Johnson's World: Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

Digital printers can learn a bit from the boys of summer

August 1, 2012

Mandolin virtuoso and folk humorist Jethro Burns once explained, “I moved to Chicago because I wanted to live someplace with professional baseball. I may leave for the same reason.”

I make my home amidst a people who cheer wildly for their major league team and boo just as loudly for that other ballclub across town. Each side is fanatically loyal to its favorite team. Loyal, may I say, for no really good reason.

That’s okay. Fanaticism, by definition, isn’t rational.

Spectator sports afford fans an escape from reality. Digital printing is not an escape. It is serious business, and it comes with hidden issues never dreamt of by battle-hardened lithographers.

Adding some rookies to your digital press lineup? Emulate broadcaster Harry Caray. Remembered nationally as the Cubs announcer, he was also famous as an ardent consumer of Budweiser, and for his lusty, if tone-deaf, rendition of “Take Me out to the Ballgame.” Harry was a master promoter, which is why it is he who is immortalized in bronze at Wrigley Field, instead of Jack Brickhouse or Pat Pieper.

Before the Cubs, Harry broadcast St. Louis Cardinals games, then moved on to the Chicago White Sox, even as he switched his beer endorsements to Falstaff, then to Stroh’s. Harry followed the money. An enthusiastic fan wherever he went, he made plenty of money and had fun doing so.

Free Agents

Are you a fourth generation fan? Bless your loyalty. Are you a fourth generation printer? Better choose your team with care. Past generations were fans of players who spent entire careers with one team. Free agency changed that; players now follow the money from team to team.

Heidelberg built a fan base as strong and almost as old as the Cubs or Yankees. When Heidelberg unveiled its digital press lineup years ago, those fans entering the digital market loyally purchased NexPress and DigiMaster boxes. Alas, sometimes loyalty was an excuse for not conducting thorough due diligence.

Heidelberg’s first-generation digital equipment was Kodak designed, engineered, manufactured, and serviced. Only the name was Heidelberg Digital, and that is long gone. Now, even Kodak’s future is in doubt.

Don’t get me wrong. I bought a few of those machines myself. My point is that past experience with presses designed and built in Heidelberg, Germany, provided no valid clues—good or bad—as to how the American-made digital presses would perform.

Quiddich? Really?

Master showman Benny Landa made quite a splash at the recent drupa show with his announcement of “nanography”. What is nanography? Benny explained it with much hyperbole. Maybe someday he’ll even be able to demonstrate it. Until then, I suggest taking his claims with a grain of salt.

Starry-eyed printers who rush to embrace Mr. Landa’s new offering just because they were fans of his Indigo printers do so at their own risk. As one of our greatest presidents cautioned, “Trust, but verify.”

Batter Up!

Ever notice that aging players in all sports want to be traded to L.A.? Warm sunny beaches sound so inviting.

Put out the word that you are seriously planning to purchase some big digital iron. Xerox and Kodak will both step up to the plate with dog and pony shows at their respective demo centers in Rochester, NY; the cloudiest city in the nation.

Ah, but Océ will offer to transport you to their showroom in tropical Boca Raton on Florida’s Atlantic coast.

So, who will you buy your next digital press from? The vendor who takes you on the most extravagant junket or the vendor whose equipment is best suited to meeting your customers’ needs? Follow the money. When you maximize your profits, you can afford to pay for your own trip to the beach or anywhere else your heart desires.

Steve Johnson is president of Copresco in Carol Stream, IL; a pioneer in digital printing technology and print on demand. Contact him at [email protected].


What is nanography? Benny explained it with much hyperbole. Maybe someday he’ll even be able to demonstrate it.