Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy New Year

Well, it is THAT time of year. Time to reflect, time to ponder, time to plan and time to make your resolutions for next year.

2009 has certainly been a very, very challenging year for most people. A recession for most, a depression for those involved in A/E/C and in A/E/C reprographics. Keep going, recessions (and depressions) don't last forever, there's always an "upside" around the corner. Keep the faith.

To all my friends and associates (and to those of you who've found my blog but don't know me), my best wishes to you and your families for a Happy, Healthy, New Year.



..... is the title of a recent (Dec 21, 2009) article published on Reed Construction Data's web-site.

Here's the address of that article.


Jim Haughey, author of the article, included several tables with statistics and trends; quite interesting. Tables included "Retail", "Office," "Industrial," and "Institutional."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Service Point - Results for Q3 2009

About 3 weeks ago, I saw that Service Point had recently reported its results through Q3 2009.

You can find that press release at this web address:


The lack of transparency in Spain-based, public-company-reporting is very interesting.

The press release makes it sound like "all is well" (only 7+ percent off.)

They don't mention anything specifically about Q3 2009 (or Q3 2009 vs. Q3 2008), but when you do the math to extrapolate what their Q3 sales were, comparatively y-o-y (the math I did do), one can easily see that Q3 was an awful quarter for them, comparatively speaking and (and trend-wise) compared to the y-o-y comparative results for the 1st half. (I am pretty sure, but not certain, that Q1 was plus only because it benefited from acquired growth, y-o-y; they no longer, I don't think, have the benefit of using the acquired growth to pump up their numbers.)

If I did the math correctly, Q3 2009 Sales were off approximately 18% compared to Q3 2008 sales.

(amounts are in Euros)

2008 - 2009 - change

Q1- 56- 59- 5.36% -Q1 y-o-y change
Q2- 59- 54- -8.47% -Q2 y-o-y change
6MO- 115- 113- -1.74% -1st half y-o-y change

Q3- 60- 49- -18.33% -Q3 y-o-y change
9MO- 175- 162- -7.43% -9 month y-o-y change
Q4- 63- -not yet rept'd
Full year- 238- -not yet rept'd

Reported for 1st 9 months 162
Reported for 1st half -113
extrapolated as Q3 sales 49

This post only pertains to Sales Revenues; I was too lazy to look at net income.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"MARKETING" - why is this word the same?

As some of my friends (and blog-site readers) know, I am working, part-time, in Europe.

There are some very interesting differences (and a lot of them) between Europe and the U.S. Some of those differences are “cultural” and some of those difference are “languages,” “currencies,” and “measurement.”

A very funny situation came up during my current trip. (Well, it was funny to me, but I do have a very weird sense of humor, so not all of you will find this one to be funny.)

This situation happened during a meeting with several people from different countries – The Czech Republic, Russia and Poland, and, of course, I am from the U.S.

During this meeting, we were discussing “Marketing”, and, since I have a tendency to ask stupid questions, I asked, “ what is the native-country-language word, in each of your countries, for ‘marketing’ ”.

With straight faces ……

Our team member from Moscow said that “the Russian word for marketing is “marketing.”

And, our team member from Warsaw said that, “the Polish word for marketing is “marketing.”

And, our team member from Prague said that, “the Czech word for marketing is “marketing.”

(When I was in Budapest, Hungary, later in the week, my Hungarian associates also said that “marketing” is the Hungarian word for marketing.)

Update: Same thing happened when I visited Croatia last month (same question, same response.)


Since I am the ultimate “contemplator”, I had to think about this for a while. And, I did so until I finally came up with what I think is the right answer.

I am not going to put the answer (the explanation if you will) here right now. Instead, I’m going to let my blog-site readers guess at the answer for about one week. Afterwards, I’m going to amend this post by adding the answer/explanation.

UPDATE: OKAY, SEVERAL PEOPLE E-MAILED ME WITH THE CORRECT ANSWER. For those of you are still wondering about this, the word, "marketing", did not exist in most of the former European communist countries when they were under communist rule because there was no marketing, no need for marketing, marketing was an activity that did not exist. So, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, these former communist countries, needing to add "marketing" to their languages, took the easy route and simply used the English language word, "marketing." Not altogether different from this is when you see a sentence in a foreign language, a sentence that's talking about something on the web, you will see a bunch of foreign language words mixed in with English language words such as "Internet" and "routers."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Regarding Canon's announcement that it is buying OCE

Well, this deal was "major news" to reprographers! Caused a lot of e-mails flying back and forth.

One friend, who is in the reprographics business in Europe (owns a very large enterprise), was not happy about the deal - said that Canon offers low/mid quality equipment and poor customer service, and that OCE offers outstanding equipment and good customer service.

Just to the opposite, two friends in the U.S., both of whom are senior executives - and "players" in the reprographics business/industry - had a different point of view - they (basically) said the same thing - they are not unhappy about the deal - they said that OCE has been difficult to deal with and Canon easy to deal with.

Okay, what do I think about this deal? (Not that anyone cares what I have to say about this deal, but, this is my blog and, in typing this post, I get to practice my typing, if nothing else.)

OCE (for the most part) makes excellent, reliable, dependable, high-end, mid-range and low-end, large-format imaging equipment. OCE also makes excellent, reliable "higher-end" small-format imaging equipment (higher range cpm/ppm copiers and printers and transactional digital printing equipment.) In 2005, OCE paid around $685 million to acquire Imagistics, and, with that acquisition came Imagistics' (formerly called Pitney Bowes) line of mid-range and low-range copier/printers. I thought that was an "interesting" deal, for OCE paid a lot of money to acquire what was, essentially, a crappy line of low and mid range copier/printers. Not nearly engineered as well as OCE's own small-format equipment. And, they paid a lot of money for Imagistics. That deal never made any sense to me. Yes, there are some that would say that that particular marriage allowed OCE to "fill out its line." But, why do that when the equipment isn't as good as the stuff they were making themselves? One of my friends said that part of OCE's financial-results-problems were being caused by that acquisition (lower margins.)

Canon makes excellent quality, mostly reliable, small-format imaging equipment. I'm not a fan of Canon's toner-based wide-format imaging systems. I do like Canon's ink-jet wide-format equipment.

FUTURE REVISED LINE-UP FOR CANON PRODUCTS (OCE stuff included)?: (these are simply my opinions as to what's going to happen, post-acquisition):

The comments below do not talk about OCE's "display graphics" equipment business. That's because this blog is devoted to the "reprographics" business and industry and because "display graphics" still only accounts for probably less than 20% of reprographics industry revenues.)

1) the Imagistics line-up of low and mid range small-format, copier/printer equipment (which was re-branded OCE after OCE bought Imagistics) will be discontinued. Absolutely no reason for Canon to keep that stuff, since Canon already covers that range of equipment and since Canon's own stuff is better. (That will also put a lot of people out of work, I think, due to consolidation of sales, service and manufacturing - i.e. "consolidation.") (Comment: Imagistics, $685 million down the drain.)

2) Canon will probably stop manufacturing it's toner-based large-format imaging systems - since OCE has superior equipment. (That will also put a lot of people out of work, I think, due to consolidation of sales, service and manufacturing - i.e. "consolidation.")

3) Canon's large-format imaging, ink-jet based imaging equipment may likely be merged with OCE's current line-up of large-format, ink-jet based imaging equipment (here, I'm referring to the equipment primarily used for CAD plotting/printing.)

4) The merger of OCE's "FM" business with Canon's "FM" business will create a very, very significant player in the FM business. For my reprographer friends in the U.S., I hope that the Canon/OCE "FM" business will stay out of the A/E/C market space (For my European reprographer friends, I'm hoping that Canon will discontinue OCE's FM business in the A/E/C market space in Europe - but I'm not going to hold my breath on that one.)

All in all, a VERY interesting deal. Two, well-respected companies, combining forces.

When Ricoh purchased IKON, that took some of the wind out of Canon's sails (since IKON was a dealer for both Canon and Ricoh equipment and IKON stopped selling Canon equipment sometime after that deal happened.) So, the Canon/OCE deal helps Canon in that respect (picks up some of the market share that Canon lost when Ricoh bought IKON.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

What's the Federal Reserve "Beige Book" say about the state of the non-res development market and financing for non-res R.E. projects?

As many of you know, the Federal Reserve, each month, publishes what’s know as the “beige book,” which is basically a running narrative of business conditions across the 12 Districts that make up the Federal Reserve System. The October beige book contains the report on business conditions in September; the November beige book, not yet out (at least that I’m aware of), will contain the report on business conditions in October.

I spent a few minutes, this past week, to “peruse” my way through the October 2009 beige book (which, as I said, reported on business conditions as of September.)

In particular, my “perusal” was limited to scanning the “REAL ESTATE” and “FINANCE AND BANKING” sections. Below, in this blog-post, I’ve “extracted” comments from certain “Districts” about the “real estate” and “finance and banking” conditions those districts. PLEASE NOTE: I did not read all of the District reports; I only read the specific reports for 4 different districts, but I also read the “overall” (what I guess you would call the U.S.-country-wide) summary.

As you read the portions I’ve extracted (and reprinted below), also keep in mind that the District and Overall reports do talk about “residential” real estate activity and “loan” activity related to residential, but, since the lifeblood of reprographers comes from the “non-res” real estate market, I’ve extracted (and reprinted) below ONLY information that talks about “non-res” real estate activity (or, should I say, lack thereof) and commercial property financing.

One last comment: There is that old saying, “follow the money.” I’ve been saying, in many of my blog posts, that the non-res (commercial real estate) market, and the bulk of printing reprographers do, will not come back to life until the money begins to flow. Admittedly, I am a peon (would “idiot” be a better word?; maybe so) when it comes to economic research and forecasting real-estate project financing and non-res development, design and construction activity. But, the news, blog readers, is not particularly good.

One of my reprographics industry friends, Shaun Meany, President of ARC’s PEiR Group enterprise, did a very recent blog post ( just a few days ago, on his blog-site: http://peirgrouppointofview.blogspot.com/ ) about his attendance at the Eastern Regional Reprographics Association Convention. At the ERRA, he listened to speaker Robert Singerline (of McGraw-Hill) talk about the forecast for the Construction Industry in 2010. Here’s part of the article that Shaun posted about that guy’s presentation:

“I also enjoyed the Construction Industry Forecast presented by McGraw Hill’s Robert Singerline. The outlook for 2010 is expected to be better than 2009 (thank God!) and there are definite bright spots ahead in 2010.

Singerline sees an increase in construction ahead for all all areas of the country in the coming year. South Atlantic, South Central and the West are all expected to see double digit growth. It is important to keep in mind that even with so rosy an outlook the industry is down so low that these positives really do not translate into big numbers - especially when compared to 2006 when construction was at its peak. Residential construction should signal the early stages of a recovery. Next year, Singerline says, there will be continued growth in government projects along with some institutional and non-building construction.”

My opinion…… as expressed in an e-mail I sent to Shaun about his blog post:

"Dear Shaun,

Last week, I mentioned a couple of AIA articles on my blog-site (http://reprographics.blogspot.com/) and the opinions expressed in those articles - as to forward growth and the outlook for 2010 - run contrary to what Singerline evidently said at the Eastern Regional.

Certainly, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

However, I don't see where anyone, at this point in time, can forecast an upside to construction activity in 2010. A clear signal would have to come from two different things.
1) some indication that the financial markets are (for financing projects is) unfreezing. It is still locked up.
2) a positive movement in the ABI index. It is still very negative.



As to the projections the guy (who spoke at the ERRA meeting) presented, I'm thinking that he must have been using, a) a weegie board, b) an abacus, c) a crystal ball, d) a palm reader, e) tarrot cards, f) tea leaves, g) a fortune teller ?????

Okay, let me now get to the information I extracted from the Fed’s Beige Book report:



From the “summary of all districts” section of the report:

Commercial real estate continued to weaken across the 12 Districts, although even this sector had scattered bright spots. Each District indicated that demand for private commercial real estate was weak, with New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, and San Francisco all characterizing activity as declining further since the last report. An inability to obtain credit was often cited as a problem for businesses that wanted to purchase or build space. High vacancy rates were noted as a key concern especially for landlords who were not offering concessions. And, while industrial real estate in the Richmond District was generally weak, renewed interest by retailers to revisit postponed expansion plans was also noted. Finally, public nonresidential construction activity funded by federal stimulus projects was a source of strength in the Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Dallas Districts, but gains were often offset by state and local government cutbacks. Sources reported that lending by nondepository financial companies remains limited, especially for real estate and construction.

3rd District (HQ in Philadelphia)

from the “real estate” section of the report:
Nonresidential real estate firms indicated that leasing and purchase activity declined during the past few months. Vacancy rates continued to rise for apartments and office, industrial, and retail buildings. Contacts reported that tenant downsizings and business terminations were resulting in the return of space to the market. There has also been a substantial increase in sublease space coming on the market. Rents have declined, especially for older buildings. Contacts expect nonresidential real estate markets to remain soft for some time. One contact said, ―markets will struggle through the remainder of this year, and they will still face challenges in 2010.

5th District (HQ in Richmond)

from the “real estate” section of the report:
Industrial real estate activity in most areas of the District was often described as ―dead, and new construction of industrial or office buildings was further deterred by difficulty obtaining financing.

6th District (HQ in Atlanta)

from the “finance and banking” section of the report:
Commercial contractors noted that tight lending conditions had restrained commercial development.

and, from the “real estate” section of the report:
Private-sector commercial real estate activity weakened further in September. Vacancy rates continued to rise across all segments, and contacts continued to cite downward pressure on rents. Developers reported fewer backlogs, and more projects were delayed or cancelled. The outlook among contractors remained unchanged since last reported, with most anticipating activity to continue to decline into 2010. However, contractors in some parts of the District noted that federal stimulus monies were starting to help spur some public-sector activity.

12th District (HQ in San Francisco)

from the “real estate” section of the report:
Reports suggested that demand for housing continued to improve slowly, while demand for commercial real estate eroded further.Conditions continued to deteriorate in the commercial real estate market: demand for office and industrial space fell further, and financing for new development and purchases reportedly remained ―frozen.

from the finance and banking section of the report:
Lending standards remained relatively restrictive, with scattered reports of further tightening, especially for commercial real estate lending, and credit quality continued to deteriorate. However, on net bankers and other contacts noted improved *access to financial capital in recent months.

(*Joel’s comment: I’m not sure what that sentence implied. Could mean that bankers aren’t having problems getting money (Fed is giving money away, near zero interest rates for banks who want to borrow from the Fed; does not necessarily mean that investor/developers are getting improved access to loans!)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Three AIA articles that should be of interest to reprographers

Currently suffering from a serious case of jet-lag on my current trip to Europe, I'm up at 2:30 a.m. in the morning, and, with nothing better to do (until I get tired enough to get back to sleep), I thought I'd spend a few minutes time exploring information posted on various "Architecture Industry" related sites (both in the U.S. and in Europe.) While doing this, I came across three interesting articles on the AIA (US) web-site. So, in the spirit of "know thy customer", here are the "summaries" of those three articles:


Steep Downturns in Nonresidential Construction Projected Through 2010 
Greatest downturn in commercial and industrial sector; institutional, more modest
by Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA
Chief Economist, DATE: JULY 10, 2009

Summary: A weak economy and continued difficulties with construction financing have slowed investment in nonresidential buildings by U.S. businesses, nonprofit institutions, and government agencies. Construction of buildings, which began to slow in the second half of last year, moved into a downward spiral toward the end of the year. This industry will see no relief this year, but the decline will moderate somewhat as we move through 2010. The AIA Consensus Construction Forecast Panel projects a 16 percent decline in nonresidential construction activity this year, and an additional drop of almost 12 percent in 2010.

The full article - and it is a long one - can be found at this Internet address:

Architecture Firm Billings Remain Relatively Weak
Project Backlogs at Firms Shrink to 3.9 Months

by Jennifer Riskus
AIA Economics Research Manager, DATE: OCTOBER 23, 2009

Summary: Despite recording the highest inquiries score in two years, the Architecture Billings Index remains mired in the low 40s, with a score of 43.1 reported in September. Architecture firm billings have been in this vicinity for six of the last seven months, and have not yet shown any clear signs of approaching 50, and an increase in billings. Business conditions remain quite poor for many firms, with increasing numbers indicating nonexistent project backlogs and insufficient billable hours for current staff. Inquiries scores are still rising, but this continues to be triggered by the increased competition for projects, rather than actual increases in project activity.

The full article - and it is a long one - can be found at this Internet address:

Overview of the 2009 AIA Firm Survey
Date of post on info.aia.org site was October 9, 2009

Comprehensive data on firm business trends just released
Summary: The AIA published The Business of Architecture: An AIA Survey Report on Firm Characteristics on October 5. Based on an analysis of 2,699 AIA-member firm responses collected between January and March 2009, the report is available on-line from the AIA Bookstore. To provide a comprehensive sense of the information covered in the survey, we offer here a reprint of the survey overview.

The full article can be found at this Internet address:
You will also notice that you can buy the full survey by accessing the AIA on-line bookstore

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Consider donating to CREST, a very worthy cause! And, get the word out about CREST!

I know that many of you (with the exception of my International visitors) are aware of THE CREST FOUNDATION. But, since some of my blog-site readers are not IRGA members, it is likely that some of you may not be aware of what CREST is and what CREST does.

CREST is all about ……….
…… Funding College Opportunities For Our Children!

The mission of the CREST Foundation is to fund and award scholarships to children - of reprographics industry employees - who wish to pursue a better education, but who lack the financial means to do so. This foundation provides opportunities for the reprographics industry to unite for the benefit of the children of our long-term employees who provide so much value to the industry.

An industry friend (who, himself, is involved in CREST’s efforts) gave me a very recent update about CREST’s activities. He said:

“Recently, we were able award $125,000 to 21 deserving kids of repro industry employees from across the country.

While we are proud to have made the awards, our concern is that the number of students applying for the grants each year has been small.

We've heard repeatedly that reprographics company employees (especially at the production floor level) are simply not aware of the scholarship program, despite promotional efforts through the IRgA, vendor forums, newsletters and public relations activities.

As a result, kids who need the kind of financial assistance that CREST can provide are missing opportunities to fund their college costs.”

So, I ask my industry friends to support CREST, and to do that in two ways:



For further information about CREST, please visit this web-site address:


Season’s Greetings to all of you!


Sunday, November 8, 2009

And, a forecast of good news (forward forecast for development and construction activity) in an article on ENR.com

Well, the previous post was "not good news", so, to be fair, I thought I'd go ahead and post this article, one that appeared recently at ENR.com .... and one that appears to be "good news."

The internet address of this article is:


Housing Could Spark A Rebound in 2010
By Bruce Buckley

Following three years of precipitous decline, the construction market may have finally hit bottom and be in the early phase of a rebound with housing leading the way.

McGraw-Hill Construction is forecasting that total construction starts will climb 11% to $466.2 billion in 2010, following an estimated 25% decline in 2009. The forecast was announced at the 2010 Construction Outlook conference in Washington, D.C.

After a 39% drop in construction between 2006 and 2009, an improving residential market and signs of strength in some public sector markets could spark a turnaround in 2010, says Robert Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction.

“This is not a booming market; it is just inching upward,” he says.

Given the volatile economic conditions of the current recession, Murray notes that the industry may not realize a significant rebound in 2010 even if the worst is over. “At the very least, we’re stabilizing after years of steep declines,” he says.

Despite a continued slump in the commercial and manufacturing sectors, improvements in single-family and multifamily housing will help buoy total construction spending next year, Murray says. Single-family housing may have hit bottom in 2009 with an estimated 430,000 units started. Construction could rise 30% next year to 560,000 starts, returning to levels on par with 2008 when 549,000 units were started.

Murray notes that even with the rebound, levels remain 65% below the mid-decade peak of the housing boom. His residential forecast hinges on continued low mortgage rates and the extension of first-time homebuyer tax credits.

Multifamily housing will also begin to regain traction, rising from 140,000 units started in 2009 to 160,000 units in 2010—a 14% rise. Murray credits some of the improvements to stimulus funds and community-level block grants provided through the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. Although the sector could rebound, activity remains only about one-third as high as 2007 levels when 452,000 units were started.

Non-residential building sectors have yet to bottom out, according to McGraw-Hill Construction forecasts. The commercial and manufacturing sectors could continue to struggle next year with an estimated 6% drop in combined contract value of starts to $55.5 billion. In 2007, those sectors accounted for $113 billion in new starts. Manufacturing could take the biggest hit, dropping 14% to $9.4 billion as capacity issues continue to hamper the sector.

Among commercial buildings, hotels could see the largest drop, declining by 9% to $4.5 billion. Office buildings starts will ease back another 3% to $19.7 billion, as employment remains weak and businesses curtail expansions. Stores have seen the most dramatic retreat, dropping from an all-time high of 314 million square feet of space to a predicted 95 million square feet in 2010—the lowest level in nearly 50 years.

Funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act bolstered highway construction starts in 2009—a trend that is expected to continue to fuel work going into 2010. Total contracts by value for highways and bridges rose nearly $4.4 billion in 2009 to $57.3 billion. In the absence of a new federal highway bill, Murray expects appropriations to remain flat for highways and bridges in 2010; however, the last batch of stimulus projects could spark a 13% rise to $64.7 billion in total starts.

Mass transit, which saw $3.8 billion in new starts in 2007, is primed for a jump in funding thanks to the start of several megaprojects, including the $1.6 billion Dulles Corridor Metrorail project in suburban Washington, D.C. and a new $8.7 billion Trans-Hudson rail tunnel connecting New Jersey to Manhattan. The prospect of billion of dollars for high-speed rail projects could also fuel added work in the coming years, Murray says.

Institutional building construction should begin to stabilize in 2010, thanks in part to stimulus funds. After a 23% drop in square footage this year, McGraw-Hill Construction forecasts that the sector will flatten out with a drop of 2%.

Public buildings got a big boost from the ARRA in 2009 and will reap many of the benefits in 2010, as starts in the sector are expected to rise 8% to 51 million square feet—on par with the 2007 peak.

Healthcare projects took a big hit in 2009 in light of the tight credit market. The sector dropped 36% in 2009 to an estimated 70 million square feet of new space. That sector is expected to see 72 million square feet of new starts in 2010.

Educational buildings dropped 23% to 172 million square feet in 2009, as state and local governments pulled back projects and private institutions saw big drops in endowments. The sector is expected to continue its downward path in 2010 with 158 million square feet of new starts.

Further stuff about the Commercial Real Estate Market (not good news)

An industry friend pointed me, this morning, to this Business Week "cover story" article.

After reading this article, I don't know what else to say but, "ugh", this is not good news for the reprographics industry. In order for a recovery to get going, capital (lending) markets have to begin flowing again. Here's the article:


Why This Real Estate Bust Is Different .....

..... Unrealistic assumptions, layers of investors, sky-high prices, and possible fraud will make it hard to clean up the mess in commercial real estate

By Mara Der Hovanesian and Dean Foust (With John Cady in New York

When Goldman Sachs (GS) sold complex bonds backed by the Arizona Grand Resort and other commercial properties in 2006, it suggested the returns would be strong. The 164-acre luxury Arizona Grand, set against the Sonoran Desert in Phoenix, boasted an award-winning golf course, deluxe spa, and several swank restaurants. The on-site water park was named one of the best in the country by the Travel Channel. With the resort's new owners planning to refurbish hotel rooms and common areas, Goldman told investors that the renovations would help boost cash flow.

As was so often the case during the real estate boom, the lofty projections didn't pan out. When the economy softened and business travel slumped, Arizona Grand's bookings slipped to 67%, from 80%. The resort defaulted on the $190 million underlying loan in 2009—a hit that alone could largely wipe out investors who bought the riskier pieces of the Goldman mortgage-backed securities deal.

"It's one of the largest losses we have forecasted for an individual loan," says Steve Kuritz, a senior vice-president at Realpoint, an independent credit-rating agency. The property, once valued at $246 million, is now worth just $93 million. A spokesman for Goldman says the pricing on the bonds was in line with market levels at the time and not above what investors could get on similar securities. Grossman Co. Properties, which owns Arizona Grand, didn't return calls for comment.

It would be easy to write off this blowup as just another casualty in the regular boom-and-bust cycle of the $6.4 trillion commercial real estate market. But the Goldman deal, with its unrealistic assumptions, multiple layers of investors, and stratospheric prices, helps illustrate why this downturn is more complicated than previous ones—and will turn out to be far costlier. Already, prices have plunged 41% from the peak in 2007, according to Moody's/REAL Commercial Property Price Index—worse than the 30.5% fall in the housing market from its 2006 apex. "We've never seen this extreme a correction as far back as the data go, which is the late 1960s," says Neal Elkin, president of Real Estate Analytics, the research firm that created the index. Adds billionaire investor Wilbur Ross: "Commercial real estate has gone from being highly liquid at sky-high prices to being extremely illiquid at distressed prices."

To appreciate why this bust is like no other, first consider the typical commercial real estate downturns that used to crop up every 5 or 10 years. The pattern was predictable: When prices for apartment complexes, office buildings, shopping malls, and other properties began to rise, developers sped up their projects to cash in on the bull market. Eventually, some of those developers, unable to fill all the new space, began to default on their loans, and lenders were stuck with the buildings they'd financed. The slump lasted no longer than the time it took for the property glut to be worked down.

But overbuilding isn't the culprit in this bust. An oversupply of money is what pushed commercial real estate over the edge.
It turns out the same excesses that drove the housing market's crazy rise and fall were present in commercial real estate, too—but they have largely gone unnoticed until now. Bankers, in their haste to make more and bigger loans, blindly accepted borrowers' wildest growth assumptions and readily overlooked other shortcomings on loan applications. They did so in part because they could easily sell their dubious loans to investors in the form of commercial mortgage-backed securities. As the market overheated, it became a breeding ground for fraud: A flurry of new court cases reveals the disturbing extent to which commercial mortgage borrowers may have doctored loan documents.

While the housing crisis seems to be easing, the commercial storm is still gathering strength. Between now and 2012, more than $1.4 trillion worth of commercial real estate loans will come due, according to real estate investment firm ING Clarion Partners. Analysts at Deutsche Bank (DB) estimate that borrowers will have trouble rolling over as many as three-quarters of the loans they took out in 2007, the most toxic vintage.

For the banks and investors whose money fuels the economy, this presents major problems. Their losses will likely cast a shadow over lending—and, by extension, the overall economy—for years. The market won't fully recover until 2020, says Kenneth P. Riggs Jr., CEO of Real Estate Research, and in cases where "values were over the top...maybe never."

In the short term, toxic securities are creating a new problem weighing on the market: a tangle of interconnected investors fighting over the remains of the properties they own. In the past the damage was limited to a handful of lenders who invested directly in any given project. Now there can be dozens of groups of investors, each with its own agenda. The April bankruptcy of shopping mall owner General Growth, one of the largest real-estate-related bankruptcies ever, affected hundreds of parties—an unprecedented slicing and dicing of assets. These investors won't soon forget the bust and aren't likely to dive back into the market as aggressively as they once did.

And yet the securities are only a secondary problem. The main driver of the commercial real estate bust is the underlying loans. How frothy did the market get? In one notable example, New York investment fund Sterling American Property and real estate company Hines paid $281 million in 2007 for the 42-floor office building at 333 Bush St. in San Francisco. That worked out to $518 a square foot, far higher than today's price, according to Real Capital Analytics, a research firm. Less than two years later, the building's primary tenant, law firm Heller Ehrman, filed for bankruptcy and stopped making rent payments. According to Real Capital Analytics, the building's owners did not make a recent loan payment, and the lender is expected to begin foreclosure proceedings. Says a spokesman for Sterling and Hines: "[We] continue to own and operate the property."

What's striking is how quickly some big commercial deals have gone south. In April 2007, Charney FPG, a New York real estate partnership, paid about $180 million to buy a 22-story office building in Manhattan's Times Square district. It borrowed $202 million to pay for the purchase, renovations, and incidentals—111% financing. Because the rental income didn't cover the debt payments, Comfort's lenders, Wachovia and RBS Greenwich Capital, required the firm to set aside $10 million in reserves to keep the project afloat until it got more paying tenants. Those occupants never materialized, and by July the owners had exhausted 95% of their reserves. The building is now in jeopardy of being seized by the bankers, says Real Capital Analytics' head of research, Dan Fasulo. "Everyone knows Judgment Day is coming." Says a Charney spokesman: "The owners are in the midst of restructuring the debt." Wachovia and RBS declined to comment.

Commercial lending mirrored mortgage lending in another way: Loans were made based on an unshakable belief that the market would never go down. An analysis by research firm REIS of mortgage securities created between 2005 and 2008 found that income projections for properties exceeded their historical performances by an average of 15%. "It was all based on assumption of cash flow," says Howard S. Landsberg of New York-based consultant Weiser Realty Advisors. "If you couldn't afford to pay the bank back now, in three years you could count on another $20 a square foot" in rent. When the numbers didn't add up, some lenders got imaginative. Says a banker at a large Wall Street firm: "If the cash flow wasn't there, you had to ignore it or find ways to create it.



Thursday, November 5, 2009


Okay, here are Briefing.com's "brief" comments about ARC's Q3 results:

Market Report -- In Play (ARP)
November 5, 2009 4:21 PM ET

Stocks mentioned in this article
American Reprographics Co (ARP)

All Briefing.com news:
American Reprographics beats by $0.05, beats on revs; reaffirms FY09 EPS guidance Reports Q3 (Sep) earnings of $0.06 per share, excluding non-recurring items, $0.05 better than the First Call consensus of $0.01; revenues fell 31.6% year/year to $119.4 mln vs the $116 mln consensus, with gross margins at 36.5%. Co reaffirms guidance for FY09, sees EPS of $0.27-0.33 vs. $0.28 consensus.


Well, I'm going to say it, of course! My EPS estimate* at $.06 was "spot on".

[* I did say that my estimate(s) excluded one-time charges.] My sales revenue estimate, at $118 mil was only $1.4 mil less than the actual number.


When the stock opens tomorrow morning (Nov 6th), will it be "up" or will it be "down" from the $5.70 closing price on Nov 5th?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

ARC Q3 and Q4 2009 results - my "estimates"

Okay, this is my first time playing financial analyst. I guess if "they" can come up with estimates, so can I. As to the financial analysts that follow ARC, what do they know that I don't know, and, what do I know that they don't know?

Okay, when Suri (ARC's CEO) made a downward revision to ARC's full year 2009 EPS, he also, when they were talking about the loan restructuring transaction, said that the costs of that loan restructuring transaction would be about $.05 - $.07 per share. He also said, if I'm remembering this correctly, that ARC would earn between $.27 and $.33 (EPS) for the full year 2009, "excluding" the costs of the loan restructuring transaction.

Okay, ARC's going to announce its Q3 2009 earnings this week, and here are my predictions of ARC's Q3 and Q4 2009 results:

Q3 2009 Sales - $118 million
Q3 2009 EPS - $.06 per share (prior to any one-time charge for the loan restructuring transaction.)
If the loan restructuring transaction is booked in Q3, then ARC's EPS, after deducting $.06 per share for the costs of the loan restructuring transaction, will be $.00 (EPS).

Q4 2009 Sales - $110.9 million
Q4 2009 EPS - $.00 per share (prior to any one-time charge for the loan restructuring transaction.)
If the loan restructuring transaction is booked in Q4, then ARC's EPS, after deducting $.06 per share for the costs of the loan restructuring transaction, will be -$.06 (EPS).

As to my 2009 "full year" estimates:
ARC reported EPS of $.14 in Q1 2009
ARC reported EPS of $.17 in Q2 2009
My predictions are that ARC's combined EPS for Q3 and Q4 2009 will be $.06 (regular EPS, excluding the one-time charge for loan restructuring costs).
Okay, that means "regular" EPS of $.37 for 2009
And, if the restructuring costs are $.06 EPS, that will net ARC's EPS to $.31, including loan restructuring costs.

My EPS estimates are slightly higher than the revised EPS estimates that Suri and Jonathan (ARC's CFO) gave.

These predictions DO NOT INCLUDE any provision ARC may take for goodwill impairment!

Anybody got a crystal ball that works? If so, I'd like your crystal ball.

On November 3rd, trading action in ARC stock was very, very high; over 800,000 shares traded - almost twice ARC's average daily trading volume. Investors getting in ahead of a "positive" earnings "surprise"? Or, investors getting out ahead of a "negative" earnings "surprise"? I certainly don't know. I guess it was a positive sign for the stock that in spite of all that buying and selling, the stock closed at the same price it opened, $5.75 per share.

DISCLOSURE: I own stock in ARC (albeit a very miniscule percentage of ARC's total O/S shares).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

ISQFT acquires certain assets of Plan Express

On September 22, 2009, ISQFT announced that it had acquired "certain assets" of Plan Express.

The full text of that release can be found at this internet address:


My comments about this deal:

During the summer, I heard that ISQFT was "looking at" Plan Express. Rumors were abound that Plan Express had been hit very hard by the recession the design/development/construction industry has been experiencing and that Plan Express' printing business was well off where it had been prior to the recession.

Personally, I have no clue as to what the "certain assets" were that ISQFT acquired. Prior to the deal, Plan Express was not only a provider of document management services and logistics (distribution) services, it was also heavily involved in PRINTING plans and specs. Prior to the acquisition of Plan Express, it is my understanding that ISQFT was not in the printing business, at least not directly, but that ISQFT was heavily involved in providing document management services, primarily to the GC community. As to printing, it is my understanding of ISQFT's business model that printing, when required, was pushed out to independent reprographers who are part of ISQFT's print-partner network.

In reading the press release, it "sounds to me like" ISQFT did not acquire Plan Express' "printing" assets. But, I really don't know whether that is the case, or is not the case. If one of you do know, please e-mail me at joel.salus@mac.com, since I would like to know if ISQFT's decision to acquire Plan Express was made, in part, because ISQFT decided to add printing services (via the former Plan Express printing operations) to its arsenal of direct services.

ARC acquires certain assets of RCMS Group and KP Reddy joins ARC as VP of BIM Services

On October 13th, 2009, ARC announced a new acquisition.

"American Reprographics Company, a provider of document management services, has acquired certain assets of RCMS Group, LLC, a technology services provider in the building information modeling (BIM) market."

This time, ARC's acquisition was NOT a reprographics company. This acquisition (and, certainly, this is simply my own personal opinion) firmly puts into motion ARC's "BIM Strategy." ARC is the first reprographics company, that I know of, to position its business to benefit from "BIM."

RCMS Group was founded by KP Reddy. For those of you who follow my blog posts, I wrote about KP Reddy and RCMS Group shortly after I attended the IRGA Convention in late April / early May.

In the blog post I did in early May, I said this........ KP Reddy (of RCMS Group) gave a thoroughly thought provoking presentation about BIM. In my opinion, KP’s presentation was “worth the price of admission” to this year’s IRgA convention. KP’s presentation was given at 4:00 pm on Friday, last day of the convention and last educational breakout session of the convention – in other words, not a great “time slot” for a presentation – and, because of that, there were probably only 20 or 25 attendees in the room. Given what KP talked about, EVERY REPROGRAPHER IN THE COUNTRY SHOULD HAVE ATTENDED THIS SESSION. The fact that only 20 or 25 people heard what KP said, when everyone at the convention should have heard what KP said, is, in itself, quite interesting to me. Do we in the reprographics business really know what the effects of BIM will be on the reprographics business and industry down the road? Do we not care? Or, is this simply a matter of, “if we don’t want to hear what’s coming down the pike, let’s bury our head in the sand so we don’t have to hear it?”

After the IRGA Convention, I made it a point to follow-up with KP. We had several phone discussion and e-mail exchanges over the course of May and June. In June, I met with KP in Tampa for dinner and talks, having invited him to Tampa to meet the CEO of a large engineering firm and to meet and get to know Martha Korman. (Martha was the primary shareholder of NGI, the company that I worked for prior to ARC buying it, and it was mainly she who I worked with in the trenches.)

After that dinner meeting in Tampa, KP and I continued to have discussions about his business and about "BIM". Getting to know KP was thoroughly delightful - he is a very nice guy, has a great personality and is extremely smart. Now, having completed a deal to move his business under ARC's umbrella, he is the VP of BIM Services for ARC. I've already congratulated KP on his deal with ARC. I wish KP continued success in everything he does; like I said, he is a very nice guy.

Question for my non-ARC reprographer friends. Have you been educating yourself about BIM and how it may affect our industry and your business in the future? Have you begun to research what your "BIM Strategy" should be? And, if not, what are you waiting for?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Commercial property execs expect more bad news

This article appeared on Reuters the other day. Since in one my recent posts I talk about Non-Res Real Estate Developers and their inability to finance projects and how the availability of financing impacts the R.E. development industry - - and, thusly, reprographers - - I thought this article would be appropriate to post on my blog-site:

“Commercial property execs expect more bad news”
Wed Aug 5, 2009 4:03pm EDT

* 93 pct say real estate values are lower than last year
* 82 percent say values will continue to deteriorate

By Ilaina Jonas
NEW YORK, Aug 5 (Reuters) - An overwhelming majority of U.S. commercial real estate executives believe their industry is suffering and expect it get worse, according to a survey by the Real Estate Roundtable released on Wednesday.
Some 93 percent of the 120 chief executives, chairmen, presidents, board members and others polled said commercial real estate prices are lower than they were a year ago, according to the Roundtable, which represents commercial real estate owners, developers, lenders and managers.

Eighty-two percent expect values to remain roughly the same or erode further in the next 12 months, the survey said.
Hotels, office buildings, shopping centers, warehouses and apartment building owners and lenders have been grappling with declining rents and rising vacancies. Meanwhile, prices for these assets have sunk has the credit crisis has dried up sources to finance sales or refinance maturing loans.

Colin Dyer, chief executive officer of Jones Lange LaSalle, one of the world's largest real estate services companies, on Wednesday said that prices for U.S. assets have fallen by as much as 50 percent.

"Over the last year or so the commercial real estate industry has been stuck between a rock and a hard place," Jeffrey DeBoer, Roundtable chief executive said. "The rock that we see is the fundamentals, which continue to create problems for the industry. The hard place is continuing to not move and that is the frozen credit markets, in terms of getting the ability to finance or refinance debt."

So it's no surprise that the new overall sentiment index reading of 49 is well below the ideal of 100. The index questions about how responders feel about their business today in terms of values, and access to credit and capital, and how they believe their situation will be in a year.

"We're still in a very, very stressful situation," DeBoer said. "We continue to have a lot of problems in commercial real estate."
The Roundtable is pushing four proposals that could help get the lending market rolling. The Roundtable wants the federal government to establish a loan guarantee program to insure loans to make securities sold against those loans in the secondary market more attractive to investors. That would encourage lenders to continue to make loans.

The Roundtable also wants the federal government to set up public/private funds to buy new as opposed to legacy loans.
Additionally, the group is asking the government to modify the Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit (REMIC) rules that allow loans that have been securitized into commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) to be extended and modified without risking the tax exempt status of the securitized trust.

Finally, the industry anticipates that hundreds of billions of dollars will be needed to fill the gap between mortgages that are maturing and new lower mortgages that would be provided if the lending market does return. The Roundtable is urging Congress to revamp the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 to attract more foreign equity to U.S. commercial real estate. (Reporting by Ilaina Jonas, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Articles about BIM on a Construction-related blog-site

What you'll read below (if, in fact, you take the time to read it)..... comes from a blog I came across this morning. That blog is located at http://www.constructonomics.com/

The author (a construction professional) wrote this as part of an article he posted on July 30, 2009. Since I've written posts about BIM in the recent past, I thought I'd post this guy's comments:

Can anyone say 3-D?

The capabilities of three dimensional CAD programs, otherwise known as building information modeling (BIM), are just beginning to become known and explored. There are of course the obvious benefits of conflict resolution with everything from a door swing to MEP and steel coordination, but the benefits reach much further.

I’ve seen millions of dollars thrown in the street due to lack of drawing coordination and conflict resolution in the field is extremely expensive. Often times the conflict will be partially fixed or not fixed at all which detracts from the quality of the project.

Beyond conflict resolution, the entire job can be estimated and viewed in three dimensions prior to lifting a shovel. The construction process can even be modeled in 3-D to look for conflict of equipment. I recently worked on a casino where concrete cranes and steel cranes were working in very close proximity. We didn’t use BIM but it would have helped significantly to avoid delays caused by cranes being too close. The steel contractor submitted a $200,000 change order for delays caused by the concrete cranes.

I just found another article about BIM that he posted on his site (on March 25, 2009), so here goes.....

BIMing our way to better building

If the construction industry was the auto industry, then the advent of Building Information Modeling would be the equivalent of the invention of the assembly line. And if the construction industry was the textile industry, then BIM would be the equivalent of (dare I say) the cotton gin.

But since this is reality, and the construction industry could arguably be more similar to the entertainment industry than manufacturing or textiles, BIM is in the very least a technology that could produce great advancement in construction practice.

While BIM is in fact an underground rock band from Bangladesh, for our purposes, BIM is a method of modeling a building in three dimensions that integrates design and construction. This means that not only is every item in the building its own independent object, but the construction schedule can be modeled as well, producing a virtual construction illustration prior to breaking out a shovel. If you add an accounting element to this, BIM becomes 5 dimensions of valuable information in one model.

I attending a BIM conference and panel discussion in Philadelphia last week put on by Stephen Jones with McGraw-Hill Construction. Also giving presentations were representatives of contractors, architects and even law firms. The benefits of BIM were not difficult for this panel of professionals to illustrate, there was even talk from the legal side of making three dimensional models legal contract documents. However, the biggest problem presented was the reluctance of members of the AEC world to adopt this technology and feel comfortable with using it.

The construction industry has historically been very resistant to change and a new technology is often perceived as risky and when something has perceived risk, contractors treat it as a deadly tsunami of uncertainty.

Stephen talked about the glut of baby boomers at the management level in companies that are perhaps stalling the advent of new technology in hopes of it surfacing after their departure and hefty retirement payout. But as a baby boomer himself, Stephen is a strong proponent of BIM and suggested its use to be pushed rather than stalled. The benefits in coordination of design consultants and subcontractors as well as conflict prevention lead to undeniable cost saving to the owner, and far fewer headaches for designers and builders.

After working for nearly three years on the Arrabelle Hotel construction in Vail, CO, I saw literally millions of dollars thrown away from lack of coordination between the MEP trades with structural, architectural, and interior design work. BIM would not only have saved the cost of this conflict resolution but perhaps could have reduced impact to a project that was woefully behind schedule.

We need to embrace this change rather than shun it. It is obviously the direction in which our business is moving and the more time we spend stalling, the more time we spend in the two dimensional world of mediocre building and stagnant business practice.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Why I've always liked the "Reprographics" business better than the "Printing" business

I think I mentioned in one of my early posts (around the time I began my blog-site) that the "reprographics" business is different from the "printing" business. One of those differences, and this has long been a key difference between the reprographics industry and the printing industry, is "profitability". Simply put, it has long been known (by the owners in the reprographics industry) that reprographics companies are, pound for pound, more profitable, than printing companies.

I began my career in the reprographics business. A few years after I got involved in what was then a small family business, I decided to expand our reprographics company's business to include "offset printing" services. What did I know, anyway? Why not try something new? What, me worry? (Note that "digital" was not yet a word used in the Printing & Graphics Industry way back then.) So, we bought a couple of offset presses, a platemaker and the rest of the "stuff" that one needs to be in the offset printing business. (All of that proved to be a minor headache, but, whatever, I was young and had a ton of energy.)

Although it was not difficult to grow the offset printing part of our company's business, it proved to be a real drain on focus and time, and the money (profitability) was not worth the aggravation. Later on, shortly after we completed what was a "key merger" transaction (at which time I acquired two partners, Gary Rowley and John Scher Zeller), our senior partner, Gary Rowley (a very astute business person and, still today, I have not yet met anyone - in the industry - who has the sales and marketing sense and prowess that he had), suggested to us that we discontinue our offset printing operations - - so that we could focus all of our time and efforts on growing our then rapidly growing reprographics business. Instead of simply discontinuing our offset printing operations, we sold them. That was nice, gave us some extra cash to invest in our reprographics business. Okay, enough of the old-time nostalgia crap.

ARC just reported its April-June 2009 QTR results. ARC is "primarily" a reprographics company (yes, I know, it also has technology offerings, including software and services.)

Consolidated Graphics recently reported its April-June 2009 QTR results. CGX is "primarily" an offset printing company.

Both ARC and Consolidated Graphics have grown by acquisition (roll-up) and by internal growth.

Both have taken on debt to leverage growth.

Key differences, however, are:

1) Pound for pound, ARC is more profitable than CGX (gross profit-wise and pre-tax-income-wise)

2) ARC's Total Net Sales declined 29% from the QTR one year earlier. In spite of that significant percentage decline in sales, ARC remains profitable. CGX's Total Net Sales declined around 21% from the QTR one year earlier. And, that decline pushed CGX into a loss position.

3) Check out the comparative Gross Profit percentages of the two companies - huge difference in GP's. Check out the comparative Pre-Tax Income percentages of the two companies - huge difference in Pre-Tax Profit percentages.

4) This comparison should also give comfort to ARC shareholders that ARC's management team is doing an outstanding job, so far, managing the business through a very difficult recession.

Sorry, but I've not yet figured out how to cut and paste tables into my blog-site post window. So, the numbers below will be bit difficult to read.

American Reprographics (Symbol: ARP)
June Qtr June Qtr
2009 2008

Total Net Sales 131,054 100.0% 184,941 100.0%
Cost of Sales (81,899) 62.5% (105,853) 57.2%
Gross Profit 49,155 37.5% 79,088 42.8%
SG&A Expense (30,039) (39,499)
Amortization of Intangibles (2,914) (2,813)
Income from Operations 16,202 12.4% 36,776 19.9%
Other (Expense) Income 38 43
Interest Expense (5,836) (6,559)
Pre-Tax Income 10,404 7.9% 30,260 16.4%

Net Sales June Q 2008 184,941
Net Sales June Q 2009 131,054
Sales decline YOY 53,887
Sales decline %age 29.1%

Consolidated Graphics (Symbol: CGX)
(Reformatted to fit my presentation)
(Amortization of Intangibles is included in SG&A expense line item)
Consolidated Graphics
June Qtr June Qtr
2009 2008

Total Net Sales 225,861 100.0% 285,194 100.0%
Cost of Sales (181,032) 80.2% (214,554) 75.2%
Gross Profit 44,829 19.8% 70,640 24.8%
SG&A Expense (44,004) (50,681)
Amortization of Intangibles *
Income from Operations 825 0.4% 19,959 7.0%
Other (Expense) Income 54 (5)
Interest Expense (2,484) (4,211)
Pre-Tax Income (Loss) (1,605) -0.7% 15,743 5.5%

Net Sales June Q 2008 285,194
Net Sales June Q 2009 225,861
Sales decline YOY 59,333
Sales decline %age 20.8%

Okay, so now you know why "us" in the reprographics industry have long been glad that we weren't in the offset printing business.

Does the Fed's Economic Stimulus Plan Provide Benefit to Reprographers?

Recently, I had the opportunity to get together with the CEO of a large engineering firm. His firm is not completely "nationwide," but it is one of the larger firms in the U.S. (and they have operations outside the U.S. as well, although the substantial bulk of their business is in the U.S.)

Getting to the gist of his comments about the Fed's Stimulus Plan and its effect on the transportation engineering and construction business (not his exact words, I'm paraphrasing), what's happening is that Stimulus funding is being used to fund transportation projects that were already ready to get underway, construction-wise. These projects were already designed (meaning already printed, whether printing was done in an FM environment or outsourced), but on hold for construction until funding was available. Stimulus funding made funds available, so these projects are be released for construction. MY COMMENT ABOUT THIS: THIS DOES NOT PROVIDE ANY BENEFIT TO REPROGRAPHERS. AND, IF MANY OF THE PROJECTS, NOW BEING PUT INTO CONSTRUCTION, WERE ALREADY DESIGNED, THEN THIS DOES NOT PROVIDE MEANINGFUL RELIEF TO ENGINEERING FIRMS WHO DO TRANSPORTATION ENGINEERING PROJECTS.

One of the biggest problems reprographers faced as the current recession began - and was then exacerbated by the calamity that hit the financial/lending community around the time Lehman Brothers was let fail - was the virtual "shutdown" of lending (financing available) to non-residential developers. When funding dries up, projects dry up. When projects dry up, Architects (and their Engineering consultants) feel that - and feel that in a big way. The same exact thing happens to reprographers; that's the "trickle-down" effect when the real estate development community hits the skids, for whatever reason. Real estate developers are in the driver's seat. When they can't get money, they won't and don't build. When office and retail vacancy rates rise - which is, of course, what happens when companies cut jobs and when consumers don't spend as much money at retail as they did before, development dries up. That's what our reprographics community is experiencing, beyond the tremendous fall-off in residential development. Perhaps some of the Fed's Stimulus funding (our taxpayer dollars) should go towards relaxing the money-financing-lending environment - forcing lenders to lend to developers who are still in a position to go forth with projects.

I invite your opinions!

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Can business conditions in the reprographics industry get any worse than they were during the first six months of 2009?

Although many in the financial world are already beginning to say that, U.S.-economy-wise, the worst of the recession is behind us and that the beginning of the recovery appears to be not too far ahead of us, it has long been history that recovery in the A/E/C reprographics business lags recovery in the general economy.

Take a look at these numbers, reported in (or extrapolated from) ARC’s financials just released for Q2 2009 and for the First Half of 2009, compared to ARC’s 2008 numbers

For Q1 2009, compared to Q1 2008:
ARC’s revenues from “reprographics services” were down 29.98%
ARC’s revenues from “facilities management” were down 9.09%
ARC’s revenues from “equipment and supplies” were down 16.54%
and, ARC’s total revenues were down 25.59%

For Q2 2009, compared to Q2 2008:
ARC’s revenues from “reprographics services” were down 33.26%
ARC’s revenues from “facilities management” were down 20.22%

ARC’s revenues from “equipment and supplies” were down 8.75%
and, ARC’s total revenues were down 29.14%

Comments and Conclusions:

From an industry-wide, historical perspective, 2nd quarter revenues are typically higher than 1st quarter revenues. Running contrary to typical, ARC just reported Q2 2009 total revenues at $131,054, compared to Q1 2009 revenues at $139,483. (Remember to add 000 to all $ amounts.)

The deterioration of ARC’s revenues from “reprographics services” accelerated from Q1 to Q2, comparatively speaking:
Q1 2009 vs. Q1 2008 saw a decline of 29.98%
Q2 2009 vs. Q2 2008 saw a decline of 33.26%
Wow, an unbelievable 33% decline in reprographics services sales, year over year.

The deterioration of ARC’s revenues from “facilities management” accelerated from Q1 to Q2, comparatively speaking:
Q1 2009 vs. Q1 2008 saw a decline of 9.09%
Q2 2009 vs. Q2 2008 saw a decline of 20.22%
The “doubling” of the percentage decline in FM revenues was caused (this, of course, is only my personal opinion about this) by:
(a) A/E firms have downsized (fewer employees, fewer FM users, lower FM revenues), and
(b) lower levels of design activity at A/E firms, due to fewer new projects and a drop-off from projects that were on the boards, but which, by now, are over and done with. (I believe this also links up to the decline in the ABI Index (the Architectural Billing Index.)

ARC’s revenues from “equipment and supplies”, the latter being ARC’s least significant revenue segment, did not decline from Q1 to Q2, comparatively speaking:
Q1 2009 vs. Q1 2008 saw a decline of 16.54%
Q2 2009 vs. Q2 2008 saw a decline of “only” 8.75%
Apparently, the Q2 sales level is “bottom”; not expected to decline much further than it already has.

And, the “bright side,” ……….., if there is one ………….,

(1) In spite of VERY challenging business conditions, ARC continues to earn a profit. That, in spite of the fact that total sales were down 29.14% (Q2 2009 vs. Q2 2008)
(2) In spite of VERY challenging business conditions, ARC continued to generate positive cash flow and free cash flow and managed to pay-down long-term debt.
(3) If ARC’s management team is doing a great job weathering this “perfect storm” recession, will not stockholders be rewarded when ARC finds its way out of the recession?

Congratulations to ARC’s management team (and entire team) for another incredible quarter in the most challenging economic environment the reprographics industry has faced since the early part of the Great Depression.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Prices - up? or down? Costs - up? or down? (and Recent Bid Results)

When I was in the reprographics business full time, I made it a habit to follow government bidding activity for procurements for reprographics services. To me, the importance of following government bidding activity is that it helps one determine the "low" end of pricing action in a local market. While competitors like to keep their "lowest" prices secret (between them and their larger customers), prices bid to government agencies are easily accessible by anyone who wants to see who bid and what each bidder bid.

Understanding pricing in your market is essential (at least I think it is!)

Now that I am not working in the reprographics industry in the U.S. (I'm not permitted to do that), I only have a passing interest in government bidding activity - - - simply an interest in following the action (old habits are hard to break) - - - which means that, from time to time, I will check on who's bidding what.

In a recent competition for reprographics services for Pinellas County Schools, and this procurement supports the construction and renovation program for that county school system, there was (evidently) a heated competition for the procurement, several Tampa Bay area reprographers submitted bids. If I were still in the business in the Tampa Bay Area, I would have requested the details of each bidder's bid. But, since my interest is "light", I only took the time to look at the winning bidder's detailed bid.

Florida Reprographics (of Tampa) was the awarded vendor. Two year contract. If you want to view the detailed bid that FR submitted, go to this web address:


Florida Reprographics bid $.04 per sq ft for large-format black & white digital bond paper prints. That price was less than the successful bid the last time this same procurement was bid. And, for the previous procurement, the price that was bid was less than the successful bid 3 years before that.

As a matter of fact (this, since I know the history of this procurement pretty well), the price FR bid for large-format b/w bond prints is the same price that was bid for diazo prints (bluelines/blacklines) several years (I think about 9 years) ago.

I am SO OLD that I can remember when reprographics firms charged cheap prices for diazo blueline and blackline prints, but charged fairly high prices for large-format "digital" bond prints, that service, at that point, was considered a "premium" service.

In the reprographics marketplace and regarding unit prices for different services, what starts high always eventually comes down. I can remember when we charged $3.50 per copy for an 8 1/2 x 11 color copy. I can remember when we charged $18 per sq ft for large-format color poster prints. I can remember when we got $1.00 and $1.50, respectively, for large-format black & white xerographic plain bond and vellum copies. Heck, I can even remember when we got $4.00 per sq ft to plot b/w on mylar.

The point being is that it is a given that prices (for any individual reprographics service) always trend down over time.

On the other hand, how many of you (reprographers) have incurred price increases for plain bond paper since the recession first began to set in? The paper industry (the industry that manufactures and converts) large-format bond paper could easily be described as an "oligopoly." When only a few firms are involved in manufacturing something, prices generally increase when any one of the manufacturers announces a price increase. In other words, one starts it, then the others climb on the bandwagon. And, they all benefit.

Since the this damn recession began:
1) have your prices for large-format b/w printing services trended up or down?
2) have your paper costs (for large-format bond paper) trended up or down?

If prices (charged) are trending down and prices (paid) are trending up, that's an awful thing, especially when volumes are substantially reduced.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

And, on the "bright side"........ more GC's pursuing more jobs ...... more projects going "hard-bid"

Well, the previous post, I will admit, was a bit "gloomy", so, now, I'd like to post something that's "good news."

Several friends of mine in the reprographics industry - and friends who are knowledgeable about the GC business - are saying that, because of the recession, more GC's are pursuing more jobs than ever before. A few years ago (prior to the beginning of the bust-cycle), it was not uncommon for GC's to be selected (to do a project) by "negotiation" (between the Owner and one or few GC's) rather than be selected by "hard-bid." But, now that the construction business is down hard, and very hard in some markets in the U.S., owners are taking advantage of that by using the "hard-bid" process - the theory being that GC's are very hungry and, if there are lots of GC's bidding to do a project, the cost of that project will be less, since there will be heightened competition amongst the GC's.

So, how does this affect reprographers? Well, the more GC's who go after a project, the more sets that need to be printed (provided that CD's are not replacing printed sets!). I've heard some friends say that some projects are being pursued by tens of GC's. One friend said that one project had 40 or so GC's participating in the bid process. So, while there may be far fewer projects out for bid, the fact that more GC's are pursuing more jobs and the fact that Owners are more likely (than before) to use the"hard-bid" process, this situation hopefully brings a bit of sunshine to the reprographer community.

A Nearly "Paperless" Construction Project ? (This post also includes a list of 7 issues that may have an effect on reprographer revenues)

While doing some research, I came across an interesting article about a "paperless" construction project. Egads, a "paperless" construction project? What's that all about? The reprographics industry is in a recession because the real estate development industry is in a recession; everyone knows that. Reprographics revenues are down. Significantly, in some areas of the country.

The questions most (in the reprographics industry) are asking are; when we do see a recovery, will the reprographics industry revert (i.e., recover) to what is was before the recession began; and will the industry's revenues rebound to what they were (and beyond)?

I don't know anyone who has a working crystal ball. (If I did, I'd be buying lottery tickets with that person's help.) But, in spite of that - the impossibility of accurately predicting the future - one must at least attempt to predict what the future will be, for how else could you come up with a multi-year strategic plan for your business? ..... does it make sense to have no strategic plan?

Predicting the future (???)....

1) The article I've posted below profiles a 150+ year old Construction company that attempted (using Bluebeam software products), and, apparently completed, what they refer to as a "paperless" construction project. Does "paperless" mean "no printing?" Or, if it did not mean "no printing," was printing substantially reduced? If either was the case, then why would a reprographer promote and sell Bluebeam software products? (Visit Kal Blue's web-site, as an example of one reprographer promoting and selling Bluebeam products.)

2) What negative effect, if any, will the "wide-spread" use of BIM have on the reprographics business? I posted an extensive article, recently, about that subject. It will take years before BIM becomes standard practice in the A/E/C community. It is likely, given the advantages a GC could have if a GC uses a BIM model during the precon/estimating process and, afterwards, during construction, that GC's will embrace BIM before most A/E firms do. But, when BIM technology is in wide-spread use, will not that eliminate the need for substantial quantities of prints for GC's and their subs? Will not they use the "database" within BIM to do estimating?

3) What negative effect, if any, are "on-screen" / "on-line" computer estimating processes having, or will they in the future have, on reprographics? Are customers ordering fewer printed sets of plans because of computer estimating capabilities? Will this trend continue; will this trend increase in pace?

4) In the past, reprographers got orders to print sets of "plans and specs". And, in the reprographics industry's heyday, lots of orders for lots of printed sets. Nowadays, some GC's (and others) are ordering and distributing plans and specs on CD's instead of ordering and distributing plans and specs in hard-copy (i.e., printed.) What negative effect, if any, has this transition had on reprographer revenues?

5) Some A/E and GC customers are apparently inclined to distribute "files" (containing plans and specs) directly to project participants. For those firms who handle their project documents in that manner, they are no longer the "single source" of a "mass print order." What would have been a "mass print order" becomes a series of smaller orders from the individual firms who received a set of files, provided that the individual firms need hard-copy prints. What negative effect, if any, does this manner of document distribution have on reprographers.

6) Electronic Permitting? - The City of Atlanta recently initiated an end-to-end digital plan submission process through ProjectDox ePlan software (referred to on the City's web-site as ePlans.) "Atlanta is one of the first cities in the Southeast to implement a complete online solution for construction and land-use plan approval, in what is to become a nation-wide technology standard for building and planning departments." Firms who apply for permits submit files, rather than submitted printed sets of plans. What effect will this type of business model have on reprographers?

7) And, finally (at least this is all I can come up with for now), what will happen, "reprographically speaking", if and when flexible, portable, large-screen displays are used to review plans instead of printed plans being distributed? (This relates to an earlier post I did about technology like the Amazon Kindle reader.)

So, what have I missed? Am I way off base, on base?

I invite those who read this article to post their thoughts ("comments") on this subject - "what factors are going to negatively or positively influence the future of reprographics revenues?"

Okay, here's the article about the "paperless" construction project:

William A. Berry & Son Announces Paperless Construction Project Results
— Bluebeam PDF Revu used to eliminate 42,000 pages of paper and 1,557 lbs of CO2
Pasadena, CA (June 16, 2009)

Today, construction management firm William A. Berry & Son, Inc. (Berry) announced impressive results in its quest for a paperless project. Using Bluebeam PDF Revu, Berry, project architect Perkins+Will and all sub-contractors electronically redlined over 42,000 pages of construction documents in PDF – making the project almost completely paperless. By reviewing these documents electronically, the team reduced the project’s carbon footprint by 1,557 lbs of CO2. Based on this exceptional achievement in sustainable communication, Berry is applying for a LEED Innovation & Design Credit from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

Berry achieved this milestone by deploying Bluebeam PDF Revu, a PDF creation, markup and editing solution, to the entire project team working on the Overlook Center. Berry managed the core and shell construction, and is currently managing the fit out of this 100,000 square foot building in Waltham, MA.

Developed by Bluebeam Software, Revu was selected due to its specialized features for architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals. Unlike other redlining tools, Bluebeam PDF Revu includes industry standard markups and takeoffs, an exclusive Tool Chest for storing custom annotations, a drawing comparison feature, integrated tracking and tablet PC compatibility. Combined, these features enabled all project documents –submittals, RFIs, punch lists and more – to be reviewed and redlined in a light-weight, universal file format. “Bluebeam was instrumental in helping us review and respond to project documents electronically,” said Jay Bradley, Project Manager at Perkins+Will. “We found that Bluebeam was an essential part of streamlining and simplifying the construction administration process. The inherent simplicity of utilizing Bluebeam
technology was key in helping achieve a cost effective, time sensitive, and sustainable solution to our daily work output.”
To ensure project-wide adoption, Berry and Bluebeam collaborated to train its staff, the Perkins+Will architectural team and sub-contractors on best practices for PDF markup and editing. As a result, Berry created a blueprint for paperless workflows that is being replicated on all of its future projects. “Bluebeam PDF Revu helped us transform the way we manage project communication and its unique tools for AEC allowed us to design an electronic workflow that is scalable,” said Jake Chace, Senior Project Manager at William A. Berry & Son. “We’re already using this process on current green building projects to
eliminate paper usage and distribution, and hope that the example we’ve set will be recognized by the USGBC.”
“The paperless project has been the holy grail of the construction industry,” said Richard Lee, CEO of Bluebeam Software. “Berry has proven that it is possible to go virtually paperless and engineer an electronic workflow that can be duplicated using Bluebeam technology. By recognizing paperless workflows in the LEED standard, the USGBC can incentivize green builders to follow Berry’s lead in process sustainability, and affect real and significant change industry wide. Using Berry's results as an example, we estimate that the USGBC would be responsible for the reduction of over 25 million tons of CO2 emissions annually.”

Berry has submitted a LEED Silver application for the Overlook project and is currently awaiting notification from the USGBC.
About William A. Berry & Son, Inc. Founded in 1857, William A. Berry & Son, Inc. is one of the nation’s oldest construction companies. A top-ranked construction management firm by such leading publications as ENR, Building Design & Construction and Modern Healthcare, Berry has an extraordinary portfolio of institutional and corporate construction projects throughout the Northeast.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

“Traditional ‘print-pack-ship’ Model vs. Digital File Transfer, Cloud Printing, Printing-as-a-Service (PaaS) Model”

I received this article from Mahil Maurice, a very smart young man who works for ARC. I think he is the “Product Manager” for ARC’s “ishipdocs” technology product, which ARC began selling (I think through its PlanWell team) around the time of the IRGA Convention. I think the article Mahil authored is thought provoking. (A company I’m associated with has already signed up for the ishipdocs service.)

“Traditional ‘print-pack-ship’ Model vs. Digital File Transfer, Cloud Printing, Printing-as-a-Service (PaaS) Model”

Author: Mahil Maurice

A common denominator for a Reprographer to serve a construction project is to have a local presence. In the past, this has allowed the small to midsize reprographer (and, of course, larger regional-markets-reprographers) to enjoy steady revenue streams generated from printing services in “the reprographer’s” local AEC market (or regional markets.) However with the economy in a recession and the housing industry in turmoil, local projects have dried up, resulting in significant drop in revenue streams for local reprographers. The last 18 months have seen a steady decline in revenue in the Reprographics Industry, and, for some, that decline in revenue has been considerable.

Given what’s going on in the economy at large (and, not just in the U.S., but worldwide), one cannot safely assume that lucrative print revenues are not a thing of the past, especially when one considers another looming factor, if not a rapidly increasing trend – Digital File technologies – which are contributing to declining reprographics revenues.

Most Reprographers continue to work in the traditional “Print, Pack & Ship,” Model and generally have enjoyed additional revenues from the “analog shipping component” of printed documents. However, with digital file transfer capabilities, end users (i.e., reprographers’ customers!) can now send files digitally to a required location, completely bypassing the local printer, and, in most cases, allow the destination party (other reprographers’ customers) to worry about the printing and distribution component. Companies such as YouSentIt, LeapFile and several others have point-to-point digital document distribution facilities serving many AEC customers. This has further eroded revenue streams for local and regional reprographers and poses a serious on-going, if not future, threat, as Digital File Transfer technologies become more widely used.

The combination of a bad economy, design and construction industry woes, and disruptive technologies are posing a serious threat to the traditional Reprographic Model and the “Print, Pack & Ship,” Model.

The Reprographics industry is in an evolving paradigm calling for a change in Business Model. In the future, successful companies (we might also refer to them as “survivors”) will be the ones that see the future and put in place the elements to meet the changes head on. Positioning your company to take advantage of what the future holds will be the key to your success, if not the reason for your survival. A common denominator to execute on the new Business Model is being a fully viable digital shop, one with a highly effective, e-commerce based, Digital File Transfer capability – and a network of qualified partners (print/distribution partners) to work with.

AT&T is a good example of a company that evolved from being a leading player in the telephony long distance market to a provider of a Broadband, Cable, Wireless and Telephony. They became a one stop shop for all consumer communications needs. They had challenging times in the late 90s while losing a significant share of their core product (long distance) however quickly mapped a path for the future and built the model to get there. Today they are reaping the benefits of a wireless and cable infrastructure and competing with wireless carriers and supporting products such as the iPhone.

The Reprographics industry needs to do the same - and think beyond the “traditional” Print-Pack-Ship Business Model!

The good news is business is no longer limited to local areas, given the ever increasing globalization of the world economy. This brings with it a wealth of opportunities for the Reprographics Community. Architects and Engineering companies are actively seeking projects outside of their traditional locales, including internationally. Therefore, a reprographer is now, and this will likely accelerate in the future, expected to manage documents and transfer content in a faster manner to a destination - a destination not in the reprographer’s market or region. Things that a forward-thinking reprographer needs to capitalize on – 1) increasing shipping revenues and margins; this is done by eliminating the traditional shipping provider and keeping that revenue in the reprographer’s business by digitally shipping, 2) introducing document management services , including document transfer to other partner-reprographers.

While the opportunity presents itself, where’s the infrastructure to serve a global market or the money for a reprographer to build such an infrastructure?

How can a small to medium size or even a regional reprographer or printer afford to build a massive printing network to serve the global market? So how does a local reprographer expand and stay viable??

This is where Cloud-Printing and Printing-as-a-Service (PaaS) come into play. Each of these concepts promote a global solution that permits a reprographer to have a global footprint - without having to build the infrastructure, the technology and also not spend on maintenance of a network.

A Global footprint would enable a Print Partner in New York City to digitally ship a document to a Print Partner in Beijing China and have it printed and delivered locally. This allows the two print partners to enjoy 100% of the revenues while delivering the documents in a Simple, Faster and Green manner.

Some Key Findings and Recommendations

• Per Gartner, 52% of CIOs are reporting flat IT budgets for 2009.
• There is no massively scalable IT infrastructure available for Cloud Printing today.
• Organizations will benefit from Cloud Printing because it allows them to simply purchase the print and not spend on hardware and software.
• Reprographers and Print Service Providers will benefit from Cloud Printing by gaining access to IT infrastructure that enables them to solicit global businesses without having to invest in the necessary infrastructure.
• Reprographers and Print Service Providers must actively evaluate implementing Cloud Printing and attempt to partner with companies that have the scalable infrastructure to support Cloud Printing.

ARC recently introduced ishipdocs (www.ishipdocs.com), a web-based software- as-a-service. which promotes Cloud Printing. This important technology product allows Reprographers and Print Partners to subscribe to the service for a marginal monthly fee and permits the Print Partners to send digital documents to each other and get them printed and delivered locally. iShipdocs technology permits all revenues from shipping, printing and delivering to be shared by the Print Partners.

ishipdocs allows Reprographers and Print Partners to instantly have a Global Footprint without having to spend on infrastructure, software and maintenance costs and enables them to enjoy the many benefits of reaping revenues from business they never had, or might have had to give up. Now the Reprographers and the Print Partners can go after any business, knowing very well they can boast a Global Footprint and get past the many barriers that prevents them from doing so today.

Suddenly we have a local player with a Global Foot print to facilitate a job - anywhere in world - thus positioning itself to combat the disruptive technologies, the dried up local market, and introduce new global based services without having to spend a dime on infrastructure and software, the essence of Cloud Printing and Printing-as-a-Service (PaaS).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Will anyone ever develop an A/E/C E-INK READER?

“A Kindle Rival for Business People” – this short article, authored by Brad Stone, appeared in the NY Times Technology section on Monday, June 1st. The article says that Plastic Logic, a 10 year old company founded by two Cambridge (MA) professors, is working on devices with E-INK reading screens on thin, flexible plastic displays. Apparently, their first “reader” product, which is about the same size as the new jumbo-size Kindle DX, will be on the market early in 2010. “Users can change pages with a flick of the finger.”

I sent Plastic Logic a letter suggesting that it would be nice if they developed an E-INK reader that had an image size of 18” x 24”. (That would allow one to “read” ½-size 36” x 48” CAD drawings, ½-size 30” x 42” CAD drawings and ½-size 24” x 36” CAD drawings.)

I doubt that we will see an A/E/C E-INK READER in my lifetime, but it is certainly fun to think about the possibilities!

In a different article on another day, there was an announcement that E-INK, the Massachusetts company that developed E-INK reader technology, has agreed to be sold to a Taiwanese-based technology company.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Construction Cameras, Wireless Outdoor Cameras - OxBlue

I visited the PEiR Group blog-site this morning. On April 28th, there was a post on that site that talked about a reprographer in Cincinnati who provided a digital camera system (service?) for a large construction project in that city. That post was interesting (at least it was to me!)

While doing some research, late one evening a couple of years ago (when I was still at NGI), I "discovered" a company that does that (active camera, accessible on-line, for construction project sites) for a living.

If you go to this web-address, you can see a real-live demonstration of how OX BLUE's system works.


By the way, I find it amusing when people say that they or others "discovered" something. Take for example, when people say that Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. There were already people living in the "new lands" that Chris "discovered" and, that being the case, he didn't really discover the Americas, did he? Perhaps all of the history books should be revised to say that Chris was the first European "visitor" to the Americas, rather than the "discoverer"?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Update on ARC stock

This is an update on previous posts about ARC's stock.

In one of my previous posts, I suggested that there are at least two ways to make money in the reprographics business: (1) earn money from owning a profitable reprographics company, (2) earn money by owning a piece of another reprographics company (if you buy low and sell for more than you paid for it, of course.) In another previous post, when ARC’s stock price was at $2.68 per share, I said “it does feel like ARC’s stock is definitely undervalued.”

For anyone who bought 20,000 shares of ARC stock (NYSE: ARP) when ARC fell to $2.54 per share, which happened several weeks ago, those 20,000 shares, at the price per-share ARC closed at ($8.15) on Friday May 8th, were worth $112,200 more. (Investment $50,800, Value $163,000, Increase in value $112,200.)

How much did your reprographics company earn you in the past two months? Would you have earned more than that had you bought ARC at $2.54 per share?

Never ceases to amaze me how the stock market works. ARC reported, on Thursday this past week, that its Sales were off around 25%, Q1 2008 vs. Q1 2009. And, in spite of that, ARC's stock price surged well ahead of where the stock has been trading this year. Does that mean that investors believe that the worst is over?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hmmm, could a flexible, electronic display screen someday replace a multi-page, bound set of A/E plans?

So, when will we see rolls of plan sets (i.e., sets of A/E drawings printed on paper) REPLACED by flexible, electronic display screens? R&D people have been working on this technology for many years. E-INK is the electronic ink technology behind this, and that's the same E-INK that powers Amazon's Kindle device.

Someday in the future (and who knows when that might be; probably be well after I'm gone from the scene)..... a GC Project Manager might go out into the field with one large, rolled-up sheet of thin plastic. When he gets to the job-site, he unrolls the sheet of thin plastic, uses a USB connection to connect the sheet to his laptop, goes on-line to the Internet, downloads a current set of A/E drawings for the project to his laptop, then begins to scroll through the pages in his "electronic set" of drawings (clicks to go from sheet to sheet in the set). Continuing on, walks the project with his superintendent and with trade subs, uses a stylus to write comments and to draw circles around problems he found with the drawings; hits his save button, then "sends" the full set of now-marked-up drawings to the Owner, his boss, and the entire A/E team. Perhaps we will see a gigantic 36" x 48" Amazon Kindle some day - but I kind of doubt it. Might be easier to produce a very thin plastic, electronic 36 x 48 sheet (a "flexible" display screen.)

Latest info I found on the Internet about developments going on with "flexible display screen" technology - - -

from photonics.com: 02/24/2009

Bendable Display Screens

TEMPE, Ariz., Feb. 24, 2009 – Screens typically used on mobile phones, laptops and televisions have consistently become sharper and thinner and are changing the way we send and receive information. Now, a breakthrough in flexible display technology has demonstrated a screen that is as thin as a piece of paper and that can bend like one, too. By using flexible components, a team at Arizona State University’s Flexible Display Center (FDC) has announced the world’s first “touchscreen” active matrix display on a flexible, glass-free substrate.

Achieved through a collaborative effort between the center and its partners, E Ink Corp. and DuPont Teijin Films, it is the first demonstration of a flexible electronic display that enables real-time user input.

The breakthrough comes as a result of combining FDC’s low-temperature thin-film transistor technology, DuPont Teijin Films’ high-performance Teonex polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) films and E Ink’s Vizplex-ink laminate to form active matrix electrophoretic (electronic paper) displays. The touchscreen capability is enabled by integrating a low-power display controller that was developed by E Ink and Epson and demonstrated as part of E Ink’s developer’s kit.
The flexible touchscreen display supports real-time user input either by stylus pen or by touch, and it consumes power only when the electronic paper is activated. Once sketched on the display, information can be stored or sent wirelessly before erasing.

“Pen and touch input has become the preferred user interface in many portable electronic devices,” said Michael McCreary, vice president of research and advanced development at E Ink. “The ability to incorporate the flexible touch feature into the E Ink Vizplex display will enable a host of new applications that require shatterproof displays.”

“We believe successful deployment of flexible touchscreen technology can stimulate a number of applications that will allow Army soldiers, and ultimately other users, to input, store or transmit real-time data from remote locations using ultralow-power displays that are rugged, sunlight-readable, lightweight and thin,” said Nick Colaneri, director of the FDC. “This is an outstanding example of how the Flexible Display Center collaborates with our partners and other technology providers to create innovative solutions that address the rapidly growing market for flexible electronic displays.”
A video demonstrating the new touchscreen is available here.

For more information, visit: flexdisplay.asu.edu