Drupa comes to Auckland

When Drupa project manager Manuel Mataré flew through this part of the world in May, he brought with him the boundless enthusiasm and fervour that seems to grow around the printing industry in the countdown year to Drupa. And when he sat down with New Zealand Printer to discuss the massive operation that is Drupa, its value to the industry and its future, it was clear that he brought with him the passion that makes it such a great exhibition.

The world‚s largest exhibition for the printing industry brings with it a massive operation and an equally massive level of interest from graphic arts businesses everywhere. The Drupa Roadshow itself, which Mataré is bringing to the furthest-flung parts of the globe, is a way of reminding people that the
event is coming up and stirring up interest in it. Not that Drupa
necessarily needs it. As Mataré reels off the mega-figures that make Drupa the ’Olympic Games of the printing industry’, you wonder why it needs promotion at all.

At the last Drupa, in 2000, there were some 430,000 paid visitors, 202,000 of which came from overseas and 25,000 of which were from the Asia Pacific region.

Over its two weeks, around a million people were involved in the exhibition in some way, an enormous undertaking in any language. Drupa is simply huge. It is the largest capital goods show in the world.

“A couple of consumer goods exhibitions are comparable, but no capital goods exhibition comes close,” Mataré said.

The value in Drupa comes from not just from its sheer scale, but also its quality, Mataré said: “Visitors to Drupa are not regular printshop workers.

They are chief executives and vice presidents, guys who sign orders at the end of the day.

“Visitors get state of the art technology. They get everything that is
available and they can compare, within minutes, any technology that is available anywhere in the world.”

Mataré said that there were many visitors at the 2000 Drupa that had been to every Drupa since its inception in 1951. “That’s the sort of exhibition it is,” he said.

It is also the sort of exhibition that transcends time and circumstance. The 2004 version of Drupa may be faced with the impact of SARS and weak economies in many parts of the world, not least being host country Germany. In response to this, Mataré quotes Bob Dylan: “The times, they are a-changin‚,” he says. “The economic situation is different everywhere and there will never be a Drupa where all the world‚s economies are doing well. It doesn‚t matter. Drupa has always been a place of optimism and somewhere that people can turn to find something better.”

Recent Drupas seem to have fallen neatly into themes. The 1995 event was about CTP and the 2000 version became known as ’The Digital Drupa’. While themes are not something that Drupa organisers Messe Dusseldorf actively promote, Mataré picks that the 2004 version will be the workflow Drupa. “People are talking more and more about job tickets , JDF and CIP4. It is the visitor side of the show that will influence the way the show works though.”

Mataré believes that there will be an increase in the numbers of print buyers coming to the show. People from large insurance companies and banks that invest heavily in print are increasingly interested in having a voice in the printing industry and understanding the technologies that can change their businesses.

“These people aren’t so interested in the printing itself but in what products are used. It is a new type of visitor. 10 years ago, the visitors were the master printers, but now the technology and the people involved have changed.

Using another music analogy to describe the shifting foundations of the industry, Mataré says: “It used to be about heavy metal; now it‚s more like acid house.”

The changing industry has affected Drupa itself. In the old days, press manufacturers and others would time their product development cycles to fit with Drupa. Not anymore. The new ’acid house’ printing industry relies on rapid technology turnover and constant upgrades that just can‚t wait four years. Nevertheless, Mataré says, Drupa is still a showpiece for the state of the art.

“Companies put their utmost effort into bringing the latest technology to Drupa,” Mataré said. “They consider Drupa to be the main event in the industry.”

There have been some voices asking for Drupa to be held every two years to better fit product development cycles. It is not as outlandish as it might seem. The show was on a five year cycle up to 2000, has been brought back to four years between 2000 and 2004 and Mataré says that further adjustments are possible. Drupa has also been on a three year cycle in the past and this would seem to highly likely again in the future.

Drupa is on a constant upgrading cycle, Mataré said.
“The exhibitors always come back, if they‚re still in existence,” he said. “If they don’t come back, it’s never because they‚re not happy with the exhibition. Ther’‚s always some other factor that makes it too difficult for them.”

The 2004 Drupa is already a sellout, with 50 or 60 companies waitlisted to take part if others drop out. Of course, as with the 2000 version, there is always room for expansion and innovation, as seen when Xerox took an extra hall some 1km from the main complex that was never intended to be part of the exhibition.

The opportunity for networking, for talking and for sharing information is on a scale that no other trade show compares with. The total number of visitors from all the other ’big’ shows in the printing industry such as Ipex, Print, Igas and China Print comes to fewer than the total number of foreign visitors at any given Drupa.

“The difference between Drupa and the other shows is that Drupa is global whereas the other shows are aimed more at specific segments. Ipex, for example, is an English speaking show that attracts most of its visitors from the former British empire.”

For the organisers of Drupa, their show is a massive undertaking. But it’s one that they set up, provide the infrastructure for, and then step away from.

“We provide the ’basis for business’,” Mataré says. “We don’t get involved. This exhibition is between the exhibitors and the visitors and our goal is to make it as easy as possible for them to come together.”

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