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?