Merry Christmas – New year Picks

20 12 2011

"Has anyone seen my glasses?"

Well with the Christmas break just around the corner – its time for a few predictions.

I will make like Nostradamus, polish the crystal ball and take a shot at what I think will happen in the print industry locally, nationally and further afield. Some are fairly obvious, some will be contentious – have a read and let me know what you think.

Pick Number One: Digital print will move into the rotary phase

Offset printing press technology cycled from sheet-fed print in the 1950’s to reel-fed (rotary) in the 1960’s and 7o’s ……….and then back to sheet fed in the 1990’s and 2000’s.

Now it’s digital print’s turn to move into the reel-fed /or rotary press phase. The big names are making huge strides in rotary press manufacture. HP. Xerox and Kodak have made some amazing leaps over the past few years and now some of these machines are really quick and impressive. Take a look at this press release from Kodak from last year – claiming to get publications printed quicker that offset up to 7000 units/books http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=E4KZ5xa1Hrs

The ushering in of the rotary digital cycle will also see inkjet technology begin to replace laser in sheet fed digital presses over the next few year .

This will probably see magazines, books and other publications revert back to the craft they were in the past. We will likely see huge value add and aesthetic input such as embossing, gilt edging, case binding along with variable print.  A real work of art: leaving the mass consumer publications to be handled by the new touch/digital revolution.

Pick Number Two: The “Touch Revolution” will continue to grow and develop – especially in Video

Smartphones are set to make up over 50% of all phones next year – and almost all of them will be touch phones. The competition for tablets is searing hot,  which will make next year ideal for buying that android or i-pad that you have your eye on. TV’s are already starting to communicate with the internet and your tablet is set to become your new “house” remote.

What has this to do with print ?? Well – magazines, newsletters, novels and periodicals are going to be more likely to be read  on a touch-screen than a hardcopy in the future……………and I reckon we will see the big shift to this accelerate next year.

Pick Number Three: Social Media and mobile will continue to eat into print’s share of the Marketing Spend

As social media channels increase in number and usage – Marketing managers are going to be looking at spending more of their budget on campaigns that involve more SM and other web components and less of their spend on print.

This is not a prediction of the end of print – just a metamorphosis into a different application and use of printed product. I do predict that printers are going to need to re-skill their sales teams to fit with new customer needs.

Pick Number Four: The Print Industry will merge locally and fragment nationally

It is likely that many smaller printers will feel the pinch even more as they struggle to adapt to the new market in 2012. One way of survival will be to team up with competitors to help reshape and adapt to new conditions. At a local level with small businesses – this is a good strategy. Especially for specialists or between printers who have complimentary capabilities.

On a national level though, I think the very large, generalist printers will very likely split. Considering, that our largest printers were created out of the consolidation of a bunch of small to medium printers, this is just coming full circle. 2012 will probably see the larger printers split into “autonomous  business units” or branches before splitting completely in 2013.

Pick Number Five : Print orders will increasingly be placed by a new breed of “broker”

As print continues to take a smaller part of the “marketing pie” people and organisations skilled in cross-channel marketing will  be tasked with placing print orders related to campaigns.

For larger organisations and corporates – this will probably remain the responsibility of in-house, marketing or procurement staff. However, small to medium organisation will very likely outsource the print buying. Unless print shops up-skill, train or recruit knowledge around new channels – we will see a return of the print broker /buyer in the NZ market. Transactional could also default to the print buyer along with the marketing collateral.

Pick Number Six : End to end Process Automation will become an essential part of print

This goes hand in hand with the touch and mobile revolution. The ability to get instant quotes and job placement will become a standard for customers in the near future (automated input process). The production process continues to get more automated year by year and despatch delivery and billing processes are already automated to a high level.

This will serve to reduce lead times down to an ever nearer “next day delivery” as standard.

These are my predictions – and it will be interesting to see how many prove accurate at the end of 2012. As usual, feel free to make a comment or contact me to discuss anything mentioned in any of my posts.

Meanwhile, I sincerely hope that you all have a wonderful festive season and manage to take some time out to relax with friends and loved ones.

I’ll start blogging again in mid January, until then…………………….MERRY XMAS.

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Print On Demand – The Future Standard?

13 12 2011

Print On Demand (POD) is another one of the print industry’s terms that seems to be on everyone’s lips at the moment. It is also another piece of lingo that means different things to different people. Sometimes, I think the print industry deliberately invents ambiguous terms just to fool people into thinking print is complicated.

This one though, is fairly easy to dissect and explain.

Print on demand has been around for years as a concept. It was spawned out of the “Print Management” concept that was popular around 10-20 years ago and worked as follows.

Your Print manager (Sales Rep) would visit your premises once a month and physically count all your printed items (good ones would actually tidy up and organise your store-room or stationery cupboard for you). Over time, they would  calculate the usage of each piece and recommend when and how much stock to re-order. This made sure that you would never run out of your printed items.

The Print Manager would also store larger runs at his place and “top up” your stationery cupboard, after his monthly stock check or, on request. This was the first print on demand solution. It was driven  by the need of business form manufacturers requiring long lead times, customers requiring larger print runs and the print industry having a very large slice of their customers marketing budget.

POD today could probably be better described as “instant printing”. The advent of the internet and digital print (described in an earlier post) means that lead times can be reduced to a fraction of the time they were in the past. Proofing times are being reduced by file portability and there is no need any longer for lengthy film and plate processes.  We have been using this POD process for years in Dunedin for some large Corporates and Government  departments. Lists of files are sent to our Dunedin plant every night via our on-line solution. We then collate the orders from all the customer’s branches and then group run all the jobs in the morning, ready for despatch the same afternoon.

Why produce in Dunedin if many of these corporates are in other centres? Well it’s still true that good old Dunners enjoys some of the best small pack carrier rates in NZ. It’s due to many factors unique to NZ, such as the population spread and shape of the country. You can still overnight a pack to Wellington from Dunedin, at less cost than it takes to send a package across town in Auckland – go figure.

The latest incarnation of POD has been the placement of a file directly onto the Digital Press by the customer………..true print on demand. The ability to do this has been around for 10 years or more. So why hasn’t it taken off and everyone started submitted files along with the job online?? I guess it has been a mix of a general lack of trust in new processes and that printing is fraught with risk. Almost every single job is a custom-made piece and  if it’s printed incorrectly there probably isn’t a use for it anywhere else. This was the reason that hard copy proofs were standard practice in the past.

Nowadays, proofing is often handled by the customer and a soft copy PDF supplied for print. The print supplier, in this scenario, is only responsible for ensuring the file is not corrupted or changed before printing ………….and that the  printed piece is matched to the file supplied. This has morphed POD into a new term…………..Web to Print.

Web to print solutions attempt to provide the ultimate in POD – Same day or next day delivery by using web-based tools to speed up quoting, input and order processes. I had to chuckle when I read the latest lingo for web to print. Our North American cousins just couldn’t leave it as (the already broad and multi meaning) “web to print”: that was becoming too easy. Now the concept is known as “web enabled marketing supply chain management”…………..I’m sure that there are folk in this industry whose sole job is to make these terms up.

At Kalmazoo we have a variety of POD processes in operation and under development.

Manual POD

An FTP site is set up for customers to deposit files in.

Orders are placed via email and file placed on FTP site by customers. We use this to place a job into the system and complete as normal. This is still favoured by organisations that want to print large volumes and want an initial, small volume, despatched on production (POD) and balance placed into stock for future distributions. A good solution for group running jobs from multiuple branches on weekly or daily basis.

Online POD (Static)

This solution provides a simple POD solution where items are ordered as required through our ECOS ordering solution. We set up a file in our DAM system and a price per finished piece is set up for billing. Your nominated staff are given online access and can order up to a set maximum. Jobs are instantly routed to the press queue. This solution allows organisations with multiple sites to arrange next day delivery to any branch. The need for printing  large volumes and storage is removed.

Online POD (Variable)

Used mainly for business cards, envelopes, letterheads, compliment slips etc – where an online template form  is populated by the user and merged into a PDF to complete an on-line proof.

Once the proof has been completed the user chooses quantities, billing and delivery details, from a predefined list, and the job is then queued to the printing press.

This can be used for completely digital jobs  or overprinting base stock. Again, this solution most beneficial for organisation with multiple sites requiring fast or next day delivery.

Online POD (Upload)

Similar to static online POD – but here the printing file and the database, or customer lists, are uploaded by the customer at time of order. Our Digital Asset Management tool (Digital Peas) can publish direct to ECOS – so any customers using Digital Peas will only need to upload the database for any POD jobs.

Again the value of this solution is a very small order to distribution timeframe.

Where will all this lead to ??

My pick is that as print volumes reduce and printing becomes a smaller part of marketing campaigns, clever printers will branch out into other parts of marketing. Wickliffe invested heavily in the logistics part of our business with the development of on-line tools and the purchase of warehouses. It would make good sense to look at placing our customer services and POD units into the warehouses. This model would allow other (non print) components of a campaign to be carried out in the same building and for teams to share information quickly.

For example a campaign may involve a text messaging promo and distribution of prizes – then be followed up by a direct mail campaign to respondents. These type of integrated marketing campaigns could be best handled by a mix of call centre/POD digital print shop and warehouse facilities. Stocklink (Kalamazoo’s Logistics Arm)  is currently involved in producing on-line loyalty software and providing the purchasing, storage, customer service and other logistics solutions in maintaining loyalty schemes.

I guess time and the market will ultimately tell us what the future printshop will look like .

Let me know what your view of POD is or contact me if you would like any more information regarding any of my blogs………..and don’t forget to stick your email address in the box on the right to receive updates automatically.





3D Printing – Beam me up Scotty

6 12 2011

I had a few comments that my last blog was a wee bit on the heavy side. So I thought I would lighten things up a bit before Christmas.

On hearing that the latest Mars rover “curiosity” had started its 8 month journey to the red planet, I got to thinking that we haven’t really come a long way, in space exploration, since I was a kid. I remember sitting, glued to the TV in total fascination as Neil Armstrong did his famous moon-walk.

Not long before the moon landing, my family bought a colour TV. The salesman proudly told us that it was the 9th colour TV in Aberdeen (my great grand-mother moved in with us – she bought the TV to keep herself occupied). It was such a novelty that we would have the whole neighbourhood crammed into our lounge on a Thursday night to watch High Chapparal and Star Trek. Since then I have often thought how great it would be to have a replicator machine (as seen in the canteen on board Star Trek) to dish up any meal (or drink) on demand. I never really thought that we would see anything like it in my day………but maybe we will.

The visual communications industries, including print, have definitely not slouched in progress. Certainly TV’s have come a long way from the majestic 25″ model that graced my family lounge in the late 1960’s.  That TV was valve driven and housed in a cabinet bigger than the desk I’m sitting at writing this blog. It was installed by piano movers. Today a 50″ LED screen can be moved by one person (if they had arms long enough). I seem to remember the crew on the bridge of Star Trek all staring at a large flat screen………probably around 100″ – no longer science fiction.

Other devices on Star Trek seem to have entered into our daily lives too.

Scotty "I'm not sure what happened last night - but get me out of here"

Jim’s “communicator” is suspiciously similar to a flip top mobile phone. In fact the communicator seems positively clunky and crude compared to the latest phones……………….and no one can deny that all the captains, Jim, Jean Luc, Janeway – all read their favourite novels and reports on i-pads (or was it an android device).

Other things like automatic sliding doors seemed to have crept into daily life very quietly. I wondered in fascination , as a child, at how the doors on the Enterprise seemed to know Spock and the crew were coming………..now, if a glass door doesn’t open on its own accord for me, it takes me a few seconds to figure out how to open the bloody thing…………..either that or I walk into it.

Well the print industry has definitely kept up with the space age. We can now, through digital print, print every copy with unique elements of images and text. We can print one-off books and posters in full colour. The famous Star Trek replicator may, in reality, be a new 3D printing press.

3D printing or “rapid prototyping” came out a few years ago and, at that time, I saw a device that used a type of melted plastic, extruded into rough shapes and cleaned up with lasers. I thought then that it could be the beginning of a “replicator” and my comment was “It will be at least a decade before it can produce  something intricate and another decade before they can do it with some sort of solid material.” In other words I thought it was just a neat tool used for creating plastic prototypes.

Take a look at this article

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQHnMj6dxj4&feature=youtu.be

It depicts 3D printing in action. There are a now a few manufacturers of 3D printing or fabrication machines. Trek bicycles (I want one) use a 3D press to manufacture new parts for research and development. They can “print” all the parts a new bike and put it together for fit and feel in a matter of weeks – where they took months, or even years, to completely revise designs in the past.

The health sector has really taken hold of this technology using it to produce precise orthotics for shoe inserts, dental implant and prosthetics. Mindblowingly, they are starting to explore the possibility of printing human organs, layering cells upon cells to build up (or grow) a completely compatible organ for transplants http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2011/09/3d-printing-blood-vessels/42608/

"McCoy - I want one of those i-Pad 6's for Xmas"

Short term, 3D printing will prove to be very beneficial for designers (of just about everything) and may kick off a mini revolution in small industry. This is because 3D printing uses “additive manufacturing”.

Traditionally we have employed a wasteful method of subtractive manufacturing. Say we want to build a car –  we basically manufacture each part out of a block of steel and shave off bits (or subtract) until we have the correct shape. The 3D method builds up (or adds) each part, layer on layer without wasting the raw material. Obviously as resources grow more scarce in the future – additive manufacture methods will be more favourable.

This could lead to the ultimate in print on demand……….my Star Trek replicator. Heading up to Xmas it would be really handy to print up a turkey, ham and maybe a bottle of Speyside single malt.

Feel free to make comments or contact me if you want to discuss any topic or visit any of our plants.

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