A group of journalists over four days in late-January were given a tour of the Indonesian-based business activities of Asia Pulp & Paper, which has grown to become one of the world’s largest integrated pulp and paper entities.
Earn more business by reducing your prospect’s marketing cost by up to 75% while maintaining maximum marginsMost account executives are facing the same two print sales challenges: How do I differentiate my services when my competitors are capable of supplying the same job and how can I be competitive when there is always someone willing to print the same job for less? Although co-op marketing does not apply to every print sales situation, if your prospect is a neighborhood business that is print marketing collateral then co-op marketing offers a unique solution to this print sales challenge. What is co-op marketing?With summer now in swing, businesses that offer home services like lawn care, carpet cleaning, door and window sales, heating and air conditioning sales, eaves trough installers, roofers, driveway paving, kitchen and bathroom renovators, home improvement contractors and landscapers are getting ready for their summer marketing drive, which usually entails distributing fliers, brochures and door hangers throughout the local neighborhood. This need for marketing collateral presents an excellent opportunity for anyone in the printing industry to grow their sales and earnings.But landing these accounts is not that easy, after all, most of them are already dealing with a printer and the vast majority – a whopping 80 percent – are happy with their existing supplier. So why should any of these companies endure the risk and inconvenience of changing suppliers? Well the fact is that in most cases they won’t, unless:You have something to offer that they can’t get from their existing supplier, You can show them how to get a better ROI, and Your quote is very competitive.Co-op marketing allows you to meet all three of these criteria. Co-op marketing simply means sharing the printing and distribution costs between two or more noncompetitive businesses. CO-OP Marketing advantages 1. It lowers your prospect’s cost For example, the lawn care service provider is ready to invest $3,000 to print and distribute a promotional flier; the roofing company is also planning to send promotional fliers to the same target market; and so is the driveway paving service and the eaves trough installers. If only two of these businesses got together to share the cost of the flier and distribution, they could reduce their marketing costs by up to 50 percent; and if all four got together their savings could be as high as 75 percent. From a print sales perspective creating a co-op marketing program allows you to differentiate your service by telling the prospect that you can reduce their marketing costs by up to 75 percent! 2. It will increase sales For your prospect a reduction in marketing costs means much more than just saving money; it also means an increase in sales and higher profits. For example, take any business person; a real estate agent; the owner of a lawn care service or the owner of the local pizzeria, their success requires marketing. They need to tell everyone in their neighborhood about the service or product and the more often they get their message out, the higher their sales. But small business owners have a limited marketing budget, so although they’d like to advertise more, they cannot afford it. Small business owners will welcome an idea that allows them to promote their services more often for the same cost and co-op marketing provides this opportunity. From a print sales perspective, creating a co-op marketing program allows you to differentiate your service by telling the prospect that you can share an idea that will increase their sales and gain market share.3. It makes your prospect’s marketing material more effective Diversity increases readership. For example, a Healthcare Newsletter that included an article and ad from a dentist, a dermatologist, a chiropractor and a nutritionist would have a much higher readership then a newsletter that only focused on one of these topics. So while sharing the cost of printing and distributing a brochure, flier or door hanger will greatly reduce your prospect’s marketing cost, co-op marketing will also increase readership and, for the prospect, that means generating a higher response. From a print sales perspective, creating a co-op marketing program means that you differentiate your service by telling the prospect that you can share an idea that will increase response and make their marketing collateral more effective.While offering your prospects a co-op marketing opportunity is an extremely effective way to differentiate your services and eliminate price competition, you can maximize your sales and earnings by offering the prospect a marketing campaign instead of a single co-op distribution. For example, if you created a co-op Home Services Newsletter or Door Hanger your promotional package could include printing and distribution to 5-million homes once a month for six months. How to create a co-op marketing package 1. Select the productAny printed material can be turned into a co-op marketing program, a note pad, flier, postcard, calendar, oversized door hangers, or an 11 x 17 sheet can be turned into 4-page newsletter. 2. Select an area for distribution5,000 homes along specified postal routes, all the businesses within a target area3. Pick a theme Again, there are lots of themes to choose from, primarily depending on time of year: Home improvements, real estate, food and entertainment, health and fitness, business services, etc.4. List the different types of business that fit under your themeHome improvements: Carpet cleaning, door and window sale, heating and air conditioning sale, eaves trough installers, roofers, driveway paving, kitchen and bathroom renovators, home improvements contractors, landscapers, lawn care, plumbers and electricians. Food and entertainment: Restaurants, theatres, pubs, country clubs, caterers, wine making outlets, butchers, home delivery, bakers and even farms that sell to the public.Business services: Office cleaning, office supplies, office equipment, business insurance, car leasing, temp services, accounting, bookkeeping and computer services, courier, shipping.5. Create a prospecting listUse the phone directory and Internet to identify all the local businesses on your list. 6. Contact everyone on your listTell them about the benefits. Offer everyone exclusivity by only including one company for each service. For example if your theme was dinning you could make it exclusive by including only one Italian, one Chinese and one Mexican restaurant.
Strategic brainstorming, change management and printing awards at CUPMAC’s 47th annual conference CUPMAC stands for College and University Print Management Association of Canada. Its approximately 80 members, who are all managers or other key personnel of in-plant printing operations in Canadian institutions of higher learning, do not necessarily follow the same protocols that spell success in the business world. Rather, they operate in ways uniquely geared to effectively serve the specific needs of their own academic institutions and customers. At the same time, their day-to-day routines accomplish many of the same goals that have always been among printing’s loftiest – education, freedom of thought and speech, free access to information and the progress of the arts, sciences, and technology.Another remarkable aspect about CUPMAC members is that they are regularly required to devise sophisticated practical solutions to meet the unique challenges of their work. Invariably, when I speak with members, I am fascinated to learn about the latest solutions they have uncovered for printing dilemmas I’ve never even heard of before. For this reason, I was excited to facilitate a 90-minute interactive brainstorming session on the latest challenges, successes and growth strategies for academic in-plants at CUPMAC’s 47th Annual Conference, held in early June in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The conference’s relatively small size of about 40 participants enabled shop talk that was satisfyingly intense and detailed, and gave all of us an opportunity to get to know each other over the information-packed three-and-a-half-day event. Change or dieThe conference theme, The Change Imperative, emphasized CUPMAC’s focus on supporting its members at a time when print and education environments are both changing rapidly. To survive this volatility, academic in-plants must quickly keep forging new paths to ensure their products and services stay relevant, while also ensuring their printing platforms remain efficient in the face of tightening budget constraints. Among the conference’s eye-openers on managing change was a workshop called Change or Die by Scott Comber, Assistant Professor at the Rowe School of Business at Halifax’s Dalhousie University. Comber is also a leadership coach, who works with organizations to help them manage change and improve the effectiveness of their leaders, conflict resolution, ethical decision-making, and the overall quality of work life.Comber’s thesis for his Change or Die sessions derives from studies in the health-care field involving patients with heart disease who undergo bypass surgery and afterwards need to change to a healthier lifestyle for their own survival. Yet statistics show that 90 percent of these patients choose not to change. Comber believes the reason is that, although they can understand rationally and intellectually why change is necessary, they fail to grasp the need for change on an emotional level and, therefore, fail to do so.“In business, change management usually refers to new sites, new bosses, new organizational charts, new technology, new policies, or other practical measures,” explains Comber. “Most management approaches to change focus only on these externals and their results." But most managers neglect what he calls transition: The internal psychological experience of the people involved in change as they come to terms with the new situation. “Unless transition occurs, change will not be successful,” says Comber, pointing to research showing that a full 75 percent of corporate change initiatives fail.“Since research also confirms that the largest catalyst for behavioural change is emotion, you must understand that change is emotionally driven and that managing people’s internal experience is the most critical part of change leadership,” says Comber. “Accordingly, you must integrate emotion into the way you communicate with others about change to make your communications effective in engaging people and changing their behaviours.” He suggests that connecting with people on a human level right at the beginning of the change process is the most-important single thing you should do – even before addressing the subject of how the change will proceed. “All you have to lead people through the change is your relationship with them,” he advises. He also recommends that leaders’ initial communications about change should identify the brutal facts – meaning what needs to be different – or else the change will not proceed successfully, either. Aiding transitionSince change – especially endings – can often give rise to people’s negative emotions like fear, denial, frustration and anger, Comber advises leaders to acknowledge (but do not necessarily judge) any endings that must occur, including any associated conflict and emotions.Support people in dealing with their feelings about the change and recognize that some people will take longer to adjust. Only after these preliminaries is it advisable to move on to discussions identifying best practices and creating an action plan for external changes.At this stage, one of the best ways to aid someone’s transition is to empower them to become part of the decision-making process through engaging them in dialogue, answering their questions, and listening to their feedback. “Help them decide on their own parts,” advises Comber. “In most situations you can include others in this way and avoid the common mistake of not holding other people capable and assuming they won’t be able to handle it.” Once an action plan for change is determined, Comber advises it is best to move quickly and energetically to implement it, because research shows that fast, large movement actually helps people adjust better than small, gradual changes.Another effective leadership technique is to tell a story about the road to change and new beginnings in a way that gives people meaning, purpose and validation. An excellent way for leaders to achieve all these ends is by communicating progress in a way that speaks to people’s emotions by instilling hope or even joy – emotions that are far more powerful motivators than logic, facts or fear.Communicating appreciationComber says another important part of communicating about change is appreciation: “Focus on what you want more of, give energy to it, and it will grow. In other words find it, track it and fan it.“Conversely, do not focus on problems, because if you focus on the negative, it will actually grow. Instead think in terms of the changes you want to see. As a small example, if employee lateness is a problem, track people who arrive on time and appreciate them. Rather than focusing on the problem, get people galvanized on a positive future marked by early arrivals.”Your expression of appreciation should be timely, convey thanks and include an all-important impact statement explaining the positive results of what you are appreciating. “It’s the impact message that actually changes behaviours by helping people understand how their contribution counts,” Comber explains. “During change people must do things they normally don’t have to do, so it’s important to appreciate their extra efforts.” It is not necessary to acknowledge each person individually, however. You can also do it through collective events like awards presentations or ice cream days.Comber adds that effective change leaders also need to cultivate their own skills at communicating with others about the ambiguity and volatility of information and situations. Likely, as plans progress, they will need to find constructive ways to address such unforeseen developments as delays and unanticipated consequences. Adding local colour and national awardsHalifax is one of Canada’s most-historic cities when it comes to printing. The country’s first newspaper, the Halifax Gazette, was first published there in 1752. The city also became home to Margaret Draper, a Loyalist from Boston, Massachusetts, considered Canada’s first female printer, who arrived in Halifax at the start of the American Revolution with her business partner John Howe, dragging a wooden printing press along with them.With a population today of 413,710, six universities and three colleges, Halifax seems to be experiencing a building boom, to judge by the number of cranes and construction sites in evidence in June. The CUPMAC conference took full advantage of local tourism by offering attendees optional nearby sightseeing on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, including visits to the famously scenic fishing villages of Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg (the latter being one of only two North American UNESCO Heritage Sites). The fact that modern Halifax has become a gastronomic wonderland was reflected both in excellent meals at the conference hotel and several supplier-sponsored dinner outings to fine local restaurants.The awards dinner at the conference was memorable for its impressive venue: The Garrison Room in the North Magazine of the Halifax Citadel, a British fort established in 1749 and Canada’s most visited National Historic Site, according to Fodors.com. The occasion marked the first ever presentation of the annual CUPMAC Awards, a new source of lifeblood for members, who depend for their existence on the acknowledgement of their value by the bureaucracy and teaching departments of the institutions they serve. This clientele, consisting of administrators and academics, may have no concept of the expertise and benefits provided by their school’s printing in-plant and may in fact find it easier to farm the whole operation out to an external facility-management supplier if they seriously fail to understand its importance. Hence the requirement on all CUPMAC members to keep their institutions constantly aware of the unique and valuable services their in-plant provides.The newly created awards program gives members a way to generate just this kind of vital internal recognition and marketing, explains Sean Kehler, Supervisor, Print & Logistics Services, Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, British Columbia. He laughs when recounting that his appointment to the Awards Committee of one, charged with implementing the program, came while he was taking a break from the room where CUPMAC’s 2013 annual meeting was being held in conjunction with the association’s 2013 conference in Whistler, British Columbia. (He was present, however, when he was elected the association’s new President at CUPMAC’s 2014 annual meeting in Halifax.)In organizing the awards, Kehler elected to incorporate a number of distinctive features; for instance, wall plaques are awarded as prizes instead of trophies to save space on desks and shelves. The plaques are made in the city hosting both the annual conference and awards presentation ceremony to further involve the locale in the awards. All samples entered in CUPMAC’s five categories of Production Awards are displayed at the annual conference and judged by all members in attendance. A further five categories, called Impression Awards, are determined by CUPMAC’s executive team to recognize special achievements. The Impression Awards include: Collaborative Service, working with another unit to achieve a goal; Green Service, changes in operations impacting recyclable, renewable and sustainable environmental resources or communicating the in-plant’s green efforts to customers; Accelerated Service, an extreme production deadline; Distinctive Service, continuing daily production while achieving innovative goals for growth through such drastic measures as new equipment installs, plant moves or reorganization; and Hall of Fame induction, exemplifying the highest standards of service to an institution along with contributions to CUPMAC and the in-plant community as a whole.Although printing in-plants in institutions of higher learning vary greatly in size and complexity, Kehler explains the Impression Awards make it possible for even CUPMAC’s smallest members with only one or two staff to gain recognition: “Impression Awards are for something you accomplished in the trenches without ever necessarily producing a showy printed piece. Everyone can enter a good story or two about how they overcame a difficult challenge to achieve a special accomplishment.”During judging, CUPMAC’s members and executive assess entries following detailed criteria set out on a judging sheet compiled by Kehler, then cast their votes accordingly. Another friendly, collaborative touch is that, after receiving an award, each winner then turns around and acts as the presenter for the next one.
Measures to protect your business from employee fraud The printing industry is continually plagued by cases of employee fraud. During the five years I managed the Ontario Association of Quick Printers, I was surprised by the number of small business owners who confided that at some point their company had been defrauded out of ruinous sums by staff – often a long-term employee whom they thought they knew well and trusted... Cases of staff fraud at printing companies reported in just the past 12 months, include: Michael Britt, 31, charged with 13 counts of forgery occurring over more than five years and resulting in the theft of over $1 million from Gene-Del Printing, the Brentwood, Missouri company co-owned by Britt’s mother and three partners. Britt allegedly wrote at least 166 unauthorized cheques to himself using forged signatures of two of the company’s owners, fabricated fraudulent invoices for the cheques, and made at least $25,000 in unauthorized purchases on a company credit card.Christina and Brian Russo, a married couple, both in their 50s, charged with stealing more than $657,000 from Harmony Press of Easton, Pennsylvania. Christina Russo allegedly wrote hundreds of unauthorized cheques to her husband and herself using a rubber stamp with the owner’s signature.Leona Gebhart, the 70-year-old former comptroller of Henderson’s Printing in Altoona, Pennsylvania, charged with stealing at least $151,130 over 11 years by allegedly writing unauthorized company cheques to herself (including duplicate and triplicate paycheques), manipulating petty cash, and falsifying documents, while allowing the company’s Federal tax payments to become delinquent. With all these past and present horror stories in mind, I spoke to Robert Fowlie and David Malamed, forensic accountants at leading Toronto financial and business advisory firms, and Detective Constable Keith Nakahara of the Halton Regional Police Service Fraud Unit (Commercial Team) to learn what printers can do to protect themselves from devastation by employee fraud. How employee fraud worksNakahara’s region of Ontario, including the towns of Oakville and Milton, has one of the highest per capita incomes and one of the highest rates of fraud in Canada. He observes that business fraudsters have no particular motivations or characteristics in common except that they have too much control with too little supervision – a position that creates overwhelming temptation for some people. “Don’t automatically assume you can trust somebody based on a family connection or the length of time you’ve known them,” he warns. “In business the most common fraud we see is committed by a person in a position of trust with limited oversight, typically a bookkeeper or accountant who has a certain amount of control over what facts get released, so the fraud may go undetected for years.”Both Fowlie, a partner at Deloitte LLP, and Malamed, a partner at Grant Thornton LLP, have long strings of credentials after their names certifying them as fraud experts. Besides investigating alleged cases and preparing financial information for use in court, they also work proactively to establish preventative controls.Both say smaller print shops are more susceptible to fraud than larger companies if their smaller staff count results in less separation of duties. In other words, the person writing the cheques may be the same person reconciling the bank accounts and doing the accounting, so he or she can readily conceal bogus payments to themselves or fictional third parties.In billing fraud, phony vendors may get paid, or an individual working in procurement for a company starts his own business, buys raw materials at cost, marks up the prices exorbitantly, then sells the materials to the company he works for. In payroll fraud, wages may be paid to a fictitious employee or somebody who was terminated still gets paid via deposits to an account controlled by the fraudster. Verify bank and accounting recordsFowlie and Malamed say a good way to detect fraud is for owners to obtain their bank statement directly from the bank and review it monthly (or else delegate the review to an internal third party knowledgeable and reliable) to ensure that each payment and vendor is legitimate. They also recommend comparing your list of vendor and delivery addresses with your employees’ addresses and regularly reviewing the payroll journal that most companies submit to an external third party for processing.“In a recent trial we uncovered that, even after review and approval of payroll information, a clerk was still able to make changes by adding payments to herself and terminated employees to an account she controlled and make accounting entries to cover up these payments,” warns Fowlie. “Our clients thought they were in control when in fact the process was not operating as they intended.”Nakahara suggests that the notes in your company’s year-end financial reporting may also identify specific items of concern: “For example, ledgers that don’t match bank payments and the bookkeeper’s explanation dismissing the discrepancy as a computer glitch may warrant closer investigation.” Expenses, consumables and chequesAnother big area of concern is employee expense accounts, says Malamed: “Expense fraud is epidemic among all organizations. It’s the number-one trend I see.” Fowlie explains: “In today’s tougher economic climate, some families have gone from two to one income or experience no growth in income against growing expenses. Under new financial pressures, some people feel forced to do things they have not done before. Perhaps this is one reason we’re seeing an up-tick in fraudulent employee expense claims involving false documentation or duplicate claims.” He warns that Websites even exist where users can print out receipts for fictitious claims. As a remedy, he says companies must check every detail of expense claims submitted by employees and require each item to be supported not only by legitimate documentation but also within business rationale.“Another form of fraud happens if I cook and sell steaks in the restaurant where I work, then pocket the customer’s money because the owners don’t know they were sold,” says Malamed. “This type of transaction is also possible in the printing world, where press or pre-press operators could be running their own jobs on the side using the owner’s resources.” Since consumables like toner, ink, and paper are expensive and highly transactional, he thinks there could also be a secondary market for them. One preventative measure he suggests owners can take is to project what the company’s sales should be based on consumption of supplies. If either the sales or the supplies in stock fall short, they need to investigate why. “Don’t get carried away with the business and forget to look at the numbers,” he insists. “The numbers tell the story. Perform your own analysis to see if things add up.”Typically, in cheque fraud the names of payees or dollar amounts on cheques are changed, or duplicates are issued of the same cheque. “Usually cheques are numbered sequentially, so if number 005 shows up a few times, it’s a red flag,” says Malamed. (Red flags are warning signals that deviate from correct practice and may point to the presence of fraud.) Fowlie says organized criminals commonly perpetrate a counterfeiting scheme by intercepting a company’s cheque in the mail and taking it to a printer to obtain fake blank copies. Then they write the fake cheques to third parties, who cash them and return some of the proceeds to the organized criminals. “This is the reason why in Europe payment is typically arranged through wires and direct transfers to avoid cheques being intercepted and compromised and counterfeits being written against the account,” explains Fowlie. “Some of my clients have lost millions of dollars through this type of scheme because they didn’t monitor their accounts closely or were unprotected in terms of the way their account was set up.”As a preventative measure, banks operate something called Positive Pay programs in which companies pay the bank a fee (something like 20 cents) per cheque and provide the bank with standard information on cheques they issue like cheque numbers, payees’ names, and dollar amounts. If the information written on a particular cheque differs from their records, the bank will hold the cheque and notify the company. “Some companies think the cost of a Positive Pay program is too expensive; however, if you’re lacking in segregation of duties, it may be the least expensive way to handle the problem of cheque fraud,” says Malamed. Staff and hiring issuesNakahara says before hiring any employee in a position of financial trust it is important to have the person sign a pre-employment contract that clearly delineates the basis and limitations of the job. He explains that fraud is the crime of obtaining money or some other benefit for the perpetrator or someone else by deliberate deception. Thus, to prosecute fraud, police need evidence both of a theft and of the deceit the fraudster used to commit it.He says a lot of cases get thrown out of court because the fraudster claims that the business owner knew about and approved the transactions in question. Without corroborating evidence on either side, the case boils down to the fraudster’s word against the owner’s and is likely to get tossed. Thus the pre-employment contract should specify that: (1) the person will not gain by any transaction without the knowledge and consent of the owner, and (2) the owner’s approval of any transaction must be stated in writing. Additionally, before hiring accounting and payroll personnel, Fowlie advises owners to call their former employers. If, for example, his client’s company had checked on the payroll clerk mentioned earlier in this way, they would have learned she was charged by the RCMP for doing the same thing at a previous employer’s company.But Nakahara says doing systematic police background checks on prospective employees only provide a false sense of security: “The checks only reveal when people are convicted, not charged, and for various reasons conviction rates are low in comparison to the larger number of people who are actually committing fraud. So no amount of front-end due diligence can replace ongoing due diligence in a business operation.”Fowlie says due diligence should include remaining alert to changes in staff’s behaviour and financial well-being, such as someone suddenly living outside their means. Additionally, he says people involved in fraud often do not take vacations to prevent their fraud from being detected; so refusal to take vacations is often a red flag. If you suspect fraudFowlie encourages businesses to review their insurance policy with their broker or insurer to make sure it includes coverage not only for fraud, but also for fees for a forensic accountant to conduct an investigation on their behalf, if necessary.If you suspect someone of fraud, he says it is not prudent to confront the individual straight away. Rather, you should first conduct an investigation and strategize about what is to be done. “I have seen companies accuse and fire longtime employees, only to discover the problem was not fraud but careless accounting,” he cautions.If an investigation substantiates fraud, Nakahara advises owners to be aware that perpetrators usually plan an escape, so that even if they are removed from their job, they can still continue to defraud the company. So the most appropriate course of action is not only to remove the person from the job completely, but also to notify your bank and other financial institutions that the person no longer has the authority to transact business for your company.Nakahara also recommends you let the fraudster know you have gone to the police, which might make them stop robbing you of more money or prompt them into a legally useful verbal response – something police call a “spontaneous utterance” – such as an admission of guilt or an offer to pay you back the stolen money, which you should carefully make note of. As the victim, you can also file a complaint with the police, usually in the district where you work or reside. In fact, to pay out on a crime insurance policy, most insurance companies require police to lay criminal charges to validate that the fraud has occurred with reasonable probable cause. A subsequent criminal conviction on the charges in court gives the perpetrator a police record which may prevent the person from repeating the offence at other companies.Sometimes, if a business is not covered by insurance for fraud, or insurance does not cover the entire loss, the owner may also elect to pursue a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator to try to recover stolen money. In this event, Fowlie says forensic accounts are often enlisted to investigate the fraudster’s assets to determine how much recovery might be possible. Fraud risk assessmentFowlie points to statistics from the global Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) showing that some businesses are defrauded as often as every two to three years. And because prevention costs are generally lower than the cost of a fraud investigation, he urges businesses to become proactive about prevention.Malamed concurs: “Prevention is my key focus. Every dollar you spend on prevention saves $10 or $20 on reaction – not including dollar loss. If there’s one message I want to scream from the top of buildings, it’s ‘Put preventative techniques in place!’”One thing a business can do is hire a forensic accountant to conduct a fraud risk assessment of its operations, which reviews all of the company’s activities to determine the types of fraud it is exposed to and develops preventative internal controls.As with legal fees, you pay for the consultant’s professional expertise, so the cost of a fraud risk assessment can be high. But Fowlie explains: “Like lawyers, most forensic accountants will first meet with you for an hour to understand your business and prepare a quote on how much time and money will be required to assess the entire organization. Some will also help figure out a budget that will work for you, since it is possible to perform the assessment in stages, one division or function at a time. You can start with the most vulnerable area the first year, then assess the rest over time.” Awareness training and whistleblower programsMalamed suggests two more important anti-fraud services available from companies like his, which are affordable to small- and medium-sized companies: fraud awareness training and whistleblower programs. Fraud awareness training educates employees, owners, and stakeholders on how to identify red flags. A whistleblower program enables employees to anonymously point out instances where potential fraud exists.“For example, in one investigation, I asked the employee I was interviewing: ‘Didn’t you find it unusual when the manager asked you to make journal entries on Friday nights and Saturday mornings instead of during regular business hours?’” recalls Malamed. “With awareness training, the employee would have realized this timing was a red flag, and a whistleblower program would have given him a way around his feelings of discomfort about questioning a manager’s orders directly.”Malamed says research by ACFE shows that over 40 percent of fraud is identified by tips. Giving employees a way to report it without worrying about backlash increases the odds of detection. ACFE statistics also show most fraud take about 18 months to identify and result in an average loss of $140,000 over this time. But for companies with controls in place like awareness training and whistleblower programs, detection time goes down from 18 months to nine months and average loss from $140,000 to $77,000.
In the 1450s, Johannes Gutenberg’s development of combining metal moveable type, oil-based ink, and the wooden hand press into a printing process led to an explosion of popular literacy – fostering new possibilities for every person in the civilized to read and write. But now, in 2014, literacy has acquired a broader definition. In many North American towns and cities, public libraries are revising their services based on a definition of literacy that includes not just the ability to read and write words, but also the ability to operate digital technology and program digital code. Public libraries now offer computer programming, 3D printing, and maker spaces as components of literacy. This expanded definition, together with partial funding from the Metcalf Foundation, led the Toronto Public Library (TPL) to create a $44,000 digital media lab, called the Digital Innovation Hub, which drew considerable attention from the press when it opened in February at its popular downtown Toronto Reference Library location, near the heavily trafficked intersection of Bloor and Yonge Streets.“Literacy comes in several forms, and new technology plays a bigger and bigger role in how people acquire knowledge,” explains Ab Velasco, Project Leader, Digital Content and Innovation for TPL, who recently gave me a tour of the new Hub. “From the early days of computers, the library has made digital technology available to the public and supported them in learning how to use it, so the Hub is just an extension of the same principle.”Velasco says the taskforce which planned the Hub consisted of TPL staff from a cross-section of such departments as IT, Web Services, Policy and Planning, and Marketing and Communications, aided by a survey of the TPL community and consultations with other libraries. He says Fayetteville Free Library (in a suburb of Syracuse, New York) was the trailblazer in creating facilities like the Hub and that its model has since been followed by libraries in Edmonton, Chicago and Innisfil (20 minutes south of Barrie, Ontario). How the Hub worksFor free and for up to two hours a day, TPL cardholders can reserve one of the Hub’s nine workstations, each dedicated to either Audio/Video Editing, 3D Scanning, VCR-to-Digital Conversion, Web/Graphic/3D Design, or Coding/Programming. Users can obtain help from one of the digital design technicians constantly on duty whose expertise varies among each of the processes for which the Hub is equipped. Users can also book time on an array of other high-tech devices, including:- One of two MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printers (about $2,500 each),- High-definition video cameras,- A green screen (background for digital photography or videography that enables the image or video being shot to be superimposed on a second image or video),- A variety of big-name-brand tablets and laptops, and- Smart Pens (electronic ballpoint pens that digitize, store, and transfer what is written or drawn to a computer). In a Learning Centre beside the Hub, the Library provides training sessions (some up to 2 1/2 hour long) on subjects like Photoshop (Parts I and II), Website Design (Parts 1 and II), Introductory 3D Design, and 3D Printer Certification. March Break classes for students are offered for 3D Printing, Video, or DJ-ing. Again, all classes are free to TPL cardholders and require only advance booking (although spaces are limited.) Next, Velasco says, a course on Computer Programming will be added. And because high-school teachers have expressed the desire to build digital literacy amongst their students, TPL is developing a School Visits Program for the Hub, as well as video training modules. A further $50,000 from the Metcalf Foundation will enable TPL to develop and deliver outreach technology programs to youth in underemployed areas. Additionally, two more Digital Innovation Hubs are scheduled for TPL’s Fort York and Scarborough Civic Centre locations – two new branches expected to open later this year, bringing TPL’s total number of branches to exactly 100. 3D printing and maker spaceVelasco says since the first Hub opened, 3D printing has proven especially popular, and the 20 3D Printer Certification classes TPL had scheduled for February and March were fully booked within three days. The certification courses are mandatory before using TPL’s 3D printers. About 60 of the 300 people who signed up for them also obtained their first TPL card at the same time.Just as TPL charges users nominal fees for black-and-white and colour copies, 3D-printer users pay a surcharge of $1 plus five cents per minute, with a two-hour-a-day limit on printer time. Thus users can print a consumer-grade project, such as a smartphone case, in about 90 minutes for about $5.50; but if they wanted to print something more complicated and time-consuming, such as an engineering or architectural prototype, Velasco says they instead would have to use one of Toronto’s commercial suppliers of 3D printing. TPL also does not allow 3D printing of weapons, sexually explicit materials, and other items that contravene the Library’s published Rules of Conduct.Some of the Hub’s other newfangled gear is aimed at the “maker” community. This is a subculture of do-it-yourselfers who enjoy creating things in their spare time, often new and unique inventions, using electronics, robotics, 3D printing, computer numerical controls, metalworking, or woodworking. The theme of Make Magazine, one of the niche publications for this community, is to celebrate “your right to tweak, hack, and bend any technology to your own will.”Items in the Hub’s inventory that might especially appeal to makers include: - Raspberry Pi computers (tiny, cheap computers expressly designed for educational applications and experiments), - Arduino kits (open-source electronic boards that can control just about any do-it-yourself hardware project; Getting your coffee maker to tweet you after it finishes brewing), and - Makey Makey kits (a device that lets you turn random objects, such as fruit or Play-Doh figurines, into computer-operating keys). Part and parcel of the maker experience is that it generally occurs in collaborative spaces where people can connect and learn from each other as they tinker. Velasco comments: “Technology is great, but it becomes greater with a community and face-to-face interaction that utilizes, defines, and conceptualizes it. What is unique about the Hub is that we are hoping to build and foster a similar sense of community and collaborative learning here.” “To succeed in today’s digital world, Torontonians need the opportunity to use emerging technologies in spaces that encourage collaboration and creativity,” stated City Librarian Jane Pyper, when TPL’s first Hub was introduced. In fact, TPL has codified these objectives as one of the four major initiatives comprising its 2012-2015 Strategic Plan; namely, to “Catalyze & Connect a City of Innovators, Entrepreneurs & Creators.”TPL’s Website reads: “Through partnerships, transformations of our physical and virtual spaces, and the use of new and emerging technologies, Toronto Public Library creates cultural and creative destinations that stimulate and support creativity, encourage collaboration, and spark experimentation and innovation for creators and entrepreneurs of all ages.”So far, these partnerships include outreach to such local maker spaces and communities as HackLab.TO, MakerKids, and Site 3 coLaboratory, because, “all these spaces are very much about community defining the space and the technology, and that’s the feeling we’re trying to go for,” confirms Velasco. Another partnership has enabled the Reference Library to bring on site the Toronto Mini Maker Faire, scheduled for November 22 and 23, 2014. Other partnerships have resulted in Monthly Meetups – drop-in programs in the Reference Library’s Atrium with speakers and performances on such topics as Robotics: Creating a Star Wars Droid and When Wearable Tech Meets Art. Yet another of TPL’s innovations in collaboration is a Repair Café session where people can bring a broken household item and get help fixing it amid their neighbours. TPL also recently inaugurated an Innovators in Residence program, commencing with 3D printing expert and digital fabrication artist Derek Quenneville of 3DPhacktory. Besides working on site for a six-week residency, Quenneville is slated to create a video training module; offer classes, demonstrations, and drop-in appointments for TPL’s customers; blog for TPL; and make himself generally available. Because the Hub is young, Velasco says further elaborations are still under consideration and will partly reflect how TPL staff witness people making use of the new facilities.
With the introduction of the M measurement modes, the past couple of years have brought a range of incredible new measurement devices that can change the way any commercial printer approaches their pressroom (originally publshed in PrintAction's October 2015 issue).
For three days in March, some of the brightest technological minds in print gathered in New Mexico to discuss RFID, Ultra Violet, omni-marketing and colour management The Technical Association of the Graphic Arts held its annual conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in late March. As is tradition, the conference, focusing on the newest technological developments in printing systems kicked off with four high-profile keynote speakers.The first keynote came from Chris Travis of KBA North America. He talked about many advances still being made in press technology, with more sales of complex machines, combining different printing features and more automation. Presses are being ordered with double coaters for spot UV, spot matte and special effect coatings. Sometimes the coating units are before the printing units for laying white down first, to print on foils and for the application of sizing. The goal of all these various press configurations is to get everything done in one pass. Travis also points out that the decision to print a job digitally or offset starts at a relatively low good-copy count. He says any job with more than 191 good print copies is more cost effective when the job is printed offset. UV technology is also changing, as the light tubes change from the standard mercury vapour to iron-doped mercury vapour light tubes. This little change results in higher gloss levels for UV coatings. The coating manufacturers have to adjust the phot0-initiator mix so it will work with the iron-doped UV light tubes and UV LED technology is gaining more of a foothold in the print industry. Travis also points out that flexographic printing is growing and holds the most potential in the print industry. The industry overall is finally growing again even as a lot of mergers and acquisitions take place.The second keynote was given by Patrick Younk from Los Alamos National Lab, introducing conference attendees to some of their incredible work. Many fundamental research projects are carried out by this research institute. Younk talked about the High Altitude Water Cherenkov observatory for the detection of gamma rays originating from the sun. He also talked about an ultra-fast optical ranging measurement system. It is a non-contact position measurement system that works with a 1-micron accuracy and it could be used to measure ink film thickness or colour registration.Michael Van Haren from Quad/Graphics presented the third keynote on omni-channel marketing. He began by describing the differences between multi-channel and omni-channel marketing. Omni-channel marketing is the same message on all media. Print of course is still the main driver of this. Why – because it works. It delivers the right message in the right place at the right time. With the emergence of high-speed inkjet printing it is possible to personalize the message and with full colour inkjet the message to the consumer becomes very personalized. A highly targeted variable data print uses personalized URLs or PURLs. Through QR codes and image recognition apps, the printed piece has some augmented reality to it. For all this technology to work well, data is needed to drive the campaign. The contact strategy needs to be build with print being in sync with digital channels. Any digital tools that interact with the customer need to be tested over and over again to make sure they all work as intended.The fourth keynote was given by Bruce Khan from Clemson University and his topic was printed electronics. He said that print is and will be the manufacturing method of choice in this area, because it is fast and produces the electronic components at a relatively low cost. Khan also says that false hopes had been given by nanotechnology and RFID technology. The most successful printed electronic component is the glucose sensor strip for diabetics. Many obstacles still need to be overcome to successfully print something like flexible hybrid electronics.Colour and optical brightenersOn the second day of the TAGA conference, the series of presentations started with a diverse range of topics. John Anderson from Kodak talked about the Flexcel NX flexographic printing plate that allows the manufacturing of plates with flat top dots. The Flexcel NX plate is coupled with DigiCapNX technology to achieve higher solid ink densities than with conventional plate technology. This technology allows for creating halftones from a 0.4 to a 99.6 percent tint. Through Hyperflex NX technology, the floor of the flexographic printing plate gets extended to support low tint value halftone dots. This presentation was an example of the advances that are currently made in flexography that allow the printing of finer details and more vibrant solids.Don Schroeder from Fujifilm was one of the first speakers to talk about the influence of optical brighteners in papers and that proofing papers have no or very little optical brighteners in them. This discrepancy causes colour differences between press sheet and proof, especially if the paper has a very blueish white colour. The new measurement conditions M1 as outlined in ISO 13655 requires a light source with UV component, so the optical brighteners in the paper get excited and influence the measurement of the printed colours. The standard datasets that many colour management solutions are built upon were created in 2006 and they have been measured under the M0 measurement conditions, which are without a UV component in the light source. The new dataset created in 2013 use measurements taken under the M1 conditions.Many other presenters talked about the new M1 measurement conditions and how they will influence the printing industry, but there is a drawback to this new measurement condition. An extreme example is that two M1 compliant light sources can have 50 and 150 percent of UV component in them and this results in a b* difference of 7. This can be quite significant for the overall colour difference and can result in a pass or fail of a colour. In conjunction with ISO 13655, for the measurement conditions of light booths, ISO 3664 has also been updated, so that the light source in the viewing booths also has a UV component in them. The compliance of a viewing booth with this updated ISO standard can be verified with a measurement device from GL Optics. Overall there were six presentations about the new M1 measurement condition and how it influences measured colours, the proofing stage and also the colour management part of any print job.Although the DE2000 colour difference equation is not (yet) part of an ISO standard, work is being done to develop a colour space that is based on DE2000. John Seymour from QuadTech presented his advances in this project. His goal is to create a colour space with modified L*a*b*-axis that allow for the use the DeltaLab colour difference formula.A presentation was given on the strategies of managing spot colours using traditional metrics and how to predict the colour outcome using simulated colours on screen. Research is also being done regarding working with expanded gamut printing using 7 colours (CMYK plus orange, green and violet). The use GCR and optimized colour sequence (KOVCGMY) are instrumental to more stable and predictable print results.Raia Slivniak-Zorin from HP in Israel talked about the work she and her team did with regard to digitally printed flexible packaging. The work was done on an HP Indigo and the prints were also laminated. One of her main findings is that a primer needs to applied to the flexible substrate first, so the ElectroInk will adhere properly. Also an adhesive has to be applied first, before the printed material can be laminated. A corona treatment of the substrate greatly enhances the bonding of primer and ink.The 2015 TAGA conference was a very high profile conference with many cutting-edge research presentations that will have an influence on the print industry in the coming years. The fact that the M1 measurement condition received so much attention during the conference shows that the new ISO standard requires more investigation.
Makers of electrophoretic ink discuss how technology that began life as an MIT Media Lab research project is transforming information consumptionSimple demographics are one of the biggest threats to the viability of print. Younger generations consume more and more media with little need for the printed page. Digital display companies are keenly focused on the functionality of their user interfaces, but readability remains an allusive metric for most. From consumer reports it seems the tablet reading experience on devices such as Apple’s iPad or Samsung’s Galaxy leaves something to be desired. The tablet’s glossy backlit LCD screen is great for watching videos, but reflections tire the reader’s eye and the words are difficult to read outdoors. Emissive displays also draw a lot of power causing tablet batteries to fade after only a few hours in many cases.On the other hand many avid e-book fans will tell you that a Kindle or Kobo with crisp black type on a paper-white background provides a much better reading experience. Though by no means a replacement for the multi-media friendly tablet, former consumers of the printed page have been increasingly adopting this style of e-reader for ease of reading both indoors and out while enjoying longer battery life. But what makes these e-readers so different from tablets? The answer is E InkE Ink takes its name from its technology – electrophoretic ink – and is the visible component used in Electronic Paper Displays (EPDs). This promising technology began life in 1996 as a research project in the MIT Media Lab before becoming the foundation of E Ink Corporation, which sought to commercialize the digital paper concept as the preferred display for e-readers. E Ink is made of microcapsules about the diameter of a human hair sandwiched between two thin layers of film containing a transparent top electrode, and a bottom electrode. Each microcapsule contains negatively charged black pigment and positively charged white pigment suspended in a clear fluid. When the top electrode charges positive, the black pigment rises to the surface, morphing the microcapsule from white to black. The microcapsules are bi-stable and reflective – meaning the image will remain on the digital page without electricity and requires only ambient light to be visible. That’s why E Ink displays draw very little power.E Ink displays are well suited for viewing static images that change sporadically – simulating book, newspaper or magazine pages for example. Because the display reflects natural light, it much more closely resembles the printed page with readability improving as the light gets brighter – working especially well in full sunlight. E Ink Corporation announced new concepts at CES 2015 and demonstrated E Ink products developed by licensees that evolve the digital paper paradigm beyond the e-reader.New E Ink models“One of the more interesting products we are showing at CES is the Sony DPT S1 business e-reader,” reveals Giovanni Mancini, head of global marketing for E Ink. “Designed for the business user, this device is the size of an A4 sheet of paper, extremely rugged and weighs only about six ounces.“The DPT S1 has touch capability, but it also has an extremely responsive digitizer. This is intended for business users who want to take a large number of documents with them, but don’t want the bulk of the paper,” he continues. “Users can annotate documents with their fingertip while in the field, then have the information captured into the document control system back in the office.”The Sony DPT S1 comes with 4gb storage, capable of carrying thousands of monochrome pages and has a micro SD slot for expansion.Mancini then demonstrates another innovative use for E Ink in the form of a mobile phone display. The Russian-made YotaPhone is an Android mobile phone featuring a standard high-resolution colour display on the front, and a monochrome E Ink display on the back of the handset.“The idea is to attach different information feeds, such as email or text messages, that you want to keep monitoring to the E Ink display on the back,” Mancini explains. “This way you don’t have to constantly turn on the screen on the front of your phone and cycle through the various apps to get the information. This really extends the battery life of the YotaPhone because of the very low power consumption of E Ink displays.“To really conserve power, the user can completely disable the front colour display and get the full Android interface on the E Ink display. You can even use the Kindle App to read books on the back of the YotaPhone! “Another innovative use of an E ink display can be seen on the Sony Smartband Talk – a sports watch and fitness device that pairs up with an Android phone. The Smartband Talk enables you to track your fitness during the day and get information from your smartphone, all displayed on a controllable E Ink display,” explains Mancini.While EPDs are already well established in the retail display category, E Ink Corporation announced and demonstrated innovative new solutions at CES 2015 targeting both the indoor and outdoor signage markets.“These E Ink 32-inch digital displays are great for small businesses such as coffee shops or restaurants, for example, that might want to use them as menu boards,” says Mancini. “They are also well-suited for information displays in public spaces such as bus shelters. Because of low energy requirements, batteries or even solar power can power these E Ink displays without the need to run cables.“Another thing that we announced at CES this year is our E ink Prism product,” Mancini continues. “We’ve taken our E ink technology and encapsulated many different colours of pigments within the same microsphere and laminated them into a colour changing film to incorporate into architectural products.”E Ink Corporation demonstrated a 20-foot wall of colour-shifting Prism tiles at CES. Controlled by a PC, these tiles are designed to change colours, providing a different aesthetic and changing the mood of a hotel lobby or an airport terminal.“Right now this is a concept product for us,” Mancini continues, “created through collaboration with architects and design firms over the past year. We hope to have a public installation of Prism by the end of 2015. We also plan to use Prism in horizontal surfaces such as glass counters or coffee tables.”Nemesis of printFrom the products on display at CES 2015 it’s logical to conclude that E Ink has already done most of the damage it’s going to do to the conventional printed page. After all, e-readers already represent an established market for publishers, and the line has been drawn between those who prefer to read the printed page, and those who choose digital. Instead, the future of E Ink and Electronic Page Displays lies in enabling the next generation of signage, personal document readers, smart devices and wearable technology – where low-power displays and control surfaces are essential to ensure functionality and energy efficiency.
With drupa 2016 a year away, I began thinking about the last time the giant German tradeshow in Düsseldorf took place in 2012 and the crowds at Landa Digital Printing’s exhibition space. Mostly, I remember the blue-and-black futuristic design of Landa’s new Nanographic Printing Presses, including the unique control panel mounted to the side of each press like a giant iPhone. I wondered aloud, “Shouldn’t there be a few presses already installed in print shops by this time?”Providing as much function as form, the control screen GUI appeared to be well designed to meet the needs of a busy operator. There was even a digital microscope that came with each press, which I was immediately impressed with because it allows both operators and customers to look at the details of a printed sheet. Over the first days of the 14-day trade show, heavy iron manufacturers like Heidelberg, manroland and Komori joined Landa’s marketing buzz by announcing Nanographic technology partnerships, albeit a little vague. Benny Landa, who founded the company in 2002, told drupa 2012 visitors the Nanographic presses could reach first adopters by the end of 2013 at the earliest, with initial machines hitting the market during the first months of 2014. I thought to myself: Let’s see if he can keep this deadline.Nanography nutshell The year 2013 came and went without any Landa Digital presses going into potential customers, although there may have well been quiet alpha testing going on inside an eager print shop. In March 2013, I attended the annual TAGA conference in Portland, Oregon, where Gilad Tzori, VP of Product Strategy of Landa Digital Printing gave the event’s third keynote presentation.Tzori provided conference attendees, who primarily serve on the technical side of printing, an overview of how Landa Nanography works and differs from existing printing presses. Emphasis was put on Landa’s jetting of water-based inks which do not soak the paper, so the sheet does not come out wavy at the end of the press run.Many people will have experienced this water-soaking problem when they print a sheet of paper with heavy coverage on their home or office inkjet printer. Tzori explained how the Nanographic printing process first inkjets the image onto a heated transfer belt, and secondly how the ink turns into a semi-solid type material on the transfer belt, which is then transferred onto the paper. Unique properties of Landa’s belt, explained Tzori, ensures a 100 percent transfer of the image onto the paper. He then showed images of a printed dot produced with Nanography and compared it to the same magenta dot printed with different technologies currently on the market. The superior quality of the Nanographic process, in regards to the roundness and sharpness of the printed dot, was then described in Tzori’s marketing presentation. A clear advantage of Nanography indicates the process allows for printing on almost any substrate.Nano pigments deliver a broader colour gamut than standard offset inks. The Landa black has L*a*b*-values of 5.4, 0.7 and 0.05 compared to the ISO standard of 16, -0.1, 0.1. The ink film is 500-nano-meters thick, which is a lot less than that of any other conventional printing process. The printed density for coated and uncoated paper is the same, since the ink does not sink into the uncoated paper but rather sits on top of the paper. De-inkability studies, explained Tzori, have also shown good results. De-inkability is a significant problem with regular inkjet printed sheets.Nanography nicheAfter describing the technical architecture of Nanography, Tzori explained where Landa Digital sees its market niche and how it plans to bridge a gap between short-run digital and longer-run offset jobs. This includes targeting offset sheetfed work with a 40-inch or B1-format press model. Tzori stressed that Landa is not reinventing existing machine technology like paper feeding and delivery, which is why the company is working with traditional press makers, most notably Komori.A key question to come from the conference crowd that day asked about the future availability of these new Nanographic printing presses. A careful answer was given, which I interrupted to mean it would be at the beginning of 2014, while the company’s main challenge was to achieve the desired print quality at the necessary resolution.Year 2014 came and went and, without hearing much more from Landa in terms of press installations, I naturally started wondering if the past two years of Nanographic marketing had been all smoke and mirrors? In February of 2014, Landa Digital and EFI announced a strategic alliance and in June 2014 Altana invested €100 million into Landa Digital, which had also received a number of press down payments from printers wanting to be first in line. It is my guess that Altana will manufacture the Landa inks and EFI will deliver the digital front-end to the presses. On December 9, 2014, Landa Digital made a public statement about its technology development, including its intent to focus on the 40-inch folding-carton market with its S10 press. The press has undergone some radical design changes, including the addition of a coating unit. The operator’s side-mounted touchscreen, as it was seen at drupa 2012, had to be moved to the delivery end – transforming its look more toward a traditional press design. The weight of the press has increased also from 10 tons to 30 tons.Landa Digital explained the S10 operator now has a more ergonomic workplace showing all the required information for running jobs. Personally, I like the video feeds from inside the press to the operator cockpit. The press operator can see if any sheets have been dropped or if they are causing a jam. The presses also have an inline inspection unit from Advanced Vision Technology. Within its online marketing material, Landa Digital writes: “The quality control solution will combine innovative nozzle performance and colour control techniques to maintain print quality and increase press productivity. The quality control system will also control colour-to-colour registration, image placement and front-to-back registration.” The print resolution of the S10 press is now at 1,200 dpi and the press also makes it possible to print on both sides of the carton sheet before entering the coating unit.Nanography 2015In early 2015, I spoke with Tzori on the phone to discuss recent developments at Landa Digital Printing. He indicated the first presses are scheduled to be commercially available in the second half of 2015. Beta machine are currently set up at Landa’s facilities in Israel, where potential customers can see the presses in action. During our phone conversation, Tzori also discussed what kind of drying technology is installed between the coating unit and the delivery end of the press. Depending on what kind of coating the customer wants to use, there will be IR drying lamps installed for water-based coatings and UV-curing lamps for UV coatings. The UV-curing technology can either be UV-mercury vapour lamps or UV-LED.Tzori points out that the IR or UV technology is only necessary for the coatings that are applied to the printed sheets. The sheets printed with the Nanography ink come dry out of the press.Thinking ahead to drupa 2016, which surely will be another important exhibition for Landa Digital technology, I asked Tzori what is to come with regard to the company’s web-fed printing machines. The first web-fed printing machine will be geared towards the flexible packaging market. Landa Digital expects this to make a huge impact on the flexible packaging sector, especially with many of the other digital press manufacturers also developing printing solutions for the short-run flexible packaging market. I have every intention of attending drupa 2016 for a firsthand view of Landa’s developments and I expect they will be as interesting as Nanography’s unveiling three years ago.
THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS FEATURED IN PRINTACTION'S FEBRUARY 2015 ISSUEAs in nature, the software ecosystem abhors a vacuum! Introduced for the Mac in 1987, Adobe Illustrator evolved from Adobe’s in-house font development software to become the industry standard line-work editor and has all but dominated the desktop vector graphics market.Twenty-eight years later, Illustrator is so pervasive in the graphic arts few prepress pros would even consider an alternative were one available. While a few innovative Mac applications such as iDraw and Sketch have nipped at Adobe’s heels, to date no application has presented a credible challenge to Illustrator’s dominance on the Mac platform, creating a competitive vacuum. That might be about to change.Though unknown to many Mac users, Serif Software is a dominant player in the lucrative Windows desktop publishing software world. Founded in 1987, Serif’s original mandate was to produce powerful yet cost-effective alternatives to expensive desktop publishing and graphic design applications for the PC. Its critically acclaimed PagePlus, DrawPlus and PhotoPlus applications have garnered a large and loyal following in the Windows world – extending from casual creatives to business and education users. After years of planning and development, Serif stepped across the OS barrier in June 2014 with its first Mac App, Affinity Designer. While still in public beta, Affinity Designer turned heads while generating a great deal of online buzz before the October 2014 launch of version 1.0 on the Mac App Store. Since release, Affinity Designer has raced up the App Store charts and finished the year as Editor’s Choice Best of 2014! But does all that hype make any difference in the prepress and print world? Can a PC software developer give Adobe a run for its money on Adobe’s home turf?Vector contender or pretenderWell, for starters it is pretty clear that Affinity Designer was engineered from the ground up as a production environment for professional-grade vector drawing destined for a variety of output intents, including both print and Web.Where Designer differs from other line-work editors is in its ability to work with raster images and create pixel-based effects and textures within the same file as vector layers. And while Designer has its own file format, the App can import a wide variety of file types including: Adobe Illustrator, Freehand, Photoshop, EPS, JPEG, PDF and SVG. Additionally Designer can export: Photoshop, EPS, GIF, JPEG, PNG, SVG and PDF – although direct export of AI format is not supported. Users wanting to bring their Designer files into Illustrator will have to pass through PDF-land first.When launching Designer for the first time users are presented with a clean, uncluttered user interface that is unique yet somewhat reminiscent of an Adobe Creative Cloud application. As a result, anyone with Illustrator chops should be able to find their way around Affinity Designer in fairly short order. The default application window follows the familiar axiom of toolbar on the left, functions along the top and tabbed palettes on the right hand side of the workspace. Users can also choose to work in Separated Mode meaning the Designer toolbars, workspace and palettes are free floating and can be reconfigured to individual tastes. Designer diverges from other editors by breaking down the workflow into Personas (Draw, Pixel and Export) represented by icons on the upper left side of the workspace. The icon for the active Persona appears in colour and each features tools, functions and palettes specifically configured for the appropriate tasks. The Draw Persona toolbar contains recognizable drawing tools you would expect to find, such as a Move Tool, Vector Brush Tool for creating painted effects and a Pencil Tool for free drawing vector lines, as well as Gradient and Transparency tools. Additionally, the toolbar houses a wide variety of shape tools ranging from standard rectangles and ellipses to diverse polygons, clouds and call-outs. Each shape can be quickly and radically altered either with the Node Tool, or the context-sensitive settings in the Draw Persona tool set. There is even a special hidden Easter Egg feature that enables users to make a cat shape – see if you can find it!The Pixel Persona enables a variety of marquee and selection tools along with essential raster editing tools in the toolbar, such as erase, fill, dodge, burn, blur and sharpen. It is important to remember that while Designer is equipped to create, alter and apply raster effects within a vector file, it is definitely not a replacement for a full image editor such as Photoshop or Pixelmator as there are no tools that I can find for adjusting the contrast, saturation or hue of photographic images.As the name implies, the Export Persona provides a straightforward workflow for getting your image online with several presets, support for ICC profiles as well as layers and image slices. Speaking of online, Designer has a number of features targeting the Web slinger, such as a powerful pixel preview of vector images for both standard and retina displays, as well as instant export of multiple objects – each with independent output settings.Designer also brings back one of my favourite old Illustrator features with a new twist. The Split View divides the image workspace vertically enabling the user to see any combination of Frame, Vector, Pixel or Retina previews and drag the dividing line back and forth across the image – changing the preview instantly.Of course, any mention of ‘instant preview’ inevitably brings up the topic of Designer performance. Whether opening a complex vector graphic or a massive layered Photoshop file, it is immediately apparent that Designer is blazingly fast. This 64-bit application is fully optimized for the latest Mac OS and Retina 5K displays, enabling users to pan and zoom across their images with little perceptible lag as well as apply and view effects in real-time. This is especially impressive when you consider that Designer offers a staggering 1,000,000 percent zoom, as well as super smooth gradients that can be edited in real time at any magnification. For such a young App, Designer offers some impressively mature workflow features like non-destructive editing and robust support for layers, including vector, pixel and adjustment layers. Ready for the big leagueWorking with Affinity Designer is comfortable once you get used to multiple Personas, however, the software is lacking in a few key areas of importance to design and production pros. For example, Designer currently only supports a single page per file, something designers who are used to building multiple art boards will find hard to live with. And what prepress pro has not used Illustrator’s Auto-Trace to quickly build a logo for a job they are working on? Designer will need to implement some sort of raster to vector workflow to really gain print market share.And while Designer seems to be able to import a wide variety of file formats, I have experienced mixed results when opening old EPS files containing complex vector gradients. Mind you, Designer has only been in the field for a few months and to Serif’s credit they’ve already built an active, lively and supportive user community that fuels its development team with bug reports and feature requests. Within just three months of launch, Serif has already revved Designer to v1.1.2 – not only with bug fixes but also significant new user-requested features like iCloud Drive support; critical stroke alignment options; and 5K-display support.The road aheadSerif recently published the first issue of Affinity Review – a quarterly ePUB magazine for their users – containing some very interesting product news in addition designer profiles, interviews and tutorials. According to Serif, the Affinity Designer roadmap includes several professional printing features such as: PDF/X support; PDF image compression; trim, bleed, overprint and mark control; spot, Pantone and registration colours; and advanced transparency features. Designers can look forward to: multiple pages; text on a path; mesh warp and distort tools; and improved text controls… all promised as free updates! Likely many of these new functions will be incorporated into its own Personas. Also in Serif’s 2015 playbook: Affinity Photo and Affinity Desktop (you can see where they are going with this).Is Affinity Designer the answer to all your high-end vector design, editing and production needs? Not yet. Is it worth fifty bucks? You bet! Besides, designers on a budget are already flocking to Designer so it’s only a matter of time before Affinity files start making their way into your prepress department.
Decades ago an older gentleman wandered into the foyer of a five-star hotel. He was carrying a shopping bag and dressed in less than appropriate garb for such an establishment. He asked for a room. The front desk clerk, assuming him he was a bum, suggested he try another hotel down the street. The bum, however, owned the hotel property. Looks can be deceiving. Some of the richest people in both Canada and the United States are seldom seen or heard.
How the Iron Curtain ushered in the half-size web in the face of large-format offset to forever change print.
“Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end…” The song popularized by Mary Hopkin in 1968 waxed over youth, lost opportunities, passions and a life now well past it’s prime. Cycles of every form have a beginning as well as an end. Technology breeds new revenues and fills scrapyards with redundancy. For the printing machinery industry there is a lot of reminiscing about good times back in the day. The great period of litho printing press sales, what almost became an annuity business for press makers, is long over and will not return. Oh how painful it is to say that. It seems like only a few years ago we were so excited to embrace a device that, either by violet or thermal laser, entirely eliminated a labourious step of the production cycle and make offset plates perfectly, without fit issues, and at incredibly fast speeds as lasers advanced by the month. Digital technology was our friend. Prior to CTP, the Macintosh computer also eliminated a huge chunk of the typesetting industry by letting us do it all ourselves. Fantastic new devices were going to rid us of waxers, light tables, film, cameras, plate-makers and a great deal of expensive labour. Everybody knew that strippers and other prepress employees commanded large paychecks. Wasn’t this future fabulous? As I look back at some of the projects we were involved with at Howard Graphic Equipment, I find that no one really had any idea of where mobile computing, particularly the smartphone and tablet, would take communications. We once had a customer who had a rather simple contract to print a 10-point cover and then stitch it onto popular magazines. It was for a now-defunct airline, to be used on the aircraft. The airline wanted to ensure these magazines were returned and so had produced the magazine with its logo emblazoned on the false cover. In time, the costs proved too high and the airline asked instead for a sticker to be tipped onto the cover. Finally, the magazines as a cost were dropped altogether. Another customer produced a weekly sports betting card. These were perfected one over one and printed in the millions. Again costs and technology overtook print and now all the betting is online, no day-changing betting cards, just a receipt with the details. In the early 1980s, we did quite a lot of business with an accounting publisher. Every time there was a change in Canada’s revenue act new sections had to be printed. Even then hot metal Linotypes were used to make copy. It was proofed and then film and plates were made to run on a web. The bindery was enormous to handle the accounting publisher’s work. It had separate lines for side stitching, hole punching and perfect binding. The annual tax-code book was almost two inches thick and expensive. Accountants, who were members, bought special binders for all of the inserts of changes that would occur each year. The Internet almost overnight eliminated all of this mechanical work and hundreds of jobs.Many printers found themselves in the same situation with legal books and court decisions. Changes in the law created a great deal of print and case-bound work. Think of the law offices up until recently, where huge libraries stored the requisite purchases for dozens of sets of law books. If not annually mandatory, dozens of new thick books spoke to a law office’s prestige Automotive manuals and parts books were a staple of a few of our customers, too. In the turn of just a few years, almost all are now out of print entirely. In the early 1990s, my company Howard Graphic Equipment purchased a Miller perfector from a printing company in the east of England. This firm had a long history. They were ensconced in what had been a carriage house, even had an 1800s workable water closet. The biggest piece of business for this printer was railway timetables. Almost all of it is now redundant. A smartphone can look-up the schedule and buy a ticket to ride without any paper being expended.Wondering where all of the presses have gone is an intriguing question. In a commendable open manner, KBA in its latest annual financial statements for 2013 approached this difficult subject. KBA commented that group sales had slumped 35 percent since 2006. Since KBA is heavily involved in both sheetfed, web and special presses (currency and metal decorating), it has an almost split revenue business at €571.9 million for sheetfed and €527.8 million for web and special presses. KBA also acknowledges that since 2006 its Web sales have fallen 70 percent and sheetfed almost 50 percent. The statements also comment that the Web business will continue seeing retraction in the coming years. Should we assume KBA, although heavily diversified, is an example of what all major press makers are going through? The answer is yes. Competitors to KBA may argue that the business of newspaper printing (long a staple of KBA) exacerbates the drop in sales. They may also suggest that perhaps KBA had a smaller commercial and publication customer base, or that what KBA produced was not as suitable? But KBA is a major supplier in both fields. On the sheetfed side, KBA owns a major position in packaging and Very Large Format sheetfed printing. New in-roads in technology have been poured into the Rapida 106 and 145 platforms. One surmises with its packaging strength KBA’s only real rivals are Heidelberg when it comes to imaginative, multi-purpose machinery for the carton industry. Komori and Manroland also compete in this segment with Manroland running a close third to KBA and Heidelberg in press variants.We as a machinery segment are a reflection of you the printer just as you are a reflection of your clients. Therefore. we must assume printers cannot make the math work when calculating return costs for a large piece of machinery. Presses that cost a million dollars plus are no longer the prime piece of manufacturing gear in a printing business. They may never be again. There are exceptions of course. Trade printers who do it cheaper, not better, may consider new machines. Packaging printers will because the business is stable. Smaller commercial printers, however, will not. They may buy used, but its doubtful that a majority of shops can draw enough profitable work to pay for today’s engineered marvels.Data was once the exclusive domain of the printer and publisher. The only way any kind of data could be distributed was through a printing press. Google et al changed all that.David Carr, writer for The New York Times, does a masterful job explaining how the trend from a physical method (newspapers) to online is humbling. During a recent speech in Vancouver, Carr eluded to this fact when explaining the state of his employing newspaper. It was as much funny as it was sad for those of us in the business. He explained newspapers are offices where everyday information comes in and is collected. Then a bell goes off and everyone stops collecting news and starts to write down what came in that day. They send the copy to a giant press where it’s printed, rolled up and eventually thrown onto your front lawn. Carr accepts the inadequacies of news distribution via print while at the same time considering that large dailies like The New York Times seem to be weathering the storm and seeing growth via online pay-walls. Carr hastens to add that it’s the medium-size papers suffering the worst, while small local papers, for the most part, continue to do well in the communities they serve. News is data and so is almost every piece of information we need, which used to be mailed to us. First Gutenberg and now the colloquial Google has changed our world again. Despite the odd period of increased new machinery order intake that prevailed in late 2013, the industry at large will not go shopping for new litho machines again. While I have a vested interest, few press makers would argue the second-hand press business becomes more important to lessen a printer’s investment risk. It is not coincidence that used machines now are a much bigger piece of the machinery trading pie than ever before in the history of printing or that most press makers now have full-scale used press operations.The 50 percent machinery sales shrinkage in seven years, as reported by KBA, is reality for every litho press maker. Postal rates and other fixed costs are impediments that cannot be overridden with faster machinery costing millions of dollars. Where have all the presses gone? Nowhere it seems.
In the early 1980s, a local garden hose manufacturer called our small press-sales office because he had a printing problem. The round cardboard discs, used for product branding within the the hose-reel, were missing their Made in Canada. Somehow its inclusion overlooked by everyone involved in the printing process. The garden hose manufacturer now had thousands of printed and die-cut pieces of cardboard he could not use. “Any suggestions?” he asked.It took a split second to solve his problem: The Heidelberg platen! Certainly there were other possibilities. Machines from Kluge, Victoria or Chandler & Price (with feeder) could do it, but there was an easier, obvious solution with the Heidelberg – problem solved. The T platen, or Tiegel platen as the German’s called their brilliant little press, can feed and deliver virtually anything. From one-up business cards to folded signatures, thin stitched booklets, odd-shaped labels and – yes – even round Made in Canada cardboard wrappers for garden hoses. The platen quite literally came with everything; initially, there were no options one could buy. It came standard with two chases, small-size kit, two-up kit, odd-shape kit, die-cutting plate and ink knife.Since the creation of metal type there has never been such a successful printing machine as the Heidelberg T platen. Even today, you would have a tough time finding a commercial printer without one of these versatile, solid machines still working away in their pressroom.Birthing the TiegelSchnellpresse, as Heidelberg was called in the early days, truly began building its now massive business around the Tiegel platen when it was born in 1912. T platens were sold all over the world and by the time mass production stopped, in 1985, more than 165,000 had been sold. There was of course, competition. The British Thompson was a close facsimile of the Heidelberg machine, especially before WWII when Thompson used the same rotary gripper system. A few years after WWII, the Czechoslovak Grafopress appeared as an almost identical T platen clone. Many suggest this was the driving force behind why Heidelberg began to use the branding term Original Heidelberg, as the German press maker tried to separate its products from Iron Curtain machines impervious to litigation. I have doubts about this connection, however. German manufacturers regularly employed the word Original and Schnellpresse mostly likely used it well before the Czech clone arrived.We called the Grafopress the Scrap-o-Press, because it was such an inferior printing machine to the T platen. Grafopress, however, did have one key feature incorporated into the Heidelberg machine by Drupa 1967: The ability to lock out form rollers. Both the Soviet Union and China also made knock-offs of the Heidelberg T platen, but they were terrible machines.Over the years at Howard Graphic Equipment, which primarily sells and reconditions used printing machinery, we have hauled Heidelberg platens out of and into basements, garages, through windows, and often stripped down in order to fit through narrow doorways, as if the old building itself had been built around the press. It seems no place existed where a Heidelberg platen could not go. I lost track years ago of how many platens our company has overhauled and sold.When crash numbering reached its apex, it was not uncommon to see one operator in control of four presses. The operator could keep track of each machine’s progress by listening to its click-clack as they hurried the loading and unloading of feeders and deliveries. The Heidelberg platen faced many challenges as safety concerns increased when unionization returned to manufacturing plants. Some Ts were encapsulated by Plexiglas and wire mesh to keep the inspectors at bay. Eventually it became impossible to operate these presses in such situations. Greeting-card companies, with an ideal T platen application, might have had more than 10 machines and discarded them all for fear of injuring workers.This amazing and still relevant printing machine was born when Schnellpressenfabrik Heidelberg purchased the patents from a Köln print shop owner and tinkerer named Karl Gilke. Not much is known about Gilke, but his platen with the “propeller-gripper” changed the world. Previously, essentially all platen presses required intensive labour for both feeding and delivering each sheet by hand. It was incredibly slow production amid a new world of industrialization.Growing the TiegelGilke forever changed the efficiency of platens by using the favoured Boston Principle, which equates to a platen with a stationary bed, and incorporating both feeder and delivery into it. Back in 1896, the Harris Brothers of Niles, Ohio, developed a similar game-changing machine in the EI rotary card press. It had a unique shuttle feeder and could run at an astounding 15,000 sheets per hour. Because the E1 was rotary, however, it required a stereo plate, which is a curved lead cast plate common on letterpress newspaper presses. This lead cast plate was its Achilles Heel and why the Harris E1 failed to make nearly as much impact as Heidelberg’s T. Small print shops used type and printers could not afford the cost of making stereos needed by the E1.In 1921, American Robert Miehle came out with his revolutionary Vertical Miehle. This press was later called the V-36 for its high running speeds of 3,600 sheets per hour. It employed a cylinder in a vertical incline – a very unique press design. The Vertical Miehle was well received and had a bigger sheet size of 14 x 20 inches, as compared to Schnellpress’ 10 x 15-inch size. But the Vertical was also a harder press to run, particularly when it came to make-ready. The Heidelberg platen was so quick to set up and feed that it ran circles around the Vertical. Only when run lengths were bigger, and the sheet size increased, did the Platen begin to lose some of its advantage. Before WWII, it was common to see both a Vertical and a Tiegel in the same shop. One’s weakness was the other’s strength and this environment remained throughout the letterpress era. Schnellpressenfabrik Heidelberg has roots going back to 1850, before Andreas Hamm and Andreas Albert joined forces in 1863. Hamm owned an iron foundry specializing in bells. Albert was a foreman at C. Reichenbach’s Press Works in Augsburg (later to become MAN). But the two partners had a falling out and Hamm continued on with the company. Albert, on the other hand, formed a new company called Albert & Cie, which grew exponentially. After Hamm’s passing in 1894, his son sold the company to Wilhelm Müller. Not much happened at Schnellpress during the years 1873 to 1912, when press building gave rise to powerful players. VOMAG, Koenig & Bauer, MAN, Maschinenfabrik Johannisberg-Geisenheim (MJG), Dresdner Schnellpressenfabrik Coswig (Planeta) and Hamm’s former partner, Albert & Cie. all became major makers of mostly cylinder presses. Tiny Schnellpress made facsimiles of the standard German stop cylinder press, as well. Although Schnellpress released the Exquisit cylinder, in 1921, there was no magic in this press.Gilke’s design was the one and only watershed moment for Schnellpress. German platen presses were all mostly knock-offs of the American Gally parallel impression design. At least 20 companies were making very good versions of this press; Victoria being the best known. Any developments to automate feeding and delivery were all Band-Aid approaches with discombobulated devices affixed to an already mature handfed platen design. Schnellpress understood if they could make its little platen work, it would rip apart the whole industry. Even back in the early twentieth century, the majority of printers were small shops. Not everyone wanted or could afford large cylinder presses. Jobs were mostly handled 1- or 2-up on smaller handfed platens. If Heidelberg could make a press that would feed and deliver easily then the printing world would come calling.By the end of WWI Heidelberg had such a press. Although the company faced management issues and very difficult times, Schnellpress had one more vital ingredient. It had a foundry. Richard Kahn, the owner at the time, also owned Maschinenfabrik Geislingen (MAG) and this allowed Schnellpresse to work completely autonomously on its design. Heidelberg castings are unique. When I was a young kid I could see even then the quality differences between a Heidelberg and any other machine – German, English, or American. There was a special quality to a Heidelberg. Whatever notions one had prior to the Heidelberg platen, these were tossed aside because not only was the feed/delivery unique, so was the inker and adjustable bearers. Having a windmill, as the platen was also often referred to, in your shop almost guaranteed success, because you could obliterate any competitors who were still hand-feeding work or trying to make the crude add-on feeders work. Heidelberg’s innovation to build the T platen on Germany’s first mechanical assembly line brought the prices down so that every printer could afford one. The small jobbing printer was the key customer for Heidelberg and its new machine was priced accordingly. Along with its small footprint, the T platen required nothing more than a drive motor or belt driven from a driveshaft. Leveraging the TiegelWhy then was Heidelberg able to eclipse much larger companies in Germany, such as VOMAG, MAN and Koenig & Bauer, the latter of which is recognized as the founder of printing machinery manufacturing. Heidelberg also faced stiff competition from Albert Frankenthal and Faber & Schleicher. All of these firms, however, were focused on making innovative but complicated cylinder sheetfed machines, Web presses and even offset machines in the early 1920s. So much that they all failed to notice a big hole in jobbing presses which is exactly what Schnellpresse filled. Another major reason for Heidelberg’s meteoric rise was its unique sales approach. Instead of staying close to home, as many of the German builders did, Heidelberg sought out new markets and customers in America, Britain and around the entire globe. The early vision of globalization among Heidelberg’s leaders is a fundamental reason why its T platens, and the company itself, became so successful. At the Bugra trade fair of 1914, Heidelberg displayed the first prototype T platen to the world. This early press, known as the Express, would be altered several times before it finally became legend. 1914 was also the year The Great War began and very little development or production materialized on the T platen until 1921. By 1927, the press had another facelift. The gripper mechanism was vastly improved and remained remarkably similar to the last version of 1985. Impression throw-off and micro adjust was really easy. Changing packing was just as simple as on a Gordon. The use of a Geneva motion or Maltese cross allowed for better registration and more stable movement of the grippers. This feature alone was an incredible advancement for its time.World crisis in the first half of the twentieth century had an impact not just on Schnellpress but every manufacturer. The crash of 1929 was a worldwide financial epidemic and Germany faced hyperinflation and eventually the rise of the Nazi party in the 1930s. Loving the TiegelWhy then does this little press mean so much to so many? History shows there was ample press competition and, certainly, for work like heavy embossing one must give the Parallel machine or Kluge a leg up. Why then? Heidelberg was very clever. The company designed its press to be the easiest to run. Feeding was easy, clean up, running difficult materials – even printing on paper bags is possible. Watching a Heidelberg run is precision in motion, exact and measured in its movements. Even when compared to a high-end Gordon platen, it is actually frightening how much better the Tiegel was. It worked in harmony with the operator. I remember my father showing me how to run the press, never forcing its workings and making it sing. The better the pressman, the easier the work. My memories of the Heidelberg platen trump everything else. Its sound, its strength, the fact it was almost indestructible are fond recollections. Heidelberg built its company on the T platen, later followed by the GT (larger size) and the OHC (cylinder). What Heidelberg learned with the T platen can be seen still today. Its unique suction feeder was used on the cylinder S and K models, as well as the K, M and GTO offset presses. In fact, the unique hardware first used on the T can be seen on the Speedmaster as late as 1994. The wonderful T platen made it possible for Heidelberg to move past all of the German press makers and stay on an incredible roll right up to its flagship Speedmaster line. Heidelberg owes everything to the platen. It took the unique machine-building genius of Heidelberg to refine and build it in their personal style. Perhaps this affection has been lost on many of the greybeards in the industry, but to the new generation of letterpress artisans, the Tiegel is making them fall in love with printing all over again. Today, Heidelberg makes some of the finest printing machines in the world. Look at the XL 106 or XL 162 – amazing technology. The lithographic world is changing very fast. It’s fighting to keep digital devices away from their offset pages. I doubt there will ever be another printing machine that is truly loved like the Heidelberg platen. I remain in love my Heidelberg platens. We have a 1928 and 1985 in our collection.In 1975, a Dutch artist created a musical about his Heidelberg T, running it on stages across Holland. One of Japan’s largest printers has a T monument ensconced in glass. Loved by so many, the Tiegel transcends printing. It was Heidelberg’s gift to the printing world.
Nowhere is the environmental impact of packaging more obvious than at a waste and recycling plant. So last fall, when the Regional Municipality of Peel announced an expansion of its Blue Box Recycling Program, I visited the Peel Integrated Waste Management Facility – the largest plant of its kind in Canada, situated on a 16-hectare site in Brampton, Ontario – to clarify which types of packaging have recently become recyclable. I also got the scoop directly from Kevin Mehlenbacher and Karyn Hogan, both professionals at the Waste Management Division of Peel’s Public Works Department, on how printers can know that the packaging they produce is environmentally sustainable. The Peel plant serves the Cities of Brampton and Mississauga and the Town of Caledon, comprising a total of some 330,000 households and 80,000 multi-residential units. The plant houses a waste transfer station (to transfer black-bagged garbage from collection trucks onto long-haul trailers destined for a landfill site), a massive organics composting operation (to process kitchen organics collected via curbside Green Bins and yard waste), and a single-stream Material Recovery Facility (MRF, the recycling part of the operation), with a capacity to process 130,000 tonnes of recyclable material collected from curbside Blue Boxes annually. The term “single stream” means that households mix together in the Blue Boxes all recyclable items, including packaging made of paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, steel, and plastics; then this mixture is carried by collection trucks to the plant for sorting.Kevin Mehlenbacher, Specialist, Waste Collection and Processing, explains that, after the collection trucks drop the mixed recyclables off at MRF’s tipping floor, a front-end loader pushes them onto two inclined conveyor belts that transport them through a sequence of machinery and rooms for mechanical and manual sorting. In mechanical sorting, appliances like screens, magnets and air jets are used to sort the recyclables into individual streams, each consisting of one type of material. This process is aided by some 120 temporary workers, divided into two eight-hour shifts, who help sort the recyclables as they speed by on the fast-moving conveyor belts and remove any stray objects that would contaminate the sorted materials. Finally, two balers form each of the sorted materials into bales, which are shipped out to secondary markets via transport trucks. Newly recyclable itemsMehlenbacher explains Peel has now expanded the list of items that can be recycled via its Blue Box Program to include all mixed rigid plastics, such as:• Clear clamshell packaging used for fruits, vegetables and bakery products,• Large clear plastic tubs, lids and trays used for salads, cakes, delicatessen foods and cooked chickens,• Clear plastic egg cartons,• Take-out containers and microwaveable trays,• Garden nursery pots, cells, trays and flats,• Plastic vitamin and prescription bottles, and• Thermoform blister packaging. Other major Canadian cities and municipalities, including Calgary, Durham, Halifax, Halton, Hamilton, London, Niagara, Ottawa, Toronto and York, also recycle these items, which formerly had to be captured from the Peel MRF’s post-recycled waste by reprocessing at another recycling facility. Mehlenbacher says Peel’s waste composition audits indicate that processing these mixed rigid plastics at the MRF will capture an additional 1,600 to 2,100 tonnes of plastic per year – another of the continuous positive steps Peel is making towards its goal of recycling 70 percent of its waste by 2016. The processing of the additional plastics has cost Peel around $3,107,500 in capital improvements to the MRF’s sorting equipment, plus about an additional $330,000 annually for increased operating costs. Likely Peel will recover half of the capital-improvement costs from the Continuous Improvement Fund, a partnership program of Waste Diversion Ontario, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the City of Toronto and Stewardship Ontario to improve Ontario’s municipal Blue Box Programs. Markets for recycled materialsMehlenbacher says the MRF typically sends out 15 to 20 trailers of recovered materials a day, bound for destinations that vary in distance from a few blocks away to as far as China. “China is a growing economy, so they are looking for raw materials,” he says. “For example, if our local newsprint recycling facility is not able to take the full amount we generate, we send the surplus to Quebec, the States, or overseas.” He reports that the sale of recycled materials earns $10 to $15 million in annual revenues which help offset the MRF’s other waste-management costs.Karyn Hogan, Specialist, Waste Reduction and Reuse, explains that, besides improving the MRF’s recycling rate, another main reason why Peel has recently added mixed rigid plastics to its Blue Box Program is that staff finally found a secondary market for these materials. She says access to end-markets often determines which materials a municipality can recycle, and the search is complicated by the fact that municipalities must compete with manufacturers as vendors to the same markets. Mehlenbacher adds that these markets lead to the conversion of recycled materials into an almost infinite variety of consumer goods: “For instance, 240 plastic jugs can be remade into one plastic Muskoka chair. Nine 2-litre pop bottles make one extra-large polyester t-shirt.” Better-informed consumersIn conjunction with expanding its Blue Box Program, Peel has recently collaborated with the Cities of Toronto and Hamilton and the Regional Municipalities of Durham, Halton, Niagara and York (collectively all forming an area known as The Golden Horseshoe) on a public-awareness campaign called Recycle More. Two-thirds funded by Stewardship Ontario and the Waste Diversion Ontario Continuous Improvement Fund, this $600,000 campaign delivered the message that additional mixed rigid plastic packaging items can now be recycled to nearly seven million Ontario consumers via print media and radio, internet and billboard advertising launched between September and November 2013. Because for decades most major Canadian municipalities have operated recycling programs and published their own marketing collateral, including Websites with intricate instructions on how to dispose of various types of waste, the environmental issues associated with packaging have been public concerns for a long time in Canada. But Recycle More and the continued efforts of municipalities and other environmental groups are helping to make today’s consumers even more environmentally knowledgeable than they were in the past. So in an effort to keep up with ever increasing public expectations, environmental sustainability continues to be a bigger driver of innovation than ever before in packaging design.Consumers have also learned recently that a compostable label or symbol on a product is not necessarily a true indicator of environmental friendliness: Last year in widely publicized incidents, food giants Frito Lay (a division of PepsiCo) and Kraft Canada introduced experimental compostable packages, then pulled them off the shelves of Canadian retail outlets. Frito Lay’s was a bag made mainly from polylactic acid for SunChips and Kraft’s was an “Earth Pack” bottle made of tapioca starch and bamboo for Dentyne, Trident, and Clorets gum. The main reason for these recalls was that, despite the compostability claim advertised on the packages, based solely on laboratory testing, the packages failed to break down in Canadian municipal composting facilities. (Consumers also complained that the chips bag was too noisy.) The composting limitations of these packages meant they would end up contaminating not only Green Bin but also Blue Box Programs since, as Hogan explains, plant-based packaging materials are currently not recyclable because secondary markets are not interested in buying them. She suggests that a better outcome might occur if packaging producers would consult municipalities and markets to determine the parameters of their waste handling and reprocessing facilities before bringing a new package to market. This precaution would be a better alternative than being publicly embarrassed after the fact and could save a lot of wasted time and resources, says Hogan.Like municipally untested compostability claims, another potentially misleading message for consumers comes from the recycling symbol with a number inside found on many plastic items that are not actually recyclable. In fact, the number is only used to identify what type of plastic resin the item is made of, and does not necessarily mean the item is recyclable in municipal Blue Box Programs.Size also matters: Hogan says certain items, such as plastic drinking straws and coffee pods for use with single-serving coffee makers like Keurig, Nespresso, and Tassimo are too small to be sorted because they fall through the MRF’s sorting screens. She reports that Peel’s composting facility is currently testing the compostability claim of a plant-based coffee pod that has recently been put on the market. “One of the hardest things about my job is trying to keep up with all the changing material types, since every day manufacturers make something new. Usually we’re the last to learn about these new packaging products,” says Hogan. Mixed resin challengesAnother factor that thwarts recycling is the combination of many different types of plastic resins in a single package. For instance, because take-out coffee and soft-drink cups typically contain layers of plastic and paper fibre, they cannot be either composted or recycled and must go in the garbage in Peel. Increasingly, Hogan notes, traditional glass bottles, metal cans and paperboard cartons are being replaced by flexible pouches composed of several layers of different plastic resins which are neither recyclable nor reusable. By contrast, she says traditional cartons and glass jars can usually be recycled and reused indefinitely. Despite these practical realities, the trend to convert from rigid to flexible packaging continues to grow. One presentation during the February 2013 International Converting Exhibition, ICE USA 2013, estimated that the global flexible packaging market, valued at $71 billion in 2011, will grow by around five percent a year, reaching $90 billion in 2016. It also predicted that North America will be one of the world’s two top regional markets with 25 percent share. (The other is Central/East Asia with 24 percent share.) Reasons for this forecasted growth include the myriad of new plastic films and closure mechanisms for flexible packaging that are being introduced into the market. The combination of laminated plastic layers used in most flexible pouches and bags is also popular because it can be custom designed to suit specific products and retailers. Generally, flexible packaging also allows more of the entire surface area to be printed than rigid packaging, allowing more space for product promotion. Some flexible packaging also demonstrates superior resistance to damage or defacement during handling, resulting in fewer customer complaints and product returns, and less staff time spent cleaning up broken packages. Additionally, flexible packaging weighs less and takes up less room than rigid packaging, resulting in reduced shelf and storage space, as well as lower transportation costs. Package life cycle assessment Ironically, environmental arguments are regularly used to persuade packagers to convert to flexible packaging, since it sometimes takes considerably less energy to produce in contrast to some types of rigid packaging. Additionally, flexible packaging’s relative compactness, which allows for more product per shipment, creates a proportional reduction in carbon dioxide emissions that makes the package environmentally friendly in a different way from the ability to compost or recycle it. Many environmental packaging experts suggest that a complete life cycle assessment, taking into account each aspect of how the package is designed, produced, shipped and disposed of by the consumer, is needed to determine to what extent any package is environmentally sustainable.Nevertheless, since the end of a package’s life cycle is Hogan’s specialty, she would like to see legislation place more responsibility on packagers to design for both recyclability and compostability. When Peel staff lead waste-plant tours or in-school presentations to students from packaging courses at colleges and universities or industry associations, they urge their audiences to think more about both outcomes when creating their designs. “Find out if municipalities can compost it. Or find out not only if their MRFs can sort it, but also if an end market for it exists.“We’ve already invested a huge amount of taxpayers’ money to purchase the infrastructure and equipment to process waste. New packaging needs to work with the existing system, or else the only way we will be able to recycle or compost it is to spend a lot more money to expand the facility again with expensive new equipment.”
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