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Dickeson--"Ground Truths," Sound Advice

August 1998
During the 46th Annual PIA Web Offset Conference in Toronto, William L. Davis, chairman and CEO of R.R. Donnelley & Sons, gave a speech titled "Ground Truths." But I prefer to call the speech the "Davis Manifesto."

I term the speech a manifesto because within it Davis speaks plain truths about our industry and describes intentions for his company. I've reread it several times. Each time, I find it as refreshing as a cool glass of lemonade on a hot Texas afternoon. I do hope it will be reprinted in full somewhere for all to read—including the United States Department of Commerce.

Davis came to Donnelley a year ago, he notes, from another industry entirely. We must listen and take serious note. Davis speaks from a "bully pulpit," as leader of the largest printing company in the United States—one of the largest in the world.

He views printing with fresh eyes. Those eyes see things we've all known but haven't yet fully accepted. He bespeaks a vision for our industry, a vision that he resolves to translate to reality.

In summation, Davis finds us a decade behind best manufacturing practices. He points to the teachings of Toyota's Taiichi Ohno of years ago that printers have not yet grasped.

No Longer a Craft
There are far too many printers according to the Davis Manifesto. The evolution of rapidly changing electronic media is but dimly perceived. Printing is no longer a craft, it's a business—a manufacturing business of conversion of paper and ink to communication instruments. In that business there is a need for far more standardization.

Products must become more flexible to meet changing customer demands and needs. Printers must develop partnering relationships with customers and suppliers.

Changeovers that we call make-readies must be shortened by orders of magnitude. Inventory turnovers must be drastically reduced.

It never ceases to shock me, for example, that printers store paper supplied by publishers. By and large, publishers appear to have scant regard for low turnover—a costly application of scarce capital resource. They pile up stocks of paper worth millions of dollars in printers' warehouses.

Printers accept the occupation of scarce and precious warehouse space for this stockpiling—mostly without charge to the publisher—to retain the printing contract. Printers thereby encourage the practice.

Paper manufacturers sell publishers on nightmares of historic scarcities. They disregard the demand imbalances thereby created for themselves. This is all sheer foolishness. It must stop now, Mr. Davis, or electronic screens, without wasteful stockpiles, will eat our lunch!



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