Graph Expo Preview — Digital, Anyone?
TO PARAPHRASE a gag from the late, great comedian Rodney Dangerfield, “I went to Graph Expo the other day and an On Demand show broke out.”
If imitation is really the sincerest form of flattery, then the On Demand folks should be downright blushing at the degree of digital technologies that will be offered when Graph Expo storms into Chicago’s McCormick Place South complex from September 9-12.
Not that the Graphic Arts Show Co. (GASC), Graph Expo’s producer, is out to steal another show’s thunder; rather, it is only a telltale sign of the trend that is enabling printers across North America to expand their product and service offerings.
The fact that Graph Expo sold out its exhibitor space a solid 45 days prior to kickoff is due, in large part, to the digital revolution sweeping the printing industry. Chris Price, newly named vice president at the GASC and a 23-year veteran of the trade show circuit (including the last nine spearheading Graphics of the Americas), is amazed—though not surprised—at the degree to which digital has insinuated itself into the Graph Expo fabric.
“The digital aspect of Graph Expo is growing at an unbelievable rate,” Price says. “We’ve (booked) 460,000 net square feet, and our small- format digital output vendors, not including wide-format, comprise more than 130,000 net square feet. In general, the On Demand show has about 100,000 square feet, with about 64,000 of that being small-format digital output.
Not Just a Print Show
“We have new attendee marketing campaigns. We’re going after the industry segments that, quite honestly, probably viewed Graph Expo as strictly a printing show. Now, with all of the digital offerings, we can appeal more to the high-volume, transactional printer. We can go after the creative pros. It’s the show for digital book printers, not to mention the sign printers.”
Chicago should provide a little something for everyone, and a few surprises. Freelance journalist Stephen Beals notes that direct imaging (DI) presses, while largely written off by industry pundits, will generate interest at the show among printers looking to replace aging offset hardware.
“The pronouncements of the death of digital offset are premature. The numbers just work in an era of shorter press runs,” Beals says. “The automation of the Ryobi/Presstek presses make them very efficient and profitable. Digital—toner and ink-jet—will certainly continue to capture a lot of that market segment, but I think you’ll see unusually high interest in DI at this Graph Expo.”
Bill Lamparter, president of PrintCom Consulting Group in Charlotte, NC, and a dean of many Graph Expos, thinks workflow paraphernalia and JDF will be popular themes plugged by vendors, though he is dubious as to how many printers will buy into the latter. As for the digital hype, Lamparter sees printers buying into it gradually.
“I’m not sure how many printers will actually buy (digital equipment), but I’m sensing more of a realization that, sooner or later, they must move into this arena,” he says. “Conversely, manufacturers are going to be pushing it like crazy.”
Industry consultant Clint Bolte, principal of C. Clint Bolte & Associates in Chambersburg, PA, believes Graph Expo is not only reaching beyond the core of traditional printers, it’s making inroads into continents other than North America. With visitors from countries such as India and throughout the Far East, Graph Expo has become an international show.
While it’s not as touted in the trade press, Bolte points out that Graph Expo is also a hotbed for obtaining used gear, with six-color presses seeing a good deal of activity. But, be it used, just off the show floor or factory fresh, attendees are not shying away from spending.
“I don’t think we’ve seen this many consecutive years of solid economic conditions in the last couple of decades,” Bolte says. “So the mood of the printers is upbeat.”
Bolte admits that the buzz around digital talk is palpable. “A lot of printers are talking about jumping in, and there’s such a broad price range for entry,” he says. “Manufacturers are offering ludicrous packages to attract them.”
Price believes the GASC has set the stage for a compelling show that will reach beyond traditional printing technologies, while not ignoring the bread-and-butter core that still drives the industry—offset printing. But, in casting a wider net, Graph Expo should see a greater variety of printing fish.
A look at some of the bait being used:
• Book and Bound Documents Day (Sunday, September 9). New this year, hundreds of exhibits on the show floor will demonstrate live examples and the technologies being sought to address this digital niche. Equipment, software and expert instructors will be on hand to show businesses how to generate this revenue stream.
• Transpromo-Mailing Day, aka Customer & Marketing Communications Day, will be held Tuesday, September 11. Exhibitors will be running transpromotional bills and statements, parlaying transactional printing “from a cost center to a profit center,” according to Debbie Vieder, GASC/NPES director of communications. Here, too, equipment and software will be demonstrated, as show goers can learn how to leverage transactional mail via targeted marketing offers.
• Another newbie debuting September 11 is the Print Buyers Conference. The event will reach out to print buyers, marketers and creatives with interactive seminars, and offer valuable insight from industry experts who will examine the changing world of print and the role it plays in cross-media promotion. Other topics will include finding the right printer, creating “can’t miss” communication campaigns and planning techniques.
• The Wide-Format Pavilion returns for a fifth year, showcasing items from building wraps to fine art reproductions. Aside from the output devices themselves, printers can learn about the many substrates that can help them cash in on the wide-format movement. A Wide-Format Theater will also feature free mini-seminars.
“The Pavilion was created as an incubator to grow wide-format, and to bring in people that will support the program over and above the commercial printers, such as sign and banner shops, advertising and marketing agencies,” Price notes.
• The Mailing & Fulfillment Center, which is also returning, will be the largest since its inception. Price points out that the center will be bigger than Mailcom, a trade show geared toward the mailing segment.
The Mailing & Fulfillment Center Theater will stress the educational aspect of how this segment can bolster revenues.
Breadth and Depth
“The breadth and the depth of the mailing and fulfillment pavilions will be every bit as complete and impressive as the National Postal Forum was earlier this year,” Bolte notes.
This year’s Graph Expo features a laundry list of seminars, about 70 in all, ranging from mainstream topics such as increasing productivity to disaster recovery planning. There is an emphasis on the digital revolution here, as well.
For the early bird who wants to get up to speed on what is going on in the industry, there’s also Executive Outlook 2007. The 12th annual daylong preshow conference, titled, “The Printer’s Success Quartet: Economics, Markets, Technology, People,” will provide big-picture perspective for each of the four critical areas. Slated for Saturday, September 8, other topics of the conference include MIS, RFID and integrated manufacturing.PI
Drupa Drowsiness? Hardly...for This Show
Hard to believe, but Düsseldorf, Germany, and the Drupa exhibition are less than a year away. In past years, that’s sometimes spelled trouble for new product releases at the Graph Expo preceding the European print bonanza, as manufacturers looked to unveil their hottest new releases in Germany. That’s simply not the case any more. (As proof, be sure to check out the special New Product Reference Guide section that follows this article.)
“No one’s holding anything back; nothing was held back at the ’04 show,” notes Clint Bolte, an industry consultant.
Nor does Chicago lose any momentum to Düsseldorf in terms of attendees. It’s one of the rare times the United States isn’t on the losing end of a trade deficit.
GASC Vice President Chris Price believes domestic trade shows that fall in the first quarter during a Drupa year have more of a challenge, whereas Graph Expo in the fall is a little more insulated.
“Since [a comparatively small number of] U.S. printers go to Drupa, Graph Expo ends up being a nice springboard for the products introduced in Germany,” Price points out.
Drupa organizers will also be on hand in booth 4649 at Graph Expo to provide printers with information on next year’s show, slated for May 29 to June 11 in Düsseldorf, Germany. PI
Hallowed Halls Welcome Inductees
Four new members will be ushered into the PRINTING IMPRESSIONS/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame during the annual Gold Ink Awards and Hall of Fame Banquet. This year’s fete takes place Monday evening, September 10, during Graph Expo. Joining the hallowed ranks of the men and women who have distinguished themselves, their companies and the industry at large are:
Publishing Executive magazine, PRINTING IMPRESSIONS’ sister publication, will honor three print production executives with Hall of Fame induction. They are:
Advance registration for the gala event is required. For more information on attending, contact Mike Cooper at (215) 238-5434 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.