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State St. Consultants weigh in on Drupa

Aug 27, 2007 12:00 AM

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State Street Consultants Inc. (Boston) sent in the following essay, sharing their perspectives and experiences from attending Drupa:

Every four years an A-list of executives, techies and consultants in the industry make a pilgrimage to the Mecca of print: Drupa. State Street Consultants, Inc., a research firm in Boston devoted to the graphic arts, can boast over three decades of experience as well as more than a few voyages to Drupa.

For the consultants who attend, Drupa is a place to meet and greet both current and prospective clients. John Windle, president and founder of SSCI, fondly reminisces on encounters with industry greats, such as an evening at a champagne bar spent with the late Earl Wilken, former associate editor of Graphic Arts Monthly, for a birthday celebration. He recounts another meeting featuring an in-depth explanation and ensuing discussion on the origins of white asparagus given by Bernhard Schreier, chairman of Heidelberg.

Along with cordial meetings with peers, Drupa acts as a showcase for printers large and small, from Europe to the Americas, from the Middle East to Asia. “Drupa is the greatest collection of people involved in the industry in one place at one time. In one two-week period you have the chance to visit all the major technology stands boasting the latest developments in the industry,” Windle says. “That is, if you have enough energy and shoe leather to handle it.”

Windle points out the small pinpoints that are cars on a Google Map of the area where Drupa is held, demonstrating the comparatively huge size of the auditoriums that house the trade show. It is not uncommon for a large manufacturer such as Heidelberg to rent out multiple halls, providing a venue to show off their equipment in action, an opportunity not always prevalent at other, smaller regional shows. “We see half of what we would like to see — maybe 10 percent of the show,” says Windle.

Dave Costa, senior consultant for SSCI, recalls the trade show encompassing “something like 16 buildings.” He contrasts it to trade shows in the United States, where it is common to have one large building or convention center to house the whole affair. He cautions that prospective attendees will really need to make an effort to visit multiple halls. According to Costa, it can take five or 10 minutes just to go from hall to hall because of the throngs of people at the event.

“You should plan to spend double the amount of time [at drupa] than at other shows,” says Ozlem Dayioglu, senior project manager, SSCI. “Drupa is very high profile, with lots of attention devoted to it and lots of announcements made,” she comments. Small vendors make an extra effort to go to Drupa if they want international exposure, according to Dayioglu, noting that small printers also can benefit greatly by attending. “Even if the technology doesn’t relate to them now, it gives them possibilities for the future,” she says. Only half-jokingly, she adds to bring comfortable shoes because “the place is humungous.”

Dayioglu first attended drupa in 2000 in relation to a current project at the time. She stayed at a ship provided by a vendor in the harbor. On her second and latest trip in 2004, she stayed in Koln, a town a half hour away by train from Dusseldorf. Windle, a regular since 1990, has mostly stayed in Koln, with an occasional sojourn in Amsterdam, a 2.5 hour train ride. The exhibition is so big that hotels in Dusseldorf proper are known to sell out four years ahead of time, with people thinking ahead and booking in advance during current stays. Costa, a veteran of five Drupas, the earliest dating back to 1982, says it is not uncommon to have accommodations 1.5 hours away from the show.

Despite the headaches of the hotel rush, Dusseldorf is a pleasant city to visit. The section named Altstadt, meaning “old town,” is the most memorable. The borough is made up of a plethora of old buildings and bars on cobblestone streets, according to Windle.

“Altstadt is a great place,” says Costa. He recalls wandering in many different restaurants, beer halls and breweries with “all different kinds of pork.” The show, held in May, is a beautiful time of year in Germany. He recounts stories of corporate-sponsored river cruises during his tenure at Agfa. “It was lots of fun, although the festive nature of the city and the work ethic of the show were in conflict.”

Windle expects a lot of major advances in high-speed inkjet digital printers for drupa 2008. He also believes there will be a lot of significant refinements and extensions in offset technology.

“Don’t think offset is standing still while digital assaults their kingdom,” Windle said. “Offset is fighting back.” He anticipates seeing faster and faster turnaround and automation. He says, on the whole, the show will be upbeat: “People are beginning to understand the values of print they had forgotten about. Print is going to be in better standing.” On the software side, Windle thinks workflow will continue to be important on the large scale, although integration remains slow. Dayioglu agrees that digital printing technology, especially hardware and software solutions will be the theme of the upcoming Drupa. “There is a huge trend toward digital. Expect a lot of solutions to make digital more viable and to take care of the barriers to digital,” Dayioglu says.

Costa expects there will be “more pressure on suppliers in digital printing to show products on inkjet technology.” He sees this as the next hurdle.

But the thing that stands out most in Costa’s mind is the camaraderie and informality the trade show generates. “It breaks down barriers between people at different levels of an organization. In terms of team-building, it’s phenomenal,” Costa says. He remembers from past Drupas, “People would come back all fired up,” ready to tackle upcoming tasks with renewed energy and excitement.