Defying Conventional Wisdom About Printing
After the dotcom bubble burst, Wall Street analysts and financial lending institutions finally understand our industry. As columnist Harris DeWese reveals in this issue, printers nationwide are reporting difficulty in borrowing money and, to make it even worse, excessive loan origination fees. One fact: despite our smokestack image, the PI/Compass 30—which monthly tracks the largest publicly held printers—has consistently outperformed the S&P 500. We may not be a sexy industry, but printers put in long hours at work, buy expensive capital equipment and pay their bills on time. Why should the graphic arts be penalized for loans to companies that "cooked" their books?
And, finally, amidst the recent headlines in the general press about the major fire in a warehouse at Quad/Graphics' Lomira, WI, facility, there was one other, less-noticed news item that had a graphic arts tie-in. One century ago, Willis H. Carrier—just a year out of college and working for $10 a week at Buffalo Forge Co.—invented air conditioning. One of Buffalo Forge's clients, the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographic & Publishing Co. in Brooklyn, had a problem: The paper it used for printing jobs, including a popular humor magazine of the period, was expanding and contracting in the summer heat and humidity. This created all kinds of registration and other print-related issues.
So Carrier came up with a simple solution. If the plant was heated by blowing air through coils pumped full of steam, why not cool it by blowing air through coils filled with cold water? Water in the air, he correctly surmised, would condense on the coils, making the air in the plant both cooler and drier. On July 17, 1902, the printing plant was cooled for the first time, and the age of air conditioning was upon us.
After suffering through a summer filled with excessive heat, high humidity and drought conditions, I can hardly think of any invention more important than air conditioning. But, then again, did you ever hear about a guy named Gutenberg whose development put a lot of earnest monks reproducing religious documents out of business?