Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Airport Security Is A Joke

Airport security is a joke.

I don’t know whether or not our airport security is meant to be a jobs program, theater of the absurd, or an all out attempt to bamboozle us into a false sense of security. Has anyone of those security screeners ever caught anyone once? And why do we bother? There is a one in twenty-five million chance of being killed on an airplane while there is only one in a half million chance of being struck by lightning.

Firstly we are a nation of cowards. The terrorists have changed the way we travel and continue to do so. The airlines have stopped handing out blankets due to the “Underwear Bomber.” I am sure that the airlines love this. If the FAA mandated that each passenger would have to get a blanket then the airlines would balk. Apparently terrorists will be unable to bring their own blankets to douse with explosive chemicals. Or use their clothes. We take off our shoes before screening so the “would be” Christmas Bomber strapped the juice to his leg. Perhaps the next step is we will all have to strip prior to boarding.

Recently, a retired special education teacher on his way to a wedding in Orlando, Fla., said that he was left humiliated, crying and covered with his own urine after an enhanced pat-down by TSA officers recently at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Sawyer is a bladder cancer survivor who now wears a urostomy bag, which collects his urine from a stoma, or opening in his abdomen. “I have to wear special clothes and in order to mount the bag I have to seal a wafer to my stomach and then attach the bag. If the seal is broken, urine can leak all over my body and clothes.” “Evidently the scanner picked up on my urostomy bag, because I was chosen for a pat-down procedure.”

Have the terrorists won? You betcha.

Why does this country always opt for the most expensive way to solve a problem? Yes, costlier explosive detectors would be preferable to what we have now but it still won't solve the problem completely. If we trained security personnel to interview travelers prior to boarding it would cost next to nothing and be more valuable than any new technology.

When I flew to Israel, my family and I were interviewed by an Israeli in her early twenties. Since she interviewed us while we were waiting to check our bags it did not slow us down at all. It's time we learned from a country that has to worry about security a lot more than we do.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Graph Expo show was unexpectedly busy. Almost all of the exhibitors I spoke to were thrilled with the turnout. While some exhibitors were not present, it did not keep back those interested in growing their business. Perhaps business owners are more investment savvy than those who lead us in government. Many decision makers came to Chicago to invest in the future of their business. If only our leaders would do the same. Those who do not invest in the future are doomed to wallow in stagnation and may, soon, find themselves out of business. Let us not forget that this year 100% of your capital equipment can be written off. See my previous blog on this subject.

I know that many of you do not attend trade shows. There was a time that you could visit a show locally but that time has passed. National shows like Graph Expo, On Demand, and Graphics of the Americas are important shows because without them, where would you shop? If shows like these go the way of regional shows it will mean that you will have to fly to each and every distributor or manufacturer that does not have a local dealer. Nor do they sponsor lectures and workshops to assist you in keeping up with today’s market.

So the next time a trade show comes around, think about going. The expense is nominal and a good education is worth the money.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Automate or Stagnate

I was speaking with an owner of a bindery on the west coast who I have been in contact with for about fifteen years. Naturally he cried in his beer about how lousy business was, who hasn’t?

This bindery specializes in plastic coil binding and when the conversation turned towards equipment, he told me that he was standing pat. When I asked about automation he told me that he preferred to stick with his twenty table top coil inserters. Let us not forget that these twenty coilers must be operated by 20 people. I asked him how he could compete when commercial, and even on demand printers were purchasing automatic coil binders. He told me that he hasn’t seen a drop off of business do to that. Really?

Ten years ago this very same bindery owner told me that he bound 1,000,000 books per year in plastic coil. Perhaps he was exaggerating but this time he told me that he was binding about 100,000 books per year.

Back then I tried to convince him to make his own coil. He was buying his coil locally from a manufacturer that used our machine to make his coil. They were making money doing it, why couldn’t he? I told him that he could save a minimum of $100,000 per year making his own coil by purchasing a machine that, at the time, cost only $28,000. He said that he wasn’t interested in making his own coil.

This reminded me of another bindery owner, again on the west coast, who I told would save $100,000 per year and the machine at that time only cost $28,000. His reply to me was; “I’m not so much interested in saving money as making money.” This bindery does little to no plastic coil at all any more.

Cutting costs is more important now than ever. This year, 100% of your capital equipment can be written off, so it makes the pain of equipment purchases a little easier to take. Is it difficult to invest in automation during tough times? Absolutely. Is it worth staving off a 90% drop in business? Absolutely.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor?

Nineteen months ago President Obama was inaugurated. At this very moment leaders of the Republican party began to voice their concerns about the deficit.

We didn’t start spending money like a drunken sailor yesterday. We began ten years ago with the Bush tax cuts, passed through reconciliation. Now Obama wants to let the tax cuts for the richest 1% of the country expire and keep the tax cuts for the lower and middle classes. Is this unreasonable? Where else is the money to reduce the deficit going to come from?

Every economist agrees that if the tax cuts are allowed to expire that the budget deficit will be reduced by about 30%, 680 billion dollars over the next ten years. Otherwise, nearly all of this would go to those making more than $500,000 per year.

Is there anything we have on the table that could reduce the deficit so much? Their argument is that tax cuts is a bad idea given the state of our economy. Will the top 1% of the earning populace rush out to Walmart and Target if the tax cuts are extended or pocket the cash and put it in the bank?

Many so-called fiscal conservatives complained about the auto bail out. This is one of the most successful government programs since the New Deal. Detroit is back in business again. Many complained about the bank bailout but most of the money that the government laid out has been repaid.

When will the fiscal conservatives put their money where their mouth is? Allowing the tax cuts to expire will only raise the tax rate about 3% on the richest Americans, a rate that is identical to that during the Clinton years and lower than the rate during the Reagan years.

I may not be an economist but this is the biggest bang for the buck, deficit reduction wise, while causing the least amount of pain to those who can afford it the most.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Everything Old is New Again

So I am just back from Europe. A two week vacation got cut short when, at a fine Belgium Restaurant, a waiter dropped a croissant on my knee, shattering my meniscus cartilage. Actually, I tripped on a cobble stone curb. Why can’t they just pave their streets flat with cheap asphalt like we do here?

As women know, beauty takes effort. During my week long trip to Belgium I didn’t see any garbage, any homeless people, and the highways were beautiful stretches of road unpolluted by unsightly billboards. Okay, gas was twice the price but I’ll get back to that later. Everything was modern, even in a medieval city like Brugge. I remember traveling to Europe in the late seventies and having to make sure that I had toilet paper in my pocket should the need to use some occur. No more. Now Europe’s urban areas are more modern, cleaner, and human friendly than our cities, not to mention more beautiful.

How do they do it? As I flew out of Brussels I peered down and saw a nuclear power plant. I then thought about the fact that Denmark has become 100% energy independent (see They taxed gasoline and automobiles starting in the mid-seventies and used that money to modernize their energy companies and to make their businesses and homes more energy efficient.

What did we do? We gutted the clean air act, put into place by that king of liberals: Richard Nixon. The clean air act was put in place so that when power plants modernized, they had to meet certain standards. That coupled with a lack of energy legislation ensures less efficient production of electricity. It also ensures a greater reliance on coal.

I don’t mind spending a little more for food if it’s better food. I don’t mind paying more taxes if they go to the right programs. When are we going to wake up and spend more money on our quality of life and less money on oil subsidies? When will we realize that we cannot depend on the combustion engine the way we have for the past 100 years? When will we cease rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan and start rebuilding the US?

The time may come when I visit China again and find that their cities are more modern than ours. They are on their way. Unfortunately so are we. I hope the cheap gas was worth it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Some time ago I sold a Coilmaster Jr. to a small printer in the south. This is our automatic, table top, coil inserter. I had been working with this client for over a year. She has an unusual business. She sells books that are printed in the US and punched in Korea (At first she told me China, which she may have thought Korea was a part of). She needs to bind tens of thousands of books per year and is loathe to send them out.

When she got a serious about placing an order I had her send me a sample of the book she was binding. It was a fairly straightforward job. It was a thin book, 12mm, with an oval hole. I told her that all was fine and I sold her the machine. The only thing that was unusual was that the book was punched at .248 pitch with an oval hole. I remarked that I had never seen that before. I sent her the article I had just written for American Printer: “Perfect Pitch,” which you can read here: I also sent her a couple of articles about punching for coil.

I sent my technician there who said that there was some problem with the punching. I called the customer upon completion of the installation and she told me that everything was fine and that she was happy with the machine.

A couple of weeks later I called her to follow up. She told me that she was having problems. Her operator stated that the coil entered the book but stopped halfway through as it was spinning in. I remarked that this sounded like a pitch problem. Running coil with a wrong pitch has a cumulative error effect. Then she told me something that she should have told me right from the get go: She was punching inserts here in America that had to be put into the book. The book she originally sent me had no such inserts. I told her to send me a couple of these sheets along with some of the sheets punched in Korea.

I was flabbergasted. The sheets punched here had a different pitch: .2475. Now that doesn’t sound like much of a difference but get this: The margins were different. The distance between the first hole and the head of the sheet were different. That’s not all: The distance between the spine and the row of holes were different. So, she was fighting sheets punched with a different pitch, a different margin, and a different spine to hole distance.

She then asked the bindery who was punching her job if they could match the hole pattern that was being punched in Korea. They said no. They also told her that there was no such thing as a .248 pitch.

What is a body to do? How much preparation can a salesman offer a prospective client? I would like to hear your comments. If you are interested in receiving any of the articles I had sent this customer, please e-mail me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Art Of Binding

Even before Gutenberg invented the printing press, books were being, written, painted and bound for hundreds of years. Books were made of stretched parchment and bound by sewing. The tradesmen of the middle ages, Coopers, Harpoon Makers, etc. are long gone but the Bookbinder is still around.

I just visited an exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art: “The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry.” Books of the Hours were prayer books written and drawn for wealthy laymen. This is a fine example of just such a book. It is normally on Display at The Cloisters, a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the Cloisters, the book is bound, here it is unbound so each page can be viewed.

Also being shown was a short film made by the Getty museum for their current exhibition “The Making of a Medieval Book.” It seems that the medieval bookbinder bound books much in the same way that hard cover book binders bind books today. Once the writing and illuminating had been completed, the parchment sheets were folded and nested into groups called gatherings. The gatherings were ordered in their proper sequence and sewn together onto cords or leather thongs that served as supports. These gatherings were the forerunner of the signature.

It was a marvelous show and the illuminations are strikingly well preserved. But if you can’t make it to New York, visit the Met’s web site to see what is in the exhibition:

Further explanation and a video can be seen here:

Friday, April 23, 2010

I have three words to say about this year’s On Demand show: Busy, Busy, Busy. We had more traffic at this show than any other in recent memory. While we had a few out of towners, most every attendee was from the east coast, northeast and mid Atlantic area. The buzz was about the new digital presses (as always) and, I am pleased to say, perfect binders.

Our company won the Best In Show award for our new Sterling Doublebinder, layflat perfect binder ( This machine binds books so strong that no attendee could pull the sheets out of the book—And each one tried! There was a vast array of perfect binders at the show from the usual suspects (save for Muller who didn’t exhibit), Horizon, Duplo, and Graphic Whizard.

I am pleased to say that none of the books made on the other machines matched the pull test strength of The Doublebinder, including the new Duplo PUR binder, that sells for about four times the price of The Doublebinder. Other highlights included new digital presses. Konica won a number of Best In Show awards for their new C8000 digital which seems to be giving Xerox a run for their money. MGI also demoed a new digital press that uses no fuser oil.

It seems that the prediction of the demise of the Print Industry has been greatly exaggerated.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A New Lease On Strife

I sold a used punching machine to a customer of mine, or did I? We agreed on a price of $45,000 for a used Lhermite EX-380 with a few dies, some modifications, and installation. My customer sent off his first and last payment to the leasing company. The leasing company sent me forms to fill out, which I dutifully did. I included a picture of the reconditioned machine which you see above you. My customer’s lease was turned down, not because he didn’t have the credit but because it was a used machine.

My customer told me that he could not get a lease on a used machine from any of the leasing companies he normally deals with. Does this make sense? This machine is worth $45,000. In a few years it will be worth somewhat less. My customer had asked me to quote him on a new punch with all the accessories and the price came out to be $65,000. Should he purchase a new machine, what will it be worth in a few years, $50,000, $45,000? The depreciation is much greater on new equipment.

So at a time when businesses are strapped and turning to more used equipment, the leasing companies are turning them down. Nice, huh? It seems that the leasing companies are even more cowardly than the banks—Not to mention foolish.

Are you having trouble getting a lease? Call me up. I’ll sell you the machine AND lease it to you.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Slow Death of Regional Shows

I used to love regional shows, The Charlotte Show, The Texas Shows, Gutenberg, and the only one left—Miami. They are generally more relaxed than the cauldron of McCormick Place or The On Demand show. Setup and break down was certainly easier. I miss swimming in the pool at the hotel at Gutenberg and the Cajun food at the Charlotte and Texas shows.

Why did they die? The answer is a chicken and egg problem. Low turnout caused less exhibitors to show their wares but which came first? I remember visiting customers in southern California and attempting to get them down to the show. Few did. I venture to guess that the closer a bindery or printer’s facility was to the show site, the less likely they would show up.

The few customers who attended this year’s Graphics of the America’s show in Miami said that it was dead. One machinery dealer I know said that it was fair. Our company used to exhibit there every year. Then we dropped years when we attended DRUPA. Now we’re down to every other year. Last year we didn’t do enough business to find it worthwhile.

Another dealer I know recommended that the show move to Orlando. Orlando has a bigger print industry than Miami. Miami, of course, draws many printers from south of the border. But how serious are they? Often I have felt that our cousins to the south use this show as an excuse to visit friends and relatives, and then think about going to the show.

Perhaps the best solution would be to rotate the show every other year between Orlando and Miami. Then printers could bring their families to Disney World or Universal, and attend the show for a day or two. Then after I sell all the machines in my booth I can declare; “I’m going to Disney World!” Food for thought.

Since this original post, Graphics of the Americas has chosed to hold their 2011 show in Orlando. Hooray for our side!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Binders, Printers, & Businessmen II - Confronting Automation

We specialize in mechanical binding equipment: Punches, plastic coil binders, and wire binders. We sell the Rilecart line of wire binders. Rilecart calls us the TP-480 guys. Why? The Rilecart TP-480 is their slowest, entry level machine. It competes with James Burn, Renz, GBC—all of which can bind up to 1,000 books per hour. This machine, like the others, costs about $30,000. Rilecart makes other models that bind 1,500, 2,500, and 4,000 books per hour. This is what they mostly sell in Europe. Europeans are very labor conscious. Here in the US, we are the opposite when it comes to binding books.

Most bindery owners usually opt for the slowest, most economical machines. They just figure they’ll throw labor at it or add another shift. In one of my last blogs I showed that using a slow wire binder cost the owner $30,000 over a 15 year period. That was just going from a 200 per hour machine to a 400 per hour (conservative estimate) machine without insurance, workman’s comp, or overhead.

It is not unusual to see ten or twelve people working six wire binders when three or four operators could bind up to 4,000 books per hour on Rilecart’s fastest machine (The B-599 seen above). How much money would you save if you saved the labor costs of just six workers at $10 per hour? The savings is $125,000. This doesn’t count taxes, insurance, workman’s comp, or overhead. If we add 50% then we come to $187,500 (yearly cost), which is also the one time cost of a brand new Rilecart B-599 automatic wire binder, capable of binding up to 4,000 books per hour. Add to that the six wire binders that cost $30,000 a piece at $180,000 and that adds up to real money.

I don’t understand why so many owners fail to do the math. I refuse to believe that Europeans are better businessmen than we are. So what’s the disconnect?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Health care, Medicare, any care at all

We need a single payer system—The government should pay for everything. I don’t understand how the Republican party, who is so pro-business could be so anti-business when it comes to health care. Yeah, they’re afraid of government taking over the whole country sure but only when they are not in power. The Republican’s under the last administration oversaw the greatest expansion of government this country has ever seen but that’s another story. The rest of the industrialized world has a single payer system. Are we smarter than everyone else? I didn’t realize our educational system was that highly ranked, because it’s not.

Since I sell bindery equipment I have to compete against the Europeans and the Japanese. Guess what? Those companies don’t have to pay a penny for health care but I do. Is that fair? I build a machine and my expenses are higher because I have to pay for a portion of my employee’s health care while my competitors get a free ride. Perhaps the Republicans don’t care that I have to compete abroad or even here at home. Perhaps they don’t realize that I am one of the few dealers left that sell machinery built in the US. Maybe they’ll figure it out after I’m extinct.

Before GM went bankrupt they spent more on health care than steel. Yet the Republicans don’t care. All they care about is instilling fear in the populace towards their political ends. Case in point: During his campaign, John McCain proposed deep cuts in Medicaid. During the health care debate in December he complained that the bill would impose “draconian cuts” on Medicare, even though the proposed cuts were far less than he had proposed months earlier. The Republicans have been trying to cut the cost of Medicare for years!

Medicare is a perfectly good system. Everyone on it likes it. I propose expanding Medicare for those aged 60 and above immediately. In two years lower the eligibility to those aged 55. In another two years to those aged 50 and so on.

If you want to be afraid of something, be afraid that America won’t be able to build anything in the future short of credit default swaps.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Printers, Binderies, and Business

When asked, every man thinks he’s a good driver and good in bed. But there must be some that are better than others, right?

My father did a lot of business with a bindery owner who would buy a machine for a particular job and then sell it back to my Dad. Sometimes the same machine would change hands a few times. He didn’t care, the cost of the machine was built into the job and no matter how much he spent, sending out the job would have cost more.

One bindery owner I know is a very savvy businessman. You walk into his shop and you see fairly new equipment, well maintained and clean. Another bindery owner in the same area has a shop with, let’s say, less than optimum equipment. He has a Sickinger Twinserter wire binder that is about 15 years old. The problem is that it is a very slow wire binder. It produces about 200 books per hour. Almost every other wire binder on the market can double or triple this output, but let’s just say double. So if he averages 100,000 books per year, he could have saved over 200 man hours (assuming he uses two people including material handling) per year he would have saved at least 3,000 man hours in the past fifteen years. If he pays his people $10 per hour, he would have saved a minimum of $30,000. This doesn’t count insurance, workman’s comp, or overhead. So how much did he save by having a less than sterling wire binder in the long run?

I once told a bindery owner in California that if he made his own plastic coil he would save $100,000 per year and the machine at that time only cost $28,000. His reply to me was; “I’m not so much interested in saving money as making money.”

Even though times are tough right now I hear about companies outsourcing hundreds of thousands of dollars in binding services per year when they can bring the machinery in to do it in-house for less than $100,000.

Within the next few weeks we’ll delve into this more thoroughly.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bush, Fascism, and the Gift That Keeps on Giving

Imagine a government that is so in league with corporations that it under regulates them to the point where it is disastrous to the corporations themselves. The auto industry, the banks, we've been there, done that. Now we have a Supreme Court, furnished by that corporate lackey George W. Bush, that takes it one step further.

Now, corporations can donate millions, or billions to the candidate they choose. Perhaps our senators can start wearing jackets with logos a la NASCAR. Yes, the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are as entitled to free speech, and donations, as private individuals. Goldman/Sachs can go to their petty cash box and donate a million dollars to each and every senator.

Has it dawned on anyone that now, foreign governments can sponsor our politicians? It doesn’t matter whether or not foreign corporations will be deemed ineligible for these donations. Where do multi-national corporations lie within this irresponsible ruling? Let’s say that Saudi Arabia wants to keep oil prices high or renewable energy a far flung dream. They can donate funds, through their own corporations, through multinationals such as Exxon, or through dummy corporations set up here in the US to any politician(s) that will ensure just such an outcome. If a Chinese bank donates money to a senator, it will be the Chinese government calling the shots.

In fact, now foreign governments can start grooming young politicians to run for federal office. China can groom a few, Yemen can groom a few, Russia can groom a few and when the time comes for these politicians to be sworn in, they will be given their marching orders. None will question who is buttering their bread.

So thank you Mr. Bush, thank you Supremes, now we lazy Americans can outsource the running of our government to people who really care about America— Corporations and foreign governments, be they friend or foe.

And some call Obama a fascist!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What did Harry Reid into the nation?

Harry Reid’s comment that Barak Obama had a good chance to be elected president because he was light skinned and had no African American accent is supposedly racism— Nonsense.

Do we think that Harry Reid would not vote for a dark skinned black man? I recall the original Saturday Night Live where Julian Bond(the State senator from Georgia and NAACP Chairman) told Garrett Morris that lighter skinned blacks were smarter than darker skin blacks. Is Julian Bond a racist? This was followed up in another show where Cicely Tyson was interviewed by Garrett Morris where she stated that black women were superior to black men and that black men were shiftless and lazy. Is Cicely Tyson a racist? When Obama was criticized for not being black enough, was that racism?

Race exists in politics in America. Recognizing this is not racism, it is pragmatism. All Harry Reid was doing was point out that some voters would be more comfortable voting for a lighter skinned black man with a mellifluous speaking voice than a darker skinned man with a heavy African American accent.

Who would deny this? We all need to take a deep breath and grow up.