Saturday, April 30, 2011

IRgA Convention "wrap-up" comments

This post is a brief wrap-up (my “personal take”, if you will) of the IRgA Convention that ended at 4:00 pm on Thursday April 28th.

Not surprisingly, the mood of conventioneers was quite reserved. 2008, 2009 and 2010 were not good years for most reprographers, and, likewise, 2011, for most, has not started out on a good foot. I spoke to a lot of reprographers during the two day convention, and I only found one reprographer who said his/her business grew in 2010 and started out in a good way in 2011. Let me repeat that; only one reprographer said that. Everyone else I posed the question to said that 2010 was either even with or somewhat under 2009 results, and virtually everyone said that 2011 has not been what they expected (or hoped for.)

And, not surprisingly, there was a very poor turnout at this year’s IRgA Convention. The list of attendees (excluding “exhibitor” attendees) filled only about 1 ½ pages. The trade show was small, and even the industry’s largest vendors, OCE and KIP, exhibited only a few pieces of wide-format equipment (OCE exhibited 3, KIP only 1). The IRgA announced that there will not be an IRgA-specific (standalone) trade show next year. (If the IRgA piggybacks another industry’s convention next year, then it is quite possible that reprographics-industry-vendors will rent exhibit booths within a much larger convention’s trade show exhibit area.)

During the IRgA’s annual business meeting session, it was announced that officers and board members have, over the past year, been evaluating “what” the IRgA’s business model should change to, going forward. They said that the business model the IRgA has traditionally employed is not sustainable. This, because vendor support has been reduced substantially and because membership, over the past 5-7 years, has declined drastically. It was reported that there are currently 185 IRgA member companies. Years ago, there were, reportedly, over 600 member companies.

If I were to choose only one word to describe “the mood” of this year’s IRgA Convention, that word would be “glum.” Many of the industry’s member companies (and non-member companies) are, apparently, in “survival mode.”

Bob Roperti will become President of the IRgA on August 1st, 2011. I’ve known Bob for over 25 years (even before he got into the reprographics business), and he is a terrific person. He is truly one of the nicest people you could ever meet. I wish him the best of luck with his run as President. If he needs my assistance, in any way shape for form, all he has to do is ask. When Bob spoke at the annual business meeting today, he asked IRgA attendees (and all IRgA members) for their input, help and support. I urge all reprographers to do that for Bob. Please help Bob this year, as the IRgA implements changes in its structure and operations.

The first presentation at this year’s IRgA Convention was titled:

“How BIM and Emerging Technologies Will Change Reprographics Forever”

There were three different presenters, all of whom are Architects (with the exception that one, Steve Jones of McGraw Hill, left the practice of architecture several years ago.) Each presenter gave very interesting, very informative presentations about BIM; what it is, how it is changing the A/E/C Industry, and their opinions as to the challenges reprographers are and will be facing because of BIM. Adoption of BIM (by the A/E/C community) is expected to grow very rapidly over the next 3 to 5 years. A/E/C customers will continue to require reprographics (i.e., printing) services, but not the volumes reprographers have seen in the past. The presenters also provided suggestions for services reprographers may want to consider offering in the future. Those suggestions included: laser scanning services, underground radar services (for locating underground utilities at prospective construction sites), and the rental of BIM “caves.” The IRgA will likely (at least I think the IRgA will) be posting (on its web-site) the presentations given by the 3 panel members, so I encourage my blog-readers to look at those presentations for more information about what’s going on with BIM that will affect the reprographics business. Although I found the presentations to be informative and interesting, the suggestions the panel members gave are, to me, beyond the scope of a typical reprographer’s business. It’s “kinda like” they are suggesting that the future of reprographics is bleak – “find new revenue streams, if you want to remain a viable business.” Simply my own opinion, but, as long as there are A/E/C projects, there will continue to be printing work; it’s just that printing volumes will be less in the future than they were in the past. To me, this will foster continued consolidation in the reprographics industry. (I.E., there will be fewer reprographics firms, 3 – 5 years from now - than there are today.) For those reprographers who do not have the intestinal fortitude to stay the course – to see what’s really going to happen (and I don’t think that anyone can really predict the future of reprographics) – then now is probably a good time to begin figuring out your “exit strategy.” (I would be more than happy to help any reprographer look at exist strategy ideas.)

Ed Crowley, CEO of the Photizo Group presented on MPS (managed-print-services); in particular, the title to Ed’s presentation was:

MPS – Why This Is Key to the Growth of Your Firm”

Photizo Group has three distinct “types” of clients:

· Reprographers and other “print” services providers and imaging equipment dealers who are, or who want to be in the “MPS” business.

· Equipment manufacturers who are already in, or who are not already in, but who want to be in, the MPS business, and who want to further or better understand how to best present their MPS offerings.

· Large “customer” organizations who want to hire MPS vendors to take over their imaging equipment fleets, but who are not sure how to approach the vendor RFI / RFP process; these “customers” solicit Photizo Group’s services to assist them with the process of formulating what their MPS strategy should be.

As to the term “MPS”, I’ve been curious, for at least the past year, as to how “MPS” differs from “FM (or OnSite) Services”, and, so, after the formal part of Ed’s presentation was over and the Q&A session began, I got up to ask a question.

To preface my question, I said………..

“If I convinced an engineering firm with a 150 person office to enter into a four year contract, and, under the terms of our contract we provided: a) 11 laser printers, b) 7 multifunction copier/printer/scanners, c) 2 wide-format plotters, d) software to track output from all devices, e) a staffed central print room with hi-volume production and finishing equipment, f) monthly billing reports that provided “output” and “cost-by-project” (or department) information, g) all consumables and media required for all of the equipment we provided, h) repair and maintenance service for all of the equipment we provided, i) off-site reprographics services (at our production center) for any reprographics work that could not be accomplished efficiently “in-house” at the customer’s office …. “

….. and, then I asked Ed Crowley this question…..

“Would that arrangement be considered an “MPS” deal?”

Not surprisingly, the answer I (finally, after some hesitation) got was, “YES, that would be considered an MPS deal.”

So, I’m no longer confused! An FM deal is pretty much the same thing as an MPS deal.” It really depends on the “scope” of an FM program; what’s included, what’s not, how pervasive and comprehensive your program is. Many, many reprographers have been offering “MPS” for years, even though we did not call our FM’s “MPS” deals.

Those of you who know me know that I am a firm believer in reprographers offering FM (MPS!) services.

The final “session” at the IRgA Convention was an “Open Space Technology” forum. Prior to the beginning of that session, convention attendees were invited to submit questions for the participants to pick apart, debate and discuss. Unfortunately, only one person submitted a question (and, that one person was me and, since I’m retired, I really don’t count as a reprographer). So, the two young people (Tanner Bechtel and Casey Simpson) who hosted the OST session came up with a number of questions, and those questions were placed on the floor inside the “circles of chairs” that were set up for attendees to sit in.

I attended last year’s IRgA OST session, and there were approximately 10-12 different circles, each consisting of around 10 participants, so about 100-120 participants in total took part in last year’s OST session. This year, there was only one circle and about 15 participants in total! The difference between last year’s interest level and this years (lack of) interest level was remarkable. Should we chalk up the very poor participation to “apathy”, or was the lack of participation caused by reprographers deciding to get an early start touring the ISI (sign convention) exhibit hall?

As to “construction economics”, during the IRgA trade show (when people were walking around the exhibit hall, booth to booth, I asked Steve Jones, who is with McGraw Hill (and who was one of the “BIM” panel presenters), about McGraw Hill’s outlook for construction in 2011. Steve said that McGraw Hill very recently revised its 2011 estimate down to 1% growth and that McGraw Hill, at this point, does not feel that there will be much of a recovery in the construction sector until the latter part of 2012. That is, absolutely, not good news for reprographers. If 2011 proves to be an “even” or “down” year, that will run the string of no-growth or negative-growth years to four. Over the past year and during the convention, I’ve spoken to a whole host of reprographers whose businesses are 40%-50% off “peak.” Let’s all hope that the fortune tellers have it wrong and that reprographers will begin to experience a robust recovery by the middle or latter part of 2011.

I expect that the IRgA will, sometime this summer, communicate additional information regarding the possible restructuring or reorganization of the IRgA. So, visit the IRgA’s web-site for that information.

If anyone has any questions about the IRgA Convention that just ended, feel free to post your question as a comment to this post or send an e-mail directly to me.

Finally, I would like to thank Steve Bova and the IRgA's officers and board members for enabling me to attend the IRgA Convention on a press pass.

Unrelated to this post:

Remember to enter the contest I announced on this blog.

1 comment:

  1. IRGA

    It has been many years since I attended an IRGA convention. I was shocked
    to see the decline in both vendor and member participation. I attended the BIM
    session and was grateful that the IRGA would facilitate an interactive session
    with architects who could describe their view of services they would need from
    reprographers in the future. I was amused when one panelist suggested we would no longer be reprographers as we will now become image enablers
    ( I still haven't dropped blueprint from my companies name )
    I don't believe I will be buying a $ 600,000 BIM cave anytime soon but I did find
    find the ISA sign expo absolutely amazing

    I could not help but feel sorry for the IRGA vendors who had to endure two days
    In such a poorly attended exhibit hall, competing for attendees just a few hundred feet away from the ISA show. While I don't know the exact size of the ISA exhibit hall it felt like maybe three football fields of the most amazing imaging devices in the world.
    Although I have remained profitable since the downturn which started in late 2008 I have experienced big declines in my wide format monochrome printing.
    In closing I will say the opportunities for replacing my wide format monochrome
    revenues could be found in abundance in the ISA exhibit hall.

    In the world.