On Demand - Into the Paperless Zone
BY ALLAN MARTIN KEMLER
NEW YORK—Last year at the On Demand Digital Printing & Publishing conference, the unofficial theme of the show was dotcom fever. Now that the fever has broken, the big bang buzz is all about paperless communication. But this isn't your father's "paperless office of the future," mind you. This is different.
In the past, when the term "paperless office" was first being bandied about like a baby at a bridal shower, the term reflected the hazy euphoria associated with early computing. This time around, having had the benefit of a few more years of experience to refine its point of view, the industry was able to more accurately express its vision of the future.
So what did it say?
"Paper is a powerful medium that will be around for generations, and the same is true of the Web, but those who stick their head in the sand will perish," insisted Charles Pesko Jr., managing director of CAP Ventures, during his keynote address. "You must embrace new digital printing technology."
Some 21,276 people heeded that call by attending the three-day conference and exhibit in New York, now in its eighth year. Although Pesko said the On Demand show was continuing to grow, the number of empty seats at the keynote painted a different picture. Still, those who came got to see the latest wares from some 200 exhibitors and learn what direction the industry is heading from experts like Pesko.
Introduced at the keynote as "Mr. On Demand," Pesko both cautioned and cajoled attendees about the perils of paper. Though careful to avoid declaring paper-based communications as completely dead (in fact, he said, CAP Ventures expects paper volume to increase over the next 20 years), he insisted that the foundation of the industry was changing. Citing data gathered by CAP Ventures, Pesko was quick to point out that betting your business' future on paper alone is tantamount to self-destruction, especially as paper use slows and e-pages grow.
"You must offer non-print services...to keep your business growing in the future," Pesko implored. "Make the decision today to deal with media other than print. If you elect to not make this transition, I suggest selling your business."
Using statistics bent toward a more paper-friendly future, Bernhard Schreier, chairman of Heidelberg's management board, agreed that businesses must begin providing non-paper-based services.
However, he chided Pesko's assessment of the future, saying, "I think both will play a major role in the future. I believe new technologies will supplement the printed page, not replace it."
Citing some of his own statistics in his portion of the keynote address, Schreier predicted strong, continued demand for paper through 2010. Heidelberg's chairman also countered Pesko's figures with humor, drawing mild peals of laughter from the audience when he remarked, "Reports of the death of hard copy were greatly exaggerated."
However, despite minor disagreements on the tack paperless communication will ultimately take, both men agreed that companies need to embrace digitally based printing and communication to be successful in the future.
"You're going to be competing with huge conglomerates as consolidation continues in the market," warned Pesko. "The role of the print provider is changing. Focus on producing new products and services to meet customer needs."
Speaking at the "Go Digital" panel discussion, Roger Gimble, director of worldwide marketing for Global Document Solutions, echoed many of these same themes.
"Make yourself a one-stop solution for your customers," Gimble encouraged printers. Some other advice:
- Be consultants to your clients.
- Help manage information migration.
- Get involved in database management.
- Offer variable data.
- Personalize digital documents.
Speaking at the same panel discussion, Todd Deluca, executive director of strategy and development for Riso, added a second movement to the "Go Paperless" concerto, suggesting that without a strategy to manage communications, printers could end up in dire straits.
"I think if there isn't an overall plan about how to manage a company's information, it's inviting trouble," Deluca cautioned. He also suggested consideration of these points when implementing a digital solutions strategy:
- What's your priority: Systems-based, cost-based or productivity-based?
- New systems require flexibility relative to technological advances.
- Continued access to advanced technology and trend information is a must.
- Security, storage and support.
Though this may not be the first time non-paper-based communication has been heralded as the next big thing, perhaps the best example of what companies have to gain from diversifying their offerings is evidenced by commercial print provider FP Horak, of Bay City, MI.
After deciding to diversify its offerings to include information management, print-on-demand, and mailing and fulfillment services, Horak went from $10 million in sales in the traditional forms market to $22 million in information management.