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JANUARY 2013



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Opportunities for Dealers in Finishing

Through the 1990's graphic arts dealers were mostly known for selling prepress equipment and supplies. As the prepress production gave way to digital workflow and computer to plate dealers began to sell equipment and a variety of supplies for the growing digital and wide format markets as well as litho. As these markets get saturated the next frontier for dealers is post-press which is a all-encompassing term for binding and finishing.

To get some perspective on this market Dealer Communicator discussed the post-press market with two well-known industry experts to get their perspective as to what to expect and what dealers should look for with regards to opportunities in binding and finishing equipment and services .

Watch the Dog's Tail
"The tail that wags the dog" is how industry consultant and president of the PrintCom Consulting Group, Bill Lamparter, (Printcom@aol.com) characterizes most current postpress finishing operations. Postpress is just as important --- perhaps more so --- than prepress or even digital press equipment itself, Lamparter opines. In today's digital print world how a job is to be finished should be decided as a part of initial job planning.

"Plan finishing before you plan printing" advises bindery guru Werner Rebsamen. Basic choices for the printer include off-line versus integrated in-line and saddle stitching or perfect binding or wire or plastic coil binding. Folding to create unique products is another consideration. Since a large percentage of commercial printing is saddle stitched, I favor that method integrated in-line with the press, says Lamparter.

However, I also recognize that in some instances near-off-line is the best approach, although it is not as economical as an in-line workflow. The challenge to dealers selling digital press equipment is to become well versed in the idiosyncrasies of all possible finishing approaches. Many are not, according to Lamparter.

Opportunities Even In A Down Market
Don Piontek of
Finishing Resources, Inc. (finishingres@comcast), is a highly regarded bindery and finishing consultant and advisor to printers.

He is also a post-press equipment manufacturer. Don provided some unique perspectives on the opportunities of dealer in the finishing area. Following are his comments.

Graphic arts equipment dealers know their territory well. Many have had solid histories and long-term relationships with their customers. But as the landscape of the print industry has shifted, dealers have been seriously challenged.

Even well-established finishing systems vendors have been hurt by industry consolidation, roll-ups, and lack of demand, so independent dealers are doubly challenged. Conventional bindery machinery sales are not exactly on a fast track, and new opportunities lie in the growth of digital, and in addressing finishing sectors that have been "outside of their comfort zone".

As the volume of pages printed by both cut-sheet and continuous web digital printers grows, dealers have to concentrate on finishing equipment that is well-matched to the increasing speed and usage of digital print. These include perfect binders, saddle stitchers, and signature creation systems that can integrate as in-line modules to reduce labor input.

For higher speed cut-sheet printers, booklet finishing and sheet-to-book-block production systems are important. Creasing, UV coating, and laminating machines have also become key systems for dealers in the digital world.

But dealers also have to look for segments where they normally don't play. Some examples; short-run label finishing machinery, short-run folding carton equipment, short run hard cover machinery (self-published titles are BOOMING). How about logistics and fulfillment? Most printers have to pack and ship their products. There are many semi-automated carton labeling and taping machines that give the user higher productivity with a short payback.

Many dealers are now moving into digital print as suppliers of medium and high-volume toner and ink-jet presses. This gives them a foot in the door versus the large established vendors, who sell direct. In short, it's time for dealers to sit down and do some real homework as to where their offerings can be most effective.

Dealer Communicator also reached out to get some comments from Bryan Sachs of Precision Graphics Inc., a dealer selling finishing equipment. His view is a reminder that dealers don't just sell equipment but have a responsibility to their customers to find appropriate solutions that will feed growth and fight obsolescence.

Here are Bryon's comments: "I find it difficult to differentiate between any category of printer these days..... offset printers, digital printers, quick printers, inplants or offices have all become digital printers. I have very, very few companies left that are ink only."

That being said, the main battle-cry in finishing equipment is automation which lends itself accordingly to the required efficiency demands and also plays into the hands of a younger workforce which tends to be less mechanically inclined. That's an across the board need and attraction.

Inline, offline? A valid argument can be made for either case but I tend to be a proponent of offline. Inline finishing is not usually fully utilized to it's true capacity. Offline finishing can often times accept and keep up with the volume of more than one digital engine and it tends to have a much longer life expectancy. Why continue to buy a new inline bookletmaker every time you replace your print engine? A good bookletmaker, the right bookletmaker, should give you 10 or 15+ years of service.

We do our best to recommend the right products for each particular application. Fortunately we typically have numerous options and always strive to help customers in making the best choice. After all, their success is our business!

DC feels that the future of graphic arts dealers is in keeping up with the needs of their customers. It is the dealer's responsibility to be aware of the available technologies and match them with the needs of their customers. A lot is going on in post-press especially in the digital arena. Aware dealers will talk to their customers as to their needs and provide the solutions. Opportunities are not a matter of luck but of awareness of needs and products that fit those needs.

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