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Has Technology affected business - A Printer's thoughts.

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posted on Jun, 7 2004 @ 05:39 PM
Technology. It's a wonderful thing. To be able to update to the latest and greatest in machinery be it from your desktop computer to your mode of transport. But is technology killing business?

My backround is printing. I am a manager of a printing firm and I have seen technology create a very cut throat and lucritive market within the industry. I'd like to share with you my experiences and observations.

I started out approximately 10 years ago on a printing traineeship to learn the trade. It wasn't that hard actually, due to the relative simplicity of the technology back then. I mastered hot foil printing as well as flexographic printing. Let me explain those processes before we continue

Hot Foil Printing - The process of using foils not unlike cellophane used to wrap presents! This foil, through heat and pressure is applied to various substrates to create very unique and presentable outcomes. It's real forte is the use of metallic foils. In it's day the gold leaf on a sticker or letterhead
portrayed elegance and style. We were literally inundated with orders. The process did have it's drawbacks however. It was basically slow. Around 8 to 10 thousand labels an hour which meant if you got an order of half a million labels you would tie up a machine for days.

The Rapid RP180. In it's day one of the finest printing machines on the market. It is still one of the big sellers at the bigger print shows

Flexo Printing - The process of transferring ink from a various array of ink rollers and plate to a substrate. This was my first experience with full colour printing. It was amazing to watch as you added just four process colours (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) to make photo's and images come to life. Again the process had it's drawbacks. It was costly, no doubt about that. Small run work less than 5000 labels was unheard of due to the simple fact that it was so expensive to set the machine up for so little work.

The Comco Cadet. Our flexographic printing machine. 5 Colour operation, it churns out around a million labels a week.

This is where technology played a part. I can remember having such a niche market due to the fact that very few printing companies could print ink and foil and make it cost effective. We enjoyed the benifits of this, and thrived on the orders. We then started to see a shift in the market, to
Digital Technology. Hundreds of machines from various companies were hitting the market that claimed to print straight from the computer to the machine. No more setup costs was the catch cry of most of these digital machine companies. But we were lucky, the early model digital machines
were of poor standard, had low resolution and the product had to be laminated to give the output any protection.

A few companies I know of moved in too early. Hungry for their slice of the new short run full colour market, and eventually ended up closing their doors. The old faithful processes of printing stayed true and lived on to fight another day. But this digital technology got better. Piezo electric head technology and the invent of solvent inks ensured that digital was the way to go. The machines got faster and perfected the art of printing in high resolution, My printing firm knew it was time to move on and bought a wide format solvent inkjet machine.

The Mimaki JV3 Wide Format True Solvent Inkjet printer. Capable of 1440 dpi with acceptable speed and accuracy

But what of the old processes, hot foil and flexo. Well I am sad to say that they have gone by the wayside a little, being a sales manager now, I find it increasingly difficult to sell these labels. The customer mindset now is Full Colour short run work. And now it is as cost effective as ever.

The companies that did not join the digital express are slowling dwindling. Granted some of the bigger companies will be around for the long haul, but due to every man and his dog renting small office space, putting in one of these digital machines, with little overheads and cutting the price
so many of us cannot compete with our older processes.

From this - A beautifully crafted hot foil label complimented by the gold leaf printing

To this - A full Colour label printed at 1440 dpi on our mimaki JV2

To summarise, technology may be a great thing. To have the latest and greatest in everything is a wonderful thing. But think of the old man with his superannuation hanging on to the fact that his business is fading and his equipment is worthless. It doesn't paint a pretty picture.

posted on Jun, 7 2004 @ 06:35 PM
Well doesnt technology help business? If it wasnt for the invention of the printing press we would be writing everything by hand, and that's technology, and has helped printing a lot.

posted on Jun, 7 2004 @ 06:45 PM
For writers like me, technology is literally squeezing the life out of the written word. The average person doesn't want to read a book- they want their MTV and their internet porn. This has turned booksellers into more cutthroat folks- 52% of all books are sold online these days anyways. If it doens't move, they'll drop you like a hot rock. That, and middle men mean that only the big sellers get shelf time in places like Indigo.


posted on Jun, 7 2004 @ 06:46 PM
Of course technology helps business. The whole point of my post was to show in my view that without technology we would not be where we are today in terms of production of top quality full colour printing.

My point was also that if you do not keep up with technology and it's warp speed advances you get left behind... Both in production quality and also in the ability to generate revenue.

The problem is trying to keep up with today's technology. New machines and ideas are brought out in such a small amount of time, unless you owned a bank you could never keep up with the trend.

The customer mindset is the hardest thing to guage, in my opinion. Hopefully an industry such as the printing industry will go the way of fashion - The old becomes the new again. We see this cycle in the fashion industry quite often, hopefully it could be implement in the printing industry.


posted on Jun, 7 2004 @ 06:46 PM
I understand were you coming from I see what you mean, people will still be out there seeking professional work anyway, to have the same effect as the work you do it will take a lot of money in equipment.

Look at pictures been taken with digital cameras and printed at home even with the best camera and the best printer the quality is not that good. I think your business will be needed for a while still.

posted on Jun, 7 2004 @ 06:50 PM
I agree with you marg. To a certain extent. For our firm to survive we need to be able to cope with change. Enjoying the fruits of our labour will never be as sweet as it is due to the amount of money put back into the business to keep up with technology. And that's the way the big machine manufacturers like it... It's smaller firms such as ours that keep people like Roland, Canon, Adobe etc in their corporate jets and company junkets.


posted on Jun, 7 2004 @ 07:08 PM
I happen to be a medium sized customer of a medium sized printing concern here in Dallas, Texas... I buy about 1,000,000 pieces a month (combination letterhead and envelope)...

I started a few years ago when the first digital mass printers were coming out and was utterly DISSATISFIED with the quality and ordered my printer (who I have stuck with through THICK and thin
) to go back to the "old print method"...

Then 2001 came along the "magic box" and it ushered in the age of "instant printing", hell I could 100,000 pieces in two days(!) no set up, no "dry layout" time no nothing!

My printer was threatened by the BIG BOYS who came to me with stories of stocking their shelves with my product so I could get 4 hour delivery at ANY TIME.

I went to "my guy" and told him of this new and rather beneficial possibility and he responded with, "I have been doing that for you for three months!"

Needless to say, the advent of high quality digital printing spurred many advances (properly noted by you I might add) in which the print shop can store a huge job on a single hard drive and print it overnight. Amazing...

Your point of technology leading and those who fail to follow, falling "by the way side", is absolute FACT mate.

My $0.02 on the subject delivered...


posted on Jun, 7 2004 @ 07:11 PM

For writers like me, technology is literally squeezing the life out of the written word. The average person doesn't want to read a book- they want their MTV and their internet porn. This has turned booksellers into more cutthroat folks- 52% of all books are sold online these days anyways. If it doens't move, they'll drop you like a hot rock. That, and middle men mean that only the big sellers get shelf time in places like Indigo.

Well i like to read books way more...

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