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Commentary by Steve Aranoff & Robert FitzPatrick, The EAGLE
May 3, 2006 -- It's always interesting to go to shows. The EAGLE recently commented on the major revelations from IPEX, normally known as a print show dominated by offset, and this year more dominated by the digital print phenomena. In a similar way, the "Sign Show," this year's International Sign Expo (ISA 2006, April 5-8), provided comparable feedback. The old sign technologies had been almost totally supplanted by digital. You could buy easily programmable LED signs that were as small as a pin or as large as a wall, and giant digital inkjet printers up to 15' wide, printing on almost anything you could imagine down to a quantity of one.
You also never know who you will run into at these new shows, or what they're doing. After years of talking, finally three of the main powerhouses in the prepress marketplace had a major presence at ISA. Pitman was there (with a booth) alongside of DuPont, selling wide format printers both in roll feed and UV flatbed formats, and Agfa showed its new :Anapurna 100 wide format printers developed in collaboration with Mimaki, rather than the Mutoh OEM brands carried in their Sherpa product line.
The EAGLE has been suggesting this breadth from the offset side of the world for many years, and only hopes that it isn't too late and too little for the graphic arts titans. The glowing hope is the recent emergence of traditional offset printers, such as Ben Franklin Press on the smaller end of the market, and RR Donnelley, the largest printer, both of whom are making significant investments in short run and large format digital printing so that they can deliver anything that their customers may require in print. Because of their long term customer bases, such printers ought to be able to do a better job of servicing clients than a one- type-only kind of shop.
Actually, there were three other very interesting developments. The first was the entry into the printed sign market by Gerber with both its Solara, a convertible UV printer, and with a vision system now on its venerable Sabre router line. Gerber has been a major force in the smaller sized sign shop market. This entry into a more upscale and emerging set of technologies positions Gerber to begin a major challenge to those already in that market. Colorspan has done well in this price point, but has not had a major installed base into which they could sell.
The Best of Shows, the Worst of Shows
The second interesting development were comments from both EFI VUTEk and Gandiinovations, one having the worst trade show they'd ever had, and the other having the best. Gandi appears to be on a roll, improving both their technology and their marketing/sales, and giving EFI, the new owner of VUTEk, a run for its money. VUTEk was the number one seller of large format printers in North America the last few years. Now, all of a sudden, not only has DuPont seemed to have gotten the final technical issues taken care of in its rollout of an offshore machine, but strong competition from Canada is for real. Gandi charges more, but the word on the street is that they have achieved superior quality.
The third interesting event was Mimaki's private showing of a new flatbed UV printer they expect to show and sell before year's end. This system, while still in development, was printing extremely well on a large variety of substrates. With a street price of less than half of the entrenched competition, and with Mimaki's reputation for quality, this product could have a major impact on the size of mid market printer sales volumes. Somebody will get it right in that market segment and have a major impact on unit sales volumes.
Overall, The EAGLE has been reporting on the various multi-industry trade shows for many years. Many times, we were the only visitors from the world called print at these shows. Never before have we been as sure of the current duplication of efforts at shows as we are today.
In their growth market areas, there is basically no difference in the equipment/solutions shown, or the customers in attendance between ISA, Print/Graph Expo, and SGIA, in the U.S. Certainly, there are more sign shops at ISA, offset printers at Graph Expo, and screen printers at SGIA, but little difference between the shows except for the organizations sponsoring them. Graphics of the Americas (GOA), perhaps, is the one similar show that was both similar and different because of the massive Latin pull for its attendees. PMA, the photo show, has moved away from the image printing market except as it applies to the printing of photos. Recognizing their vulnerability, perhaps they were able to make a decision to focus on the "people labs" and their needs rather than the commercial labs, as a way to stay relevant to a large percentage of their member base.
Time To Go Bi-Coastal?
Last winter, SGIA suggested that its biggest expertise was going to be the knowledge of materials. This would make it stronger than the other organizations. Frankly, we saw more materials from digitally printed fabrics to brand new and lightweight rigid materials for flatbeds at ISA than at any other show. It would be a big service to the emerging industry if there were some way to decouple from the past and develop shows that matter more, perhaps with multiple tracks, as we reported on from China.
All digital printers would like to learn how to make their capabilities relevant to more markets given the chance. Industry organizations need to change with the times. We hope that they will begin to think more about their constituencies than their pocketbooks and find a way to joint together to provide better services for their members. Two shows a year, on both sides of the country, might do quite well for more attendees, we believe.
That's not to say that in some market segments, separation seems more beneficial. Having attended NEXPO, the newspaper show this year for the first time in 10 years, we were astonished at how different it still was than the other print shows being discussed above. The same might be said for On Demand, as it is mostly a narrow format show. However, production digital machines were the big news at IPEX, and we expect that a more integrated "digital" show including both narrow and wide format would be more useful to the attendees than either one alone. At GOA, both technologies were present, although separated into two halls, traditional offset and narrow format digital in one and wide format in the other.
Frankly, we think the world is shrinking (converging) in terms of digital platforms and technologies as bona fide "real" print technologies. If so, technology has bridged the markets, and now the markets must recognize the impact and change their models to survive.
Stephen P. Aranoff is founder and principal of ARTTEX Associates. He has 28 years experience in the development and profitable distribution of printing/digital imaging market products. Managing prepress technology companies from start-up through significant growth, such as Xyvision, Eikonix, Raytheon Graphics, UNDA, and ScanView, he has played a leading role in introducing many first-of-a-kind successful printing industry products.
Since 1986, ARTTEX has provided pragmatic business, marketing and sales strategy and implementation consulting to both large and small client companies based upon this successful operating expertise - including bringing off shore products to the domestic market.
Well known clients include: Cactus/3M, Dainippon Screen, Heartland Imaging/VieNet, Island Graphics, Kodak, Ricoh, and Scitex, as well as venture capitalists, law firms and startup technology ventures.
Since 1995, Mr. Aranoff has specialized in the marketing and distribution of Digital Imaging products, with emphasis on marketplace convergence brought about by the use of powerful off-the-shelf components.
Mr. Aranoff also holds a Masters Degrees in Systems Engineering and an MBA Degree, with Distinction, in Sales/Marketing. He often serves as a speaker and forum moderator and for many years, has done so at NAGASA's Forums. He is also a frequent guest writer for digital imaging publications.
Contact Stephen Aranoff at: 25 Canyon Shadows Drive, Sedona, AZ 86336 USA, Tel: (928)282-4173, Cell: (928)300-8757, Fax: (775)254-5768, email: Steve@arttex.com
Robert L. FitzPatrick, president of FitzPatrick Management Inc., is an industrial relations consultant, writer, speaker, facilitator, and trade association advisor. He is a nationally recognized analyst of mature industries. His work involves grasping the fundamental economic needs of all parties in the supply chain as well as understanding the dynamics and life cycles of products.
Since 1981, Robert FitzPatrick has continuously published THE EAGLE, a unique and influential journal that analyzes technology, manufacturer/ dealer relations and trends in analog and digital product distribution. His articles on the dynamics of mature industries have appeared in trade journals for graphic arts, sanitation supply, automobile parts, office automation, wholesale florist and food processing industries, among others.
He has been a featured speaker at dealer conferences for Hewlett Packard, FujiFilm, among other major companies and he has organized international dealer/manufacturer conferences in Antwerp, Belgium and in Guadalajara, Mexico. Consultancy clients of FitzPatrick Management include Fuji Photo, DuPont, Lastra S.p.a., Anchor Chemistry, AB Dick, #1 Network, London Litho, Heartland Imaging, VieNet.com, among others.
He was a consultant and featured speaker at the meetings of Food Industries Suppliers Association (FISA) four consecutive years. In 1997, Robert FitzPatrick co-authored and published the first book to expose and critique the multi-level marketing model of sales and distribution. Entitled, False Profits, this book is available in bookstores nationwide or from the publisher at web site www.falseprofits.com. He has served as Expert Witness in various cases involving pyramid scheme fraud perpetrated against independent distributors.
Contact Robert FitzPatrick at 1522 Lilac Rd., Charlotte, NC 28209 USA. Tel.: (704) 334-2047, Fax: (704) 334-0220, Email: email@example.com.
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