Rekindling interest in best practices, standards, and certifications

The Bureau of Indian Standards’ initiative to meet printers

Industry experts and participants at the MSD 6 committee meeting of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), held on 17 March 2023 in New Delhi.

While Indian printers and packaging converters have shown some interest in the mandatory compliance of customers, they have generally stayed away from formalizing best practices and standards that could make them more efficient and profitable. Over the years, this reluctance was associated with their perception that standards are complicated and verging on the impossible for print. “If customers are not asking for them, why do it?” they said.

Nevertheless, there is a resurgence by the industry and some interested experts in participating in the MSD 6 committee of the BIS (BIS) to educate printers on standards, helping them achieve best practices and standardization on a day-to-day basis and eventually go on to certifications. This also implies greater participation in the MSD 6 for discussing and commenting on the standardization work in the graphic arts communication and color quality work of the ISO TC130 committee.

Recent hybrid meetings of the MSD6 committee under the leadership of Anjan Baral at the BIS have brought in newer and younger industry members and become more lively. The comments on the ISO and Indian standards while still not in full flow, have started to improve and trickle in. The recent hybrid seminar and webinar held on 17 March 2023 was able to physically gather printing personnel from the Delhi-NCR as well as students from the printing colleges and was also webcast across the country.

The speakers included experienced experts and hands-on trainers and certifiers who emphasized the importance of print even in the forthcoming digital world where print and communication technologies anchor digital communication and products even while they are taken for granted. Just as it may be said that the economy requires a digital backbone, it could be said that all forms of communication require vertebrae or glue that consists of the mass replication of symbols, characters, language, and visual techniques and synthesis that stem from print.

The speakers at the event by and large spoke of the necessity and advantages of best practices, standardization, and certification. The widely experienced Kiran Priyagi explained that the basics of understanding the components of print and its process are key – that the variables are immense and process controls are important. Priyagi also emphasized training – the human resource needs to be continuously trained – as standards evolve and the process achievements need to be brought from abstract wishful thinking to day-to-day practice and testing on the shop floor.

Moreover, the software and tools have now become affordable in comparison to the cost of the automated presses whose efficiency and payback depend on standardization. The young Ishant Kalkal now experienced in the calibration of output devices including monitors, CtPs and offset presses demonstrated the standardization of a multicolor offset press with great confidence and insight. His presentation showed that the technology has arrived so that it can cost-effectively yield data and useful parameters that lead to working feedback for controlling variation within a printed sheet and throughout a print run.

Readers may recall that Steve Smiley under the aegis of IppStar and Idealliance conducted a G7 certification training of 27 candidates in 2016 in Mumbai of whom a dozen candidates successfully passed the course. Eight candidates went in for certification as G7 experts from across the country.

Over the past few years, several print businesses in India have undergone training, standardization, and certification both with the help of Smiley and local experts. Now there are considerable and reliable resources in the country who can train, standardize, and certify printing company personnel, processes, and presses. Experts who have certified presses include independent and professional consultants such as Kiran Priyagi, Aniket Rane, Ishant Kalkal, and several others who are full-time employees of print and packaging companies or distributors of instruments and software.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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