Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Printing Press Industry Outlook

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Printing Press Industry Outlook

Article excerpt

With "no clear answer" regarding the future of the rotary newspaper press business worldwide, Robert M. Kuhn said it looks like the North American market will maintain through 2000 the same vigorous level of press purchasing that saw 1997 sales outpace those of 1996.

Goss Graphic Systems' chairman and CEO sees a big mix among orders, with growth evident in the need of some publishers to add capacity, while others are ready to improve their offset operations -- an area "where enhancements are important," said Kuhn. Executives from four competing manufacturers generally agreed with Kuhn's review of world markets for the Newspaper Association of America's third annual SuperConference last month.

Though Latin America has been strong in recent years, he said, conditions vary from country to country. For Goss, Europe overall held "a little less activity," though with a "phenomenally strong" showing in Scandinavia. "We're all waiting for the Eastern Bloc to arise again, and that may be beyond the next two to three years," he said. Also, less-predictable "spot influences within countries" outside the Americas can affect business, he said, citing three press makers' strong sales in Turkey through 1995.

Though the latest questions concern the health of East Asian markets, Kuhn expects to see Japan, at least, buying presses for another year. Though South Korea and much of southeast Asia is in financial difficulty, he sees a mixed picture that shows pockets of very strong players, "particularly Hong Kong."

As it has been for all other press manufacturers, East Asia in the '90s has been kind to Koenig & Bauer-Albert. It also did well throughout Europe and saw "some good effort in Africa as well for smaller presses," said Scott Smith, president and CEO of KBA-Motter Corp., the U.S. manufacturing, sales and service subsidiary of the company based in Wurzburg, Germany.

To MAN Roland newspaper group vice president Vince Lapinski, the few big press makers must rely on the global market if they are to survive. "There's not enough business in any one market to support the type of manufacturing operations that we have," he said. At the same time, Lapinski acknowledged that owing to different, often unique geographic markets, development must be tailored to the needs of those markets.

He insisted that the U.S. remains an important market for MAN because in many ways it leads in technology growth and because, compared with Europe and Asia, it still has a number of letterpress prospects worth chasing.

Only in the mid-1990s did the U.S. become an important market for Swiss press maker Wifag (already in Europe and Asia), whose presses at the Tulsa World are the first shaftless presses sold to a U.S. newspaper.

For Japan's TKS, the U.S. is second only to its home market in the size of its installed base, according to Mike Shafer, national sales manager of TKS (U.S.A.) Inc. Domestic sales, he said, helped offset last year's fall-off in U.S. sales. Perhaps the U.S. market this year -- which began with an order from Scripps' Ventura County (Calif.) Star -- will help offset any difficulties in South Korea, TKS's third major market.

UNTIL THE 'NEXT REAL BREAKTHROUGH'

The North American market, said Lapinski, is opening up as more of its newspaper personnel travel abroad, seeing what others elsewhere have and do. Along with shaftless drives, he cited adoption of semicommercial single-wide presses on concrete tables in place of traditional double-wide newspaper presses on steel substructures, and the use of split-arm reels and jaw folders -- all contributing to more product tailoring, higher quality and lower cost.

Rather than fight price battles for every pending purchase of a conventionally equipped and configured press, said Smith, KBA will work on "opportunities that are out there in the models-and-options presses." The strategy, he said, is backed by more applications engineering development and flexo production in York, Pa. …

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