The 70 members and guests who attended AICC’s “Distilling the Digital Print Market” symposium, June 16-17, in Louisville, heard from independent market experts, digital press manufacturers and digital technology users. The speakers from these distinct viewpoints told a story of a technology which is rapidly growing and whose application is expanding traditional packaging markets. One message delivered early on in the presentations was that digital printing is not just another way to print. “If we make digital all about just printing a box, we’ve killed it,” said Jeff Wettersten, a principal in Karstedt Partners. “Digital is a disruptive technology which is fostering growth in parallel packaging markets,” he said.
Wettersten was the lead-off speaker at the Bardstown Country Club about an hour outside of Louisville. His presentation offered what meeting host Finn MacDonald of Independent II called a “30,000-foot view” of digital printing technology and its growth in recent years. Wettersten told the audience that his first presentation on digital printing as a market force occurred back in 2001, reminding members that its meteoric rise in the industry is not as recent as many think. “Capacity in the digital print market is expected to double in the next 18 months,” he said.
Wettersten focused his presentation on the kinds of markets and sales strategies that independents might choose to pursue with digital technology. “Products which are ‘emerging’ or at ‘end-of-life’ offer the best opportunity for application of digital printing,” he said. He also advised members to conduct a thorough analysis of their customer base to identify their “strategic accounts,” “core accounts,” and “discretionary accounts,” saying that applications of digital printing are most effective in the discretionary accounts which are not legacy volume-dependent customers. “Above all,” he cautioned, “stay true to who you are,” adding that members can partner with trade vendors as good resources to “dip your toe in the water.”
A panel of digital printing press manufacturers followed Wettersten’s presentation. William Webb of Zund North America; David Carmichael of Sun Automation; Steve Shannon of HP; Steve Lynn of Fujifilm/Inca; Barb Willans of EFI and Bradley Garret of Gemini North America/Barberon all gave brief presentations on their products. David Carmichael of Sun set the stage for the suppliers’ panel, saying, “as much as we all want our technology to succeed, we want your business to succeed.”
Balancing out the digital press manufacturers was a panel of digital printing users. In an open ended panel discussion, Finn MacDonald; Tim Harris of Color Hub; Bernie Lacy of Litho Press; John Ballentine of Tango Press; and Jeff Wettersten answered questions posed by moderator Kevin Karstedt of Karstedt Parnters. MacDonald explained that his own company, Independent II, had not yet made the leap to acquire the technology, but was using outside digital print vendors to achieve his immediate objectives. “We want to move from brown to brand to digital,” he said, saying that his company’s first goals are to understand the marketing requirements of brand owners and their need for color consistency and brand fidelity. In response to questions about cost comparisons, Bernie Lacy of Litho Press displayed a chart showing the relative direct costs of jobs run digitally and those utilizing lithographic labels. The conclusions reached by the panel suggested that members who have not yet acquired the technology can avail themselves of trade printers such as Tango Press and Color Hub to first test their markets before making a major investment in digital technology.
Following the day’s program, members toured Barton Distillery in Bardstown, Ky., and later attended the “Downs after Dark” events at Churchill Downs.
“Distilling the Digital Print Market” was a nationally advertised event jointly hosted by AICC Regions Seven, Four and Three. Regional Directors Finn MacDonald, President of Independent II, and Eric Elgin, President of Oklahoma Interpak, welcomed members to the Louisville Marriott Hotel. Justin Mathes, Vice President of Vanguard Companies, also a co-host, was unable to attend. “Just as digital print is a disruptive technology, AICC is taking a disruptive approach to our traditional regional meetings and making them larger and more content-focused,” said MacDonald. “This digital print symposium is an example of how AICC is changing the way it delivers content to its membership.”
Sponsors of the event were: Automatan; INX International; Independent II; Equipment Finance Corp.; Vanguard Companies; HP; American Corrugated Machine Corp.; BW Papersystems; Oklahoma Interpak and Haire Group.
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