GRAPH EXPO 2014: The Allure That Is Chicago
There is a simplistic effectiveness associated with GRAPH EXPO that John Sommers Jr. finds appealing. The president and CEO of Allied Printing Services in Manchester, CT, loves walking the floor at McCormick Place South in Chicago, knowing he can get a heck of a lot more accomplished than he could while sitting in front of his laptop.
Convenience is what attracts many printers to the great Midwest every Fall in search of, say, a certain piece of equipment, that software package that will make their workflow highly efficient, or research for future investments. Sommers had all of his bases covered, having spent two days with his pressroom manager and two days with his bindery manager.
"We're getting close to making a big decision with a press manufacturer," Sommers allowed, not wanting to tip his hand too much. "We're also adding folding, stitching and strapping in the bindery…and off-line UV coating for digital.
"When you come to GRAPH EXPO and have specific vendors to visit, you can get a week's worth of research done in a couple of days, which is very beneficial."
Sommers also allowed himself some time to do general browsing, and came upon a paper banding solution that can be a friendlier alternative to a process that he says has become time- and labor-intensive. While paper banding pales in scope when compared to, for example, an inkjet press acquisition, it can certainly make a meaningful difference in the bottom line.
"Smaller investments add a lot of value and are compelling in terms of differentiation," he notes.
Walking the floor, Sommers definitely sensed an optimism that had been lacking at the show the last time he attended (2011). He spent time chatting with a number of colleagues in his peer group and came away with the distinct impression that they, too, were not in Chicago just to eat at the Kinzie Chophouse.
"The quality of attendees is definitely a lot higher," he observes. "There's not as much tire kicking going on."
Joseph Brennan straightened his tie as he peered over towards a number of representatives from a well-known postpress manufacturer. The vice president of engineering at prominent national book manufacturer Courier Corp., of North Chelmsford, MA, was about to have a formal meeting, which was part of a well-structured agenda.
Brennan says the company generally books 50 to 60 percent of its time at the show for meetings with Courier's manufacturing partners. Roughly 35 percent of the time is left for general browsing—to use a simplistic description. That tends to be Courier's general game plan for shows, be they GRAPH EXPO or drupa.
"We're visiting with our partners, checking out their digital initiatives, and we're seeing what technologies other vendors have to offer," Brennan notes. "The show seems to be well-attended. The folks we do business with are certainly well-represented."
Courier's GRAPH EXPO contingent featured Brennan and three members of his engineering staff. They arrived Monday morning for two and a half days of show work.
Brennan shared John Sommers' view of an optimistic, positive vibe emanating from the printer attendees. "I get a sense that people are here for a purpose. There doesn't seem to be a lot of window shopping," he says. "That's a good thing."
Derek Landheer figures he's been coming to Chicago for GRAPH EXPO for more than 20 years. This may strike you as odd, given that Landheer can't be a day over 35 years old and, in fact, looks much younger.
"We're a family business," Landheer, the production manager for Color House Graphics (CHG) of Grand Rapids, MI, reveals. "I've been coming here since I was 10 years old."
Landheer was in Chicago to conduct a little research. He wanted to investigate the progress of inkjet printing during the past six to 12 months and get a sense for where the technology is heading in the short-term future.
On the finishing side, Landheer wanted to examine current perfect binder offerings, and what kind of automation enhancements could be expected. "We're looking at how a 20-minute binder makeready can be reduced to 10 minutes or less," he notes.
Though Landheer thought attendance lagged behind past years, he was excited about the workflow enhancement technologies that were offered on the show floor. He had planned meetings with suppliers that serve CHG on a regular basis, but Landheer also relished the opportunity to learn more about alternative offerings.
"For us, it's more about researching the direction that is the best one for our company to take," he remarks.
Unscientific Observations Dept.: Was it just me, or did GRAPH EXPO 14 see perhaps its greatest influx of women at the annual trade show? It seems everywhere you turned, a sales/technical rep was providing information regarding a piece of machinery to a client or prospect who happened to be female.
Whether this represents a trend toward more women being tasked with making decisions regarding future equipment/software enhancements for their respective companies remains to be seen, but even a slight uptick in the female-to-male ratio must be viewed as a positive sign for an industry often viewed by outsiders as mature and technologically staid.
Did you notice the obnoxiously loud helicopters buzzing around McCormick Place on Monday morning during the show? Apparently, this is one of the few times you can blame President Obama…or at least his wife.
First Lady Michelle Obama was hitting the campaign trail on Sept. 29, stumping for the Democratic candidate for governor in Wisconsin, Mary Burke, who is attempting to unseat incumbent Scott Walker. On her way to the Land of Cheese, Mrs. Obama landed in Chicago. We don't have it on authority, but photos provided by Jodie Haynes of the Graphic Arts Show Co. show an Osprey helicopter (shown above) and what appears to be the Air Force One chopper, seem to indicate as such.
At least someone didn't have a tough time flying into Chicago in light of the fire incident that prompted hundreds of flights to be cancelled.
From the What Does This Have to Do With Printing Dept: Direct Mail 2.0 attracted customers to its booth with…puppies. Yep, at least two adorable puppies were available for hugging and general snuggling. They were about as cute as puppies can be, obviously, but not sure how it advanced the Direct Mail 2.0 platform…Give extra credit to Xanté for offering hair cuts within its booth. Practical though it may be, the connection to printing wasn't readily apparent. Perhaps this reporter missed out on the tagline. PI