From the Editor: A Grand Display of Possibilities
Now that was a show! PRINTING United Expo was everything we had hoped it would be. It was an enthusiastic reunion of industry friends, an opportunity to see the latest technology in person, and an enlightening educational experience.
Hundreds of in-plants attended the Expo. I ran into managers repeatedly as I crossed the show floor on my way to meetings. Several told me they had ordered equipment right off the show floor — devices like heat presses for apparel decorating that they saw, recognized an opportunity, and decided to buy. That’s the kind of show PRINTING United Expo was: a grand display of possibilities, just waiting for managers’ imaginations.
This was evident at the first of two In-plant Forums we held on the second day of the show. About 60 managers assembled at a breakfast meeting to learn about new business opportunities from their peers. One of our panelists, David Earp from Lake Land College, talked about the tremendous growth his in-plant is seeing from wide-format printing and graphics installation on campus. The shop generates about $425,000 in wide-format work while saving the college lots of money. For example, when the in-plant printed and installed wayfinding signage on campus, it cut the cost from $1.2 million if outsourced to $200,000.
Similarly, Debbie Cate of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center talked about the great business opportunity her in-plant has found in selling promotional products. The in-plant is the distributor of these branded products on campus and is able to add a 30-40% markup. Several managers in the audience also chimed in with their experiences in promo product sales and garment printing, making for a very interactive forum.
Our second In-plant Forum brought an even larger crowd to hear Pat McGrew of McGrew Group explain how “automation can be your superpower.” She provided a strategy to help in-plants start automating their operations.
Beyond the forums, though, the Expo itself was a busy event, harkening back to trade shows of old. There were even large offset presses on hand at the Heidelberg and RMGT booths. From the moment the show floor opened, the aisles were full. Any worries that people would avoid the Expo due to COVID concerns were quickly forgotten (as were all social distancing precautions).
All the major industry vendors were there, and their booths were always packed. Wide-format inkjet devices and contour cutters were everywhere, making it easy to compare different vendors’ devices. Roland even had a Ford Bronco on the show floor and gave live vehicle wrap demonstrations several times each day.
The pickings were not quite so abundant for production inkjet, however. Though two large inkjet web presses were there — the HP PageWide Advantage 2200 and the Screen Truepress Jet520HD — most of the large cut-sheet production inkjet presses did not make the trip to Vegas. Two smaller-format inkjet printers, the Riso Valezus and Kyocera TASKalfa Pro, were on hand, though, printing samples.
A major part of the Expo was the apparel area, which was loaded with printed T-shirts, screen presses, direct-to-garment printers, heat presses, and much more. Dye-sublimation devices and heat presses for decorating mugs and water bottles were also on display, as were scores of promotional products.
The best part of the Expo, however, was seeing old friends and acquaintances again. Beyond our In-plant Forums, the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association provided a great networking opportunity when it held a happy hour for in-plants at its booth, bringing more than 40 managers together for informal conversations. I enjoyed chatting with managers from all over the country and hearing about their expansion plans, as well as the ideas they got from strolling the Expo floor. You can expect to read more in the pages of IPI as those ideas come to fruition.
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited more than 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.