At Print ’05, CEO Brown Sees Goss Comeback On Track

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

With a giant logo looming from the McCormick Place ceiling over its sprawling display area, Goss International is a big presence at this week’s Print 05, the commercial printing industry equipment show. The large island booth reflects CEO Bob Brown’s similarly expansive view of the company’s prospects.

“We expect to do in excess of $1 billion in shipments this year,” he said in an interview Monday in one of several conference rooms inside the Goss booth. “We are reasonably on track in the integration of Heidelberg. We feel pretty positive at a high-level view.”

In contrast to the beginning of the decade, when just about anything that could go wrong did go wrong for the storied press manufacturer, these days most things are breaking Goss’ way.

The purchase of the web press and post-press business of Germany’s Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG is beginning, a year later, to pay off in sales of press and post-press equipment combinations to customers in Eastern Europe and China. Goss feels vindicated in its accusation of Japanese press maker Tokyo Kikai Seisakusho Ltd. (TKS), with an appeals court last year upholding a $31.6 million jury verdict in its anti-dumping lawsuit against TKS. And the installation or service problems that earned Goss so many unwanted headlines in E&P a half-decade ago are now history, Brown says.

“At the 12 to 14 sites where there were issues, those have been cleaned up,” he said. “We’ve resolved the lingering issues.” Goss, he says, has made considerable progress in execution of the orders it gets.

That’s reflected in sales of singlewidth presses, which Brown says are strong in both Asia and Europe. Just the other day, Goss delivered the 4,000th unit of the Goss Universal newspaper and semi-commercial printing press, and soon it is approaching the 40,000 mark with its Goss Community, probably the most popular newspaper press ever made.

There’s more to come in Asia, says Goss, who used the setting of Print 05 to announce the sale of three four-color M-600 shaftless commercial presses, a press developed by Heidelberg. “Asia wants the latest,” Brown said. “You can’t expect to sell used presses over there. They are very sophisticated and in many ways…they’re more aggressive on color than we are here” in the United States.

What’s missing from all this good news, Brown acknowledges, “from the U.S. perspective is to get a large doublewidth order here.”

But in the Goss philosophy these days, growing market share takes a back seat to growing earnings. “Some of these deals just don’t make sense,” he said of contracts won by competitors.

“I think our portfolio is as good as, and, on the commercial side, is the best of anything out there, and even in the newspaper industry without the double-wide [sale], we are competitive with everyone else out there,” Brown said.

Goss is especially pushing its FPS, the Goss Flexible Printing System, a low-rise press that comes standard with the Goss DigiRail digital inking system and options for automatic plate loading and changeable format to switch among broadsheet, tabloid, mini-tab, Berliner or whatever other in-between cut-off or web width becomes popular.

Now that it is also a post-press equipment maker, Goss has been approached by two or three possible customers to run an outsourced packaging operation, similar to what GMA does for the New York Daily News.

But while Goss is talking, the company has not made any commitments because, as Brown says, it isn’t convinced philosophically that outsourcing is a good idea — for Goss or for newspapers. For one thing, Brown says, it risks “commoditizing” the packaging equipment.

And for another: “I still believe that a newspaper’s printing and packaging capability is a strong strategic asset that newspapers have to leverage.”

Outsourcing, he added, “may make short-term economic sense, but I guess the question is, does it make sense long-term?”

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