This was the first time that the new version of Curve software was used, with Peters having access to the latest release Curve4 through support from Chromix. This was the first time that Don Hutcheson’s new horizontal format target – P2P51H – was used.
Peters generated the required correction in Curve4 and applied it using curves in Photoshop. This was a project in a new course called GCM 360 Colour Management. Peters, a third-year student in Ryerson’s School of Graphic Communications Management, is studying print media, magazine publishing, sign and display graphics, and 3D printing.
The key to lower cost and higher profits in the printing industry revolves around managing new world automation
Today’s printing industry is a capital-intensive business that is a hybrid of production, distribution, and ancillary services. In this article, I examine the relationship between productivity and profitability in print, using independent industry data for sheetfed commercial printers covering primarily commercial and advertising, direct mail and packaging, while the budgeted hourly rates are from an industry accepted source.
First, let’s define productivity from an economic perspective. Productivity is the connection between inputs (resources used to produce a good or service) and outputs (the quantity of goods or services produced). Productivity goes up if we can produce more output for the same amount of inputs or produce the same amount of output with fewer inputs.
In the printing industry, typical economic metrics for productivity are sales per employee, sales per factory employee, or value added per employee or factory employee. Here I focus on the value-added component. A comparison of these metrics for sheetfed printers dramatically demonstrates how much more productive profit leaders (top quartile of profitability) are than those with profit potential (lower quartile of profitability). For example, profit-leading printers produce in excess of 44 percent more value added per production worker than those with profit potential.
It is important from a business’ perspective to understand what underlying reasons for this differential. A vital reason for this competitive advantage in productivity is the difference in machinery and equipment per factory employee. Data indicates high-profit printers are much more likely to substitute capital for labour. In fact, high-profit printers have almost double the investment per factory employee compared to low-profit printers.
Why is capital investment an important factor in profitability? Higher investment on the factory floor equates to less labour in the factory. Indeed, high-profit printers use approximately 30 percent fewer factory employees per million dollars of sales. For comparison purposes, a $10-million profit-leading printer would have 17 fewer factory employees than a printer with profit potential. This reduction in staffing significantly impacts the profitability of the printer.
This comparative focus on equipment and efficiency allows high-profit printers to achieve a big reduction in direct labour cost as a percentage of value added with a savings of around seven percent (Figure 2).
It is important to understand how this lower cost is achieved. The cost to manufacture an item is comprised of material costs, cost to produce it (budgeted hourly rate or BHR), and how many of the item can be produced over a period of time (productivity). Let’s consider a simple case of two manufacturing scenarios for the same item. The first has a BHR of $300 and net productivity of 1000 items per hour, while the second has a BHR of $360 and net productivity of 1500 items per hour. In the first case it costs $0.30 per item, while in the second it costs $0.24 per item.
The second manufacturing scenario, while at a higher BHR, has a lower manufacturing cost. This clearly demonstrates that both BHR and productivity should be considered in tandem when evaluating your manufacturing costs.
Now, let’s examine in more detail the connection between the cost of equipment (in this case a press), the BHR, and press productivity. In general, the depreciation and finance cost of a new press makes up between 20 to 35 percent of budgeted hourly rates. The remainder of the BHR is composed of manufacturing labour, other manufacturing costs, and sales and administrative costs.
On this basis, higher equipment costs translate to only approximately a 6- to 10-percent increase in BHR depending on the factors above. This could be considered a significant difference in a competitive industry like printing. However, this difference is significantly impacted by any productivity difference in equipment as indicated above.
In the example for a typical two-shift operation, a 25-percent premium in equipment costs is equalized by an 8.75-percent difference in equipment productivity, a factor defined as the productivity equalizer. In general, productivity is three times more important than price differential between equipment. Therefore, in this case, at any productivity difference above 8.75 percent, the business would reduce costs and increase profitability despite paying 25 percent more for the equipment.
The bottom line is that productivity driven by automation, innovation, and technology-embedded equipment drives down costs and increases financial performance. The key to managing this complex process is to understand the dynamics of the interactions better than your competitors.
Impact of cost on profitability
Pinpointing how costs impact profitability in the printing industry is critical for printers to understand and leverage in their businesses. The underlying drivers of profitability are sales or total revenues, prices they charge, and cost structure.
In general, increased sales, higher prices, and lower costs all add to the bottom line and the profitability of companies. Last year, a typical sheetfed printer’s costs comprised just under 98 percent of total sales, leaving only two-percent profits across the industry. Often in today’s print market, there is a “street price” for the product, above which the printer cannot increase their pricing unless there are additional value-added services. Printers can increase profitability by analyzing their sales and operations, making business changes that increase sales volumes, and or lowering their manufacturing costs.
The complex recipe for print production results in over 100 separate cost-expense items for a typical printer’s chart of accounts. However, these can be grouped into the main categories shown in Figure 1 (top of page 14). In this data, for an average sheetfed printer the manufacturing costs cover the majority of the costs at 76 percent. This is made up from the factory payroll (all factory employees, benefits, etc.), factory expenses (rent, insurance, power, etc.) paper, materials, and outside services.
Admin and selling costs account for 22 percent, leaving just over two-percent average profitability. Clearly, reducing the costs indicated above will impact companies’ profitability. So what happens to profits as companies reduce costs? As profit margins are typically slim, profits increase disproportionally to a given percentage-cost decrease. For example, a one percent decrease in manufacturing costs (factory expenses and payroll, paper and other materials/outside services) translates to a 34-percent increase in profits, other things remaining equal. Therefore, achieving a three-percent reduction in the manufacturing costs doubles profits! A one-percent decrease in overall total costs translates to a 43-percent jump in profits.
There are two key drivers for lower costs: First, more equipment, specifically newer and more productive equipment, for manufacturing. Second: fewer but more productive and higher-paid people. These two factors working in tandem are the crucial determinants of the profit gap between industry profit leaders (sheetfed printers in the top quartile of profitability) and the rest of the industry (the other 75 percent of the industry) where over the last 10 years there has been, on average, a 10-percent profit differential between these groups.
A primary path to higher profitability for printing companies is lowering cost. This will also, by definition, increase the sales conversion rate and therefore also increase total sales. By leveraging manufacturing efficiency, printers can turbocharge their profitability.
Métropolitain’s printing activities will be mainly transferred to the Transcontinental Transmag plant in Montréal, which is described as holding state-of-the-art equipment. The regional plants of Transcontinental de la Capitale in Québec City and Transcontinental Qualimax in Gatineau will also take in volume upon transfer of activities, which will take place progressively beginning in early January.
Transcontinental stated its decision was made in the context of the decline in the newspaper printing market, and more specifically in connection with the upcoming end of the printing of La Presse newspaper.
The Transcontinental Métropolitain plant currently has close to 60 employees. TC Transcontinental explains it will be able to offer employment opportunities to the majority of the workers within its other business units, while noting some job losses will result from the closure of the plant.
Transcontinental Métropolitain was built in 2003 and, in its early days, was primarily dedicated to printing La Presse daily newspaper and its related products. Over the years, other products, namely newspapers of independent publishers and those of TC Media, were added on to the plant's book of business.
A day after announcing the closure of Métropolitain, Transcontinental announced the sale of 21 of its publications and their related Web properties, as well as its InMemoriam.ca site to Icimédias Inc., a company led by its President Renel Bouchard, with Marc-Noël Ouellette as Managing Director.
In total, 140 employees of these various publications and 28 employees from TC Media's Production team are transferred to Icimédias. TC Transcontinental also concluded a multi-year agreement for the printing and distribution of all of these publications. This represents the largest transaction to date in the process for the sale of TC Media's local and regional newspapers in Québec and Ontario. With the completion of this transaction, close to 50 percent of the titles included in this process are now in the hands of local owners.
The publications sold to Icimédias are: L'Avenir de l'Érable, La Nouvelle union – Wednesday edition and La Nouvelle union – Sunday edition, in Centre-du-Québec; Beauce Média, L'Éclaireur Progrès, Hebdo Régional, La Voix du Sud and Courrier Frontenac, in Chaudière-Appalaches; Le Progrès de Coaticook and Le Reflet du Lac, in Estrie; Le Courrier Sud, L'Écho La Tuque/Haut-St-Maurice, L'Écho de Maskinongé, L'Hebdo du St-Maurice and L'Hebdo Journal, in Mauricie; L'Avenir et des Rivières, Granby Express, Journal Le Guide, Le Canada Français, Le Richelieu and Coup d'œil, in Montérégie.
“The sale of 21 of our publications in a single transaction today marks a significant step in the process for the sale of our local newspapers in Québec and Ontario,” said François Olivier, President and CEO of TC Transcontinental. “It is with pride that we pass the torch to Renel Bouchard and Marc-Noël Ouellette, long-standing business partners of TC Transcontinental, who are eager to contribute to the sustainability of these publications.”
Transcontinental Inc. has more than 7,000 employees in Canada and the United States, and generated revenues of $2 billion in 2016.
“The process of converting our company into a state-of-the-art digital technology group is progressing well,” said Rainer Hundsdörfer, CEO of Heidelberg. “With the launch of new subscription models for our customers and our portfolio of innovative products for the eMobility growth sector, we’re moving into new territory that offers enormous potential for growth. Heidelberg will be setting new standards when it comes to technologies of the future, digitization, and efficiency. The necessary cultural shift has only just begun.”
In terms of its shift toward digitally printed packaging and labels, Heidelberg explains it is well positioned in this sector based on its digital label presses from Gallus. This was underlined by what the company describes as numerous orders for the new Gallus Labelfire at the Labelexpo trade show in Brussels at the end of September.
The period under review also saw shipment of its industrial digital packaging printing press, Primefire. Series production for these digital printing systems is scheduled to start at the beginning of 2018. The company states it is already fully booked in this area for two years.
In the second quarter, Heidelberg also began the pilot phase for launching new business models. This involves offering customers a full package of machinery, services, consumables, and software in a subscription model.
In the last few weeks, Heidelberg explains additional successful steps have been taken for new product offerings that are intended to generate around €50 million in additional sales over the next few years.
Heidelberg Industry boasts substantial expertise in control and power electronics for industrial and eMobility applications. After establishing itself as a supplier over a number of years, the company is now marketing high-performance wallboxes and intelligent charging cables for electric vehicles under its own name. In conjunction with Berlin-based technology startup Big Rep, a large-format 3D printing solution has also been developed that has been in series production since October.
In operational terms, the figures for the first half of financial year 2017/18 were as planned. Despite negative exchange rate effects of €18 million and the systematic reduction of trading activities with remarketed equipment, sales after six months were €1,054 million, almost the same as the previous year’s level of €1,072 million.
As expected by the company, incoming orders in the post-drupa year of €1,234 million were below the previous year’s figure (H1 2016/17: €1,408 million). The order backlog was a solid €630 million compared to the €765 million at September 30, 2016, which was boosted by drupa.
Profitability rose significantly on the previous year’s figures. EBITDA excluding restructuring result was up from €45 million to €60 million after two quarters, with the EBITDA margin reaching 8.2 percent in the second quarter, following 7.5 percent in the same period of the previous year.
“Heidelberg is on a very sound financial footing, with financing secured for the long term. This will enable us to independently fund the strategic measures and the growth we are aiming for,” said Dirk Kaliebe, CFO at Heidelberg. “Systematically harnessing the potential from the efficiency program will also secure our medium-term profitability targets.”
The awards program is organized into four sections based on Printing, Technology and Environmental categories, as well as Industry Achievement to recognize the contributions of four leaders. Sponsors of the 2017 Canadian Printing Awards program include Veritiv (Platinum); Canon, Fujifilm, Huber Group, Kodak, Koenig & Bauer, Manroland Sheetfed and Sun Chemical (Gold); and Domtar, Heidelberg, Komcan and Spicers (Silver).
The 2017 Best of Show Award, chosen from among all printing category entries, went to Friesens Corp. of Altona, Manitoba, for its production of the hardcover book Canada 150th Anniversary, Through Ottawa. The book was produced in a 10,000 piece run on a 4-colour, 50-inch Manroland (text) and 6-colour 40-inch Heidelberg (cover).
As previously reported, this year’s Industry Achievement winners includes Bob Cockerill, who retired in 2015 as Senior Vice President of SGK Inc. and President and COO of Schawk Canada. Cockerill continues to serve as Chairman of PAC - Packaging Consortium, helping to lead many of that organization’s world-class research and certification initiatives around production and environmental sustainability.
Sean Murray, President and CEO, Advocate Group of Companies based in Pictou, Nova Scotia, was named the 2017 Printing Leader of the Year. Founded in 1891, Advocate is the largest independent printer in Atlantic Canada with four facilities in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, while controlling 10 newspapers, 21 trade and regional magazines, a flyer distribution organization, among other commercial printing initiatives.
John Hueston, President, Aylmer Express Graphics Group in Aylmer, Ontario, received the Community Leader of the Year Award for a range of programs he has been involved with across Elgin County, including founding of the 3 Port Tour, which has raised more than $70,000 in seven years. Hueston also helps lead Aylmer Express’ Thanksgiving Food Drive and is a Past President of the Aylmer Kinsmen in addition to involvement with the Ontario Community Newspaper Association, St. Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre and Aylmer Chamber of Commerce, among a range of other programs.
James Rowley, General Manager, Glenmore Custom Print + Packaging in Vancouver, British Columbia, received the Emerging Leader of the Year Award for his efforts in establishing Glenmore as a one of Western Canada’s premier printing operations. Founded in 1981, Glenmore now has more than 130 employees and is one of Canada’s most prominent independent custom print and folding carton manufacturers, while also venturing into roll label printing and continuing its high-end offset litho work.
Award winners in the printing, technology and environmental categories include:
2017 Best of Show
Canada 150th Anniversary, Through Ottawa
Self Promotion, printing company
Gold: Fou, Fou, Fou!
Silver: think4D Marketing Kit
Bronze: Hemlock Holiday Wrap
Self Promotion, technology supplier
Brochures & Booklets, offset
Gold: Cirque du Soleil: Luzia
Gold: Watson Soul, Walk on This
Silver: Sun Towers, The Centre
Bronze: 2017 BC Lions Season Pass Package
Glenmore Custom Print + Packaging
Brochures & Booklets, digital
Gold: Bradshaw Delicacies From the Sea
Silver: Introducing Biolage R.A.W.
Bronze: Premium Lobster
Advocate Printing & Publishing
Books, hardcover offset
Gold: Canada 150th Anniversary, Through Ottawa (Best of Show)
Gold: Berlin Coffee Table Book (Best of Show Finalist)
Simpson Print & Litho
Silver: Intercom on Starting Up
Silver: Toronto Jazz Treasures
Alymer Express Graphics Group
Bronze: AB Scale Model - Anniversary Book
MET Fine Printers
Books, softcover offset
Gold: Design Thinkers 2017 Program
MET Fine Printers
Silver: Horseshoe Bay Books
MET Fine Printers
Silver: Gaslight District Book
Simpson Print & Litho
Bronze: Brigus Mark Book
The Lowe-Martin Group
Bronze: Une ile d'Arbres
Marquis Book Printing
Gold: Mildred’s Temple
Gold: Keys to Recovery
CBN Commercial Solutions
Silver: The Power to Create Change Book
Bronze: Close up and Marco Photography by Robert Thompson
Gold: Danica Studio Catalogue
Bronze: TASTE Magazine
Business & Annual Reports
Gold: The Heart of the City, St. Michael's Foundation
Alymer Express Graphics Group
Silver: ATB 2017 Annual Report
CBN Commercial Solutions
Bronze: Tricon 2016 Annual Report
Gold: IGA Holiday Promotion
Silver: Copperleaf Mailer
Bronze: NBCC Alumni Association
Advocate Printing & Publishing
Gold: Audi Magazine
St. Joseph Print
Silver: Pure Luxury, 2017 March/April
The Lowe Martin Group
Silver: Mountain Life
Bronze: Lush Magazine
Simpson Print & Litho
Silver: Bombardier Business Aircraft 2017 Desk Calendar
Bronze: Engagement Calendar
Gold: ROCVALE Catalogue 2017 (Best of Show Finalist)
Silver: Bugaboos Eyewear, 2018 Ryders Catalogue
Bronze: Polygon Realty, Seven Peaks Book
MET Fine Printers
Bronze: Johnnie Walker Black Label
Silver: Crown Royal World's Greatest Dad Label
Gold: Crown Royal Celebrates Canada 150 Label
Labels, flexography or gravure
Gold: Monarch Late Harvest (Best of Show Finalist)
Silver: Kacaba Susans Sauvignon Blanc
Bronze: Kacaba Pinot Gris
Gold: Leap Popcorn Bags
Silver: Big 8 Beverages
Gold: Laura Secord, Cognac Chocolates
Silver: Norham Beverages Legends
Glenmore Custom Print + Packaging
Bronze: Vancouver Candle Co.
MET Fine Printers
Bronze: Canadian Club Premium Original 1858
Gold: Crisp Fine Foods Business Cards
Pronto Reproductions Ltd.
Silver: Toyota Air Freshener Business Cards
Bronze: New Era Cards
New Era Print Solutions
Stationery & Invitations
Gold: Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Exclusive Invitation
Silver: Maple Lodge Zabiha Halal Kit Folder
Simpson Print & Litho
Silver: C.J. Graphics Open House Invitation
Bronze: Camp Brightworks 2017 Summer Party Invitation
Gold: Doctors of the Game
Silver: GCM Grad Book
Silver: Onboard Booklet – McMillan
The Lowe-Martin Group
Bronze: Auto House - Private Automotive Galleries & Social Club
Gold: Alberni by Kengo Kuma
MET Fine Printers
Silver: Getting Started with OFEV, Boehringer Ingleheim
Alymer Express Graphics Group
Silver: USC Football Season Tickets
CBN Commercial Solutions
Bronze: Griffin Poetry Price
Gold: Flying Monkeys Hoptical Illusion (Best of Show Finalist)
Silver: PrintAction September 2017
Bronze: Cling Promotion
Technology Category Awards (Only Gold Presented)
Most Progressive Printing Technology, offset
Multi-Cassette Unit Energy Savings and Footprint Reduction Kodak Platesetters
Most Progressive Printing Technology, digital
NexPress White Opaque Dry Ink with Auto White Blend
Most Progressive Printing Technology, inkjet
Océ Colorado 1640 with UV Gel Technology
Environmental Category Awards
Most Environmentally Progressive Printing Project
YVR Sustainability Report
Most Environmentally Progressive Technology Company
Gold: Canon Canada, HP Canada
Most Environmentally Progressive Printing Company
Gold: Hemlock Printers, The Lowe-Martin Group
In 2013, Epic launched its unique HiLite service to produce special effects and textures, run through its Mitsubishi Diamond 1000 press, and more recent investments, Indigo and a Scodix enhancement press.
“Our customers began asking for larger print runs of some of our most highly creative designs which we were producing on our Scodix and Indigo, but longer print runs doesn’t mean reduced unit cost in this case, so we began investigating the possibilities UV LED might offer,” said Mark Downey. “We use all kinds of substrates, from light uncoated stock, 100 percent recycled boards and specialist substrates, through to silvers like Mirri Pak, our own in-house foil papers and laminated substrates. We thought we may be able to transfer some of the longer run length work to litho with UV LED.”
Flint Group’s technology partner AMS Spectral UV now part of Baldwin Technology Co. were responsible for installing the UV LED lamp, chiller and control unit. They installed it with the option to move the LED array from the end of the press, after the coater unit, to a position after unit two, giving the flexibility to double hit with fluorescent or opaque white for example. The 6 colour with coater Mitsubishi took two days to convert to UV LED once all the rollers had been changed to UV compatible.
The Graphic Systems Division of Fujifilm North America will be increasing the prices of its offset printing plates. The company plans to increase the price of its offset printing plates from December 1, 2017, by up to eight percent, with the actual increase passed on to printers dependent on local market situations. The move comes a month after Kodak announced similar plate price increases.
The price increase is a result of raw material cost increases, explains Fujifilm, most significantly driven by substantial increases in the cost of raw aluminium, shifting costs of labour, among other related costs in plate manufacturing.
Fujifilm continues to explain efficiencies in manufacturing have also been negatively impacted by decreasing volumes in traditional plates due to changes in market demands.
“We have absorbed cost increases of raw materials, labour, and other production costs for the last 12 months to try and avoid passing on price increases to our customers,” said Todd Zimmerman, Division President, Fujifilm North America Corporation, Graphic Systems Division. “These price increases are a necessary step to maintain our production capabilities and continue to service our customers.”
“EFI Jetrion printing systems have helped to establish the market for industrial digital inkjet label production, and the numerous innovations developed for high-resolution Jetrion technology – including high-end, production-class LED imaging, superior opaque white ink and true all-in-one integrated print, varnish, cut and slit systems – have given EFI Jetrion the largest installed base of UV inkjet label presses in the world,” said Guy Gecht, EFI CEO. “As we expand our portfolio of industrial inkjet products, we prioritized our go to market investment and resources. It was a clear choice for us to pick Xeikon, one of the undisputed leaders in digital label printing, as the ideal partner to continue a trustworthy sales and service operation for the Jetrion product line.”
Xeikon has a field presence with more than 100 service and support personnel worldwide.
Benoit Chatelard, President and CEO, Digital Solutions, Flint Group, stated: “With over 500 digital label presses installed worldwide, we are an acknowledged leader in the self-adhesive label market. Xeikon has the broadest digital label printing offering in the market, including workflow, presses, embellishment modules and converting equipment, and a worldwide service and support network that is unparalleled in the label market. All our customers are fully trained, serviced and supported through direct, first-line contact with Xeikon engineers, and this will be no different for the Jetrion customers.”
The Jetrion product line will complement Xeikon’s digital label press portfolio, which includes the Xeikon Cheetah Series and entry-level Xeikon 3000 Series of dry toner label presses, as well as the Xeikon Panther Series of UV inkjet label presses.
The primary objective of the Fund, explains the organization, is to attract the most talented young people available to the printing industry by providing financial assistance to them while they are enrolled in an approved graphic arts management or technical program.
“Every year the Board of Trustees is challenged to select the best and brightest as recipients of our scholarships and this year was no exception,” said Jeff Ekstein, Chairman of the Fund and President of Willow Printing Group. “We are pleased to be able to support 48 students in their pursuit of a career in the graphic communications industry.”
The value of each annual scholarship is $1,500 in addition to the annual presentation of the Warren Wilkins Memorial Scholarship with a value of $5,000. This year’s recipient of the Warren Wilkins award went to Kay-Lynn Saunders who is attending Ryerson University’s Graphic Communications Management program.
The Canadian Printing Industries Scholarship Trust Fund (CPISTF), since its founding in 1971, has provided more than $1 million in funding through the generosity of firms and individuals associated with the printing industries in Canada.
The current members of the Board of Trustees are:
Bruce Bond, Toronto, ON
Mike Collinge (Vice-Chairman), Webcom, Toronto, ON
Jeff Ekstein (Chairman), Willow Printing Group, Vaughan, ON
Harold Hoff, Heidelberg Canada, Mississauga, On.
Mike Mcinnes, Transcontinental Printing, Brampton, ON
Sean Murray (Treasurer), Advocate Printing and Publishing Co. Ltd., Pictou, NS
Ron Schroder, Canadian Flexographic Training Committee, ON
Cory Turner, Spicers, Vaughan ON
Rob Young, Pollard Banknote Limited, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Ian Baitz, Ryerson University
Wayne Collins, British Columbia Institute of Technology
We had to make a couple gears for it. So after measuring we were all surprised to learn this little machine was built to imperial measurements and not metric. Why such interest? Container Corp.’s director of research said it best: “If you don’t remember the past. And are not conscious of the present, you have no future.” There are literally thousands of lessons to be learned and amazing stories to be told about our industry’s pioneers. Komori is but one excellent example.
Early Tokyo years
You don’t learn much about the early days for this Tokyo-based company and, as with all Japanese engineering firms, Komori is extremely careful with its reputation. It all started on October 20, 1923, when Komori Machinery Works was formed as a private business. The print world was just awakening to the new phenomenon called offset lithography and Komori seemed to take the position – quite rare in Japanese manufacturing – to enter an immature market instead of building what everyone else was, namely letterpress machines.
As near as I can research, the press we have, which is hand-fed, is a near clone of either the British Furnival or American R. HOE. After the U.S. discovery in 1904, lithographic offset sprang to life in Japan. Prior to 1920, the Harris Automatic Press Company had sold several machines into the empire and to rave reviews. Most likely companies like Komori had taken notice.
During the early 1920s, few westerners knew anything about the Japanese. Besides the arts-and-crafts business, Japan exported very little and travel was rare. In 1925, Komori’s first produced machine was a Planographic hand press (stone printing). This was a copy of America’s Fuchs & Lang lithographic press and of a very simple design. By 1928, Komori built a 32-inch hand-fed offset press – similar to the press in our museum. Early designs stemmed from duplication of English and American machines.
The Komori firm was run by the Komori family who today continue to control a large portion of its equity. The next three decades were rather uneventful and with the country’s military action in Manchuria, soon followed by entry into World War II, Japan was systematically locked out of technological developments that were taking place in America, Britain and Europe. Komori could only sit and watch while they busied themselves servicing the antiquated Japanese printing industry, as well as making attachments to allow automatic feeding of hand-fed machines.
In a 1997, a World Bank report explained, that after World War II, Japan lagged far behind the west technologically and didn’t compete internationally, but imported technology, which allowed them to enter a high-speed growth period referred to as the Gerschenkron model. This means it was a latecomer enjoying the accumulation of innovations developed in advanced countries. The Japanese word Manabu (to learn) and Manebu (to imitate) are key elements in all well respected Japanese manufacturer’s early beginnings. Komori was no exception and, considering its factory was destroyed by fire during the war, the company had few options but to rebuild, accumulate knowledge and try again. By December 28, 1946, Komori Machinery Works was finally incorporated into a joint-stock or public company.
By 1952, big things started to happen. Komori had finally built an automatic feed offset press. This press was fitted with the American Dexter feeder and delivered to Kyodo Printing Company. By 1956, one of its very first presses, a model KW-2 with a sheet size of 26 x 39 inches was exported to Canada. It went to Montreal. Years later that press made its way to the Quebec city of Sherbrooke and by the late 1970s sold again to a printer in Oakville, Ontario. It was scrapped in the early 1980s. In 1957, Komori Currency was started and a range of Intaglio Simultan-like presses were established. Komori presses have printed Japan’s banknotes ever since much to the chagrin of KBA-Giori.
The company continued to develop products, releasing a four-colour UM-4C in 1957, a five-colour in 1961 and a six-colour in 1963. That same year saw the introduction of the Kony and the Unikom models. Later the monster Kosmo, a unitized press built in the 45- and 50-inch formats, was launched. Komori marketed the Kony Super 9, then Super 10, in North America and Europe, but not the Kosmo.
Opening up Japan
The 1950s opened up Japan as much as the constrained government would allow. This proved beneficial to all manufacturers as many set sail for the engineering capitals of the world. Komori did the same, for the company was already well known in Japan. The period between 1950 and 1970 was an enigmatic time for most westerners when they viewed Japanese industry. In the graphic arts a scattering of firms made mostly facsimiles of almost everything. Even in the early 1970s, the famed English Wharfdale letterpress was still being manufactured in Japan. Hitachi Seiko also made a copy of the Heidelberg OHC cylinder press. As Japanese industrialization geared up, there was a lot going on besides cars and transistor radios.
Aside from a few exports there remained no western market for Japanese printing equipment. In fact, Germany never seemed too concerned about licencing technology to fledgling engineering firms. Sumitomo – a very large corporation – was building Miller-Johannisberg presses. Yoshino, perfect binding and trimming machines from Sheridan and Martini. Even KBA had its little KRO Rapida made for a while by Ryobi. But Japan did have its close neighbours and equipment flowed all over the area from China and Korea to Indonesia and the Philippines. Komori slowly carved out a market even though by the early 70s Mitsubishi, Ryobi, Shinohara, Fuji, Sakurai and Akiyama were playing in the same sandbox. Especially in the domestic market, Mitsubishi MHI proved to be a constant irritant and major competitor. Heidelberg continues to be a major presence in Japan to this day.
But few were building web presses. In 1970, Komori entered this market with the first of its blanket-to-blanket System series presses – System 25. Besides TKS, Hitachi and Toshiba, few dared competing in this segment. Goss for many years had some of its newspaper presses built here and the locals seemed to always prefer machines from the west. The 546-mm cut-off remains a favoured size in Japan and most of Asia and Komori catered to this cut-off, continuing to build this size today.
Also in 1970 someone must have seen the MAN or ColorMetal back printer. Komori added this feature to its Kosmo presses as an option. The back printer, or as Komori called it, reverse printer (RP), became a mainstay and well received addition. The RP continued with the Lithrone and won orders in carton printing for heavy board perfecting without the difficulty of building a perfector.
1970 was indeed a big year. Not only did Komori’s web program arrive, but this was the year of the Sprint series. The Sprint was a 25-inch press that started off as a one- and two-colour and then in 1971 a four-colour. These presses caught fire and featured a German Mabeg Jr. feeder head and electronic in-feed controls made by Omron (now house built as Eyekom). The Sprint series was so popular that it remained in production for more than 35 years. Press operators found it easy to run and it had very creative ancillaries over the years like delivery controlled plate register and Komorimatic continuous flow dampening. The later would graduate to the full line of sheetfeds and web presses. In 1976, the company name was changed to Komori Printing Machinery Co. Ltd.
Komori’s real breakthrough year was 1981. In that year, after exhaustive study and research, Komori came out with a press like no other, the Lithrone. This would be the moment German builders woke up and started to pay attention. What was this little company running out of three rather small manufacturing sites – Toride, Yamagata and Sekiyado – doing? And how could they possibly? I’m almost sure the former Heidelberg rebuild centre in Waldorf, Germany, was just a bit smaller than Toride.
Over the next four decades, starting with the Lithrone, Komori would drive a range of innovations into the press-building world with offset innovations, factory builds, metals, and now inkjet system transports and partnerships.
To get a grasp of the monumental changes that were brought by the engineer design of Komori’s new Lithrone platform in 1981, you must look back to 1965 and a company known as Planeta, in the former East Germany. Planeta was also rather isolated, locked behind The Iron Curtain, but the press maker had some brilliant ideas. Few in the rest of West Germany and Europe paid much attention when Planeta launched its Variant press platform, but Komori certainly did. The Japanese press maker quickly saw the benefits of the double-size impression and transfer cylinders on the Variant. Although the Kosmo was a unitized press, the Kony was a bit of a discombobulation of upper and lower unitized units. Komori saw the light and embraced the Planeta Variant’s forward-thinking unitized double-size cylinder design. Planeta is now a part of Koenig & Bauer.
Not everything Planeta was borrowed. Komori retained the upper swing arm first used on Miehles, then Rolands, and made its own version of the Mabeg feeder head and essentially improved or re-engineered every part of the Planeta design principles with a press that remains today as a watershed beacon of Komori engineering achievement. And it was fast. At 13,000 iph, the Lithrone eclipsed both Roland and Heidelberg by 3,000 iph in 1981. I could go on and on about various features but suffice to say the Lithrone made Komori what it is today. Twenty-six-, 28-, 44- and 50-inch Lithrones would soon enter production.
During the early 1980s, the packaging industry soon discovered the benefits of using aqueous coatings instead of varnishes. Komori became the first to build a factory tower coater. True – Planeta had done so earlier but these were simply printing units less the inker. Komori fashioned its own three-roll coating apparatus and followed Planeta’s lead by offering extended deliveries. Unless you ordered a hollow transfer Lithrone, however, running short-grain carton was not ideal. Both the solid and skeleton, or hollow cylinder, still only allowed substrates of up to .032 inches (0.8 mm). Roland and Heidelberg (1986) already eclipsed this and of course Planeta had the widest range up to 1.4mm or over .050 inches. This is why even today Koenig & Bauer still carries the reputation as the ultimate carton press. In 2017, when every manufacturer can essentially run the same caliper of board (including Komori), Planeta’s early penetration into that market continues to pay dividends for Koenig & Bauer.
Buoyed by its strong sales – especially into the U.S. and Europe, Komori pushed to acquire the Harris Graphics Corporation in 1988. In fact, Komori had made what it assumed to be a deal with the principle owner AM International, and even released a press statement confirming the acquisition. At that time, Harris web division was a leader in commercial and insert printing web systems. When the dust settled, however, Komori was trumped at the final hour by Heidelberger Druckmaschinen. No doubt anger sidelined Komori executives, but not for long as Komori swooped in to buy the small French specialist packaging narrow-web manufacturer Chambon. In retrospect, considering the depressing state of the web-offset business today, Komori may have been done a favour.
It’s in the metal
Komori grasped another sales tool. When Japanese exports took off in the early 1970s, the West handed out the moniker of “Japanese Junk,” from early cars that would rust away to machinery that would break from poor foundry methods. There were a lot of consumer products leaving Japan that had only one saving grace – price. This story is an old one and we have seen it reappear again with China’s entry onto the world stage. In short, made-in-Japan in 1970 meant inferior goods at very cheap prices. It’s incredible to consider how this has changed in less than 50 years.
I don’t know about you, but I can go for days without thinking about cast iron. But to machine builders, it’s a very important topic. Komori was well aware of the uphill battle it faced trying to export a machine that was about 80 percent cast iron. In fact just about every heavy machinery exporter did too.
Nebiolo S.p.A. of Italy faced the same backlash. With a tarnished reputation, Nebiolo turned to Meehanite to prove to the world their cast was as good as any. So Komori did a smart thing. Komori’s major castings come from a company called Kasakura Metech Co. and Kasakura became a certified Meehanite foundry in 1981, although its roots go back to 1919. Meehanite is a process to increase the quality of grey castings. It was developed back in the 1920s by the Ross Meehan Foundry in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Meehanite Corporation was formed to, among other things, license third parties to use the technology which essentially increased the Perlite and removed Ferrite from the cast, strengthening it.
Heidelberg, which owns its own foundry, already had a century of skill making superior castings, but Komori’s supplier was unknown outside Japan. Now Komori would emblazon their castings with the famous “M” logo in bas relief to show the world it could supply castings as strong as anyone. Ironically, Mitsubishi took a slightly different path when it did the unthinkable by having a non-Japanese company (Beiren of China), make much of theirs. Kasakura now has a foundry in China, too.
No one today should question the superior engineering of Komori presses. After all the upheaval in the offset business, Komori has remained the undisputed leader in Japan and one of the world’s top three press manufacturers in the world. Quite a feat for a company that always holds its cards close to the vest. Like Heidelberg, KBA and Manroland, Komori too finds the lithographic business dwindling from the highs of the 1990s as digital devices take more and more of offset’s position away.
Made in Japan and Israel
Landa Digital’s S10 press is already made up of Komori transport, coating and perfecting components. Komori signed an agreement with Landa to both provide traditional press components and also exclusively market its own version of the Landa S-10 as the Komori Impremia NS-40. Since there is no way yet to determine the success or failure of this platform, the industry sits and ponders if these very expensive Landa presses will be stars or dogs. Knowing Komori, I’d put my money on the former. However at eye-watering prices even as a success others will make that determination.
Konica Minolta also partnered with Komori on the smaller Impremia IS29. Komori even started selling its own guillotines in 2014. I didn’t really think the world needed another guillotine but... All the while Komori keeps selling new generation GL(X) 29- and 40-inch presses and perfectors to a satisfied user group of commercial printers. The crafty HUV-doped UV, which uses much less power and produces less heat, was a Komori-Iwasaki-EYE invention that for a brief few years had the market all to themselves. Now pretty much everyone has a low-energy UV alternative to offer.
Rarely first with new designs, Komori researches the market well. If a competitor’s leap is deemed important enough, you will see it worked into a Komori press. Just look at the up and over delivery from Manroland, vacuum feeder from Roland and Heidelberg, or even the Wallscreen and Inpress concepts from Heidelberg. They all made it into the Komori GL40 a few years later. There is also a flat line across all major press makers today as everyone makes an outstanding press.
Few know the inner workings behind the Japanese mystic, even fewer care. Mitsubishi MHI’s recent exiting of its sheetfed business, handing the keys to Ryobi, has not done much to eliminate a competitor. If, as many suspect, the Mitsubishi Web program may be shuttered or sold off entirely, the landscape may only alter inches not feet.
There is a source of puzzlement when benchmarking Made in Japan with the rest of the world. Certainly exporters are heavily supported by government incentives (as well as periodic tax benefits for the domestic market), and almost all Japanese branch units run lean with very low head counts. With such world-acclaimed products, some find it ironic that basic functions such as spare parts and communication vary greatly from region to region. The Germans remain leaders with greater transparency in customer relations. In short, to outsiders it seems the only thing holding back Japanese companies is in fact themselves.
When Toyota was named the world’s largest car company in 2016, it might have been a statement that some in the automotive industry questioned. Not the fact that Toyota was the largest and so successful, but why it took them so long.
Virtually every manufacturing segment has a Japanese company ranked at or near the top. Komori is no exception. The new super factory/assembly hall opened in 2003 in Tsukuba, Japan, was years in the planning and built with the next technology leap in mind. KANDO, the new catchword meaning, as Komori interprets: “Beyond Expectations... is an expression of who Komori wants to be and why it’s important to you.”
Every press manufacturer has a few product embarrassments in their closets. Some more than others. No one is exempt. In Komori’s case they have been rather fortunate in successfully dodging major blunders over its 94 years. Not only do they have a dedicated following but their management team has taken great pains to run a conservative, profitable world-class company.
The year 2018 marks Komori’s 95th year in business and a very good reason to celebrate a special company that from 1923 to now has been in the offset business almost exclusively. You may not see Komori race out in front of the pack in a marathon, but you will sure see them at the finish line.
The NRC coordinates key industrial areas – including materials, ink, printing, information and communications technology and digital manufacturing – to position Canadian industry stakeholders as early adopters of emerging printed electronics technologies.
The new molecular ink technology developed by GGI and the NRC will be produced by Sun Chemical and promoted collaboratively by all three organizations. Based on ionic molecules processed through a reduction process, Sun Chemical explains the new IPS family of products will offer a viable alternative to conventional polymer thick film conductive inks and serve as a low-cost alternative to nano materials.
“We’re excited to help bring this innovative product line to the market,” said Roy Bjorlin, Global Commercial and Strategic Initiatives Director, Sun Chemical Advanced Materials. “Customers will be pleased to have an option in the marketplace that features fine lines for printed electronics. We look forward to collaborating with GGI and the NRC on this project.”
The IPS family of products include silver and copper metallization options that can be applied by screen, inkjet or other high-speed printing methods. The molecular inks, explains Sun Chemical, feature sub-micron trace thickness that will enable the production of narrow traces in thin dielectric layers on a variety of applications, including: in-mold electronics (IME), printed antenna, displays, EMI/RFI and sensors.
Multiple Pakfold is a supplier of business forms, cheques and labels to the trade printing market, with approximately 100 employees operating in a 60,000-square-foot facility in Mississauga and with sales offices in Calgary, Mississauga and Montreal. DATA’s Brampton facility is focused on the production of long-run forms, roll products and labels for DATA’s enterprise clients.
“Together with this initiative, we are moving some work between our Drummondville, Quebec, and Brampton plants to prepare for the onboarding of the large financial services client we recently announced, to improve operating margins,” said Michael Sifton, Chief Executive Officer of DATA.
In late-September, DATA announced a new multi-year agreement with an undisclosed “major Canadian Schedule I bank.” The agreement focused on DATA providing procurement, production, inventory management and distribution of the bank’s business communications in Canada. This inlcudes statements, business forms and envelopes.
DATA also announced plans to close and relocate its Granby, Quebec, warehousing operations into its 170,000-square-foot Drummondville facility before the end of 2017. DATA previously moved substantially all of Granby’s production capabilities to Drummondville in the fourth quarter of 2015, but has continued with warehousing and distribution activities as well as other limited administrative functions in the 100,000-square-foot Granby facility.
DATA is also announcing a reduction of 30 jobs in certain indirect labour and selling, general and administrative staff positions.
This contrasts with an annual growth rate of just 1.2 percent in the wider print market, explains Smithers Pira, noting that traditional market margins are being eroded by electronic media: “Labels, like packaging are more resilient in the face of this threat, and there is still significant commercial potential especially in newer markets where population are still making the transition to buying more labelled products.”
With over 465 billion A4 sheet equivalents in 2017, according to Smithers Pira, Asia is today 46 percent of the worldwide label market by volume. Above average growth will push this to 48 percent by the end of the Smithers Pira study period. The only region with higher annual expansion across this period is the African market, but its share by 2022 will be less than four percent of global supply.
Smithers Pira notes there is still potential for new label business in mature markets, explaining both the U.S. and EU are set to implement new labelling obligations for pharmaceutical supply chains. For Europe, this is occurring via the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), which will be introduced in 2018. It will require each individual package to carry a prescribed unique identifier in a prescribed 2D data matrix format. Tamper evidence features, which are often integrated into label materials for packaging like folding cartons, will also be mandatory under this law.
Smithers Pira continues to explain narrow-web label printers have pioneered the use of digital (toner and inkjet systems) over the past decade, and this trend is far from exhausted with new high volume machines be launched every year.
The value share of digital printing is now 29.3 percent, up from 20.8 percent in 2012 – this will rise to 35.6 percent in 2022. In volume terms, Smithers Pira projects the shares are lower than 13.0 percent in 2017, and 17.9 percent in 2022 – reflecting digital’s concentration in shorter run, higher value applications.
The funding – in the form of repayable contributions – has been granted through Canada Economic Development’s Quebec Economic Development Program (QEDP), within the larger framework of the Government of Canada's Innovation and Skills Plan. “Imprimerie Ste-Julie and MIIP, both of which are involved in the printing and labelling industries, have developed expertise by building on innovation,” said Picard. “In making sure that their teams have access to the latest technologies to do their work, these two businesses can continue to grow and conquer new markets.”
Imprimerie Ste-Julie, a family business founded 42 years ago, received $750,000 in funding for the acquisition of a flexographic press to increase its production capacity and productivity. This investment will also help the company reduce paper wastage through increased efficiency. The press has eight colour stations with the ability to add varnish and gilding through a cold-stamping process.
“Imprimerie Ste-Julie has been a trailblazer in adhesive label and shrink sleeve printing for many years in Quebec. This major investment will help us maintain our enviable position as leader, while we continue to provide our clients with the best in the business,” said Marilène Fournier, Vice-President, Production, Imprimerie Ste-Julie. “Our production capacity is also much greater because the new press can print up to 750 feet of paper per minute when working full tilt. This was an indispensable purchase, given the increasing demand over the past few years for packaging printing.”
MIIP has been granted $94,700 in financial assistance to commercialize its products in the United States and Europe, notably its flagship product, the miipCam, a camera inspection system for the printing and labelling industries. This product was developed in collaboration with Quebec businesses, including Imprimerie Ste-Julie, and is helping users reduce the consumption of paper and other substrates and enhance the efficiency and print quality of their presses.
“Thanks to CED's assistance, MIIP can continue to grow by exporting its products to the United States,” said Alex Gal, Co-founder and Vice-President, MIIP.
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SWOB Golf Tournament 2018
June 20, 2018
OPIA Toronto Golf Classic Tournament 2018
August 9, 2018
LabelExpo Americas 2018
September 25-27, 2018
September 30-2, 2018
Canadian Printing Awards
November 8, 2018