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Show & tell

Nov 1, 2007 12:00 AM

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Every four years, an A-list of executives, techies, consultants and journalists descend on Düsseldorf for Drupa, the largest international graphic arts trade show. Drupa 2008 will take place May 29-June 11.

For the consultants who attend, Drupa is a place to meet and greet both current and prospective clients. John Windle is a veteran Drupa attendee as well as president and founder of State Street Consultants, Inc. (SSCI), a research firm in Boston devoted to the graphic arts. He fondly recalls 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.

See it all

“Drupa is the greatest collection of people involved in the industry in one place at one time,” says Windle. “In one two-week period, you have the chance to visit all the major technology stands boasting the latest developments in the industry.”

Some of the large manufacturers, such as Heidelberg, rent out entire halls, providing a venue to show off their equipment in action, an opportunity not always feasible at smaller 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 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.

“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.” 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 humongous.”

Dayioglu first attended Drupa in 2000 where she stayed at a hotel ship in the harbor provided by a vendor. On her second trip in 2004, she stayed in Koln (Cologne), a town a half hour away by train from Düsseldorf. 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 some hotels in Düsseldorf proper sell out four years ahead of time, with people thinking ahead and booking in advance during current stays. Costa, a veteran of five Drupas 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, Düsseldorf is a pleasant city to visit. Just about everyone loves the Altstad or “old town,” a collection of old buildings, shops and bars on narrow cobblestone streets. “Altstadt is a great place,” says Costa. He recalls wandering in many different restaurants, beer halls and breweries with “all different kinds of pork.”

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 [players are] standing still while digital assaults their kingdom,” Windle says. “Offset is fighting back.” He anticipates seeing faster turnaround and increased automation and expects an upbeat event. “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.

One world, one Drupa

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.

Courtney Charles is a junior analyst with State Street Consultants. See

For more Drupa information, see

Spargel, the other white vegetable

“Spargel” is the German name for asparagus. Most asparagus in Germany is white, as it is grown covered in soil to prevent photosynthesis. This process prevents the asparagus from turning green and reportedly results in a sweeter and more tender taste. It is generally harvested from late April to early June.

Germany produces 57,000 tons of asparagus a year, but that is only enough to meet 61 percent of its consumption demands. Let's hope there's still some left when Drupa starts on May 29!


Lessons from a Drupa master

This is Drupa No. 7 for Andy Tribute. “I'm one behind Frank Romano,” he notes. Tribute is the managing partner of Attributes Associates, a consulting company specializing in marketing and technology issues for the printing, publishing and media markets. We asked him to share his thoughts on Drupas past and present.

When did you first go?

My first Drupa was, I think, in 1976. I did, however, start my European print events earlier than this with IPEX in 1964 in my final year at the London College of Printing. I have been to most IPEX shows since then.

My first Drupa was when I worked for the software company Software Sciences Comprite selling mini computer-based text and ad systems for newspapers. I don't know why we went to Drupa, as it did not cover newspapers.

My next Drupa was as director of marketing for Monotype, and we had a large presence to bring our Lasercomp imagesetter to market where it had good success in Germany. My first Drupa as a non-vendor was the next event, when I had recently started both my consulting and writing career. The highlight of the event was blowing the electrics in a large section of Düsseldorf when I was trying to plug in my computer in the hotel room.

What are your most vivid recollections from your first Drupa?

The size of the show and how many attendees there were. At this event there were extra tented pavilions for overspill companies and the U.S. Pavilion. There was no air conditioning in this and the tent was being hosed down with water to cool it. It was like a Turkish bath inside.

What can we expect to see at Drupa 2008?

In the area of offset presses, expect to see even more automation to shorten makeready times, reduce waste and simplify operations with low manning levels. Also expect to see much more automation within the bindery. In the digital area, it will be the first show where inkjet digital presses will be taking a center-stage position, where their quality can start to challenge electrophotographic presses. This will be seen in high-speed presses for offset replacement and transaction type work, but also in specialized applications like labels and packaging.

Any advice for the first-time attendee?

Work out what is important to see before you go. Unless you are going for a week, you cannot see everything. Also find time to go in one evening to the Old Town. The European journalists and many English visitors appear to live in the two Irish bars where you will be sure of a great welcome!

That great street

State Street Consultants, Inc. (Boston) has provided general business management consulting and strategic planning resources for the graphic arts industry since 1973.

State Street's database of printing, publishing and packaging sites with detailed information on major product categories is updated with 15,000 to 20,000 in-depth interviews each year. The database serves as the foundation for more detailed forecasting, targeting and trend analysis.