Bernard Cassell, chief executive officer at CPI Group is no newcomer to the industry. In fact he has spent his last 20 years in printing, but due to the fact that most of this time been in the back office, focusing on strategic planning and financial control, his face may be somewhat less known to the industry at large than some other CEO’s recruited from the marketing side of the business. His appointment as CEO for the publicly listed CPI Group in September last year, and his recent appointment as president of the NPC, will change all that.
With many years experience in the industry behind him, Cassell’s recent appointments give him an excellent platform from which to actively drive and contribute to an industry undergoing substantial change.
Cassell says, "There is no question that the industry as a whole is facing some major challenges for the future but ultimately it is up to those in the industry to justify its right to exist. The first requirement as I see it is to create an awareness of the industry. The printing segment is one of the largest employers in the country, yet successive governments both federal and state have given the printing industry much less recognition than many smaller industrial segments."
He points as an example to car manufacturing and all the support and subsidies it has received over the years. He says, "I am not suggesting that we want to create an industry which bases its long term survival and sustainability on unhealthy protective measures and subsidies, but as a major employer and contributor to the national economy, printing should get the attention it deserves. This is obviously not a one way stream. The printing industry needs to take appropriate measures to create awareness in the society at large that it makes a vital and important contribution to the community. Unless we as an industry take active measures, print will go the way Bill Gates suggested more than a decade ago, when he said that putting ink on paper is a dying industry."
Cassell’s appointment to the NPC may see a change in emphasis from that body, one that is necessary and which printers will welcome he believes, as many printers feel the paper industry has been somewhat negligent in its role as print promoter and defender in the face of the growing environmental lobby.
He says, "As CEO of a substantial paper merchant and with my new appointment for the NPC, it is also my job to ensure that we create awareness among the broader public that the printing industry is not a major threat to the important forests of the world. It goes without saying that we all have a responsibility to create a liveable and healthy environment for future generations. However, the Greens are often misguided in their attacks on the pulp and paper industry.
"I am not denying that there are still some pulp and paper manufactures in different corners of the world who are contributing to diminution of the important forests of the world. However, the public needs to know that these companies are the exception rather than the rule. If one looks at all the larger and more significant suppliers of paper, they all produce from plantations or recycled paper which is of ever-growing importance. Further, of all industries, pulp and paper would be one of the few which can demonstrate sustainability.
"The concept of trying to make people believe that by not buying printed material, they do the world a favour is absurd: their belief threatens an industrial segment, and as an industry we need to do something about it. It is in areas like this I believe that some support from governments and other public authorities would be helpful. However, we cannot sit on our hands doing nothing while we wait for that help to arrive.
"Clearly for any individual company a campaign to inform society at large would be far too costly. However, if every company in the industry came together and contributed a relatively small sum of money, we could inform the public that we our paper and print manufacturing activities are not a threat to the long term survival of our environment, and that to read a book or look at its pictures is a positive, enjoyable and informative experience to be enjoyed with a clear conscience. Maybe we should even use other media such as television to get our message across."
Cassell is also aware of the seemingly negative portrayal of print itself in society and among the young. He says, "We need to attract future talent into the industry. Once again this can only be done with increased awareness of its existence. We need to communicate that printing is not a dirty world where one has ink under the fingernails and leaves the workplace stinking from the chemicals.
"To the contrary, print is a fantastic world which offers plenty of interesting jobs, utilises fascinating and groundbreaking technologies, and is full of long term opportunities and development possibilities for bright young people. Being an accountant by trade, I also know very well that the awareness within the industry of the necessity of different skills is a must - as an industry we cannot survive on excellent print knowledge alone.
"Today it is more important than ever that a printer has all the necessary skills to manage his or her business. This not only includes finances and cash flow, but it is equally important to look at the whole business chain, and to develop a competitive edge by working smarter and by offering first class customer service.
"The industry has for too long become accustomed to a captive market out of necessity. We now face a new era with many different options for organisations looking to communicate. Our true competition is not the printer next door, but rather the alternative solution. Hence, we need as an industry, to embrace this fact, adapt to it, and not put our head in the sand with the faint hope that the current epidemic of computer viruses will ultimately bring everybody back to print. Rather, we need as an industry to focus on the benefits of printed media and communication."
According to Cassell it is not realistic to expect all printers to drive required business development on their own. "I believe it is important that all of us, especially the supplier industry and associations, support printers to find new avenues to create print volume," he says. "Many printers simply do not have the resources themselves to actively look for new ideas to create print. As an example, if the larger publicly listed companies start to use electronic media for their different shareholder reporting this will result in a huge loss of print volume for the industry. The industry needs to get organised to search for solutions to make sure there is no further loss of volume (such as company reports to other media), or to actively search for and develop new markets and ideas to replace them."
Cassell is a firm believer that if the industry does not highlight its own achievements, nobody else will. He says, "It is of the utmost importance that we start to show pride in what we do as an industrial segment. At the recent National Print Awards in Sydney, I was appalled to observe that D&D Global from Melbourne didn’t even get a mention in any of the speeches, after having won the prestigious Benny Awards in the United States late last year. I would have thought that such an achievement would be an excellent example to show what can be achieved by the Australian print community if we put our minds to it.
"The Benny Awards are based on a completely new concept and approach to print: to be a recipient of this most prestigious of awards should attract the attention it deserves. I was very happy to see that at least Australian Printer (December 2003 issue) took note and featured a two page interview with Drago Zorec, managing director of D&D Global. However, as an industry we should and must talk about and take pride in such achievements.
"In our industry, we spend plenty of time talking and writing about the doom and gloom scenarios. Let’s change that and start talking about the achievements of this industry and the opportunities it offers. Not only among ourselves but also to create awareness in society at large that this is an important industry with plenty to offer as a contributor to GDP and as a potential employer of the young talent of this country. We are to some extent our own worst enemy. Who will invest in an industry financially or choose it as a career path if it devotes most of its communication efforts at focusing on its problems rather than the solutions to those problems?" Cassell concludes.