By Jon Robinson
Originally published in PrintAction July 2015 issue.
Warren Werbitt, one of Canada’s most outspoken and visible printing leaders, discusses what he feels to be some of the industry’s most important issues, including blind quoting, ineffective industry promotion, and the continuing struggle to attract youth to printing.
What is the most-pressing issue facing printers today?
WW: I think there has to be more of a focus internally in the industry, from us as manufacturers, printers, to really know what we are doing and what the costs are of what we do, because a lot of us are quoting blind – unseen. Customers are negotiating before we have seen the artwork… And when you take the job you have to do it whether you are making money or not. You cannot go back and offend the customer. Then we all work really hard to turn it around and we do not really make that much money – Why? We cannot continue to keep investing in newer, greater technology if we are not making money.
Does it speak to today’s tough times?
WW: No – I think it has always been the same. If you go back 10 years there were a lot more printers and it was going on then as well, because there was a lot of equipment put on the floor… We know some people take our quotes and show it to the other guy. The other guy doesn’t even look [at the job specs] and away he goes.
What is the solution to blind quoting and lost margin?
WW: Million-dollar question – I think the first thing that has to happen is that we somehow have to reach out to all of the owners and make sure that they are really aware of how they are costing [jobs]… everything that is required in the quote… What you decide to do in the end is your own business, but you really need to know the right stuff first to make that decision.
Is printing knowledge disappearing?
WW: We are members of Epicomm [formerly NAPL] and I make a point of reaching out to their consultants and paying for some hours of conversation… The information I get back, for what I am spending on consulting, is important.
I also belong to a couple of peer groups within the industry, in a couple of different places, so non-competitors. We discuss everything… If you surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and have more experience it is priceless. We as owners today cannot afford to make the same mistakes that have been made in the past when margin was available.
Is a youth movement needed to reinvigorate print?
WW: How do we reach out to let people know that print is not dead, print is changing, print is still fun? We need to somehow Googlize our industry. Everybody touches what we do every day and we as an industry do a pretty bad job of promoting ourselves.
People with a lot of experience and knowledge feel, that in the next five to 10 years, we are going to be in a big labour shortage… Why, as printers, are we are not move involved in the schools?
How can associations reinvigorate print?
WW: The CPIA was a great organization and today, I am involved with them, we are struggling to stay afloat. A lot of people who could be members are not for whatever reason. They do not believe in it. A lot of them do not know the value of having a central organized group. We have interprovincial fractions of different groups, who fight for this and that. I think we have to throw it down and revamp the whole thing.
Do you feel pressure to remain outspoken?
WW: I do not feel the pressure. I want to talk about it. I want to promote it. Because I happen to love what I do and I am passionate about it – almost as much as fishing. I think everybody needs us. I think we have to take the pride back in what we do.
What is new with Pazazz?
WW: We are just keeping the house in order. Of the investments we have made in the past couple of years, like the KBA UV press… there is no other [shop] around us that does it. For our large format, we are doing different, bigger projects. This past year we put in an Indigo 6600 for flexo and we put in a 10-colour, 17-inch Mark Andy. So we have invested in different areas and just want to keep it going, make some margin to go buy some more stuff. But none of us can buy unless we know what we are doing, because the ticket prices are too high to take the gamble.
What key advice do you have for printers?
Business is all about margin and you really need to know your business. You need to know your costs you need, to know the time it takes to do everything. I check every job after it is done based on our shop floor activity reports to see what is good. I do not want to take a job that we quoted if it took us 10 hours longer to run… My price is my price. We all need to know our business and not be afraid of it, but rather embrace it.