From The Editor A New Kind Of Drupa
As Drupa 2004 kicks off this month in Germany, perhaps the biggest news will be that there is so little news.
Sure, the major vendors will have plenty of new products to show, but as for revolutionary technologies that will change the way you print, it just doesn't seem like it will be that kind of Drupa.
I'm not discounting JDF connectivity, processless plates or other new technologies that will draw crowds. But let's face it, most of those have been talked about so much they hardly seem new any more.
No, I'm merely observing that, at this Drupa, equipment will not be the only thing for sale. Vendors will also be selling their companies—as partners and consultants. They want to be seen not as just manufacturers but as customer-focused service organizations. Many are setting up consulting arms to offer their industry knowledge and expertise (for a fee).
Heidelberg is one example of a company with some self-selling to do. After announcing the sale of its digital and web press arms, it will have to spend this Drupa winning over customers who may feel those sales somehow diminished the company's commitment to print. Not only will Heidelberg launch a new Speedmaster (plus "more than 50 innovations," including workflow advances), but it will stress its role as a service provider, and also a sort of coach; an on-site "application center" will educate customers on the individual processes involved in handling printing jobs.
Meanwhile, MAN Roland is jumping on this opportunity to promote itself as a true defender of the print medium. Its theme: "We Are Print."
This emphasis on self-promotion at Drupa was almost inevitable given that manufacturers no longer hold back innovative products to make a big splash in the Drupa pool. (Indeed, most of the major vendors announced their new offerings months ago.) Instead, smaller upgrades and changes are now introduced as they are perfected (or before) to grab attention as soon as possible. As a result, technology has been changing incrementally. And that's how many are describing what this year's Drupa will reveal: incremental improvements.