2018: The year in review

From presses to postal strikes, from technology to tariffs, from multi-million-dollar deals to multi-million-dollar investor tantrums – 2018 will go down as a year that featured just about everything. Here’s my annual look at the top stories of the year. My apologies to those deserving news items (including ones from December that occurred after our press deadline) that I was forced to omit. You can keep up with the latest industry news and features by visiting graphicartsmag.com.

JANUARY

  • The Trump administration was set to impose tariffs on uncoated groundwood paper from Canada that would have a disastrous effect on the U.S. newspaper industry. The News Media Alliance (the American newspaper trade association) added: “These duties, if implemented, have the potential to run many small-town newspapers out of existence.”
  • NPES (The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies) announced a name change to the Association for Print Technologies (APT). APT’s broader scope will focus on greater alignment among the commercial printing and imaging value chain, it added.
  • Trade printer 4over launched its Strategic Print Advisory Program to help commercial printers generate revenue growth and expand their customer base using 4over products and services. A team of 4over Print Advisory Reps provided guidance on managing costs and identifying growth strategies that don’t require taking on additional debt.

FEBRUARY

  • Fujifilm bought control of Xerox for $6.1 billion and named Jeff Jacobson to lead the new company – Fuji Xerox. The company was set to own 50.1% of the shares of Xerox after it made Fuji Xerox a wholly-owned subsidiary, and Fuji Xerox and Xerox were to be combined under the Fujifilm group umbrella. However, this move began a series of bitter clashes between the two companies and major investors, resulting in lawsuits that are still pending to this day.
  • Cenveo and more than 30 affiliated debtors filed for Chapter 11 protection in the Southern District of New York. Cenveo is a world leader in the management and distribution of print and related products. Its $2 billion company encompasses over 24 entities in over 100 facilities across the US, plus manufacturing operations in Asia, South America and Central America.
  • This was a month of many OEM milestones. Konica Minolta’s AccurioJet KM-1 Digital Inkjet Press reached more than 30 installations worldwide. Nilpeter reached 100 installations globally of its MO-4 Offset Press. And Xante digital multimedia presses printed over one billion #10 envelopes worldwide in 2017.

MARCH

  • Goss International’s printing press business and Manroland Web Systems, both major manufacturers of web offset printing systems for newspapers, commercial products and packaging worldwide, said they intended to merge their businesses in August. The Contiweb business of Goss wasn’t included. Financial details and possible impact on their respective workforces wasn’t released.
  • In another major industry move, Mark Andy, a leader in the label and packaging space, acquired Presstek, a global supplier of direct-imaging offset plates and presses and CTP solutions. Presstek’s team of over 60 technical reps was integrated within Mark Andy’s service infrastructure to support brands such as Presstek, ABDick, Ryobi, Heidelberg, Xerox, KBA, Epson and others.
  • Kodak introduced its process-free Sonora X Plates featuring longer run lengths, faster imaging and more robust handling capabilities. Kodak estimated that up to 80% of the existing offset print market can now go process-free.

APRIL

  • TC Transcontinental Printing (Montreal) acquired Coveris Americas (Chicago) for $1.32 billion (USD). Coveris is one of the leading converters of flexible packaging, operating 21 production facilities in the Americas, the UK and Australasia with total annual sales of about $966 million. The move continues TC’s strategy to add packaging assets while selling some of its newspapers.
  • Toronto’s Webcom Toronto added 7.5 million hardcover books per year to its manufacturing capacity with acquisition of Toronto’s York Bookbinders. The move also added to the $30 million of Webcom’s current digital book manufacturing investments.
  • Kyocera unveiled the world’s smallest, lightest and most powerful air-cooled UV curing light, the Kyocera G5A Series – characterizing it as the world’s smallest and the most powerful with the highest UV intensity (24W per square cm) among air-cooled curing lights for UV printing.

MAY

  • Agfa Graphics launched its hybrid flagship Jeti Tauro H3300 UV LED wide-format inkjet printer. Agfa’s “bigger, sturdier and faster” flatbed guaranteed smooth, detailed printing, rapid UV LED curing, and fully automated multi-board loading and unloading of up to four boards.
  • Xerox launched its Iridesse Digital Production Press featuring iridescent colours and specialty embellishments. The high-speed, 6-station press combined 4-colour printing with up to two specialty dry inks, and was characterized as “the only digital press that can print metallic gold or silver dry ink, CMYK and clear dry ink in a single pass.”
  • Data Communications Management (Brampton, ON), a leading provider of business communication solutions, agreed to acquire the Perennial Group of Companies (Toronto & Bolton, ON) via a $12 million term loan from Crown Capital Fund IV LP, an investment fund. Perennial Group’s services include business and brand strategies, environmental and graphic design, and retail design and strategies.
  • Print finishing specialist Sydney Stone (Mississauga, ON) was named as the top dealer worldwide for Morgana digital finishing equipment by the OEM. Morgana technology eliminates cracking and automates setup with its creasing, folding and booklet-making equipment.

JUNE

  • Quebec was the big newsmaker this month. Impremiere FL Web (Saint-Germain-de-Grantham) invested $11 million in a Goss Sunday 3000 Press. The 48-page rotary press made the family-owned company one of the most advanced offset printers in Canada. The investment resulted in the creation of 40 new jobs – a figure that could triple, said the company. The shop specializes in prepress, web offset, sheetfed, finishing, mailing and print consulting services.
  • Marquis Book Printing, with five locations in Quebec and one in Roubaix, France, invested $9 million in new EPAC technology at its Montmagny plant. “This investment was one of the first steps on our roadmap to accelerate our growth, increase our global productivity, and better meet our clients’ business needs,” said Serge Loubier, Marquis President and CEO.
  • The 36th Gutenberg Gala, Quebec’s annual celebration of the best in printing across the province, was a resounding success. Held at Montreal’s Marché Bonsecours, the awards covered a host of categories including printing, finishing and embellishment, packaging and labels, editing, display and wide-format, marketing and sales, and many more.

JULY

  •  Printing Industries of America (PIA) released an online petition to its members citing Donald Trump’s tariffs on uncoated groundwood (UGW) paper from Canada. UGW is used to produce newsprint. “These tariffs threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs in journalism, publishing, printing and other sectors. Stand up against this injustice today and let the International Trade Commission know that these harmful tariffs should be reversed,” said the organization.
  • EFI CEO Guy Gecht said he intends to step down from his operating role at the company when his successor is named. Gecht will continue to serve as CEO until his replacement is named. He led EFI for 19 years.
  • Leading global companies have replaced plastic (or were performing trials to replace plastic) with paperboard to reduce their environmental impact. For example, Sweden’s largest cinema chain, SF Bio, was replacing all of its plastic cards with paperboard. Replacing plastic with a non-fossil material is currently a popular trend, especially in packaging.

AUGUST

  • Cascades (Kingsey Falls, QC) acquired the White Birch, Bear Island manufacturing facility in Virginia for $34.2 million (USD). The newsprint paper machine on the site will be reconfigured to produce high quality recycled lightweight linerboard and was expected to generate 400,000 tons annually. The conversion would require a further investment of $275-$300 million, with production set to begin in 2021.
  • A campaign by the Canada Revenue Agency touting the environmental benefits of going paperless fell on deaf ears. Taxpayers were encouraged to file online and eliminate paper filing. The results showed about a 1% increase in online filing. The reasons cited included paper documents being considered safer, consumers’ distrust of corporate environmental claims, and the environmental impact of electronic communications.
  • OEMs Durst and OMET formed a strategic partnership in North America that allowed OMET exclusive access for sales of the Durst Tau product line, with full implementation expected by September. The new partnership will provide label printers with combined digital and flexo printing expertise from a single source.

SEPTEMBER

  • Rotating postal strikes across Canada began. Both Canada Post and CUPW had been negotiating since November of 2017. CUPW members were previously locked out in 2011-2012. At press time, strike actions continued at various targeted locations.
  • Amazon launched its Frustration-Free Packaging program to help reduce packaging waste of e-commerce shippments for its vendors. Amazon required that specific products sold arrive at its fulfillment centres in specially certified packaging. The packaging doesn’t require any shipping preparation or an overbox to be applied, and the vendor can retain its own branding. The deadline to comply was August 1, 2019.
  • Epson opened its new Technology Center in Carson, California showcasing unique Epson printing solutions and applications – including dye-sublimation, signage, photography, colour label and direct-to-garment printing solutions. The center allowed customers to output their own files and also featured factory-automated robots.

OCTOBER

  • The Canadian Printing Industries Association (CPIA, Toronto) launched a newly restructured printing industry association that unified key industry stakeholders across the country while providing a unified national voice. It’ll serve as an important connection point for Canadian regional associations, the supplier community and graphic arts post-secondary programs. Members consist of six regional print associations and one supplier association.
  • The Burke Group (Edmonton, AB) signed the first North American Heidelberg subscription contract that’ll enable them to double their productivity and increase profits without the challenges of equipment ownership. Through the model, Heidelberg will provide new printing equipment, Prinect software, Saphira consumables, parts, consulting and service – all for a monthly fee that’s based on the number of printed sheets Burke produces each month. The cost-per-sheet was calculated by analyzing Burke’s current operations and predicting what production levels can be expected once all Heidelberg components are in place.
  • Marquis Book Printing (Montmagny, QC) acquired Webcom to become Canada’s largest book manufacturer. The cost was not revealed. This blockbuster transaction will create an annual production capacity of over 100 million books produced in three printing plants. With the move, Marquis’s team should grow from 400 to 600 employees.

NOVEMBER

  • Jeff Ekstein, one of the most respected printing executives in North America and owner of Willow Printing Group (Concord, ON), was chosen as the 2018 Lewis Memorial Lifetime Achievement Recipient by the Printing Industries of America (PIA). The award recognizes business leaders who have made major, long-term contributions to the graphic arts industry and have been a significant force in shaping printed communications. Ekstein served on the PIA Board as a director and was named chairman in 2013. He also served as co-chair of CPISC (Canadian Printing Industries Sector Council) and director of CPIA (Canadian Printing Industries Association).
  • Canon Solutions America became an authorized reseller of Kodak’s workflow solutions and services – including Kodak Prinergy Workflow, Kodak Colorflow, Kodak Insite Prepress Portal, and Kodak Preps Imposition Software. The move expanded Kodak’s presence in commercial and packaging printing.
  • Epson America announced that its EcoTank, WorkForce and Expression consumer printers with Epson Connect technology are now compatible with Amazon Alexa for voice-activated printing. The technology allows Amazon account holders to deliver voice commands to print a variety of documents using Amazon’s cloud-based voice service.

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.