What constitutes an agenda in today's minilab world as it faces the challenges noted above? It's a combination of subjects—from the old processing world to the new processing world. The bottom line to the topics, according to Brent is, "What can we cover that will propel our growth as businessmen?"
Among the oldies is a session called, "Making Custom Framing Work for You." Framing has long been a fringe service for the minilab operator. Some labs have their own, full service framing setup where they chop wood and cut glass, others show frame corners and outsource the assembly, but most are not in the game at all. This IPI breakout session deals with the value of incorporating a framing service as a way to differentiate the lab from the mass guy and generate add-on sales.
Brent feels that custom framing is especially significant for the lab that offers portrait services, another business segment that he refers to as being an important part of a "smorgasbord of components that all make a complete meal."
Other items on the agenda focus on the operation of a minilab in the digital world. One is called: "Seamless Digital Work Flow Through Your Digital Minilab." Brent explained that a lab has to re-orient its work flow from handling film to handling media cards and CDs in the most efficient way—meaning less time, less manpower and high security. "The movement in the lab of digital media cards is a lot different than that of a roll of film." What's a twin check, anyway?
One topic that we old film d&p folks didn't pay much attention to, as we let the machine do all the work, is presented in "Color Management and Image Enhancement is Easy." Brent's take: "Image enhancement and color management is what separates the minilab from the mass retailer." I recently sat through a session on color management and I felt that I sold my labs just in time. I have nothing but admiration for those surviving minilab operators who can digest subjects like these—though they must.
The breakout sessions, each an hour long, covers a variety of topics: Making Your Network Work For You; Making Lucidiom Work For You; Making Silverwire Work For You; Making Performer Pro Work For You; and other "work for you' subjects. It's a chance for suppliers to strut their stuff.
Many of the convention presenters are themselves IPI members and minilab owners who bring real-life experience to share. Other presentations are made by vendors.
The IPI program also includes its own mini-trade show, a 3½-hour event that is attended by most, if not all, of the vendors participating in IPI's purchasing plan. Before Brent decided to piggyback with the PMA Fall show, IPI had its own trade show. Now, its mini-trade show includes vendors who may or may not have space at the PMA shindig. Among these are Peterson's Video, a video transfer service, Simmons Associates, an insurance consultant, and First Data, credit card services.
One 'extra added attraction' of the IPI convention, that Brent is still putting together and is not shown on the agenda at this writing, is a panel discussion with the heads of all of the other major photo groups in the country. This would include: Brent, Mike Worswick, president of the Pro Group, Harry Loyle, president of Moto Photo Franchise Corp., Gordon Archambault, president of Southern Photo & Imaging Assn. (SEPIA), and an executive from the Town & Country group. Sort of a Minilab Dream Team.
Brent said that this will be the first time such a panel has been assembled. He said that these folks should be able to put a meaningful perspective on where the industry is and where it is likely to go.
I asked Brent about a listing in the agenda for Wednesday morning that reads: "Where to now, St. Peter? I understand I'm on the road where all that was is gone." He explained that this was from a song by Elton John and that the message is most appropriate to the minilab industry as it moves along its route of past successes to an unknown future.
The theme is carried through to a presentation the next day with the title: "Create An Action List To Guide St. Peter." It is Brent's hope that such a list will be a road map to the 'where to now.'
Manufacturers are offered the opportunity to host special events for the IPI members. On Monday, Fuji sponsors an evening member reception and dinner. Agfa does the same on Tuesday. Wednesday is Kodak's night. Interesting that Kodak is participating with IPI when they are not showing at the PMA meeting for the first time in about 17 years.
It's easy to spot one of the IPI members as they may be roaming the PMA floor. Just look for someone wearing an orange and blue lanyard. Fraternity colors. ptn