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Looking on the bright side

Oct 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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Despite the show organizer's valiant promotional efforts, PRINT 09 traffic was sparse on some days, a sobering reminder of a tough economy and an even tougher industry. Attendance figures aren't available yet, but even a casual observer would concede the show didn't generate the same turnout as past events. These are hard facts and we must deal with them accordingly. Nonetheless, I did find some inspiration at the show.

Let me reassure you that I am neither embracing a new found optimism nor hitting the sauce. People who know me would never call me a Pollyanna. For me, it has never been a question of a half-full vs. a half-empty glass. Instead, I perceive the glass itself with deep suspicion. Has someone else been drinking out of it? How clean is it? Are all glasses of an equivalent size or have I been shortchanged with a smaller receptacle?

Originally, I thought health considerations would force me to miss the show. So, truly, just being there was a joy. Again I must thank all of my Penton Media friends, particularly Denise Kapel and Nsenga Thompson, for their support and encouragement. Many others have offered prayers, help, kind words and thoughtful gestures over the past few weeks. I'm glad to say I am doing well and back on the full-time printing beat.

I'd also like to thank Michelle Ruby, our intern, for her help during this past summer. We miss her ready smile and unflagging work ethic and are pleased to share her writing talents with you this month (see “Stay gold” on pg. 26). We look forward to telling people we knew her way back when!

Economic recovery (with no guarantees)

Personal considerations aside, I found some positive economic developments at PRINT 09. “Recovery is on the way,” says Andy Paparozzi, NAPL's chief economist. “In 2010, our industry will grow for the first time in three years.”

With sales, prices and profitability at all-time lows, this was welcome news. But Paparozzi offered one caveat: “Absolutely no one is guaranteed a share of that growth or can assume recovery is going to make everything right.”

The economist urged printers to:

  • Maximize productivity and efficiency; minimize waste, spoilage, and rework. As one NAPL survey participant says: “Any printer stuck with old technology in the pressroom is doomed.”
  • Control costs as vigilantly when business turns up because recovery no longer widens our margin for error.
  • Automate to squeeze labor costs out of processes.
  • Get faster by minimizing touches, steps and waiting times between processes.
  • Cross train to develop a flexible, nimble workforce that can be where we need them when we need them.
  • Develop seamless digital workflows that extend, via the Web, right into the client's facility to minimize turn times and bottlenecks to meet the growing demand for shorter runs and faster turns. (See “Web to PRINT 09,” pg. 20.)

Another ray of light

Columnists Ray Prince and Brian Regan were among the consultants, vendors, educators, associations and printers that participated in the 2009 Education Summit at PRINT 09. Old friend and summit chairman John Berthelsen presented Prince with The Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF) Harold W. Gegenheimer Annual Achievement Award. During his 50-year career, Prince has championed education, going back to his undergraduate days at Rochester Institute of Technology, and his graduate studies at South Dakota State University. (Ray also proved to be a natural in front of the APTV cameras — you can see his work at

Amela Mujkic, a senior at Ferris State University, the first U.S. printing student to participate in the WorldSkills offset competition, explained how a high school photography class prompted her interest in printing. Her enthusiasm was inspiring, as was her quick wit. After Prince asked if she was looking for a job, Mujkic said, “No, I am looking for a career.” Bravo!

Look for an overview of the summit as well some Education Alley highlights in Brian Regan's next “Education in Action” column.

All creatures great and small

Jack Hanna would have been right at home at PRINT 09. Since my bird knowledge is largely limited to dodging Chicago's pigeon population, it was startling to encounter a real live eagle at Eagle Ridge Paper's (La Miranda, CA) booth.

APTV camera operator Jimmy Shand reportedly observed a Jack Russell Terrier at Labels & Decals Intl. ( I can't personally corroborate this report, but according to the vendor's promotional material, visitors could see videos of “Duma,” the owner's dog, running a printing press. Now that's what I call a Must See ‘em!

You can follow me on Twitter at as well as on my new blog: KOB on Commercial Printing at