Archive for the ‘Technological Advances’ Category

A Faint Voice from the Way Back Machine

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Day 4, Bill Ruesch recession recovery diary

Dear Reader,

The name for a watch without hands--broken.

I remember when the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons were first aired. I remember when pagers were the hottest thing. Why, someone could reach you even if not standing near the telephone. Yup, telephone answering machines, faxes, cell phones, digital watches,and personal computers have all be introduced during my lifetime. I tell you this to remind us all that this world is very different from the past–even the recent past.

The very first American web page went up in December, 1991. 1991, that’s only twenty years ago! Twenty years–I have sweat shirts older than that. Before that, everything was routed on a very limited basis through Switzerland.

How long has it been since you’ve seen a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman? What about a vacuum cleaner salesman? The world changed and selling has changed. Old fashioned selling methods don’t work as well as they used to–if at all. The trick is to keep the things that do work and toss those that don’t.

What still works? Human contact works. Through all the levels of wires, glass, and ceramics, the effective salesperson has to find a way to connect eye-to-eye with the customer. For repeat business there is nothing that can replace the personal touch. Without it, the customer is buffeted by every other company willing to buy their business with discounts and premiums.

In an Internet world how can you create a sincere personal touch? I’m going to have to mull this over. Do you Dear Reader have any thoughts on this?


 

Printers & Publishers Prepare to be Amazed!

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Seeking Glimpses of the Future

I have my crystal ball out. It is sitting right in front of me on my desk. I’ve been searching its depths for some clue about the future of printing, publishing, and related industries. You know what I get? Nothing.

The only thing I know for sure is that things will change. This little prophesy doesn’t mean much, except to say that time is a river and we can either find a way to float with the current, or test our strength against it. (Pretty poetic wouldn’t you say?)

I’ve spent a lifetime, so far, learning all about offset printing. I now know quite a lot, but what is that worth? What is it worth really? When I think back, I can remember people who were expert typesetters and others who were great with scanning drums for four color separations. Their hard won knowledge became irrelevant almost instantly with the changes in technology.

I used to laughingly pontificate that someday Bill Ruesch Print Broker, would consist only of an equipment filled Winnebago. Customers would provide me with art files. I would drive over to the paper merchant’s warehouse, load-in the stock, and by the time I arrived at the customer’s dock the job would be completely printed, folded, and bound.

Book in a Box

That used to be my weird vision of the future. It made me and my customers chuckle at the absurdity. It isn’t so funny anymore now that the Espresso Book Machine exists. In one machine a whole book is created; from file to finished product in less than seven minutes.  Seven minutes–printed, bound, and ready to read. That is if you have hot pads. I understand that the books come out pretty warm and need to cool down a bit.

My vision of the future has come true. What do I see in the future now? I haven’t a clue. I think my predictor must be on the blink. I’d be willing to go out on a limb by stating, “It doesn’t matter what crazy, ridiculous, impossible notion we conceive, someone is probably already a step or two ahead of us, and are right this moment building something to make it happen.”

I’m prepared to be amazed. How about you?


 

Was I Being Unfair in Sharply Criticizing Chinese Printers?

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Where's YOUR money going? To China, my friend. To China.

If you thought my recent China post was more of a rant than an article, you are right. Offshore printing is an issue that gets me boiling.  I hope that I wasn’t misunderstood. I am not anti-China, nor am I anti-Chinese. What I am is anti-slave-like labor, anti-poor-working-conditions, and anti-business-profiteers using low prices to destroy the competition. In 1890 The Sherman Antitrust Act recognized the illegality of using low prices as a means to force out competition. If Sherman could be used against companies like AT&T, Microsoft, American Steel, etc. why can’t it be used against Chinese printers to prevent their unfair competition?

Someone wrote that I am just upset because China is doing to us what America did to Europe. It is not the same. America became a strong manufacturing and trading country because of innovation. We invented the assembly line, the steamboat, and the cotton gin. These innovations made products cheaper because they could be manufactured faster and get to market quicker. Other than in Taiwan, what has China invented in the last century to change the world? And I’m not too sure of Taiwan.  Oh sure, they may have come up with a product improvement here or there, but I’m racking my brains to think of anything new. So, they compete solely on being cheaper, and they accomplish that by underpaying workers, disregarding environmental impacts of their products, and keeping workers working in sweatshop conditions. Maybe that is China’s contribution, the sweatshop. Way to go China, you get to take credit for the sweatshop. Now there’s something to be proud about.

I have a business associate who is familiar with the situation of workers in Chinese print shops. He tells me that they stay in dorms during the working week because they put in 14 to 16 hours a day on the job. They also stay in dorms because it takes a half-day to travel to their homes. So a typical work week is 84 to 96 hours with one day off, and that day is spent largely in travel.

Those living high-on-the-hog business people in China, and anywhere really, who get away with being able to offer ridiculously low prices by taking advantage of poverty conditions in their countries should be brought to task. By engaging in this behavior they hurt their workers, and lead the world economy in a downward spiral. If the only way to compete is to duplicate their working conditions and wages, we can look forward to a very bleak existence. If you want to know what the future holds for America in 50 years, just look at where China is now. Do you like what you see?

It is true that American business people were once allowed to be as ruthless as the Chinese are now. It took many bloody union wars to force better working conditions and wages. There was a time when they were desperately needed and were run by dedicated men who truly were on the side of the workers. Will the unions be able to prevent the coming collapse of the middle class? It’s doubtful. Unions steadily lost ground through corruption and vilification by the ruling class. The upper 2% has almost total control over Washington, the Unions, and apparently the Supreme Court based on their recent rulings giving corporations and foreign entities unlimited rights to promote their political agendas. Look out China, your unfair competitive edge will dissipate when American’s standard of living drops to your level. Trading will then be equal, but sad, very sad indeed.


 

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