Challenges Aplenty in Rationalizing the Combined Quad/Graphics and Worldcolor

Clint Bolte of C. Clint Bolte & Associates

Quad/Graphics’ acquisition of World Color following Quebecor World’s January 2008 bankruptcy has tongues wagging as to the potential impact on the printing industry as well as large print buyers. Here are my thoughts on how this may unfold.

Preserving Quad’s Unique Culture

I am not aware of any substantial printing company in the world that values its own unique culture more than Quad. Thirty years ago, Quad’s Bean (Atlanta) acquisition was reported to be not faring well because of this culture incompatibility issue. As a result, virtually all of Quad’s dynamic growth since then has been virgin meadow start ups.

What is Quad’s distinctive culture that has never been replicated by any other graphics vendor? It certainly is not limited to being family owned and all employees considered part of this extended family. Other firms profess this approach as being a key to their success. Many printers claim to be leading edge technology purveyors. None can hold a candle to Quad as evidenced by its enhancements to existing leading equipment, receiving patents on these improvements, and reselling these innovations via QuadTech.

This is not due to leveraging the wits of one or two mechanical or electronic geniuses on staff. Quad buys the latest proven technology, as do RR Donnelley and others, but then challenges a team of operators to master the beast, look to correct its inevitable weaknesses, and come up with auxiliary features that can be patented to lift the entire application above the rest of the industry. No other printer has ever been able to perpetuate this success formula like Quad/Graphics.

Worldcolor (the old Quebecor World), on the other hand, rode Harris M1000a and M1000b web presses for decades beyond when the rest of the industry found this equipment to be economically viable. Its finance driven executive management did not reinvest in current technology for eons. Only recently has it attempted to leap frog generations of printing technology by purchasing some new roland webs.

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