2010 GUA Conference Returns to Its Birthplace
VANCOUVER, BC—As they say, what goes around comes around. That held true for the 15th annual Graphic Users' Association (GUA) North American Conference held here April 11-14, since the group traces its roots to an initial meeting in Vancouver 15 years ago. And, although some of the session topics may have evolved during that time, the event's mission to foster learning opportunities, peer-to-peer networking, and the ability for Kodak users to interact directly with company executives and product managers hasn't changed.
After brief welcome addresses on the opening day by Tom Clifford, GUA president and Web-to-print manager at HC Miller in Green Bay, WI, and Michele Laird-Williams, GUA executive director and Kodak's association manager, a keynote roundtable discussion featured select industry editors and analysts, including Mark Michelson, editor-in-chief of Printing Impressions. Alan Darling, senior vice president of sales and marketing at newly formed Content Critical LLC in Carlstadt, NJ, was the keynote speaker the following morning.
The morning keynotes each day were followed by breakout sessions for the 185 attendees on topics such as Kodak's Prosper inkjet press platform based on Stream Technology, ways to grow your business with digital printing, hybrid workflows, leveraging Kodak InSite prepress portal and Storefront solutions, and much more. A full program of GUA University classes was offered during the weekend prior to the event and a lab featuring Kodak and partner solutions for hands-on learning was open during the conference itself.
Bullpen sessions with Kodak executives and developers also gave GUA attendees forums to ask questions, address issues of concern and provide their input for future product development.
Evening entertainment included a welcome reception and a private tour of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.
Digital Book Printing Puts CPI in the Black
MESNIL SUR L'ESTRÉE, FRANCE—Book printer CPI has claim to two firsts with the HP T300 Inkjet Web digital press at its Firmin-Didot plant. It's the first installation completed in Europe and the first configured only with black, not CMYK, printing units. This seven-figure installation also is notable because it came at a time when CPI was completing a major financial restructuring that was required for the business' continued operation.
During a briefing for analysts and the media arranged by HP, Pierre-Francois Catté, chairman, noted that the book printer is now producing about double the number of individual jobs that it previously did to reach its 500 million annual production total. The downward trend in quantities, combined with CPI's new digital capabilities, gave rise to its slogan—"1 to 1 Million Books."
The company has branded its digital book production capabilities as the "Quantum" system. According to Bernard Kieffer, CPI's technology and supply chain director, a key component of the system is the custom-built Magnum FlexBook unit that receives the printed web, slits it into single-page ribbons and processes those ribbons into bound book blocks.
Kieffer said producing book blocks in-line with the press affords flexibility in the subsequent process of building finished books. That work is done on a Muller Martini Acoro binder in this initial Quantum setup, which is all in one room at the Firmin-Didot plant. The system is said to be able to produce about 2,000 books per hour and requires just three operators.
CPI came up with a business model first, then sought out a platform to enable it, Kieffer noted. Management's goal was achieving a linear cost curve across all run lengths. In practice, the book printer has ended up in a situation akin to other print markets—having to educate its customers to think in terms of the total cost and ROI.
In Europe, as in the United States, publishers have been conditioned to over order books because of the comparatively low incremental volume costs and fear of empty bookstore shelves. The return rate for unsold books averages 35 percent in France, for example, so the total cost per book sold ends up being much higher, Kieffer added.
Current inkjet printing technology is suitable for quantities of 500 to 3,000 books, he asserted. With CPI now able to offer two-day delivery, book publishers can place smaller initial orders and reorder as needed to cut overruns, while ensuring a title stays in stock. The per-piece cost for a digital book may still be higher, but the ROI for books sold is more competitive.
Kieffer admitted that publishers initially are skeptical when pitched the concept, so the company has been holding customer events to bring them onsite to see Quantum in action. "They have been impressed with the quality and say it's equal to, or better than, offset."
Two of the only 34 Cameron letterpress belt presses ever built sit in the next room at the Firmin-Didot facility, and the organization has nine overall, according to Kieffer. The two departments seem worlds apart, but the integrated book production capabilities of the Cameron line were the model for Quantum.
Catté characterized the company's recent moves as "transformational" and said CPI is making a major bet on inkjet web printing technology, which could include installing up to 10 systems over the next five years. Providing further evidence of this transformation, the company has since announced a draft agreement to divest a significant portion of its offset printing business.