By Katherine O’Brien, Senior Editor, American Printer, OutputLinks Communications Group
In this three-part series, Katherine O’Brien, Senior Editor of OutputLinks’ American Printer Division shares insights gained from an interview OutputLinks’ Co-CEO Andy & Julie Plata, recently conducted with PrintCity Alliance executives Rainer Kuhn and John Dangelmaier.
Part 1 features an overview of PrintCity; Part 2 discusses drupa plans; and Part 3 outlines PrintCity’s member/partner structure.
PrintCity Then & Now
When I think about PrintCity, I recall attending my first drupa in 2000. This was dubbed the “JDF drupa” and there were a lot of discussions about each piece of the manufacturing process—prepress, press, postpress—working together as the industry moved away from proprietary systems. As I entered hall 6, I could see a lot of banners and signs with the PrintCity logo and some familiar names such as manroland, Océ and Sun Chemical as well as many vendors I didn’t know. Using a handy guide distributed at the door, I traced the flow of the open production workflow system and learned more about each participant’s role.
Beyond Trade Shows to Projects, Publications and Events
From that inaugural appearance, the PrintCity alliance has expanded beyond the trade show circuit. Headquartered near Munich, PrintCity currently has about 20 members and 60 partners. “Our members are a cross process grouping of companies with a long track record of sharing knowledge to improve the industry,” explains David Stamp, PrintCity’s Director of Marketing & Communications. “We also work with a wider range of businesses who are partners in individual projects, publications or events.”
It took about two years of planning to pull off PrintCity’s drupa 2000 debut. “After drupa 2000, all the participants said, “This is a good idea, why don't we continue?’” says John Dangelmaier, PrintCity’s President. Explains Dangelmaier: “We founded a company, PrintCity GmbH &Co. KG, which is comparable to the “Limited” designation in English. Every PrintCity member has a share, so they are tied to a structure or a company organization.”
Three Activity Groups
PrintCity members work together in three categories of Activity Groups:
- Publishing, Commercial & Web,
- Packaging, Commercial & Sheetfed and
- Workflow Integration.
These groups analyze the technology and print processes as well as actual and potential market applications. “At least one major global brand owner has told us that we are considered ‘a window on the future’ and an alliance of suppliers they want to hear from regularly,’” says Kuhn.
At drupa 2012, the PrintCity Packaging Activity Group will showcase a project they’ve been working on for the past 18 months: “Value Added Packaging - VAPack.” Manroland, UPM, Sun Chemical, M-real, Eltosch, Kurz, Merck, Weilburger Graphics and Bobst, plus a series of other technology partners have shared knowledge on value added packaging techniques, and prepared a portfolio of samples. (EskoArtwork has just signed on.)
VAPack will illustrate how package printers and their customers can achieve:
- Increased consumer attraction from new or combined value-added techniques.
- Enhanced product differentiation in all consumer market sectors.
- New opportunities in brand development and brand positioning.
(See Part 2 for additional PrintCity drupa activities.)
Like Dangelmaier, Rainer Kuhn has been with PrintCity since its inception. Kuhn, who previously was with Océ, joined PrintCity full-time in 2001 as Managing Director. (Kuhn’s position is salaried; Dangelmaier serves on a volunteer basis.) Kuhn says that in addition to its activity group projects, the alliance will continue to expand its networking activities. “We are working on customer contacts beyond fairs, with our seminars, for example. We would like to see more synergies among the member companies and partners [used] on a worldwide basis.”
Sharing Knowledge on a Global Basis
PrintCity holds an annual series of seminars around the world. Most of these events, which are generally free for attendees, are outgrowths of Activity Group projects. Stamp says the seminars are “non-commercial, knowledge sharing presentations and interactive discussions…Our recent focus has been on Eastern Europe and Latin America. For these events we often work with local ‘partners’ such as industry associations (e.g., ABRO and SENAI in Brazil or GIPP in Russia) or sometimes with local publishers such as Web Printing magazine (Ukraine) or PrintWeek (UK).”
Members manroland, Sun Chemical, UPM, Cofely, M-real and Weilburger Graphics recently presented a packaging seminar in Poznan, Poland. Thirty packaging executives learned about:
- Opportunities and issues in modern food packaging techniques, including lean production and low migration ink capabilities.
- Advantages of UV varnishes, including press applications and UV drying.
- Lightweight carton boards compared to other conventional boards.
- RFID techniques and how they can assist efficiency in production.
PrintCity members determine which regions to target—after members have identified a specific area, the PrintCity team will get in touch with local contacts to discuss the market, including key players and associations it can work with.
“We started a couple of years ago in Russia—there was a market demand for knowledge,” says Kuhn. “We have been very active in East Europe, Russia, Poland other East European markets: Hungary and Serbia and Turkey. Last year, we started some activities in Latin America, particularly Brazil. We’re also looking into China and India.”
PrintCity isn’t as well known in the U.S. as it is in Europe and beyond. It is well worth the effort to seek out its publications—the UV Best Practices Guide published a few years ago was outstanding.
PrintCity officials could not comment on manroland’s recent financial woes. Manroland is listed among the PrintCity Alliance participants at the Pre-drupa International Media Event in Munich, on February 13-16, 2012. We will provide updates as they become available.
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Senior Editor American Printer
Senior Editor OutputLinks Communication Group