Q&A with Gans Ink & Supply’s Jeff Koppelman
This year’s Ault Award honoree offers his views on the changes occurring in the printing and ink industries, as well as the opportunities going forward.
By David Savastano
The Ault Award, presented by the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM), is the
Jeff Koppelman, left, receives the Ault Award from NAPIM president Michael Gettis.
Jeff Koppelman, president of Gans Ink & Supply and the 2008 Ault Award recipient, is certainly a deserving recipient of the honor. A 28-year veteran of the ink industry, Mr. Koppelman joined Gans Ink, the company founded by his father-in-law, Bob Gans, rising from tub washer to president. During his tenure, he has guided the evolution of Gans Ink from a regional litho ink manufacturer to a national specialist in inks for niche markets, withdrawing the company from commodity markets and focusing on customers who recognize value.
Mr. Koppelman also served as NAPIM’s president from 2003-05, and is a successful advocate for the industry. He was selected to receive NAPIM’s prestigious Printing Ink Pioneer Award in 2005.
At a time when the ink and industries are facing dramatic changes, Mr. Koppelman offered his views and advice on the changes and opportunities that are occurring:
Q:In 1995, you became president of Gans Ink & Supply. What was the ink industry like during that time, and how has the ink industry changed since then?
JK:While I cannot speak for the entire industry, 1995 was a year much like the previous ten or so – business was brisk, the economy, all in all, was fairly sound and the printing industry (with the exception of the quick printer) was encouraged about the future. That being said, margins and/or profits, had been already shrinking for most of the ink industry (and its suppliers) for years and the worst was yet to come. After a few more years of relative stability, the bottom dropped out. Most people look at 9/11 as the trigger event, but I believe the permanent softening of our core markets began in early 2000, and continued in concert with the dot com bubble burst and its after effects. Then along came 9/11 and its own aftermath, coupled with technology changes within our customer bases, reduced print budgets, advanced desktop publishing and digital capabilities outside our product mixes, and ultimately, the need to re-examine our business models. The overall ink industry is still wallowing in uncertainty about the future, but I sense that the majority of companies are making the necessary changes to compete and be a viable part of the ever- changing landscape.
Q:The printing industry has also seen fundamental shifts in its business. How has the printing business changed since the mid-1990s to where it is today, and what do you see going forward?
JK:Since the mid-nineties, the printing industry has encountered many different kinds of changes. For the smaller printer, their customer base has either dried up or altered its requirements. As a result of the internet, desktop publishing and CD and DVD technology, that customer has become its own neighborhood printer and/or producer of advertising and informational materials. For larger printers, much shorter runs, continued overseas competition and expanded services (data-base management, fulfillment, etc.) have been just a few of the changes. And with so much overall manufacturing transferred to China in the past 10+ years, the printed packaging requirements have left with it, as well.
Q:With that in mind, how can individual printers, particularly the small- and medium-sized printers, successfully move forward?
JK:There is, of course, no easy or universal answer to that question. To successfully move forward, the individual printer needs to do what every other business does – change or die. Embrace the newest technologies, expand services and create differentiation from the competition. Find niches and cultivate them to the fullest.
Jeff Koppelman, president of Gans Ink, is joined by his wife, Liz, and sons Chad and Jordan after he received the Ault Award.