Showing Signs of Industry Rebound –EDITOR’S notebook

We’ve all been waiting pensively, hoping to spot some signals that commercial printing is in recovery. I know; much uncertainty about the future remains. Economists still keep moving their recovery forecasts back in response to a lingering U.S. economy that just can’t seem to sustain itself. And, although the demented snipers have been caught, the impending war with Iraq, fear over more terrorism in our homeland and a turbulent Wall Street rocked by executive misdeeds continue to remind us that the world—and especially the American lifestyle and sense of security that we all once took for granted—may be changed forever.

As such, expectations were understandably mixed as exhibitors set up their stands for Graph Expo and Converting Expo 02 in Chicago last month. Would customers and prospects come to our industry’s most important annual trade exhibition and, if so, would they be ready to invest in new equipment, often to expand capacity?

For those who walked the busy show floor, attended often-crowded seminars or even clamored into the larger exhibitors’ theater-like booth presentations, “positive, optimistic attendees,” “strong leads” and “better than anticipated sales results” were words heard from many of the 570+ exhibitors. The same upbeat mood held true for our annual Hall of Fame & Gold Ink Awards gala (pictures from that event appear on this page). All told, nearly 38,000 attendees, representing more than 9,600 companies, took part in the show—held a little more than a year after 9/11 rocked the PRINT 01 event.

Interest was shown by buyers representing all aspects of print production, according to the buzz both on and off the show floor. The demand for automated equipment incorporating fast makereadies, reduced waste, operator touchscreens, as well as eliminated steps, continues to proliferate. And reaching the Holy Grail of true, computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) to streamline workflows and maximize automation is finally becoming more than just a futuristic concept. Industry pundits remind us often how the graphic arts continues to lag other manufacturing industries in CIM’s adoption. But progress is now being made.

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