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News of CTPS's acquisition of an HP T300 in March—the first in Asia—came as a shock to many in the industry. Although much has been said about the advantages of digital printing in recent years, Hong Kong/China's print industry relies mostly on offset. As such, CTPS's big-ticket investment sparked much speculation, interest, and debates within the industry.

Several print manufacturers, in fact, have already ventured into the digital arena. At C&C Offset, two sets of Canon Image Press were installed last November to satisfy book publishers' increasing demand for smaller runs and shorter delivery time, and C&C's Shanghai commercial printing facility has expanded to more than 20 presses (from Fuji Xerox, Canon, and Kodak) since launching its digital printing services back in 2005. Over at Regal Printing, its Xerox DocuColor 800 has catered mostly to self-publishers and small publishing houses in the past six years. Leo Paper Group has two NexPress machines, the first of which was installed in 2006, while Hung Hing has recently installed a Konica Minolta digital press as a test to decide when or how to expand into the digital arena. Many others are weighing the model and brand that would best suit their needs.

What is the story behind CTPS's bold venture and how does HP figure in the whole digital printing movement? PW sits down with John Currie, global business director at CTPS, and Aurelio Maruggi, v-p and general manager of HP's inkjet high-speed production solutions division, for a quick chat on the rise (at last!) of digital printing in Hong Kong/China.

Why digital printing, why now, and why HP as your supplier of choice?

John Currie: We have been monitoring the developments in digital printing for a number of years, visiting DRUPA, IPEX, and other print exhibitions as part of our research. The turning point came early last year when news emerged about a viable digital book production solution. Further research led us to HP. Digital printing is the new frontier that would tremendously benefit those brave enough to venture into it. And this is our way of keeping ahead of the curve.

Were you surprised when CTPS—and not one of the biggest China or Hong Kong printers—voiced its interest in T300?

Aurelio Maruggi: We have found that early adopters are better characterized not by size but by their keen understanding of how digital printing would fit their own and their customers' long-term strategies. CTPS is a key supplier to American educational and reference book publishers, and these publishers have been moving significant amounts of work onto HP's inkjet web press platform to achieve supply chain efficiencies and enable new business models such as textbook customization.

JC: We have always maintained a low-profile business approach, though this digital move has changed it somewhat. And while we are not on HP's business development strategy list, we are certainly now on their sales and marketing team's radar.

What does it say to you when a medium-size company like CTPS installs a T300?

AM: It confirms that the same fundamental market drivers are active across the globe. Publishers are focused on reducing inventories in order to increase working capital and reduce product obsolescence risk. Digital printing allows printers small and large to offer publishers order quantities that are based on expected or measured market demand, and it is unencumbered by machine setup and plate costs. CTPS's move speaks volumes to its progressive approach to profitable growth. And while there are several leading book manufacturers worldwide with HP inkjet web presses, CTPS is the first export player to adopt this platform. Our intention, when these presses were developed, was to enable longer-run digital printing. CTPS shows us that a longer-run solution can help a book exporter to grow, and that is vitally important for any digital press manufacturer looking to expand in the Hong Kong/China printing industry.

It was a really fast-track decision to purchase and install the T300, right?

JC: Discussion started in earnest in November, and the purchase signed off by our CEO, Peter Tse, in December. It is the quickest installation undertaken by HP. The goal was to have it ready by early April in time for our open house during the Print China exhibition. Surprisingly, the air-freighted high-tech software and hardware went through Chinese customs without a hitch. Muller-Martini also fast-tracked its SigmaLine delivery to our Dongguan facility.

AM: Peter is a man of action. He visited our Corvallis, Ore., product development site after the initial conversations and saw the T300 printing his sample jobs. The pace just picked up from there.

Book printers in Hong Kong and China are known globally for offset printing capabilities. Getting them to shift to digital is a big task. How do you plan to convert them?

AM: Few industries are transforming as significantly as the publishing industry, and we are working closely with printers in every corner not only to show how an investment in HP can drive efficiency and reduce costs but also how it generates new opportunities. We want to help customers add even more business by unlocking print's greater value in the digital world—the ability to offer a tangible, authentic product that can be customized or even personalized in a way that holds greater appeal to readers.

Presently, only 1% of the global publishing industry uses digital printing for book production. How does HP plan to go about changing this picture?

AM: Trends in the book industry point to a need for increased efficiency and flexibility. We are working with printing and publishing firms to share information on the rapidly evolving opportunities and challenges facing the industries today. With these shared insights, we can work together to accelerate adoption in areas with highest returns and develop better solutions year after year.

Now that the first T300 has been installed in the region, what's next?

JC: The upcoming months will be focused on promoting it as a viable textbook and STM production solution. We are working on establishing new business streams based on this T300 and upcoming installations. Co-sharing and smart partnership with other HP clients around the globe is also part of our plan.

AM: As more publishers buy into the new platform and efficiency model, we expect further expansion across the Asia Pacific region. This is already one of the fastest-growing regions for HP and our counterparts in the graphic arts space. With the success of Indigo presses in the region, we have a strong infrastructure in place to support our customers. The plan now is to expand our presence in the inkjet web press area.

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