For the Record: Mike Collinge

mike-collingeIn each 2013 issue of Graphic Arts Magazine, we will be interviewing an interesting member of the graphic communications industry and asking them for their opinion on a few important topics. Every month we will be interviewing someone who represents a different part of the industry (technology, paper and printing, for example) so stay tuned for each interesting viewpoint!

This month, we had the opportunity to speak with Mike Collinge, President and CEO of Webcom, a Toronto-based book manufacturer.

What is your stance on offset vs. digital?

Our stance is indifferent – both have their place. We are striving to apply the best technology to each job, whether that means inkjet or offset technology. Meeting the customer’s economic, service and qualitative parameters is what we’re striving for, versus focusing on offset or digital. We’re trying to get our customers to become indifferent to the process too, because inkjet digital printing is so far advanced from toner-based printing, which is helping make the choice of process (offset vs. digital) irrelevant.

Where do you stand in the ‘(our world is going) paperless’ debate?

From a book printing and publishing standpoint, the ebook evolution in publishing has been interesting to watch, over the last year especially. Ebook growth has not stopped, but in some book markets it has plateaued in its exponential growth. For many publishers, the headlines have grabbed more attention than the bottom lines.

Publishing is about delivering the product in a way that the end customer’s needs are satisfied and there are lots of good applications for ebooks, but there are lots of good applications for paper books, too.

I see paper hanging in for quite a while.

What’s one problem that the printing industry could have already solved but hasn’t?

I think the big issue revolves around the perceived value and relevance of print communications in the 21st century. The industry is diverse and print offers creative communications solutions and the ability to deal with communications challenges.

The fact that the industry is looked on as “old school” or a traditional “smokestack industry” is something that we could improve. We [in the industry] have a much stronger story to build upon. We could have put this message of innovation out to consumers in a stronger way.

Individual companies are showing their customers the value of print, but as a whole, the industry has fallen short in telling the same message.

Only 8-10% of printers are profit leaders. What do you believe makes them different?

What makes the profit leaders different is the focus on metrics in all parts of their print business: sales, financials, qualitative, customer service and operations. Metrics allow a business to ensure the bottom line is well looked after. I believe that companies that commit to metrics and measuring all parts of their business are the 8-10% of profit leaders.

What do you miss about the “good old days”?

In years gone by, our customers had more time to build intimate relationships in order for us to really understand their business and their challenges. In today’s fast-paced, stressful environment, finding time to thoroughly understand your customers as individuals and their business challenges can be hard. It seems difficult for them to find time to work with you at that level.

What keeps you up at night?

The aggressiveness of our digital strategies. We have made significant investments and commitments not just to technology, but also investments in processes and in our people.

The magnitude of the challenges this brings is overwhelming. It’s not often you feel that all of those three areas (technology, processes and people) are well covered or all opportunities explored. The anxious excitement in getting it all done is what keeps me up at night. There’s a lot we’re always thinking about!

What makes you happy to come into the work in the morning?

With our inkjet investments there are just so many opportunities to challenge traditional paradigms, models and supply chain process. It’s stimulating to think what is possible. It’s exciting that Webcom can bring these new, innovative solutions, which makes coming into work in the morning very exhilarating.

If you know of an inspiring leader in their graphic communications industry whose viewpoints you would like to see featured in this column, please email diana@graphicartsmag.com.

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Diana Varma is an Instructor at the School of Graphic Communications Management at Ryerson University and the Owner of ON-SITE First Aid & CPR Training Group, a health & safety company that provides training to the Graphic Arts Industry.