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Around the world in Catalogue and Direct Mail Print – Part 1: Experiencing the German Way

A beginner’s guide to press passing abroad

A street in Germany

A combination of the continuing demise of the British Web-Offset industry, a favourable £/Euro exchange rate and cheap paper prices in Europe has led the more adventurous to pack their suitcase and head for the airport in search of cheaper prices and a wider range of newer, large format, short grain and short cut-off presses with more bells and whistles attached than currently available in the UK. A crucial part of the Callimedia supply chain for our brochure and catalogue printing.

However, whilst this Phileas Fogg attitude to print production with our Continental cousins is admirable, it is not always without peril. So in the spirit of the aforementioned pioneer, I thought it might be fun to take a light hearted, mildly irreverent trip around Europe looking at the ups and downs of life on the road.

Our first port of call on this odyssey is the powerhouse of European print, Germany.

How to get there

A little known and quite disturbing fact about Germany is that they either do not have any Geography teachers in school or all of the print companies are managed by ex Ryanair executives.

This became obvious to me when I realised that none of the printing plants we deal with are in the towns that they say they are. For instance, if the Customer Service Manager of ‘Printer A’ says they are based in Frankfurt, you can be guaranteed that is the last place on earth that it is! It will likely be located in a town named with seventeen consonants, three vowels and a couple of umlauts thrown in for good measure. The rough translation of which is ‘you’re lost sucker’. It will be at least an hour and a half away by road, half a day away by rail (involving six changes of train) or three weeks by camel.

Should you not be deterred by this and still choose to fly to the home of offset printing, take my advice and always choose a hub that has more than one flight in and out of the UK every third Wednesday.

A top tip is that it is quicker and more flexible to drive to any of the factories based around the Dutch or Northern France borders. However, if you do choose to drive ensure you are equipped with enough 50 cent pieces to facilitate the use of the loo in any Belgian or Dutch services you need to stop at on route. Otherwise, you may need to get creative.

The only downside with the German road network is, somewhat surprisingly, the lack of a speed limit. You might think this is a wonderful thing as Herr Korner of the Yard will not be handing out tickets. However, when for the sixteenth time you are doing 160kph in the outside lane and an eighty year old lady in a twenty year old Volkswagen Polo is parked in your boot flashing her headlights you may think again. Most locals drive close enough to your rear bumper to bring a whole new and unwelcome meaning to "speed dating".

Cuisine

The Germans are the culinary magpies of Europe. They collect some of the best dishes from around the world and then manage to mess them up completely. If there was an Olympic event for butchering simple Mediterranean recipes, the Germans would be perennial gold medallists. They are a nation of vegetable dodgers and the only original dish usually on show will be Currywurst or Braised Wild Boar. (Please note this is not the same ‘Wild Bore’ that you will find propping up the hotel bar all night. That is usually a double glazing salesman from Leipzig called Otto and he will have you reaching for your Grandads Luger after twenty minutes).  Both of these options are fairly unpleasant but they do come with fries!

Printing Culture

If you have survived the journey, dinner and the transfer to the factory you will almost certainly be pleased with the outcome of your job. Germany boasts not only some of the most modern kit on the planet but employs a different ethos towards print and printers. Unlike the UK, where a request to add a ‘little bit of magenta’ or ‘are you planning on changing that plate with a scratch the size of Greenland on it’ is greeted by a sucking of teeth and shrug that says ‘who does this guy think he is?’, the Germans treat clients and the work they produce very seriously.

Virtually all of the staff, management and factory floor included, speak English and they have a welcome ‘can do’ attitude on press. As with all areas of mass production, things can and do go wrong from time to time and if the Germans do have a failing it is that they tend to think in ‘straight lines’ and are not always as creative at solving problems as we oft-maligned Brits are.

If trouble does come calling, the Germans love a meeting. This will happen then and there and you do somehow get the feeling that if one of their staff has ​messed up, the consequences are serious. The other point to note is that the person who has the power to make a ‘decision’ is usually the quietest person in the room.  They will have all the charm of a minor Bond villain, minus the white cat, but if they say it will be done then done it will be.

Final thoughts

The Germans are, in my humble opinion, currently the best printers around.  If I had to print a job somewhere to save my life it would be in Germany, at one plant in particular. Which one?  Now that would be telling ……..but we can share that secret if you want to give us a call……..

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