QP: Tell us about Nipson, the segment of the market it serves, and who you consider to be your core users.
Palphreyman: Nipson develops, produces, and markets the world’s fastest and most versatile digital printing solutions for specialty and high-volume applications. Our unique technology – Magnetography, has a recognised value by its customers in the high-volume (150+ pages per minute), continuous feed, mono market in which it operates, and has been so for many years. In fact Nipson customers have been some of the earliest pioneers in digital print, we have presses in daily use over 15 years old printing billions of feet of paper. As Nipson prints ‘MICR’ as standard, we are probably best known in the transactional, direct mail and security markets. A couple of interesting applications worth mentioning within the security market are checks and gaming cards. The printed check whilst in demise in Europe, remains strong in other geographic areas – indeed the USA continues to be a buoyant market for MICR check printing, and in the gaming sector, the volume of ‘bingo’ cards being printed either side of the Atlantic never ceases to surprise me. These applications illustrate just two of the many niche applications that Nipson serves well. The ability to work in-line with offset or flexo press technology in these sectors often gives us an edge over many of our competitors. That said, again due to our unique magnetography technology, we print on anything from 30gms ‘pharma’ and ‘bible’ papers right through to 300gms kraft and coated card for tickets. Within this flexibility to print on multiple substrates is our ability to do so without distortion or damage – even unsupported thin films and thermal papers can be printed at speed.
QP: What is your background and how did you get involved with Nipson?
Palphreyman: I come primarily from an inkjet background, and have been in digital print for over 20 years, focussing most recently on technology and new applications – what some say as working at the ‘bleeding edge’! I knew of the company from the past, and when a colleague from Nipson invited me over for a chat, we discussed where Nipson was and where it wanted to go. I saw an opportunity developing from within an existing business. The one thing that made the difference for me was, having investigated Nipson, how loyal and dedicated its customer base is. I saw that even when customers had switched work from their Nipson’s for another digital technology – those same customers never turned their Nipson’s off because only Nipson could print the ‘hard stuff’ the competitors couldn’t – that told me Nipson had something.
QP: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement in this market?
Palphreyman: I think there are two distinct and very different things I have achieved. The first is easy – I have just closed the largest single order the business has ever had globally, for a multi-million dollar multiple press installation in North America. Secondly – and I think as important, is the building of a new Nipson team within the two subsidiary operations I am involved with. Business is about people, internally and externally, home and at work, sometimes it is easy to lose track of the interpersonal dynamic in any organization. I think we have already achieved great things in the ‘new’ Nipson, with more I hope to come.
QP: If you could change anything, either about your career, your company, or the market as a whole, what would it be and why?
Palphreyman: Again, easy answer – I wish I had been here earlier. It frustrates me to no end that we had not penetrated the market deeper. In our particular sector we probably have around 10% market share – which for our size, we certainly punch above our weight, but with our unique technology I would have expected us to be a little stronger. My task now is to make up that lost ground, and with the new team, new investments in our technology and our road plan for the future, I think we have a great opportunity to do that.
QP: What do you consider to be the greatest challenge for the industry right now?
Palphreyman: The industry is facing many challenges on many fronts simultaneously, right now. Digital today means so many different things to different people. One thing is for certain, printing today is now only part of a cross-media, multi- sensory experience. Once upon a time it was something you bought from a print shop. What I think the greatest challenge is? It is responding to these changes, and change is the opportunity. That opportunity today is different to what it was five or 10 years ago – and it will be different again in five to 10 years time.
QP: What do you consider to be the greatest asset for the industry right now?
Palphreyman: Greatest asset? Interesting – maybe it is its people. Leaders who can respond quickly to a changing market, leaders who grasp the opportunity, and are prepared to take the risk – know what their business is and where it wants to go. People like the late Steve Jobs – he knew what he wanted and went there. That is the industry’s greatest asset. My worry is there are not enough of these guys around or that they are stifled within large corporate’s. Certainly what its greatest asset is not, is any particular digital technology – if history teaches us anything, it is that there will always be another technology around the next corner.
QP: What are the biggest changes to the way we communicate with one another in the past few years? How would you recommend this industry take advantage of that?
Palphreyman: Back to Steve Jobs again I suppose; iPod for creating the music download market, iPhone for then creating the ‘smart phone’ market, and now iPad to create the ‘tablet’ market. Couple this with Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook and the growth of social networking and we have a whole new way of communicating with each other for business and for pleasure. The ‘print industry’ whatever that once was, is no more – print now is a part of this cross-media communication channel. We need to actively communicate through the same channels the market is using and continue to create solutions that support these new, more integrated campaigns. What will happen is niche markets will continue to develop and be profitable to those players who understand and can sell the added value they bring to the table. Signage banners and posters, labels and packaging, textiles and furnishings (including ceramics) are all growth areas for digital printing – and then of course there is the whole area of printed electronics and functional fluidics, so print in the conventional sense may be experiencing difficulties, in other sectors it flourishes and grows. That said, in the markets where Nipson is strong, transactional – especially financial transactional, labels and ticketing, yes we do see more competition, but we also see growth in the overall market - or maybe we are just doing our job better. Right now for instance we are installing 17 presses into the USA transactional market alone.
QP: Looking ahead, what major innovations or technologies do you believe will shape the future of the industry? Why?
Palphreyman: I don’t have a crystal ball, but certainly with my background I would have to say that I would see Inkjet continuing to develop, we have an on-going project here ourselves. Dare I say that inkjet has not quite got its act together in our market at the moment? A major competitor of ours recently admitted that they didn’t realize customers used different substrates or that the print environment was particularly challenging for inkjet which, whilst admirable for its openness, highlighted the very problem that all inkjet OEM’s face with aqueous based inks on paper based substrates. It will get there in the end, as I said before niche’s will grow and grow until they become the mainstream – but it will be the more agile, more responsive – generally smaller organizations that will trail blaze the way forwards. I also think the demise of toner is somewhat premature, and not just because Nipson is toner based, look around at HP, Konica, Ricoh, Xeikon, OCE, Xerox to name a few – there is a massive amount of high volume ‘production’ applications today based on toner systems. At Nipson we say we have the ‘anti-inkjet’ machine, if you want high speed continuous feed quality print on variable substrates – we have that available right now!
QP: What one piece of advice would you like to give to printers and others involved in this industry?
Palphreyman: Business has to generate profit, if you can create a win for you and a win for your customer you will succeed, but you need to know your market and your customers well to be confident enough to play the game. In supporting customer demands, again, it’s important to stay flexible. The market is continually evolving and investments in technology or solutions can be the difference between survival and failure. Customers have to adapt to market demand. Nipson has responded well to meet these changes, but we too have to continue to both re-invest in our core technology as well as looking to the future for new technologies and wider product diversification to stay ahead of the game.
QP: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Palphreyman: I have said many times before when asked about the industry I work in, they say ‘oh print is dying’. I respond by saying no, it is not dying, but it is changing – right now it is a very dynamic industry to be involved with. The one thing we should all be certain of is that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, that to me is the excitement of my job.