Thursday, April 29, 2010

Color Calibration is the Key to Consistency; the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things seen!

Talk to ten people about color management and you will get ten (or more) different answers. I really like the commentary that Frank Romano wrote for

Frank suggested that "color management is the ultimate oxymoron. You can no more manage color than you can manage light or nature (or even teenagers)."

Unclutter your mind, Standardize your equipment

We all know that the same color image looks different when viewed on different monitors, printed on different proofers and printers, on different brands of paper, or even viewed under different lighting environments. Yet this is the task that we are given to accomplish. Color management is about characterizing color imaging devices. It is about understanding color space and the creation and proper use of profiles, both input and output. Color management is about achieving color portability and predictability so that you can count on the result.

If you are working in the digital world, you have to manage color somehow, whether by eye or by making a substantial commitment to hardware, software and training. Regardless of how far you have traveled down the color management path, you know this isn't easy. Don't forget, every color device and every combination of ink and paper has its own color "signature" requiring separate profiling and calibration to achieve the best results. (Perhaps this is why my hair has gone gray way before it's time.)

While many of the people selling color management solutions would like you to believe that installing their group of widgets and software will give you perfect color all the time, I prefer to look at color management as a way to achieve repeatable, consistent results. No matter what you have done to set up your color managed workflow, there will be some colors that you just can't reproduce or that are out of gamut for your suite of devices. A good color management system will allow you to deal with this in an efficient manner. So consistency is the key to the overall success. So how do we arrive at consistency you ask? Good process control!

Getting to Consistency

How sophisticated do you need your color management system have to be?

If you are working on in-house newsletters or printing real estate flyers on a color laser or inkjet printer, you may not need to do anything more than calibrate your monitor. Working with the default settings on your digital camera, scanner and printer may be producing acceptable results as is. There are many ways to set up your color managed workflow, there are a lot of options none of them are 100% right or wrong. There ARE things though you should do and things you shouldn't do; but you have a lot of options.

One thing that is very important regardless of which color space you work in or what or what color output profiles you assign is you do have to use the SAME settings across all of your cameras, scanners, and software applications etc to maintain consistent results. If you have multiple designers or pre press people that have their own computers you have to ensure that both are working in the same color space and using the exact same settings or jobs coming from both of them will ALWAYS look different.

If you are working in a photography/design studio and someone else has to output the files you may want to see what they are using and how much sense it makes to adopt their system for consistency sake (always ask for some help from your printer). I have found most printers are pretty happy to explain how they like their files set up before they start on the job. This will usually go a long way when it gets to press time. They may even have custom profiles for the equipment you are using, making the process even easier. If you know who will do the final output you can call ahead to find out what they will run the job on and ask them if they have the output profile for their device or how they would like the file setup and delivered.

Printers have a hard time of it as they deal with so many clients that it many times is impossible to "train" all of their parters to provide them with exactly what they need in the format that they need it. Hence the Pre Press department earns their keep. There are a lot of things that must be done by printers to ensure consistent color job to job so that the Pressman do not have to be "Artists." Web submission has helped this by taking files and processing them in a consistent and predictable manner you know that the fonts and graphics are there as the customer submitted them.

Many times printers are using a particular standard like SWOP or GRACol or using a particular methodology like G7. Most of the time they will be more than happy to put their geeks with your geeks to save them time in the long run. Everything you do will get closer to what you are aiming for and over time you can perfect the "art" of color managing your systems to work with theirs.

If it exists, It exists to be Calibrated

If you are going to implement a color management strategy in your print center and start down this many times slippery path, you need to manage it all. Calibration is a way to ensure process control. Calibration is not color management but you cannot color manage what is not controlled! But it will help allow you to implement a system of color management that will ensure consistent, predictable and repeatable results. Color calibration is a requirement for all devices taking an active part of a color managed workflow. You cannot arbitrarily pick one element to "Control." For instance calibrating your monitor is not enough. You will need to calibrate and profile all of your monitors, or have just one dedicated color workstation that everyone works from. All devices that are part of the system need to be controlled! Maintaining process control will allow you to implement a successful color management program.

Consistency is one of the major keys to color accuracy; so whenever you can standardize equipment do so – that will make your job a lot easier. You will need to profile every combination of printer and substrates (paper) that you use, because of the differences between them. This is work but once you get started things get a lot easier and when you quit having to redo things to get colors right you will be thankful. First, you must calibrate your monitor – using your flavor of color calibration software along with a spectrophotometer that you will attach to your screen.

For the most accurate results you will want to have your monitors in a subdued light environment to be able to discern color. The walls of the room should be a neutral grey so they do not add ambient color to the images you are viewing.

The light recommended for the ultimate viewing your prints in production uses yet another standard called Kelvin. Daylight is considered to be 5000K or 5000 Kelvin.

You will want to look at the papers you use and standardize a bit. Pick a good smooth proofing sheet that you can always use to look at comps etc. This day and age it is hard to find a good digital sheet that isn't completely saturated in optical brighteners which give the sheet a slightly bluish hue.

Optical brighteners are additives that paper manufacturers put into paper in order to help a paper look "whiter." They do this to compensate for the yellowish or brownish tinges of the low quality paper. It is an optical illusion though and is to fool your eye into thinking the paper is a bright white. This many times is factored in with the "Brightness Factor" you see mentioned on the package numbers over 100 indicate a high level of optical brighteners have been used.

L* is also another term used for the quality of a sheet and refers to it's "Lightness". L is one of the components of the L*A*B* or CIE (Commission Internationale De l'Eclairage ) LAB color space. Paper has a profound effect on the ultimate appearance of the image as a sheet with an L* of 80 will be several shades darker than a paper with an L* of 90 and so on. This make makes a huge difference when printing on such papers, as the sheet with an L* of 80 will add a 22.75% K component to the image your printing where as an L* of 92 only adds 9.41%.

Moral of the story, pick a good sheet that you like it should have a brightness of at least 98 (only adds 2.35%) to minimize the effect of the added K and profile the paper; many times you do not have to re-profile do to adjustments in thickness but you do for finish changes like from matt to satin, to gloss to uncoated. Uncoated papers have a different gamut that they can produce do to the propensity of the toners, dry inks, offset inks and other pigments to absorb into the paper fibers and not lay on top like a well coated stock.

The next step in process control after you have done your monitors is to calibrate your printer(s). Most of the higher end systems with print controllers will have their own targets and process to accomplish this but there are many that can be used as a standard like the IT-8.7 target. Then you can move on to whatever input devices you use, i.e. scanners, digital cameras, etc. Once your input devices are calibrated, you have a closed loop, calibrated system that should make it easy to achieve files and prints with outstanding color fidelity. Many times your equipment vendor will have a couple great targets to use and can show you what they should look like considering your setup.

Printers like other equipment need to be continually calibrated to be brought back to a baseline. Characterization profiles (output profiles) can be used to maximize what is known about your particular system. As you change key components of your printer like replace ink, toner, drums, or any other color critical component you need to recalibrate. As things like corona wires get older they take charge differently and this will change your color if you do not calibrate your machine routinely. After long runs you may want to recalibrate as well. Whether it is daily, weekly or whatever you need to put a process in place to ensure it gets done and in the same fashion each time.

Easier said than Done

The sad thing is that it is all easier said than done, as Frank Romano put it, "There are many standards committees, organizations, and vendors working on "standardized" approaches to color reproduction. It seems that the more standards we have, the more chaos there is." For the most part this is true but if we do nothing at all we will have customers upset and operators that have no hair! We have to start somewhere. Your equipment vendors will have ideas that will guide you in the right direction in the end you will have to put together a system that makes sense for you. There is no end to color management so it can get involved. You need to work out a process that is duplicate-able and predictable. Keeping things simple enough that everyone can follow the process and use the system will greatly help your success. Human error can also lead to color infidelity so having a system that is understood and always followed is key!

Even when you apply science to every input, viewing, and output device we still cannot control how the client or end user will see the finished product under what lighting conditions etc. The reality is that color management albeit full of science is still a highly practiced art form.

Bon Appetite

Pirate Mike

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Seven Deadly Sins of a New Equipment Purchase; how to buy your next press and be happy about it…

From being involved with the printing industry for now almost 20 years I have seen a lot of purchases go bad. Most of the time I was the guy that had to operate the new toy in hopes that it would magically bring in the "motherload" and pay off all of the other poor purchases before it. Now I am on the other end of the stick trying to help owners maximize their next purchase so that they can maximize their production and profitability through the shop.

Traditional printers have been very good at finding used presses and making due. But in this new world of digital printing and automated systems each owner has to become a better buyer. Many times the next purchase is not going to be a used piece of gear but something that fills a gap and brings him/her closer to the overall vision of the business.

In an age of globalization and increased competition on a regional and national level companies are being forced to make sure that each purchase they make is in fact the right one. As systems become more interdependent and "connectable" to our workflow and information systems we are increasingly becoming aware that each purchase is critical to the overall success of the shop. Purchases that may have taken a phone call now are taking 6 months or longer. Since we cannot just start over we find that most shops started off traditionally buying a piece of equipment for a particular task or customer. Now each purchase needs to be taken into consideration so that eventually we can "plug" them all in to an automated manufacturing system. Between "Green" and "Lean" there is a lot for the printing entrepreneur to learn and master.

From being on both sides of the fence these are the 7 most common mistakes that I have seen made by printing professionals and their production management when looking to make a new equipment purchase.

Sin #1 Not knowing the nature of the orders being taken and the needs of the customer base
  • Many owners when asked are not sure of the nature of the jobs being brought in or how many jobs are being sent out. It is critical before buying a new piece of equipment to have a comprehensive understanding of the current jobs being taken in.
  • Understanding the customer base is very important to. Most owners will tell you that they are generally a "commercial printer" but when you take a closer look they tend to have a clientele that leans one way or another. Knowing who your customer is and what they need will help you look at your equipment palette to know where you are lacking.
  • Knowing how many deals are being lost and why. Are you losing to price or because you are outsourcing and are not competitive? Are you losing due to antiquated equipment that is not in line with today's practices? Most of today's presses are automated, you may be able to save money buying a press that isn't but lose to your competitors because your set up time is 4x longer. In today's short runs if it takes you longer than 15-20 minutes to set up your job you are already losing.
  • As jobs are being completed it is always a good idea to hand deliver some of these to get a pulse of what changes may be taking place in your customer's requirements. Some shops do not have dedicated sales staff or customer service representatives, so it is imperative that the owner do these deliveries to ensure he/she is in touch with changes going on inside of their customer's organizations.
  • Take your best customer to the equipment demo and run one of their jobs on the new device and ask them, "Is this what you want?" If the sales person can sell them you are possibly looking at a good acquisition.

Sin #2 Not keeping up with the industry economics and technology advancements
  • Printing is a complex and ever changing industry; the closer you are to your clients and competitors the better you will be able to make decisions.
  • As the industry evolves it becomes more and more digital and automated. Do not let the technology slip away from you. You must stay on top of what is going on and not rely on someone else in your organization to do it for you. Be proactive it's your business so drive it!
  • Technology brings advancements that can fill holes in your product offerings, streamline your workflow, and increase your profitability & productivity. Make it your business to know what is out there and keep a list of questions ready for anyone that wants to talk to you about equipment.

Sin #3 Buying a piece of equipment based on the payment with no plan
  • You would think this one would be a no brainer, but many times companies will make decisions solely on the monthly payment and have no plan on how to implement the new acquisition.
  • Look to your equipment vendors for help, lean on the top 2 or 3 choices in your area and ask them for ideas. Many times manufacturers have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into industry experts to devise plans and give advice to their customers on how to maximize their investment. Most companies that value your business will offer plans on how to best utilize your new "potential" investment.

Sin #4 Buying on relationship only and not looking at the company behind the relationship
  • This happens equally as often; you know the sales rep so you forget to investigate the company behind them. True sales reps are a bit migratory like pressman and other positions on the floor, but more often than not sales people looking for a job get sold on grandiose ideas of their new employer and may not know what they have gotten themselves into before it's too late for them and you!
  • Make sure that you are dealing with a reputable dealer or direct manufacturer branch. Take the time to get references and look into what level of service that they are willing to offer and guarantee.
  • When dealing with a dealer or authorized reseller make sure that the company you are dealing with is solvent. The contact may be for 3 or 5 years but they need to be around to honor it! Getting service after they go out of business may be a lot more difficult than you think! Companies do not like taking over service on equipment that they didn't sell and could charge you exorbitant fees to go through and bring the machine up to spec.
  • When making a large acquisition take the time to review what you think you need and take the time to sit down with each of the reps from the companies that you are considering. Walk them through the plant and explain what you need to get done and why. Don't leave out anything you think is material, good reps have worked in the industry and are students of the business.
  • Good sales reps are truly entrepreneurial and have valuable ideas. They are walking in and out of shops all day long and may have valuable ideas on how to improve your operation as they have seen what has worked and failed in other shops. On the other hand it is not wise to buy from a rep that has not walked the walk. People pushed by greed will say anything.
  • Relationships are good and many times they keep you away from bad purchases and untimely deals, just always remember to do your research. Don't think that a relationship is a pass to not do your homework!

Sin #5 Buying for today and not looking out for tomorrow
  • Be aware of what is going on in your shop and don't let equipment decisions be put to the last second.
  • You know your lease expires in a year, then it is time to start looking; waiting till 2-3 months out is a disaster waiting to happen. You have spent all your time running your business and dealing with issues how are you going to get caught up in 2-3 months. Most contacts have odd requirements know exactly what you need to do to notify your current vendor upon lease end.
  • You know you have a customer that needs short run digital but you're not currently doing variable data so you short change the system with a built in controller. Know the industry trends, look at what is going on with your customers do not get caught off guard in a 3 or 5 year lease for jobs that require a reconfiguration of equipment you have already purchased.
  • Things are constantly changing look for equipment that is versatile and can grow with you. Look for equipment that may not be the cheapest but that might outlast the lease.

Sin #6 Buying equipment based on hardware specs alone
  • It is easy to get hung up on the science of it all. Whatever you do look at each equipment purchase in light of the other equipment in the shop and the systems that you have in place or may put into place. As JDF and Cip4 become more widely used you will want all of your equipment to be able to participate in the automation. Do not let the fact that someone else's equipment is 5 pages per minute faster or $50 dollars cheaper a month discourage you from looking at the big picture.
  • Implementation process, be sure to know what is involved and do not get caught off guard. What seemed cheaper and better was only if you did a bunch of things on your own that could cost you a small fortune like install special environmental controls or create a separate room for the device.
  • Ensure that you have a clear understanding on how your operators are going to get trained, support after the sale and ongoing training.
  • Substrate Flexibility. Yes it's fast and yes it's cheap but if you can only print on 1 brand of paper that is 3x more expensive than your competition then it's not worth buying! Don't just stop at the equipment; look into everything that will go into the system.

Sin #7 Biting off more than you can chew; not all deals are created equal
  • Everyone wants the lowest click charge, but what people do not seem to ever understand that it is better to hedge your bets than to bet the farm. If you are only doing 60,000 don't vouch for 100,000, set your monthly at 50,000 and pay the overages. Sometimes companies will do a cost per copy but many times the rates for them are quite a bit higher than setting a reasonable base and paying overages when needed.
  • Understand exactly what your responsibility is toward the servicing of the new system and how your operators are going to be trained and kept current.
  • When looking at your needs plan 3 to 5 years out. Depending on your financial situation don't get caught up in keeping up with the printer next door. On the other hand don't under buy because you are not willing to take the time to plan and execute a plan to afford the right equipment.
  • When moving into a new area or product offering, look at the strata of the equipment for that arena. Typically there are light production, mid and heavy production devices in all areas of the shop. If this is your first step in an area make sure to make the distinction and know what volumes are needed to support each level of equipment. Look hard at what you have "in hand" and what you can readily access through your current customer base. If you are boarder line step up to the next level now but put into action a plan to get you to a sustainable level quickly. If you are well below what you need to enter the arena with your own equipment look at used or "rental" equipment if none exists look to your fellow printers that are not direct competitors to you and work out a deal, they have payments to make as well!

All in all printers are becoming better buyers all the time. With experience being the best teacher many of the best buyers have made a few mistakes along the way. Unfortunately some of those mistakes make have cost them a shop or two. In today's economic environment it pays to be a student of your business and reach out to those that can help.

Today most manufacturers have representatives that do not do the end selling but can offer technical advice and offer suggestions. Taking advantage of these people can be a valuable asset in looking into a new equipment purchase. Most Sales Reps for "big iron" production equipment understand the financial metrics that are required to make a piece of equipment profitable. Asking is free so don't be shy when digging for information.

Treating your sales person with respect and as a person goes a long way when the chips are down. Many reps need a poke or two to keep them jumping but they will work much harder when treated as professionals. Don't buy what you think is a good product from someone that cannot help you. The rep that is sent out to you is your connection to the company.

Sure there are 1-800 numbers and online this and that but the flesh and blood being sent out to service you is what you will know from the company you choose. Your experience will be based on their ability to get you connected to the resources inside of that organization. Almost all manufacturers of production products have some great people but depending on the area you are in you may not have access to them. Make sure you have met the service personnel and the sales management so that you have plenty of touch points to keep your boat afloat!

Pirate Mike

This is a bit over simplified, but I am going to produce a series that will look at this process in depth, but for now enjoy!

Here a press there a press; the competition narrows…

Now that On Demand is behind us we can get back to work. With the economy coming around and companies looking at capital improvements again the rush is on to put more toys in front of owners. With the digital production competition narrowing the choices are getting easier to make.

The field is down to about 4 key players; Konica Minolta, Xerox, Canon and Ricoh. With the new introductions by Xerox and Konica Minolta you can be assured that there are launches in progress or planned for this year!

The color production systems that are now for consumption are the:

    Konica Minolta
                bizhub PRO 5501/6501
                bizhub PRO 65hc
                bizhub PRESS C8000
                Xerox 700
                DocuColor 5000AP
                DocuColor 7002/8002
                Xerox Color Press 800/1000
                imageRUNNER ADVANCE C9065 PRO/C9065 PRO
                imagePRESS C1
                imagePRESS C6000
                imagePRESS C6000VP
                imagePRESS C7000VP
                Ricoh Pro C550/C700 also known as the MPC 6000/7500
                (office grade color copier)

                Ricoh Pro C720/C900

The quality and consistency of these devices gets better with each generation. So far this year a number of new devices have been introduced raising the bar for the introductions that are slated for the end of the year. It has been interesting to watch the operations from inside several of these companies. Sometimes the success of a device has nothing to do with how good it is but by the hearts of those that sell it. That I have witnessed firsthand. As I get ready to get back into the workforce I am hoping for a full recovery of the economy and look forward to swinging the battle axe once more.

Pirate Mike

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Graphic Arts Monthly Closed; what in the world is going on?

I have been hearing about the closure for a while but it just hit me how long I have been reading GAM. And really how much I learned by keeping in touch through the trade journals.

This memo was posted on their website

"Graphic Arts Monthly has closed

No additional print issues will be published, and this web site will close on April 30, 2010.

RBI Staff -- Graphic Arts Online, April 16, 2010
Our parent company, Reed Elsevier, announced in July of 2009 its intentions to substantially exit its Reed Business Information-US publishing business, while retaining specific businesses. Over the past several months, multiple publishing brands were divested. As of April 16, 2010, the remaining publishing brands and their associated products and services have closed.

As a result Graphic Arts Monthly has closed. No additional print issues will be published, and this web site will close on April 30, 2010.

For a full list of the brands that have been closed, the brands that have been retained, and the brands that have sold, please see the Reed Business Information-US corporate web site at

We are proud of the role we have played in helping our loyal readers, advertisers and partners. Thank you for your support.

-- Reed Business Information-US"

I can remember when I was just getting started in this business, I signed up for everything. I was receiving 10-15 different trade journals a month and became a student of the business. It was a great way to see new products and equipment come out and a way to stay in touch with the industry from a national perspective. I do realize that there are plenty of online sources but many of them do not have the editorial content and journalists to keep up with the content collection and creation. It is a very sad day when we don't support our own industry. The magazines were created for us; they kept us in tune with what was going on. I for one am saddened to see so much turmoil in the printing and publishing industry. I guess all that will be left are a few national conglomerates, and handful of quick printers and a bounty of web programmers.

I hope that people can look forward and not lose hope as we move through a tough time in our economy and an awkward time in our industry. The digital age does not mean less print it just means we are creating it differently. As an industry we must keep on top of the changes and support those allied industries that do this "compiling" for us so that we can tend to the production work at hand. The shows, the magazines are all part of our industry we need to support them as they rely on us for their livelihood. Just as we rely on our customers to keep coming back and being loyal to us.

Pirate Mike

Monday, April 19, 2010

Konica Minolta, the bizhub PRESS® C8000; coming out serving CREO out of the gates…

Konica Minolta has always partnered with Creo for controllers but many times the Creo Controller wouldn't be available at launch. The new Konica Minolta, the bizhub PRESS® C8000 will be shown at On Demand with the The IC-307 Print Controller. This new Creo Controller will be JDF compliant as to fit into the most predominant workflows like KODAK Printergy and Agfa Apogee and many other top level systems. Anymore not being able to maximize your investment with your production printing means extra steps and wasted resources. By tying your systems together and maximizing your capital investments your getting closer to a LEAN environment. This is one way to PRINT LEAN!

The new Konica Minolta, the bizhub PRESS® C8000 will boast a twin fusing system like the Canon imagePRESS to allow rated speed up to 300 GSM.

With true 1200 X 1200 Dpi and the Konica Minolta standard 8 bit color you are surely going to have world class color. I have not seen the device but everyone that has been privileged to work on it seems to think this "clean sheet" design will revolutionize how production color is produced. With the ability to run 300 GSM at rated speed you will have the opportunity to maximize your production. Running up to 300GSM duplexed or 350GSM simplex will allow for more options in the shop. Especially since 14pt and 16pt business cards are becoming so prominent now days.

For those that are serious about investing in a production color device this year take some time and go to On Demand starting tomorrow and get a glimpse of history in the making. From exacting color management tools to the production level inline finishing options this new digital press is surely going to make some IGEN, NexPRESS and Indigo owners take notice with a price tag of half to 2/3rds Less and an operating cost that rivals cheap color copiers there are going to be some changed buying decisions over the next few years by these big iron owners.

I am excited to see the technology deliver the promise that was offered some fifteen years ago that never materialized. The next time you think Digital Press Don't Forget toThink Bizhub!

Pirate Mike

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Just when you thought you were safe! Ricoh America’s is Closing down their Irving Texas Location!

New fiscal year starts and you are scared for your job, things are not right but then April 1st comes and goes and you go Whew! Thank god you still have a job! Then you cautiously wait for the compensation plans to come out and Whew no big deal.

Then just when you thought it was safe to get out of the closet - Wham Unemployed! I have predicting this for months and now it is a reality.

When everyone thought I was crazy here are the facts:

"Ricoh Americas Corp., which sells and provides services for imaging equipment such as printers and copiers, plans to close an Irving location, according to a filing with the Texas Workforce Commission.
Some 53 people will be affected by the June 4 shutdown, according to the April 2 letter to the agency.
The letter did not disclose a reason for the closure of the office. Comment wasn't immediately available Wednesday from the West Caldwell, N.J. unit of Japan's Ricoh Co.
According to the corporate data service Hoover's, Ricoh Co. had a total of 110,000 employees and $21.5 billion in revenue last year."
Read more: Ricoh Americas Corp. to close Irving shop; 53 employees affected - Dallas Business Journal:

Well there it is the I's have it! And I don't mean Ayes I mean I's IKON has survived the first round it will be interesting to see how long it will take to get all of the extra real estate dealt with!

The carnage is about to begin! Even thought I didn't want to be unemployed myself it is probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me! I was not happy selling their equipment and had no successful installations of their color equipment. I was probably on track to ruin my reputation as a consultant if I continued on.

We will see what happens in the coming months but it cannot be good for anyone that stayed there. Compensation plans didn't change that radically, with the exception that they are trying to make it very hard to afford to be under plan.

I don't blame them on that one. They had tons of people making rent at 36% and they still kept them! Everyone that I know that was at or over 100% has left with a few rare exceptions at least locally.
Happy Sale'ing

Pirate Mike

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Inkjet is building steam; will it ever do anything other than transactional…

Inkjet is building steam and this time in a new report!

"In its "North American Transactional Printing Market Update & Forecast 2009-2014" study, Interquest reports that inkjet presses are gaining volume and installations. Interquest is a leading market and technology research and consulting firm serving the digital printing and publishing industry.

The 2009 study notes that although inkjet equipment accounts for only four percent of the transactional printing systems (monochrome, spot and full color) used by respondents to the survey, inkjet presses produce 35 percent of the total transactional print volume reported – up from 31 percent the year before. The number of print operations using inkjet equipment took a big jump. The survey found that about one-third of the respondents now use inkjet equipment for transactional printing, up from 16 percent in the first half of 2008."

What will be interesting to watch is how well this technology is received as the quality gets better. All I have heard from printers lately have been thoughts that the volumes will not be there if they take the risk and invest in the technology. But transactional and trans promotional volumes are relatively untapped as not many printers have attempted to sell this business. As the economy strengthens companies will have to return to the drawing board and look at their capabilities and ensure that they are investing in areas they can make money in and that has growth potential.

Printers are struggling to reinvent themselves this time as technology is pushing them away from their traditional business. I have had many comments from printers that were a bit on the negative side on the high volume inkjet, I am worried that they will pass this opportunity up and allow the commercial sector to invest which will shut them out of the business completely. In house marketing departments already have the ability to add 3 or 4 small machines to take over much of their companies printing needs. As in-plant facilities grow in capabilities and skill sets traditional printers will lose their foothold.

It is interesting how much cross media advertising that I receive but printers are saying "no one is doing it." Traditional advertising agencies have stayed away from cross media as it requires them to add additional skill sets beyond just the creative. I think it is time to rethink business plans and put away the ideas of "this is how we have always done it." Every day another printer goes out of business or gets acquired by one of the conglomerates. As employment comes back and companies start thinking about capital reinvestment printers need to be the first ones in their ear talking about where they can spend their money.

The print salesman of the last decade will not be the print salesman of the next. Marketing services and solution selling will take over and the idea of asking for "cost center" business will be over with, as most companies can produce that work themselves. If printers keep shying away from the work the commercial sector will use their IT and marketing departments to develop their own cross media programs and printers will lose out on that business as well. The work is getting printed but will it get into the hands of a printer is the only question.

With the advent of Inkjet this ability to produce high volumes of print inexpensively will be just one more tool in the data center that could easily erode volumes that go out to the local print shop. With the resurgence of direct mail it is only time that Inkjet will get its hold on the industry. Now with everyone demanding quality 1 to 1 marketing in their direct mail programs and as those programs get adopted by larger institutions the run sizes will grow. This business lends itself to inkjet as long as the quality is there, otherwise it will go to the electrophotography devices that we are used to.

As digital presses advance (electrophotography) Inkjet will have new quality levels and substrate standards to meet. Maybe the technology will never get to that point but I doubt it. "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." - Alan Kay and the Inkjet companies are working hard to rival the "dry ink" technologies quality and substrate handling it will only be a matter of time before we see the technology mainstream. With Canon's latest purchase of Oce they are making sure that they do not have all their eggs in one basket. This acquisition could prove to be a very valuable one in the future.

Fortunately for those of us that sell the "dry ink" technologies, inkjet is new, expensive and the quality is not quite there. But many companies are joining in the race to develop a new level of inkjet so this will be a no holds barred battle. 

Pirate Mike

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Let’s Get Ready To Rumble; US economy is showing strong signs of coming back…

Here we are 04/13/2010, exactly 3 months since I had a slight employment diversion. During the 3 months I had an opportunity to take a good look around me and realize that things were not as I remembered them. I had been so busy focused on the insanity that was around me at our office that I had forgotten to look outside or really listen to my clients talk about their experiences with the economy.

What is sad is how easy it is to get caught up in the forecasting, closing and the implementing of what we do and forget that there is a real war outside. Our economy has taken some major hits which has severely impacted all of us in one way or another. I had my head buried so deep in the sand that I didn't realize how vulnerable we are really were, until I ended up on the unemployment line. No one is irreplaceable and I guess that is the lesson that I had to learn. I do think it is a lack of leadership not to be able to make corrections without throwing the baby with the bathwater but that was not my call.

In the end I ended up in a culture where I was already a known entity and had a strong track record of success; so the hope is that after 3 months of soul searching I too will be part of the solution to our National economic issues. The good news is that the US economy is optimistically coming out of its funk slowly but surely. There are many strong signs of recovery in our favor and a few that were not.

Printing shipments were down month to month and year over year. In January 2010 commercial printing shipments were $6.7 billion, down -7.2% compared to 2009. This data is a bit obscure but can be found at the Manufacturers' Shipments, Inventories, and Orders also known as the M3 survey has monthly statistical data on economic conditions in the domestic manufacturing sector. The survey measures current industrial activity and provides an indication of future business trends. The preview for February's report will come out March 24th. There are a lot of organizations and individuals that take this raw data and manipulate it to formulate their own opinions on the state of our economy. Of interest to those that sell the big iron or are purchasers of the big iron a report that is nicely put together with analysis and commentary is the one produced by

Dr. Joe Webb, director of WhatTheyThink's Economics and Research Center, they have just released a current report titled, "North American Monthly Printing Shipments, Issue #52." This report is available for purchase at: I had never really spent much time looking at economics or the reports as they came out till I became unemployed. The old days I would have made a phone call to the company of my choice and would have found myself picking a desk the same day. In this new world I did have a lot of job opportunities but getting the decision makers to pull the trigger on an addition to their payroll budget was not as easy as it used to be. While unemployed I started to pay attention to the financial reports release dates and following what was going on much closer than I had ever done before.

But there are a lot of people looking forward to the "Spring" back of our economy. In an audio report by Jerry Webman, Ph.D. a Senior Investment Officer & Chief Economist for the Oppenheimer Funds I found this report to be very "level headed" and was characterized by cautious optimism. His sentiments can be found all over the economic strata. Many do share Mr. Webman's thoughts and they are easily found. His commentary can be found here: U.S. Economic Recovery in Full Swing--Weekly Market Commentary.

Founded in 1915, the Institute for Supply Management™ (ISM) is the largest supply management association in the world as well as one of the most respected. ISM's membership base includes more than 40,000 supply management professionals with a network of domestic and international affiliated associations. ISM is a not-for-profit association that provides opportunities for the promotion of the profession and the expansion of professional skills and knowledge.The ISM releases 2 reports a month, the Manufacturing ISM Report On Business® and the March 2010 Non-Manufacturing ISM Report On Business® The ISM used to be known as the Purchasing Managers Index or PMI.

The manufacturing sector has been coming back now for 8 months. WE are now seeing new job creation begin and will continue as the economy recovers. Jobs finally returned in March, however, as nonfarm payrolls increased by 162,000 (48,000 were census workers). Manufacturing payrolls rose by 15,000 and construction payrolls by 17,000 which were 2 of the hardest hit and are now showing some reprieve. Temporary employment improved in March by 40,000 which could be a indicator for future job growth as companies retain those employees fulltime when merited. There are all good signs for our industry and the recovery of our economy in the near future.

Here are a few key pieces of the ISM report.

New Orders
Supplier Deliveries
From Contracting
Customers' Inventories
Too Low
Backlog of Orders
Manufacturing Sector

There are a lot of reports and raw data out there for those that have the time to acquire and distill it. One government site that keeps a nice calendar of all of the key government reports can be found here: the National Bureau of Economic Research also keeps a nice list of economic reports and their releases on their New Economic Releases Page.

Pirate Mike

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Winds of Change; Konica Minolta repositioning the troops for the next wave of the offensive...

The Morning with Michael:

I have been going to comment about this release since the day it came out but had a few other posts that were a priority. Now that the articles have served their purpose I will make my comments.

Konica Minolta positioning Jun Haraguchi Takes on Global Leadership Role for Konica Minolta Business Technologies in Japan; Nobuo (Ned) Umehara Takes Over as President and CEO of Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. on April 1

Ramsey, N.J. - March 25, 2010 - Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. (Konica Minolta), a leading provider of advanced imaging and networking technologies for the desktop to the print shop, today announced senior management changes.

Jun Haraguchi, President and Chief Executive Officer will return to Japan to become General Manager, Worldwide Sales and Marketing for Konica Minolta Business Technologies, Inc. In his new position he will be responsible for global sales operations and marketing strategy. Mr. Haraguchi has spent the last 13 years in positions of increasing responsibility within Konica Minolta, the last five years as President and CEO of Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. During his tenure he led the successful integration of Konica and Minolta, the integration of several acquisitions, most recently Danka Office Imaging, while improving market share and the overall operating performance of the company. He will remain on the board of directors of Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A.

Nobuo (Ned) Umehara has been named President and Chief Executive Officer of Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. effective April 1, 2010. Mr. Umehara, who until recently served as General Manager of OEM Sales for Konica Minolta Business Technologies, has been with Konica Minolta for 33 years. He has considerable experience in the U.S. market having worked here on two separate assignments in the past, once in the printer division and once within the MFP sales operation. Mr. Umehara will be leading an organization with strong brand awareness, award-winning product lines, and a solid infrastructure in place.

"It has been a privilege leading a dynamic organization such as Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A.," said Haraguchi. "Despite the tough economy over the past two years, our corporation has been able to grow market share and improve operating performance. Ned will be assuming responsibility for a company that is led by a strong senior management team and is well positioned for future success. I want to thank the entire Konica Minolta family for their unwavering support and dedication during my time here, and I look forward to their future success - both individually and as a group."

"I am honored to take on this important role at this time in our company's history," said Umehara. "Leveraging the strength of the operation, I envision continuing our strategies to expand our presence in commercial print, managed print services, and the solutions business while gaining share in the core MFP business. One thing is certain, and that is our business partners and end users will not be affected during this transition. My number one goal is to ensure them they can continue to count on Konica Minolta for industry-leading technologies and superior service."

There are lots of changes going on inside of the office equipment sector and more to come as everyone reposition themselves for the 2010 fiscal year. New product introduction are being prepared, new compensation plans are being presented and explained to the troops.

Some organizations had the setup that if you were at 60% of plan you were still making money, the new trend is to set those gates so that anyone under 80% is unhappy and people that over achieve are very happy. Oddly enough in the midst of the storm there has come upon the industry a "calm peace."

Now that Ricoh/IKON have made their first moves to consolidating the new world reps from RiKON seem to be ok with the changes. Their compensation plan has adopted the above strategy which is the kind that you would expect in a sales organization. No one should be happy at 60-80% of their budget.

Konica Minolta was not in such a place of upevil but more in a transition that will be marked by the normal marching orders. Repositioning the troops, working on the distribution model, fine tuning supply chain and cheering on the troops. They have a lot to be proud of coming out of a markedly tough 2009 with the loss of one of their lead distributors of production products and the loss of a key strategic partnership with Oce.

They are poised to make a remarkable comeback as the introduction of their new FLAGSHIP product the 8000! This new tool of destruction will be of the likes of the Canon imagePRESS, Xerox 8002, Ricoh Pro C900 ETC. That paired with their own "heavy iron" black and white offereing the 1200. They are ready to do battle with the likes of Xerox, HP and Kodak!

Being prominently displayed at the 2010 On Demand show it almost makes you want to buy a plane ticket just to see it. As Konica Minolta repositions itself within the Print Production as an "End to End" provider not just of hardware but also in the lines of solutions we will see a Gartner "Challenger" move toward Jun's original battle cry "We are on the road to Tier 1." This battle cry was introduced in Jun's road tour of the branches in North America.

I have met Jun personally several times and was always enamored with his charisma and ability to reach down to everyone and pull them up. It is a sad day to see him leave but I am sure that they have great plans for a warrior of his caliber. All in all the seas are calming down only to meet the currents that are bringing the next wave of economic changes to us.

That's it for Pirate Mike's observations of the day, I hope that your day is full of prospects and that your afternoon is absent of any excessive service call reports! The winds have been strong the last few days so I am about to head off and "go catch the wind."

Good Sale'ing...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lakefest Approaches; another year to celebrate

Texoma Lakefest Regatta began nearly a quarter century ago as the Easter Regatta; Lakefest was the first charity regatta in the United States. Today, it has grown to become one of the nation's premiere sailing events and is still recognized as the largest inland charity regatta in the U.S.

April 16th, 17th, and 18th

Lakefest is not just for Sailors! Everyone can enjoy the event and participate by coming out to watch the fleets battle it out and then party with the rogues at the Shipwrecked Ball! From coming out on the spectator boats to drinking and dancing with a bunch of saucy sailors you are guaranteed to have a blast!

This year, Lakefest will feature two separate racecourses: one for spinnaker and main and jib handicap (PHRF) fleets and one dedicated to Melges 24, J/80 and performance multi-hull One Designs. With a large number of PHRF boats expected, the handicap fleet will be divided into numerous divisions giving everyone from high octane racing sloops to "bimini and BBQ" cruisers ample and fair competition. Keelboats of all sizes, kinds and speeds are encouraged to participate.

Since its inception, Lakefest has raised more than $2 million in support of various children's charities in North Texas. The Texoma Lakefest Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit corporation.

In 2009, the Texoma Lakefest Foundation selected a new beneficiary – the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of North Texas. The sole purpose of the Make-A-Wish Foundation is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions, in order to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Their goal is to provide children with the hope for better times, strength through the tough times and the joy to experience the present. The Make-A-Wish Foundation has granted more than 3,000 wishes since its inception in 1982.

With the changing of times comes new life. This new combination of Sailor's Championing a Cause will bring new life to children that desperately need hope and comforting. Sailing has seen many charity events. Sailors as a whole, race for the right to say they challenged an obstacle and won. In this new chapter of Lakefest we challenge you to help Make A Wish come true for these children!

We will see an increasing level of competition and number of sailors participate as we make others aware of the event and as fleets decide to participate and help to make it great. That way we can all get together to enjoy the great competition and the spirit of helping others not so fortunate.

Texoma Lakefest Regatta is sponsored by the hard working volunteers at the Texoma Sailing Club. The club is headquartered at Grandpappy's Marina and Resort on the South East side of Lake Texoma near Highway 75. Texoma Sailing Club is one of the largest and most active sailing clubs in Texas! Our full racing and social calendar provides ample opportunity for all members to be as involved as they wish. As member of US Sailing you can be assured to have both of your needs for a well organizaed and challenging event, fun and adventure will be fulfilled!

As we move forward, looking to bring Lakefest to a new level of support and attendance we hope that all racers whether they are PHRF, First Timers, or One Design remember to mark their calendars and come out each and every year to participate in one of the country's greatest sailing events!

Pirate Mike

Bowman for Second Star Racing Team

Click Here to get your Shipwrecked Ball Tickets

Feel free to contact me here at the blog for more information or follow the links above to make your plans to attend or race...