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INDUSTRY USER GROUPS -- For Users, Not Losers

August 2002
BY CHRIS BAUER


When operating today's printing gear, especially new, digitally based hardware and software, there are advantages to having contemporaries to bounce ideas off of, or to have someone that you can share information with on best practices. Industry user groups offer just that type of educational and networking opportunity.

Several user groups exist in the printing industry, designed to allow users of common equipment or software to network with one another, to receive training, as well as to provide valuable feedback to their vendors.

The Heidelberg Digital Imaging Association (HDIA), for example, is an independent organization of printing, publishing and related graphic arts companies that are currently using Heidelberg technologies. Members represent every corner of the industry, from printers and trade shops to corporate publishers and retailers, service bureaus, and magazine and book publishers.

According to Executive Director Joel Friedman, HDIA has 275 member companies—the company is actually the member, not the employee as is the case with some other user groups. With an average of more than three active contacts per company, in both management and production, Friedman counts about 1,000 active HDIA participants.

"In addition, we have over 40 sponsors which, though not counted as members, are encouraged to participate in almost all HDIA activities," he says.

Friedman feels there is no question that HDIA members enjoy a substantially heightened experience by remaining in contact with other users who have the same Heidelberg presses and workflows.

"Individual users often find themselves reinventing the wheel, and no business can afford that luxury any more," Friedman asserts. "In HDIA, a NexPress user in New York, for example, can share tips and tricks with other NexPress users in Dallas, Toronto or Washington, DC, who confront the same learning curve, the same application challenges and the same vendor-relationship issues.

"This is especially valuable for those users who prefer not to speak completely openly with their local competitors. It's even more valuable for users in secondary or tertiary markets where users of advanced technologies may be few and far between."

Know Your Colleagues

Networking is one of the biggest reasons printers seem to be drawn to user groups. Mike McLain, vice president of sales and operations for PrintSmith, part of the Printcafe family of print management software solutions, notes that smaller printers, who sometimes don't have as many opportunities to network with their peers, find user groups especially beneficial. The Printcafe user groups are perfect venues for them to do so, he says.
 

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