialists were released by CPISC as part of its Skills for the Future initiative.

Looking forward

For some, 2010 may be a continuing struggle. But we found a lot of enthusiasm out there – along with bold new strategies. Here’s a sampling from some experts in various sectors of the industry.

heidelberg-richard-armstrong“Richard M. Armstrong, president, Heidelberg Canada Graphic Equipment Limited, is optimistic. “Since July, we’ve seen quoting activity pick up significantly, and I believe that printers will start to re-invest in their businesses in 2010. The most difficult challenge will be increasing margins in a very competitive market,” he says. “Printiners need to re-capitalize in order to bring manufacturing costs down to compete with other forms of media. In order to invest, they’ll require access to capital and credit markets that remain fairly tight. In addition to working on the cost side, they’ll need to expand services and markets beyond traditional print-for-pay.”

Armstrong added that, although capital equipment sales were weak throughout last year, the company’s consumables and services efforts are paying off.

“Our focus in 2010 will be to continue our expansion into new consumables and service products while increasing our market shares on current products. We have a strong national sales and service team and plan to leverage this structure with these new products and services.”

The Canadian packaging market has been fairly strong for Heidelberg, and Armstrong anticipates this continuing into 2010. The company now has installations of Heidelberg Dymatrix diecutters, Heidelberg Diana folder/gluers as well as many presses as it grows its presence in the VLF press market.

Goss' Graham Trevett“Innovation, particularly in the area of automation, will be vital to creating new opportunities, new applications and new business models,” says Graham Trevett, V. P. of sales, Goss International.

“Advanced, automated web press technology offers significant opportunities to take cost, waste and time out of the production process. Our industry has made progress, but we still lag behind many other manufacturing industries in automating production. We have demonstrated with several recent installations how we can move print closer to a fully-automated, lights-out process.”

Trevett adds that automation will continue to decrease run-lengths for web printing. “Run lengths well below 5,000 copies are now common when commercial web technology and workflows are optimized for low waste and fast job changes,” he says. “Looking ahead, then, the convergence of commercial web and newspaper printing will accelerate, increasing the interest in more versatile press systems that can produce multiple products and product formats. A growing number of newspaper publishers are adding commercial capabilities while many commercial printers are moving forward with equipment platforms that allow them to produce newspapers very effectively on a contract basis.”

EFI Frank MallozziFrank Mallozzi, senior V.P. of worldwide sales and marketing at EFI, is also upbeat. “We’re extremely optimistic about the future of print and are already seeing the economy shifting to a more positive note in 2010,” he says. “Throughout 2009, we continued a high-level of investment in R & D and delivered a record number of new products. We’re seeing an increased interest from customers ready to proactively change their business by expanding into new areas, enabling them to take leadership in their markets and drive their revenue and profits upward.”

Automating the business side will be a key component of success in 2010 according to Stephen McWilliam, Executive V.P. at Avanti. “We all realize that you can’t touch a $500 digital job 10 times and expect to make money. The challenge is figuring out how to eliminate those touch points,” he insists. “Automatically sharing information between web-to-print, the administrative workflow and the production workflow, eliminates the need to re-key information and gives everyone a view to the real-time status of all the jobs in the shop from their desktop. Print service providers will need to first, dramatically reduce the amount of time that high-priced members of the management team spend hand-holding jobs through the shop. Automation will be the key. Increase the ROI of the equipment investments that have already been made by getting all of the shop’s applications and equipment ‘talking’ to one another. Second, use that freed-up time to focus on the customer and increase sales.”

kodak chris payneChris Payne, director and V.P. of business-to-business marketing for Kodak, sees even more emphasis on digital. “2010 will see significant advancements in digital technology, making it easier for print and marketing service providers to maximize production efficiency and create greater value for their clients by offering new services and capabilities,” he says. “For example, the ability to integrate digital and offset technologies in a single workflow, implement the latest high-speed inkjet solutions, or offer unique imaging capabilities such as Dimensional Printing, will all help printers uncover new revenue streams and grow their businesses.”

Payne revealed that in 2010, Kodak will introduce its Kodak Prosper Press Platform to meet the market’s demand for high-quality, high-speed operation at a low total cost of ownership for applications including books, direct mail and catalogs/inserts. “With intense competition in the marketplace, print service providers will continue to seek ways to differentiate themselves, cut costs and increase automation. Finally, it will be increasingly important for marketers to develop communication programs that yield a strong return on marketing investment.”

canon mark philipsMark Phillips, manager, product marketing, Imaging Systems Group at Canon Canada, sees the light production market as a major area for growth in 2010. “Canon made a significant investment with the launch of the imageRUNNER Advance Pro 9075 in December of 2009. This new line of devices directly speaks to the demand we’re seeing for affordable products with unmatched quality and speed,” he says. “Our challenge in 2010 will center around increasing the awareness of our offerings with print-for-pay and graphics customers.”

While its imagePRESS devices are successful at the higher end of the market with larger commercial institutions, Canon is expecting the Advance Pro series to “revolutionize” the short-run market the way the CLC did about 20 years ago.

As far as consumables, Leo Thibault, founder and CEO of leading Canadian pressroom chemical manufacturer Unigraph International, points out: “As today’s presses become more sophisticated, downtime issues and print quality become even more crucial, and so does the importance of keeping presses in good condition with a preventative maintenance program, which, of course, we offer. As a result, I see such products as fountain solutions, solvents, silicones and roller deglazers becoming more sophisticated and more important to a smoother workflow, a better impression – and the eventual bottom line – than ever before.”

In fact, Thibault’s company has already begun stepping up its in-house R&D and collaborating with key organizations such as FPInnovations-Paprican and the Rochester Institute of Technology to assure the highest quality of pressroom chemicals are rolled out.

“In 2010, you’ll see not only new products, including eco-friendly alternatives, created to keep pace with the swift change of technology, but formulations customized for specific print shops and their very particular equipment,” he adds. “I personally feel that it will also be important for press operators to understand how these chemicals work, exactly what’s happening when problems occur and the most efficient ways to alleviate them.” To that end, Thibault revealed that Unigraph will be conducting half-hour technical seminars at selected client locations in the new year.

Steve Thistle, president of Robert E. Thistle Ltd., specialists in finishing equipment, feels that “we need to be much more focused on just who the end user is for the products we produce, focused on getting the biggest bang for the client’s dollar and focused on turning printed sheets of paper into a valuable tool for the end user. Everyone with a computer has a printer that can put a pretty impressive image on a sheet of paper. In order for today’s printers to be viable, they need to offer something that people can’t do on their desktop computers.”

Thistle sees a few markets doing well despite the economy. “Photo books are one of the fastest growing niches with more and more people taking pictures and wanting to do something special with them,” he says. “Another growth area is direct marketing as opposed to mass mailings as they involve less paper, less click charges, less postage and less waste. For our part, the C.P. Bourg and Challenge Machinery finishing solutions along with Epic Coating products that we represent will indeed turn the printed page into a valuable tool – instead of just another commodity,” he continues. “The best advice I can give is to take a look at the printed products that you get every day at your home and in your own business. What goes directly into the recycle bin and what sticks around?”

Rich bassett, Bassett DirectIndustry veteran Rich Bassett, president of variable printing leader Bassett Direct, believes that 2010 will see “a continuation of the trends that we’ve experienced over the past couple of years. Namely, industry consolidation, bankruptcies, shorter-run lengths and reduced time frames.”

He also feels that increased and sometimes “desperate” competition will continue to drive pricing to ridiculously low levels. Despite all this, he remains positive. “Our expectations for 2010 are of continued double-digit growth, particularly in variable colour imaging. Relevance and speed-to-market are the drivers of the marketing spend, with ROI continuing to be monitored closely,” he adds.

Forming new alliances will be another important strategy for 2010. Just ask Brian Armstrong, president of Printer Gateway, a trade print facility headquartered in Toronto.

“We recently partnered with wholesale graphic and interactive design solutions provider Design Back Office (DBO), to develop and market integrated web-to-print and design solutions to Canada’s graphic arts reseller market,” Armstrong says. “The agreement will enable our clients to provide quick professional design services with unlimited revisions and guaranteed same-day offset printing, as DBO has over 500 designers/support staff enabling 24/7 customer support in both the creative and prepress stages.” To showcase the partnership, Printer Gateway worked with DBO to create some 1,200 logos during this year’s Graphics Canada Show.

CJ Graphics Jay MandarinoIn closing, I thought I’d end with a reality check from Jay Mandarino, president of C.J. Graphics Inc. of Toronto. “I’ve traveled to many countries around the globe and the challenges that are only now starting to hit Canada are, in fact, universal,” he says. His advice?

“Be prepared to work longer hours for less money. I think the biggest change we will see (as print runs go down and digital increases) is that we will have too much capacity for the demand. We all love this industry so much, but many of us have lowered our prices and made printing a commodity. We had all better start promoting and selling printing again. I don’t care what anybody says – people still want to touch and feel a printed brochure with pretty pictures, quality paper, good design, but most importantly, nicely printed.”

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.