A Brief History of the Print Show from Its Inaugural Event to the Most Recent
(Editor’s note: This is the first of three digital articles on the Print 18 conference.)
We have attended every Print show, a conference dedicated to the commercial print industry, since 2001 when the show debuted as Print 01. When our Editor-in-Chief Scott Cullen asked me to write a piece about Print 18, I suggested we look at some of the highlights of past events before discussing where this show is today.
Reading what we wrote in 2001 makes me a little humble as 17 years ago I was much more biting in my commentary. Anne Mulcahy, president & CEO of Xerox was one of the keynote speakers at Print 01. Xerox was seriously in debt because of the actions of her predecessor Paul Allaire who lost his job and was censored by the government for falsifying annual reports.
“We are putting our operations on a sound footing,” she said during her keynote. “We know we have a long way to go, but there is no question, we will succeed [and are] well on our way.”
The analysts attending this exhibition and conference were supportive of Mulcahy and felt that with products such as the iGen3 she was well on her way to achieving her goals of eliminating the company’s debt and returning Xerox to profitability.
However, we had a slightly different take on the Xerox situation. Here’s what I wrote in the September 2001 issue of The Cannata Report.
They (Xerox) are cutting out costs at every conceivable turn in virtually every area except one, distribution. Canon, Ricoh, and HP all employ a more efficient (profitable) distribution strategy for the office products part of the business. Xerox starts out in a hole by refusing to accept reality. Plain and simple it costs more for Xerox to put an office product (Segments 3-6) on the street than it does for any of their major competitors. As for the new technology, they have it right. How quickly they can leverage that into competitive products, bring it to market, and how well they perform remains an unanswered question.
Mulcahy maintained, “The Docucolor iGen3 represents the ingenuity of the new Xerox and will spur a sea of change in all segments of the print industry.”
The iGen3 was priced at $350,000 and led the way to the digital convergence at the expense of offset printing. Not only was Mulcahy correct in defining the sea of change that followed Print 01, she would also get Xerox out of an $8 billion debt. Years later I came to realize this was an amazing executive and one of the finest that I have been privileged to know.
Print 01 was intended to be the United States counterpart of Drupa, which is held in Germany every four years. At the time we thought Print 01 fell short. However, compared to 2018, that first event was an outstanding success.
The exhibition area was 900,000 square feet with Heidelberg in the prime space as you entered the South Hall of McCormick Place. It was at this show that Indigo Chairman & CEO Benny Landa announced that Hewlett Packard was acquiring Indigo. The terms of the agreement had HP paying up to $882 million for the Indigo shares it already owned.
Talk about getting it wrong. I did it again with this one. We labeled it “A Bad Fit for HP.” I said a lot of other things, none of them complementary and ended by saying, the question is, do they have the patience and the long-term commitment to emerge winners or at least on equal footing with Xerox (iGen3) and Heidelberg (NexPress 2100). From our perspective this is a two-horse race, Xerox and Heidelberg.
Did we get anything right? Honestly, we did. From the very beginning we believed and continue to believe that dealers needed to move upstream.
Canon and Ricoh were very much in evidence at Print 02. The former was showing their CLC 1100 and the latter the 3800C. These early products were forerunners of devices such as the Canon 10000 and the Ricoh 9200.
By 2009 digital presses were center stage and Canon, Konica Minolta, Océ, Riso, Ricoh, and Xerox showcased their latest digital products. That year I wrote:
For the three days we were there, Print 09 did not seem to enjoy a great deal of traffic. This ran a full week (like European conferences at this time such as the CEBIT in Germany and SMAU in Italy). One thing we did learn is that you need to get there early as that is when most of the press conferences (the ones we care about) are held.
In our December 2013 issue we covered Print 13. Our emphasis was on dealers and why they needed to be there. If you want to be a serious player in production print, this was the place to be. What made Print 13 special was that it was the largest, most innovative exhibition of digital, offset, and hybrid technologies available in 2013. It is the only show, addressing this segment of the business that we attend given the importance of the information we obtain for our readers.
Inkjet technology was emerging thanks to EFI, Ricoh, and others. We were also pleased to see many dealers in attendance.
Companies that were important for us to see at this show were Canon, EFI, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, and Xerox. Let me share with you what we wrote about EFI in our Print 13 Coverage.
I have attended every Graph Expo/Print show, for the past 15 years. In addition, I have attended every EFI Connect Conference. This company is showing us all how to dramatically improve the performance of digital print devices by the proper employment of front-end technology and software.
EFI took these messages further with its acquisition of super-wide device manufacturer Viète (2004). Since that time, EFI has added Jetrion (label press), Cretaprint (prints on ceramic material) and made them all capable of print on demand and significantly improved their workflow and productivity via their Fiery front ends.
Canon showcased their i300, originally named Niagara. Konica Minolta followed shortly afterward with their KM-1. It was evident that the offshore manufacturers were not standing still with cut-sheet laser products. Inkjet continues to represent the new wave which has yet to crest.
In our November 2017 issue we reported on Print 17. In our opening piece about this show we noted that when we began attending these events there were more than 60,000 commercial printers in the United States. Today, it is closer to 25,000.
There are significantly fewer dealers, as well. The same problems that beset the decline in the number of printers and dealers was easily discernable. The more successful ones wanted to cash in and the others were not willing to invest in broadening their businesses to provide managed print and IT services, you could also add they had no interest in participating in production print.
EFI, Canon, HP, Konica Minolta, Ricoh and Xerox were at Print 17 and seemingly discouraged in the overall attendance. This was evident by the size of the space they choose for Print 18.
This leads us to Print 18. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about this event. EFI has exited this show and Canon, HP, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, and Xerox were in notably smaller spaces. I suspect that at least one of those companies will not be at Print 19. Those that continue to attend will continue to exhibit in smaller booths.
The attendance which had dropped to 15,000 last year had to considerably less. For us, the show is still valuable if we can schedule meetings with the leading companies that address our industry—Canon, HP, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, and Xerox. We conducted our interviews and will write a separate piece about this experience.
Unfortunately, there is little in the way of a viable production print exhibition that we can suggest as an alternative. We tried SGIA and it showed some promise even though we were discouraged by their treatment of the press both times we attended. No discernable effort was made to accommodate the press. Although that may change next year when SGIA will be in Dallas under the auspices of Printing United. Going forward, CJ and Scott will look at this when they decide on our show schedule for 2019.
Still, production print offers the greatest possible opportunity for dealers to increase the average unit selling price, increase click counts, and find new customers that do not reside in the office. More importantly, this is a product segment the manufacturers that dealers rely on—with very few exceptions—are focusing their major R&D efforts. We hope our readers understand the consequences of not taking this product category more seriously.
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