Friday, June 8, 2012

So, not “a dying industry”, but “an industry in transition”!!! Hip, hip, hooray!!!

Last week, we posted, on Reprographics 101, another article from the Daily Journal of Commerce Oregon, and the article below is a “follow-up” article written by the same author who wrote the first article.

So, not “a dying industry”, but “an industry in transition”!!!  Hip, hip, hooray!!!

After re-reading the first article and the follow-up article that appears below, I couldn’t help but think of a project – the “ARTIC” project in Southern California – that’s now out for bidding – and the fact that all bidders ARE REQUIRED to purchase project documents.

Printed Procurement and Contracting Documents: For bidding purposes, each Bidder must obtain an official Bid Set of Contract Documents from C2 Reprographics, 3180 Pullman Street, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Contact: Andres Valle, (866) 632-8329.The City of Anaheim will only accept bids for this project from Contractors that have bought the bidding documents from C2 Reprographics. Bidders may obtain either a printed copy or an electronic copy of the documents in order to prepare their proposal.
A set of full size plans and specifications may be obtained for the sum of Five Hundred and Twenty-one Dollars ($521.00) plus the cost of shipping and handling from C2 Reprographics, 3180 Pullman Street, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Contact: Andres Valle at, (866) 632-8329. A half-size set of plans is available at a lower cost. 
So, imagine that, a reprographer is – still today - managing and printing construction project documents, in spite of the fact that some are saying that reprographers aren’t printing anymore.

Okay, here’s the follow-up article that appeared in the DJC Oregon:

Reprographers: an dying industry in transition
By Lee Fehrenbacher
May 24th, 2012

Are the days of paper blueprints over?
In 2004 I worked as a project engineer for a commercial construction company in Sacramento. Part of my job was to order 50-pound sets of blueprint drawings and get them to subcontractors. I remember the meticulous task of stamping every page on multiple copies of submittals. As addendums and requests for information came in the door, the paper I sent out piled up, the back seat of my pickup stacked high with 6-inch diameter rolls.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to revisit the subject via a feature on the business of local reprographers and how they are responding to the digital systems (online plan rooms, digital files, electronic invitations to bid) that are taking the place of paper. While I think the meat and potatoes of that story were right on the money, the headline I suggested for Wednesday’s feature may have been a bit misleading, “A dying industry fights to survive.”
“That’s why, when I saw the headline on your article, I was surprised,” said Kaye Kloster, vice president of the Oregon division of the American Reprographics Company in Portland. “In the traditional sense, it’s not a dying industry but more an industry in transition.”
Fair enough. ARC is the other big reprographics company in Portland.
“We’re in 35 to 40 different states and Canada and (we) have international affiliates and print partners,” Kloster said. “So we’re really the biggest reprographics company in the world.”
Started in 1988 as Ford Graphics, the company’s founders S. Chandramohan and K. Suriyakumar grew the company from $9 million to roughly $100 million in 10-year’s time by acquiring smaller, mom-and-pop companies around the nation. The company is now publicly traded.
“Wall Street still struggles in some cases to understand what business we’re in,” Kloster said. “We’re not Kinko’s, we’re not Nikon. There wasn’t a pre-described category for us to be put into as far as Wall Street was concerned.”
The same might be said for the reprographic industry.
Kloster joined the company in 1995. She too has seen a huge transition in its business model as architects’ and contractors’ needs for drawings change, but she said things are hardly slowing down. For ARC, the model has transitioned from a scenario where contractors once visited their store for their printing needs, to one where ARC now visits the contractor with their printing equipment.
Because of the company’s size, Kloster said they can rent machines on a lease or cost-per-copy basis, which is often advantageous for temporary jobsite trailers. ARC, along with the other reprographers in town, has also taken up digital services to pick up the slack on dwindling paper revenues.
“The technology has broadened the definition of, ‘What does a reprographics company provide?’” Kloster said.
Still, in reporting this story, I couldn’t help but feel a bit nostalgic about those old 50-pound rolls of blueprints. When I got to work Wednesday morning, I was glad to see I wasn’t the only one.
“I wish you and the rest of the reporters could have seen the old physical plan center,” wrote Nicole Crawford, one of our project plan center gurus, in an email. “We had cubbies with blueprints similar to Willamette Blue’s. We would have a hard copy of every project … Some of the guys would only work online from the office, others practically had converted spaces and cubbies in the plan center to an office away from the office. A few independent estimators seemed to actually make our office their main office.”
I too remember the days when subcontractors would hang out in the bid room, study plans for hours on end, drink coffee and goof around. And I have to wonder, as we move full steam ahead into the world of the cloud, what will be the value of that face time left behind by a virtual horizon?
Food for thought.

1 comment:

  1. It's evident that it will take a long time for the reprographer's traditional business to disappear, if ever. The reduction in volume, though, is making/will make an already obscure trade become even more invisible, marginal.

    The companies that seek to reinvent themselves must help drive that change. It's a total paradigm shift and we are not completely sure what it is shifting to. Companies need to stay agile and ready to shift at a moment's notice to sty in sync with the industry if they want to grow (or really, not shrink)