Print Influencer: Ralph Nappi

Ralph Nappi

While currently serving as president of the Graphic Arts Show Company (GASC), Ralph Nappi wears many hats within the printing industry. Luckily for Nappi, many of those roles interweave seamlessly with one another. In addition to GASC, Nappi also serves as president of the Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GAERF) and as president of NPES, The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies, which represents over 600 companies that manufacture and distribute equipment, systems, software and supplies used in printing, publishing and converting. GASC, which is co-owned by NPES, Epicomm and Printing Industries of America (PIA), produces the annual GRAPH EXPO and quadrennial PRINT exhibitions.

During his time with GASC, Nappi has witnessed many changes within the printing industry, but his key philosophy throughout – “Know Your Customers” – continues to guide his various roles.

What does your position as president of GASC entail?

As president of GASC, my primary role is to produce the foremost tradeshows in the Americas for the graphic communications industry – which today are the GRAPH EXPO and PRINT exhibitions. GRAPH EXPO is this year’s premier industry event. It touches every aspect of the printing industry, from design to delivery. With the ongoing impacts of e-communications in today’s media mix, postpress has become an increasingly important component of the offerings at GRAPH EXPO 15.

How does GRAPH EXPO put you and the organization in a position to influence the printing market?

If we are good at staging GRAPH EXPO each year, then we are ahead of the industry. We are trying to lead the industry forward with the very latest technologies and unique new applications. We constantly monitor current industry trends and strive to be at the leading edge of where our industry’s businesses are headed, whether it is industrial printing or 3D printing, etc. We’re always trying to make sure that we are providing the very latest technologies with an eye toward the future so the companies that attend are able to gain all of the information they need to adapt and evolve their businesses accordingly.

Why does a tradeshow like GRAPH EXPO still hold relevance for today’s print and print finishing producers?

It’s all about where the industry is going. There are two main goals we hope to achieve through GRAPH EXPO each year. First is the tactical side – the side of the show that helps those in attendance realize and recognize tactical solutions available to solve today’s problems. Attendees ask, “What is my problem today?” Then they go to a session or they network, and on the show floor they find exactly the solution to that problem. The second part is strategic. Again, if we’re good, we are leading attendees toward a future which, in addition to solving today’s problems, will allow them to position their companies to succeed well into tomorrow. There have been substantial changes that have impacted upon today’s print market, primarily the consolidation and resulting structural changes that have taken place. As a result, there are two parts of trying to stay ahead of the curve: running the business from an operational standpoint and also understanding what technologies will help the business advance and grow. That is what we hope to provide for GRAPH EXPO attendees.

What can attendees expect from this year’s show that will most impact the industry?

We do something called the Must See ‘Ems competition every year, which is our method for shining the spotlight on the latest and greatest of what can be seen on the show floor at GRAPH EXPO. We want to provide a highly organized road map for our attendees, especially those who have a limited amount of time. We collect new, first-shown services, programs and products in all areas – press, prepress, postpress – and have over 50 qualified industry expert judges identify the strongest and best ones. This is the best tool for attendees to identify and learn about the hottest new technologies and products across the show floor. For example, several awards were given in the category of “Postpress and Inline Finishing,” including one to Highcon Systems for its Highcon Euclid II+. MGI, Inc. likewise was recognized for its iFOIL T system. These products certainly are worth a look for Expo attendees.

What do you see for the industry as you look five to 10 years in the future? What will be the biggest influence on the print industry?

Personally, I think it is far more about the business than the technology. It is about the business of the business, more so than the business of print or postpress. The companies that do well in our industry are not necessarily the ones that have the greatest technology. It’s about how they utilize, execute, implement and adapt for what they should be doing with that technology. Most companies don’t go out of business because they lack the latest technology. They go out of business because they are not using it right. They are not helping their customers to leverage it.

My advice is to know your customers. Have good relationships with customers and do a good job of helping them execute the technology. Don’t just sell a product; instead, teach your customers how to use it and how to reuse it. The customer doesn’t buy a thing, they buy a partner. I’ve seen so many good companies with good ideas go away because they never understood that the customer doesn’t want a product, they want a solution to a problem. My fear is that there are not enough industry players who recognize that it is not about them – it is not about their company or being great at printing or stitching or binding. It’s about being good at the “business” of it. The customer is looking for help in navigating a very different markeplace today, and that’s where their value lies with the customer. Not selling the most expensive product, but recognizing how to help the customer be far more effective at what they do, well past the product they are being sold. “Value add” is an overused phrase in our industry today, but it still is so important because right now there is so much capacity out there. What kind of counsel, what kind of strategies, what kind of discussion and general marketing solution or communication solution do you have available? Know your customers. Know what they need and how you can help them be better.