I returned from the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association’s Expo show in Orlando yesterday with a really great feeling. Everyone I spoke with had a positive attitude and their businesses are all up. Maybe this is a sign that our nation’s economy is really getting back on track, as there’s one thing that people in the printing business know how to do and that’s complain. When everyone is saying the same thing, you can bet that something is going in a positive direction.
Overall, my impression with the show is an outstandingly positive one. SGIA took great pains to make the show a success. They flooded the registration floor with teal jacketed reps and they quickly checked you in and produced your badges for the show floor. All of them were armed with answers for any question you might throw at them. I loved the entrance way with fake Lifeguard Towers and some real “lifeguards” who would yell out some fun and snarky comments as the giant throng of show attendees would file in. It made the cattle stockyard like flow into the show enjoyable.
The show itself was huge, with booths from every corner of the printing industry displaying their new stuff. The real pleasure though, was bumping into people that I’ve known for years and having a quick chat. The funny thing was when you were talking to someone, and another person walked into view and you couldn’t get their attention. It was a who’s who of printing every ten feet.
The show organizers did a great job with educational segments, and had these squared off in industry specific “zones” scattered throughout the show floor. What was really wonderful was that casual passersby could catch part of the discussion and listen in. I thought it was a fantastic idea to have these out in the open and not pigeon-holed away in a conference room. In fact, I was part of a three person expert panel on sustainability on Thursday – “Sustainability Pays Back”, and I presented how Visual Impressions has been able to reduce our operating expenses by focusing our efforts into sustainability and lean thinking. When I was speaking I kept noticing people sticking their heads in and listening. There were a few that did that the entire talk! They should have just stepped in and sat down…
I’m a t-shirt printer, so the textile industry was my area of interest. Booths in this section where jammed packed, and well attended. Whether they were selling ink or equipment, lots of orders were written during the Expo. For me the number one most impressive item was M&R’s new i-Image STE computer to screen system with built in exposure system. I’ve been a big advocate of computer to screen systems for imaging screens for a long time, but the innovation of adding a LED exposure lamp to the device is a game changer. I was prepared and armed with a flash drive of some ripped files from our art department. The tech loaded the art; imaged and exposed my full front file in less than one minute. 58 seconds to be exact. Now the screen was ready to wash out and use on the shop floor. As a sustainability guy, I could easily also see the energy savings of switching from using high energy exposure tables to low energy LED’s. I can’t wait to calculate the ROI on that alone.
Lastly, if you’ve ever been to a trade show or convention before you know that the real gems aren’t on the floor or in the booths, but in the “in-between” moments. Grabbing a cup of coffee, meeting for lunch somewhere, or even a few beers after the show ends. Those are the great moments and the real benefit of attending these shows. Lots of shop talk and note comparing on best practices, tips and tricks, and how other people resolve the same daily challenges. I know from talking with other industry friends that some shop owners or managers say that they can’t “afford” to attend shows like this and they don’t have anything to offer. That’s about as wrongheaded as you can get. From my perspective, the shops that I see walking around the floor are always the ones that seem to be ahead of the curve on techniques, equipment, technical knowledge and business practices. Getting out of your shop and exposing yourself to success is probably one of the number one things you can do to increase the chances that your shop will grow and prosper. To use one of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People – you have to “Sharpen the Saw”. Shows like the SGIA Expo do just that. Bravo!!