Written by Howard Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant
NAPL

For most of us at NAPL, the Graph Expo show is where we conclude our research about this year and start thinking about next year. It is also where Andy Paparrozi, NAPLs VP and Chief Economist, announces the results of our State of the Industry research. During our latest NewsTalk Live webinar, I had the chance to interview Andy and here is a small segment of that interview.

Howie Fenton: “Andy from my perspective I thought the Graph Expo show was different this year because fewer manufacturers brought less offset presses. But at the same time, we’re seeing an increase in the number of digital products such as the toner-based presses, inkjet presses and large-format sign and banner devices. Software such as web-to-print PDF workflow and print MIS remained strong. And one of the refreshing changes that I experienced at the show was a general feeling of optimism. For the first time in a long time it seemed to me that optimism and confidence was returning. People were starting to talk about reinvesting in their business. People were talking about hiring again. People were talking about working on the business instead of working in the business. Was my impression that people were more optimistic at the show similar to what you are seeing in your research? I heard that companies are considering reinvestment.  Are you hearing the same thing?

Andy Paparrozi: “I agree. More companies recognize that to stay competitive they must continue to invest. And they are looking for guidance on how to make the right investments. As you know, Howie, margins for error are shrinking in our industry. While the return to making the right capital investments is greater than ever, so is the cost of making the wrong investments. One participant in our State of the Industry research puts it very well when he says, “In this economy and technological age, a bad decision can put a company out of business.” So what I heard at the NAQP (National Association of Quick Printers) Owners Conference and Graph Expo is a tough new approach to capital investment. To paraphrase:  ‘Yes, we have to keep investing— but we have to get it right.  So we will invest only when sound measures of expected return justify investment, not because our competitors are investing, we’re getting a deal, or it’s new, hot, and going to make all the difference.’”

“What does that all mean for us? It means the economy will continue to slowly heal in 2013—again, we aren’t going back into recession—but no where near enough to solve anyone’s problems. We aren’t going to fall back into recession—the economy clearly is healing and will continue to heal. We are clearly less risk averse than we were in 2009—that’s why the economy is growing at all. But we aren’t going to get much help from the economy either in 2013—the healing process is just not far enough along. So forget the economy or consolidation or what might or might not happen in Washington this month. What are we going to do to create our own recovery?”

That last question may be the most important question to consider. If we can’t depend on the economy or Washington to create a recovery, how are you going to create your own recovery?

All the NewsTalk Live webinars are available at www.napl.org/NewsTalkLive.

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Howard Fenton is a Consultant and Business Advisor at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance, increasing productivity through workflow management, adding and integrating new digital services, and adding value through customer research. He is a paid contributor to this blog.