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The State of the Industry and Its Future

Jun 26, 2013 12:00 AM

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Editor’s Note:  In February, I joined many of my OutputLinks Communications Group colleagues at International Printing Week for the dedication of CalPoly’s  The Raymond J. Prince Shakespeare Press Museum Resource Room.

BREAKING NEWS:  After months of negotiations with the Pittsburgh-based Printing Industries of America (PIA), Cal Poly has been offered virtually the complete library of approximately 11,000 books – many of which are rare and irreplaceable.  “We have also been offered 194 cases of bound and unbound periodicals,” reports Ray.  “This collection coupled with the Resource Room will make something very special.”

Here is an excerpt from the remarks Ray made at the February festivities.
--Katherine O’Brien, Senior Editor

The industry has shrunk for two reasons – the Internet and the economy. The “Good Old Days” will not be back and in fact they were not all that good. Our industry is and has been in a continuous improvement mode. Let’s take a look at a few of the improvements:
• Elimination of isopropyl alcohol.
• Elimination of many harsh wash-up solutions such as benzene.
• Machine guarding of all equipment – saved fingers and lives.
• Trying to be environmentally friendly.
• Dramatic improvements in productivity and quality.
• Dramatic improved air quality for litho, gravure and flexo.

It is no longer a dirty filthy industry that it was when I started in the industry in 1958. It is a miracle that I did not succumb from lead poisoning, lose my fingers in a paper cutter, contract cancer or lose a limb in a press. The “good old days” were not good.

In the 1960s the complaint of printers was that there are too many printers and we are all losing money. In addition RRD is just giving work away. Many prayed their competition would go out of business.

In the 1970s the complaint of printers was that there are too many printers and we are all losing money. In addition RRD is just giving work away. Many prayed their competition would go out of business. This same complaint was made in the 1980s, 1990s and till 2001.

In 2001, everything changed. The economy went in the tubes, the Internet effect was felt very hard and finally as my father would say God answered our prayers and eliminated scores of printers. Thus be careful what you pray for.

With all these changes we have an industry that is willing to accept and embrace change at a very fast pace. The industry is more competitive and customers are more open to new sources and ideas.

A local printer can now become a national printer with ease via the Internet. Buying habits are changing and no longer is a salesperson told “we only buy our printing from x.” The future is bright for new ideas and methods. The industry is no longer a “men’s club” and now embraces all. Graphic Communication is alive and well.

The industry is changing in many ways. The areas that are busting at the seams are packaging of all types, pharmaceutical printing, specialty printing and some commercial printers. I did a survey of 18 commercial printers that are doing well and sought to determine why. What I found that they had in common was:
1. A president that was actively engaged in the business and had a sales background.
2. A sales force under 35 years old in their first good house with 1.3 children and needing money.
3. All embraced the latest technology.
4. All embraced the Internet and all were seeking niches.Technology is leading us to be faster, cheaper, and lower cost. Today a printer must embrace the new, learn it quickly and buy it.

Ray announced his retirement in December 2012, citing his desire to spend more time with his wife, Nancy, and their grandson Joseph in their beloved Black Hills. Ray has authored several books, written countless articles for all of the major trade publications, and spoken before audiences from coast to coast. Contact him at