Responding to the Communications Evolution

D.J. Burgess, present chairman of the Graphic Arts Show Company (GASC) and NPES, the Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies, attended his first GRAPH EXPO show in 1979. That was three years before NPES joined with the NAPL and Printing Industries of America to form the Graphic Arts Show Company to manage and run the show. Burgess also is president of Burgess Industries, Plymouth, MN, serving the global print communications market as a designer and manufacturer of hardware and software automation management and handling technology. For more than three decades, he has guided his company through multiple markets impacted by the analog-to-digital technology revolution.

Show Daily: Here in Chicago 31 years ago, did you ever envision a highly automated, lights-out printing plant like the one your firm helped Cox/Valpak build down in Florida a few years ago?

D.J. Burgess: Yes, in a way. Even then, change was becoming the only constant in the business world. My father started the company manufacturing an exposing device for the microfilm industry. Then, digital storage wiped out film – much like the filmless CTP [computer-to-plate] revolution in printing. But it has always been about helping customers to work smarter and faster – and about the content. That hasn’t changed.

Show Daily: What have the past 11 months been like at the helm of GASC, and NPES leading its 400-plus member companies on the path toward the future?

D.J. Burgess: I’ve had mixed emotions this past year, during the most historic time economically in the print communications business. It’s tough to see the struggles and challenges brought on – and the companies that have been hit hard. On the flip side, there’s tremendous opportunity and evolving technologies that allow manufacturers and printers to play globally and transform their businesses to become providers of multimedia content.

Show Daily: Changing can be difficult. What is your advice to firms in the midst of this ‘communication evolution,’ as you’ve called it?

D.J. Burgess: With some 500 exhibitors, this show is a great opportunity for people to walk the floor and see their future, with all the features and benefits of today’s innovation right before their eyes – software, workflow solutions, automation and digital technologies. Take NPES, for example; some of us still put ink on paper, but the role for many of our members has expanded exponentially. That makes the need for our constantly evolving industry to stay connected through trade shows like GRAPH EXPO even more important. I advise show-goers to consider their immediate needs but also to step back and see a path of evolution and revolution, in some cases, of what future technology will look like. Two years ago, inkjet web presses were all the buzz, and people came to see what they could do. Now, there are installations and you can meet peer printers face to face and talk to them about what they’re doing with the technology, how they’re applying it.

Show Daily: So, look into your crystal ball for us, D.J.: What do you see?

D.J. Burgess: Wow, I wish I had one of those! In the short term, I see the Internet and determining how social media fits into the mix. At GASC and NPES, we’re trying to help the industry see what the future will bring. We’ve established a strategic planning process with the intent to project the printing industry five to seven years down the road, to 2017. And we’re consulting with an outside third party to guide us and help to build that profile.