Ricoh Event Highlights Evolving Printing and Book Publishing Industries
During the first week of March, Ricoh took over the luxury five-star St. Julien Hotel & Spa in the heart of Boulder, Colo. However, the 60 or so attendees from across the country, and globe, weren't there to bask in winter activities or enjoy a day in the spa. Ricoh hosted its 3rd annual Publishing Executive Symposium during the course of three days, Feb. 28-March 2.
The event was designed to bring printers, publishers and vendors together to discuss the ever-evolving book publishing industry — including new opportunities enabled by production inkjet printing technology — with presentations that ran the gamut. Speakers included Marco Boer, VP of I.T. Strategies; Brent Niemuth, president and CCO of J.Schmid and Associates; Don Kilburn, former president of Pearson North America; John Edwards, president of Edwards Brothers Malloy; Sean Smyth, print consultant of Smithers Pira; Derek Giulianelli, VP of sales for BR Printers; Carolyn Pittis, managing director of Welman Digital; and Nick Lewis, president of Publishers' Graphics.
After Boer set the stage with a riveting discussion regarding the current state of the book publishing industry and the opportunity for growth in inkjet printing, attendees hopped on a bus to visit Ricoh's state-of-the-art Customer Engagement Center, also located in Boulder. There, attendees were treated to a range of Ricoh equipment and software, from its extensive line of wide-format equipment — the entry-level CW2201SP and the latex Pro L4160, as well as a Mimaki JFX200 flatbed printer — to demos of its TotalFlow BatchBuilder, Ricoh's solution to simplify and automate short-run digital printing. But the star of the show was the Ricoh Pro VC60000 continuous-feed inkjet press, a behemoth in the room. The high-speed press specializes in variable data and quick turnarounds, all in near-offset quality and, when paired with BatchBuilder, creates an automated inkjet solution.
After a couple of hours exploring the demo center, the group headed back to the hotel for dinner and to hear Brent Niemuth, a fantastic orator, touch on the importance of thinking creatively. He offered up some great advice and encouraged everyone to "Dare Mighty Things."
The following morning, the group heard from Don Kilburn, of Pearson, on the state of educational publishing and making the transition from analog to digital printing. He says publishers struggle the most when it comes to demand forecasting. However, the more that publishers can make use of data, the more they will be able to cut down on printing costs and waste.
John Edwards, of Edwards Brothers Malloy, discussed the evolution of his book manufacturing business, which began printing digitally in 1997. It has since grown the technology to comprise 25% of its business, and will continue to grow. Edwards noted that, when it comes to offset versus digital, "printing digitally is often the better solution." It's just a matter of customer education.
Sean Smyth of Smithers Pira delved into a timeline of "Toner vs. Inkjet, 2017-2021." He said that inkjet has proven itself to be efficient and effective in direct mail, signage and displays, books, and it is growing in the label segment. Similar to Boer's sentiment one the first day, Smyth told the attentive audience, "Inkjet is going to change and revolutionize the print business model." In the end, he says that inkjet is going to be the ultimate winner in the face-off between toner and inkjet. Inkjet will continue to become more cost-effective while improving its services, reliability, productivity and automation.
After a short presentation from Alex Rotolo of Finch Paper on the sustainability and reforestation efforts of Finch, Derek Giulianelli of BR Printers explained his company's business model. As an all-digital shop, BR Printers is focused on short-run, on-demand digital printing, with 90% of its business in books. Giulianelli noted that they are looking at the VC60000 because it is capable of printing short runs on a variety of stocks — both coated and uncoated — and it would be ideal for BR Printers' direct mail business.
On the final day, Carolyn Pittis of Welman Digital touched on changes in publishing and how to adapt. One point, however, stood out: "Do less planning and more reacting." She explained that you have to look at change as a system because things are continuously changing around us.
The final presentation of the event was from Nick Lewis of Publishers' Graphics, who captivated the audience with his humor. Publishers' Graphics has evolved since its opening in 1996 when Lewis explained they had no customers, to today where the company is bringing in 400 to 600 orders per day and fulfilling them within one of its multiple facilities.
To finish out the three-day event, Mike Herold, director of global marketing, production inkjet technologies of Ricoh, and Roger Serrette, executive briefing center program manager of Ricoh, answered audience questions, resulting in a lively discussion among printers and publishers.