Hundreds of years of industry experience gathered at Stationers Hall last week, celebrating the centenary of Picon, the association representing the interests of machinery suppliers to the printing industry.
Previous chief executives, chairmen and current staff raised a glass to the next 100 years, though what that might look like is as impossible to describe as it would have been for the 33 founding companies of the Association of British Manufacturers of Machinery for the Printing and Allied Trades.
This was to be become the British Federation of Printing Machinery Suppliers in 1982, following a merger with the British Paper Machinery Manufacturers Association. It had become Picon in order to broaden the scope of membership still further, before selling the trade show it owned, Ipex, to IIR in 2006. It was a deal which has secured the financial future of the association. Two years later, through a merger with the Association of Printing Machinery Importers, representing the likes of Heidelberg, Picon became the body it is today.
Thanks to this, Heidelberg had three representatives in the hall: current Picon chairman and Heidelberg UK CEO Gerard Heanue, George Clarke and Wolfgang Gorth who had retired before the merger with the APMI. Others present included Michael Knight, Laurence Roberts, Martin Rickards, Martyn Elmy, Paul Foster and Keith Dalton.
Heanue gave the chairman’s address reading out a paragraph from the British Colonial Printer & Stationer, the magnificently named forerunner to Printing World, pointing out that supplies of lead (requisitioned for wartime purposes) and skilled labour (for the same bloody reason) were in short supply.
However, the printing industry had weathered that storm and will continue. “Picon is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago. Print has not only survived; it has thrived and is in good health,” he said. In the introduction to a commemorative book, printed by Optichrome , he notes: “Suppliers should lie comfortable in their beds; print will still have a place into the 22nd century.”
Precisely who those suppliers might be is a little more difficult to predict given that only one founder member, Linotype & Machinery, now L&M Imaging Systems, continues to trade. And that company has evolved from a producer of letterpress casters into a manufacturer of litho printing presses for newspapers, and into a prepress software supplier.
As current chairman, Heidelberg UK CEO Gerard Heanue welcomed guests and provided the toast to the past success of Picon (and its forebears) while looking forward to the next century with a confident prediction about print's power to endure.