Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rant about school systems in the U.S.

During the NBC Nightly News, last night, they compared the U.S. school system to Finland's school system; Finland's school system ranks #1 in the world; the U.S. school system ranks #17 (or was it even lower than that?) Finland's teachers come from the top 10% of Finland's college graduates; teachers in the U.S come from the bottom 1/3rd of college graduates. Shows that we in the U.S. don't place as much value on education as we should. Sad commentary on education in the U.S. And, why do we recognize "tenure" in the teaching profession? In what other "industry" are jobs basically guaranteed, no matter whether someone is really good or horrible?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

IRgA and ISA "co-locate" their conventions and trade-shows in Vegas in 2011

I view this as "good news" for reprographers.......

IRgA Co-Locates with ISA Sign Expo 2011 at Mandalay Bay

The International Sign Association (ISA) has partnered with the International Reprographic Association (IRgA) to provide its attendees and exhibitors increased value in one central location. The co-location will provide exposure to vertical markets that have historically not integrated.

"ISA always strives to develop opportunities that create a win-win scenario for everyone," said Lori Anderson, president & CEO, ISA. "ISA has spent this year looking for ways to help unify the visual communication industry. It was only natural that IRgA and ISA work together to help increase value to our members, attendees and exhibiting community. We look forward to additional opportunities over the coming months to serve as the umbrella to the industry we are so fortunate to serve."

The 2011 co-location will provide an expanded platform for ISA and IRgA attendees and exhibitors to network, attend expert-led educational sessions, and visit an even more robust trade show floor all in one location and at a reduced cost.

"The IRgA is excited to offer its attendees and vendors an opportunity for two shows with one trip," said Steve Bova, executive director, IRgA. "Vendors will be able to leverage their sales efforts by networking with reprographers at the IRgA event. Reprographers will be able to attend the International Sign Expo and discover more about the world of color and new revenue opportunities. While the ISA and IRgA events will be separate, we are all part of one big industry. Connecting in this manner makes sense."

MHC, Reed and AIA (ABI) offering differing views .....

From an article posted on AGC's site (under "construction economics); date of article was Sep 24, 2010....

McGraw-Hill Construction (MHC) and Reed Construction Data offered differing estimates of new construction starts in Augusts, based on data they separately compiled. MHC said on Tuesday that total starts increased 6% from July to August at a seasonally adjusted annual rate but were down 4% year-to-date (YTD) for January-August 2010 compared with the same months of 2009. "After languishing in late spring, the pace of construction starts picked up during July and August, returning activity to the upper half of its recent range," stated Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for MHC. "That range shows total construction starts essentially stabilizing at a low level, relative to its lengthy slide from 2006 through 2008, but not yet moving up to the point where one could say that renewed expansion is taking hold." Of the three MHC components, nonresidential building starts fell 4% in August and 14% YTD, with commercial building down 23%; manufacturing building, down 30%; and institutional building, down 8%. Nonbuilding construction jumped 24% for the month but dropped 4% YTD, with flat activity for public works being countered by a 27% YTD decline for electric utilities. Residential building slipped 2% in August but advanced 11% YTD. Total nonresidential starts were down 9% YTD. Reed reported on September 17 that total nonresidential starts were up "about 5%" in August, seasonally adjusted (22%, unadjusted), and 5% from January through August YTD. The August gain "was entirely in nonresidential buildings, since heavy construction starts fell slightly after seasonal adjustment," Reed Chief Economist Jim Haughey said.

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI), a measure of the number of architecture firms that report higher billings in the previous month than the month before minus the number with lower billings (with the difference centered on 50) inched up in August to 48.2 from 47.9 in July, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported on Wednesday. "Project cancelations, regardless of when they happen in the design phase, continue to be the main roadblock to recovery for the construction sector," said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. "Numerous projects have been put on hold indefinitely over the last several months with little hope that they will be resumed. What work…is being done is more along the lines of smaller renovation-type projects, as opposed to design for new buildings." Firms with a predominantly commercial / industrial practice had an ABI of 50.6; multi-family residential, 46.9; institutional, 46.0; and mixed practice, 42.6.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

HP Unveils World’s Most Collaborative Large-format Printer

New stuff announced by HP.........

The title of this blog post contains HP's words, not mine. Whether HP's new T2300 will actually prove to be "the world's most collaborative large-format printer" remains to be seen........

First, just a couple of comments from me:

A. Wow, a large-format multifunction system (scan/copy/print), one that prints in b/w and color, for under $9,500. (I still don't know what the max scan and print width of this new device is.) That price is going to be present a challenge for OCE/Canon.

B. Among the information provided by HP, HP said that its new DesignJet T2300 is going to come with something called "ePrint & Share". Immediately below, I've repeated the paragraph that talks about this in HP's press release, just so I could highlight in bold type what HP said about ePrint & Share. Sounds like HP's ePrint & Share is a service "on the cloud" where AE's (who have the service) can upload documents for collaboration and document sharing. I wonder how this will affect "planroom" services offered by reprographers (and by some non-reprographers) and how this, in the longer term, will affect networks that have been created for"remote" printing services (such as GGN's print-partner network and ARC's iSHIPDOCS print-partner network.)

Here's the paragraph I mentioned; see the text I've highlighted in bold type:
In conjunction with the HP Designjet T2300 eMFP, the new HP ePrint & Share platform simplifies the printing process for technical drawings. Available through HP ePrintCenter, an online hub for all HP customers to create a custom printing experience, HP ePrint & Share allows architects to easily locate and access their plans, adjust page layouts, preview print pages and create print-ready files from a single screen. Users also can upload files with a single click while printing is in process to quickly and easily share designs with remote project teams.


NEW YORK — (BUSINESS WIRE) — September 20, 2010 — HP (NYSE: HPQ) today unveiled new products and solutions, including the world’s most collaborative printer,(1) that enable technical design teams to easily access, share and print large-format project files online anytime, anywhere.

Introducing the HP DesignJet, the world’s most collaborative printer:

On November 1, the most comprehensive and collaborative innovation in architectural printing arrives: the HP Designjet T2300 eMFP with HP ePrint and Share. You will hit print from anywhere. Share files around the globe instantly. And scan documents to the cloud directly. These innovations reduce the build cycle, increase productivity and allow you and your team to return to that most challenging of human endeavors

• Scan documents directly to the cloud
• Manage projects through a personal web library
• Distribute files across the globe with a single click
• Archive and share paper files immediately
• Instantly create and share print-safe PDFs in AutoCAD

• Print and scan with true layout previews
• Vectorize sketches in AutoCAD
• Revise on top of existing plans and scan to the cloud

• Scan and print directly without drivers or PCs
• Access plans from anywhere
• Print from the cloud or your USB
• Keep your team up-to-date across continents

New HP Designjet T2300 eMFP and T7100 printers help improve design processes and realize business efficiencies
NEW YORK — (BUSINESS WIRE) — September 20, 2010 — HP (NYSE: HPQ) today unveiled new products and solutions, including the world’s most collaborative printer,(1) that enable technical design teams to easily access, share and print large-format project files online anytime, anywhere.

The new suite of products helps design professionals in the architecture, engineering and construction industries collaborate across multiple locations, streamline processes and reduce costs. It includes:

• The HP Designjet T2300 eMultifunction Printer (eMFP) – the industry’s first web-ready large-format printer with scan, print and copy functionality.(1) Designed to match today’s collaborative and mobile work styles, the new system makes it easy to share and manage content with project members around the world.

• HP ePrint & Share – which allows design professionals to automatically create, print, share and manage project files online using desktop or mobile devices.(2)

• The HP Designjet T7100 Printer – a high-speed monochrome and color printing system with breakthrough total cost of ownership compared to competing technologies.(3)

“Today’s announcement is much more than a printer, it is a tool to transform the design process,” said Christopher Morgan, senior vice president, Graphics Solutions Business, Imaging and Printing Group, HP. “With the HP ePrint platform extended to the technical market, design professionals now can focus on building and executing their ideas, rather than on managing cumbersome design and print processes.”

HP Designjet T2300 eMFP offers web-ready solution for designers
Created for medium and large architecture, engineering and construction firms and enterprise businesses, the HP Designjet T2300 eMFP allows design professionals to easily scan and upload documents to the web and to print drawings wherever needed(1) – from project team meetings at the main office to reviews with clients and even at the construction site. With two online media rolls and simultaneous copy and scan functions, the HP Designjet T2300 eMFP is designed to improve productivity at each of these locations by accommodating multiple projects at the same time.

In conjunction with the HP Designjet T2300 eMFP, the new HP ePrint & Share platform simplifies the printing process for technical drawings. Available through HP ePrintCenter, an online hub for all HP customers to create a custom printing experience, HP ePrint & Share allows architects to easily locate and access their plans, adjust page layouts, preview print pages and create print-ready files from a single screen. Users also can upload files with a single click while printing is in process to quickly and easily share designs with remote project teams.(2)

“For us, technology is not only a tool to materialize ideas, but an important partner in a creative process that demands a high degree of mobility,” said Matias del Campo, principal, SPAN Architecture & Design. “We are based in Vienna, but our projects are distributed around the world, from construction sites to teaching studios to conferences. The HP Designjet T2300 eMFP and HP ePrint & Share make it possible to print and preview files from anywhere(2) and provide us with an interface between our digitally heavy design techniques, the networking and distribution of information and the physical world.”

The HP Designjet T2300 PostScript eMFP includes several industry firsts:

• The first color touchscreen interface on a large-format printer for simple one-click scanning, copying and printing operation

• The first true large-format multifunction device priced below $8,500,(4) opening the door to in-house large-format printing for more customers

• The first driverless printing for direct printing from a notebook PC or USB drive to eliminate print driver and network constraints

HP and Autodesk are working together to provide solutions that help design professionals streamline the architectural process and build cycle. The new HP ePrint & Share plug-in for AutoCAD allows customers to simplify their printing directly from AutoCAD. Additionally, a license of AutoCAD Raster Design included with the purchase of the HP Designjet T2300 eMFP enables the full scanning of sketches, printed plans or blueprints, which can then be digitized and vectorized for further design.
”By scanning original plans that we use as a basis for design, we save about 50 percent of the time it would take to create a new plan,” said Russ Phillips, principal architect at Insight Architects and an HP Designjet T2300 eMFP beta customer. “With the new HP Designjet eMFP, we scan to JPEG or PDF and use the image as a background. A plan that would have taken eight hours to develop now takes only four hours.”

HP Designjet T7100 Printer offers high productivity with significant cost reduction
The HP Designjet T7100 Printer is designed for central reprographic departments in enterprises and reproduction houses. It streamlines print production for customers needing to print in monochrome and color – from simple CAD drawings to high-quality presentations. With a competitively low total cost of ownership, the printer provides an alternative to devices that print only in monochrome or color and light-emitting diode (LED) technologies, which can be expensive to maintain.
The HP Designjet T7100 Printer features a modular design that allows customers to easily upgrade the device as technology progresses and that helps the printer integrate seamlessly into existing IT infrastructures. The printer eases and accelerates print production for customers by offering: speeds of up to 165 A1 prints per hour, unattended printing with the capacity to manage up to three media rolls and the HP Smart Roll Loading System.

The HP Instant Printing Pro accessory provides driverless printing, so customers can preview, edit and print files without opening applications or adjusting driver settings. The HP Designjet T7100 Printer is available in monochrome or color versions.

Pricing and availabilityL
For this information, go to the article at this internet address:

About HP
HP creates new possibilities for technology to have a meaningful impact on people, businesses, governments and society. The world’s largest technology company, HP brings together a portfolio that spans printing, personal computing, software, services and IT infrastructure to solve customer problems. More information about HP is available at

(1) Internet connection is needed.
(2) Upgradeable functionality will be available in 2011. May require an internet connection to the printer. Feature works with any internet- and email- capable device. Details at
(3) The HP Designjet T7100 Printer offers up to 66 percent lower total cost of ownership over three years against competitive color devices and up to 50 percent against competitive monochrome solutions, based on HP internal testing.
(4) Estimated U.S. manufacturer suggested retail prices. Actual prices may vary.
This news release contains forward-looking statements that involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. If such risks or uncertainties materialize or such assumptions prove incorrect, the results of HP and its consolidated subsidiaries could differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements and assumptions. All statements other than statements of historical fact are statements that could be deemed forward-looking statements, including but not limited to statements of the plans, strategies and objectives of management for future operations; any statements concerning expected development, performance or market share relating to products and services; any statements regarding anticipated operational and financial results; any statements of expectation or belief; and any statements of assumptions underlying any of the foregoing. Risks, uncertainties and assumptions include macroeconomic and geopolitical trends and events; the execution and performance of contracts by HP and its customers, suppliers and partners; the achievement of expected operational and financial results; and other risks that are described in HP’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the fiscal quarter ended July 31, 2010 and HP’s other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including but not limited to HP’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended October 31, 2009. HP assumes no obligation and does not intend to update these forward-looking statements.

© 2010 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. The only warranties for HP products and services are set forth in the express warranty statements accompanying such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. HP shall not be liable for technical or editorial errors or omissions contained herein.

AIA ABI Index for August 2010 - Another slight increase from previous month, but still showing declining demand

Although I've yet to see it posted on the AIA's own web-site, I did, this morning, find two different sites on the Internet where people are talking about the AIA ABI Index reading for August 2010. Below, you'll see the text of the press release about the August 2010 ABI Index reading, but, first, a couple of comments:

Comment #1 - although some finance and economics people appear to be having "positive thoughts" about the fact that the ABI Index is creeping towards 50 (it's been moving towards 50 for the last three months), note the sentence in the just-issued AIA Press Release that says this, "This score reflects a continued decline in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings.)" On the one hand, I guess it's only natural for people to want to have positive thoughts any time a number goes up rather than down. But, on the other hand, if the AIA says (and it has been saying this all along) that ANY reading UNDER 50 is an indication that demand for design services is continuing to decline, then positive thoughts are nothing more than (as Danny DeVito would put it) "delusional."

Comment #2 - if the lag-time between recovery in design services and recovery in construction (and recovery in reprographics generally coincides with recovery in construction, if not somewhat earlier than the recovery in construction) is 9 months or so, then that means that reprographers should begin seeing stronger revenues sometime during the Spring of 2011. I guess that also means that reprographers should be expecting a weak Q4 2010; let's hope it is not too weak. By most accounts, last year's Q4 (2009) was plain-out awful.

Okay, here's the information from the AIA ABI Index Press Release:

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) just released its monthly Architecture Billings Index (ABI) for August, which improved to 48.2 last month compared to 47.9 in July, and was the sixth monthly increase during the last seven months of the leading economic indicator for construction activity. Except for a slightly higher reading of 48.4 in April of this year, the August reading of the ABI was the highest index level since January 2008 (see chart above).

Although the ABI has still not risen about the benchmark level of 50 which signals overall expansion of billings, the leading indicator has been on an upward trend since early 2009 when the ABI hit a recession-low of 33.9, and has now risen by 14.3 points. This upward trend is evidence of a gradual and steady improvement in billings, and a signal of future improvements in construction activity.

Among the various components of the ABI that are above 50 and signal expansion include the Northeast average for billings (50.9), billings for commercial and industrial (50.6), and the Project Inquires Index (54.6).

According to the AIA:

Still not entering into the positive phase, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) increased for the third straight month in August. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the August ABI score was 48.2, up slightly from a reading of 47.9 the previous month. This score reflects a continued decline in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was also up, moving from 53.1 to 54.6.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What's the future look like for Reprographers and for the Reprographics Industry?

Your thoughts and comments are invited.

One of the websites I frequent is Although that website is not devoted to the "reprographics" industry (it is devoted to the "printing" industry), many of the articles on that website (and the discussions provoked by various articles) do touch on issues that are important to the reprographics industry.

About 3 weeks ago, one of the articles that appeared on was this one:

Ramblings, Whinings, and Admonitions
By Dr. Joe Webb on August 25th, 2010

In one of the paragraphs in that article, Dr Webb said this:
"This is why focusing on economic conditions as the catalyst for improvement in print volumes is misplaced. We’re having a communications revolution playing out in handheld devices that is in many ways more powerful that the introduction of the telegraph, radio, and television. Technology is stronger than the effects of any general economic upturn or downturn."

On July 12th, I posted the most recent "A/E/C Repro PPoP Index" (an index that attempts to track sales of "plans printed on paper". Comparing the index-readings, Q2 2010 vs. Q2 2007, the index-reading "says that" sales of plans-printed-on-paper are down by almost 50% (index-reading .60 vs. index-reading of 1.18). If that index reading is even remotely close to what's really happened to revenues from plans-printed-on-paper, that's a very, very scary situation for reprographers, and I don't think that any reprographer would disagree with that statement.

Many of the articles I've posted over the last two years have been directed towards "what's going on in the AEC industry" (factors affecting the health of that industry, such as the availability of financing for real estate development projects, etc), good news, bad news, etc. Some of the articles I've posted over the last two years have been directed towards changes in technology that have, or will have (or may have), an effect on "recovery" from a reprographer's perspective.

During past recessions that negatively impacted the AEC Industry and the Reprographics Industry, A/E firms got hurt and Reprographers got hurt. But, when those recessions went by the wayside, A/E firms recovered and Reprographers recovered. "Recovery", back then, was "simply" a matter of Owners and Developers getting back to business, creating projects, getting financing commitments, hiring A/E firms .... and, yes, Reprographers' printing revenues increased as our customers' project-related activities increased. In other words, "recovery" for reprographers was a foregone conclusion - when the AEC industry got healthy, so did we. And, based on my experience (or, I should say, due to my age and exposure), after the recovery was in full swing, we (reprographers) always grew larger (I'm speaking about our sales revenues from printing plans and specs) than we were before "the last recession" started. In other words, it was almost a given that reprographers, who managed to make it through a recession, experienced excellent sales and profits at some later point in time (after a recession was done and over with and a recovery was well underway.)

Over the past year, many reprographers I've spoken to (or have heard from by e-mail) appear to be very concerned that, after this current recession (which I've referred to as a depression) in the AEC Industry is done and over with, the reprographics business will not recover the same way it has after past recessions. The term "paradigm" shift comes to mind. Some reprographers are saying that, because this recession has been so hard and deep, customers have changed their ordering habits; customers are ordering far fewer "printed" sets of plans and specs and are ordering more sets of CD's (or, worse yet, are bypassing reprographers and simply distributing files on their own - to project participants, GC's, Subs, etc.) And, technological advancements, such as paperless permitting (check out the City of Atlanta) and further developments in software targeted at project documentation and collaboration .... and BIM, are continuing to peck away at "the customer's need or desire to print". I find it difficult not to imagine, at some not-so-distant point in the future, an environment where plans and specs (and other documents related to projects) are hosted on a "project document collaboration site" and made accessible to (or are distributed, at the click of a mouse, to) PC's, MAC's and to jumbo-sized iPAD's (or similar display hardware) and where participants will use electronic pencils for mark-ups and comments, and where bidders will use software for take-offs (estimating.) "Some say" that we are (or are mostly) already there!

Simply my own personal opinion, but I do think that reprographers will recover from the current depression. But, I don't think that revenues from "printing plans on paper" will recover like they've recovered in the past. Technological advancements in hardware and software (and communications technology vis a vis anything that has to do with the Internet) are moving more quickly than at any time in the past, even in spite of the current recession. Customers are looking for faster, easier ways to communicate .... and faster and easier ways to communicate "information"; customers are looking at anything that will make their team members more productive, enable their team members to accomplish more work in less time.

Some in the reprographics industry say that this (what I said in the previous paragraph) points to an opportunity for reprographers. Reprographers have long been relied on (by customers in the AEC community and by customers in the RED community) to "manage information" and "distribute" information. Meaning, we do have "relationships" and that we have earned at least some measure of "trust." I do agree that this is an opportunity for reprographers.

However, as I said very recently to a friend (who has been involved in the reprographics industry for nearly as long as I have):

"Reprographers were all about printing and distribution of documents; even though we (reprographers) say we're in the document management and document logistics and "technology" business, reprographers, at their very heart, are printers. You are aware, I'm sure, that, even nowadays, over 85% of "a typical reprographer's" revenues are generated by "printing" and "finishing". When customers, for whatever reason or reasons, decide to print less (or, worse yet, stop printing), the reprographics industry becomes less relevant (or, worse yet, irrelevant), at least from a "reprographics" perspective. 5 years from now (perhaps less, who really knows), a reprographer who, years before, had 3 branches in a market and employed 100 people [e.g., back in the mid 1980's (when business was hot and heavy) or back in the middle of the 2000-2010 decade (when things were equally hot and heavy)], could easily wind up needing only 50 (or less) employees...... if printing continues to diminish as quickly as its been diminishing and if "all" that a reprographer is (mostly) doing (in the "new times") is providing and charging for document management, document oversight, and document distribution/logistics. Which kind of provokes the larger question; if "printing revenues" (the profit from those is what paid funded our salaries, our bonuses, our houses, our cars, our vacations, our perqs) are diminishing and are expected to further decline, or, worse yet, are expected to evaporate for the most part, then is it even going to be possible for the "reprographics" industry to remain relevant .... and profitable? I've never been able to predict the future, but if we simply take a look at what's happened in the small-format document space (since developments in that space always happen in advance of developments in the large-format document space), the future of "prints on paper" does not look outstanding. While I do believe that reprographers have "the relationships" (with those who do have needs for help with document management, document distribution, and document logistics, that doesn't necessarily mean (i.e., it is not "a given") that reprographers will be able to benefit from those relationships. The future of reprographics (or, I should say, the future for reprographers) is going to require a "reinvention" of who we are and what we do..... and how we are thought of. Reprographers who don't make the change may survive, but their companies will be a lot smaller, revenue-wise, profit-wise, than they were in the past. But, even reprographers who do make the change will very likely experience much lower revenues and profits than they achieved in the past. [(And, this is the major reason why "consolidation" will continue to happen in the reprographics industry; some of that consolidation will happen not because of "acquisitions", but from reprographers bailing out, closing their doors (the latter, if this depression continues another couple of years.)]"

Okay, sorry, that was a mouthful, for sure.

What are your thoughts?

1. Do you think that reprographers will experience the same rebound in revenues from "plans printed on paper" that they experienced after previous recessions were over and done with?

2. If you do not, then what do you think will happen to the size of reprographics companies (number of employees going forward vs. prior to the current recession)?

3. Do you believe that reprographers can successfully participate in the document management, document distribution, document logistics space, simply because they have "relationships" with participants in the AEC community?

4. Do you think that the reprographics business and industry is experiencing a "paradigm shift", and, if so, what do you see as the major factors causing (or that will cause) that shift?

And, please share any additional thoughts you have about "the future of the reprographics business and industry."

Please either e-mail your comments to me or post your comments as "comments" on my blog. My e-mail address is For those of you who e-mail comments to me and who do not want me to reveal your name if I do a follow-up article, then simply tell me that you want to remain anonymous, and I will certainly honor your request to remain anonymous.

Thank you.

p.s., please let your friends and associates (and competitors) in the reprographics business and industry know about "Reprographics 101".

Friday, September 10, 2010

AutoCAD Comes to the MAC .... and to the iPAD

One of my blog-readers e-mailed me to let me know about this "new news" from AutoDesk. (Thank you, Trevor!)

I can't imagine anyone trying to review or mark-up a large-format A/E drawing on an iPHONE or on an iPODTOUCH - but that's because my eyesight isn't as good as it was when I was a young guy. Even doing that on an iPAD's larger screen would be challenging, eyesight-wise, to me. But, many people (and especially younger people) are comfortable using "small display screens" to view "large-format" documents. Beyond that, there are "display screen" technology companies working on larger portable display-screen devices, including "flexible" display screens that would roll-up just like a "blueprint" is rolled-up.

Anyway, here's the article that my blog-reader pointed me to (see Internet-address below)

AECbytes Newsletter #46 (Sep 9, 2010)
AutoCAD Comes to the Mac … and the iPad!