Doing More with Less
by Stephen Atwood
If you are reading the printed edition of Information Display, you probably noticed something different about this October issue. It's printed back to back with the September issue in a new format we are trying. A few months ago, at the urging of the SID Executive Committee, we took a hard look at how we could reduce the production costs of ID while still providing the same quality editorial package and reading experience. We don't usually talk about budgets in this space but it may surprise you to know that not only isInformation Display magazine the official monthly publication of SID, but its production expenses are also heavily subsidized by the Society. Our loyal and very generous advertising partners offset a significant share of the expenses, but for quite a while now it has cost us more to produce ID than our advertising activities produce.
The income for SID to operate comes primarily from two sources: membership dues and surplus from the annual Display Week events. From this income, SID pays for all its other activities, including local chapter meetings, the Journal of the Society for Information Display, and Information Display magazine. Before the economic downturn, the market for print advertising was much better, and we received significantly more income than we do now. We were able to fund our operations at a different level, including travel for freelance reporters, printing and distribution of many more copies of the magazine to people outside of the Society, and much larger editions that included the entire industry directory.
Over the last few years, we have all felt the pinch and SID has not been immune to the challenges of an economy that has been slow to rebound. If you are an SID member, you know what our most recent budgets have looked like and also of the goal to maintain SID's financial health by carefully managing all our activities and expenses. ID is not the only part of the Society that is being challenged to do more with less.
I've written recently about how the recession has forced companies to look at new paradigms for doing business and to reset expectations for efficiency metrics such as revenue per employee. Today, there are far fewer people generating much greater work output than just a few short years ago. Unemployment in our industry is still high, partially because companies have discovered that for the time being they can achieve even higher levels of productivity with the same number of employees they have now. I think this is a somewhat unfortunate and hopefully a short-term situation because the amount of stress inherent in the technical workforce today may bring about its own economic backlash someday. Nonetheless, increased efficiency and better productivity are things to be embraced in an ever more competitive global economy. In my office we live the culture of "lean" every day and we constantly challenge ourselves to be a better business because of it.
At ID, we have been going through the same cultural transformation, looking at new and more efficient ways to do everything including editorial management, sales, and publications. By necessity, we have reduced our hardcopy circulation significantly while providing on-line access to our entire publication at www.informationdisplay.org. Coming soon, you will see significant improvements in our online presence with the goal of making ID more accessible to everyone through multiple electronic formats and services.
At the same time, our team at ID is still committed to making the hardcopy business model survive. (I don't think anything can replace the experience of holding and reading a printed magazine.) This month begins the first of at least a couple issues per year that will be published on a regular monthly cycle but printed and distributed only in pairs. Beginning next month, we'll combine the November and December issues into one similar to our current approach for May/June, and July/August. We sincerely hope our readers will appreciate and understand these steps as necessary. As SID members, we all need to find creative ways to adapt with the times.
If you are someone involved in the business development side of your company and you do not currently advertise in ID, we sincerely hope you will take another look and give us a chance to help your business. ID is the exclusive source for the most thorough and completely balanced technology information to the display industry and beyond. Our team of guest editors and industry experts ensures that everything we publish is based on a sound technical foundation designed to educate and inform our readers, most of whom work in the same industry. Engineers and product developers can do their jobs better every day because of the information we deliver. If your company provides a product or service to the industry, it's likely we have covered your work or have published an article written by someone on your technical staff. Think about helping us and increasing awareness for your own business at the same time by advertising with Information Display.
We begin our lineup this month with a Frontline Technology feature entitled "Clearing the Road to Mass Production of OLED Television" by David K. Flattery et al. from Dupont Displays. Even though the promise of mass-produced low-cost OLED TVs has been a bit longer than originally expected in coming to reality, in the background, there have been significant advances in materials, manufacturing processes, and material utilization efficiencies, as well as brighter prospects for large-area yields and production rates. David and his team discuss some of the most important aspects of those improvements and you will find their analysis very encouraging.
Meanwhile, analyst Paul Semenza provides us with a similarly optimistic view for the future of mass production of OLED displays in his Display Marketplace feature "OLEDs in Transition." We challenged Paul to tell us why this time it's different, and he delivered with an expert survey of both the market demands by key applications and the landscape of investments by key producers. The geography is certainly converging and the investment dollars are lining up as well, with new factories coming on line and raw capacity approaching 9 million square meters per quarter in 2014. While those are not yet as impressive as LCD capacities, they represent enough output to overcome the limited economy-of-scale issue we're seeing today and certainly to solidify the process parameters and economic models that will drive a maturing production landscape.
Continuing on our OLED theme, authors Yu-Cheng Chen, Ulrich Hausmann, and David Knowles discuss the latest advances in laser-crystallization technology to produce cost-efficient polysilicon TFT backplanes on very large substrates. In their article entitled "Beyond Amorphous Silicon: New Developments in High Mobility Backplanes," the authors discuss their innovations in both laser power densities and coverage areas, which reduce cycle time and decrease production cost for large substrates, even up to Gen 8. In a very real sense, this is where the money is in OLED technology – building the manufacturing-process infrastructure to make the jump to large-scale manufacturing of substrates and whole displays.
Our second Frontline Technology feature for this month is a detailed discussion on "Stereoscopic Display Technologies and Their Applications in Medical Imaging" by Luigi Albani, Cédric Marchessoux, and Tom Kimpe of Barco Corp. This topic is very interesting to me because I have heard many lectures on the subject of using stereoscopic display technology to enhance the value of electronic radiology and MRI images, and maybe even real-time surgical procedures. Several of ID's past contributors have written about this topic and some have developed early concept products with limited success. Stereoscopic medical imaging is of perennial interest at Display Week and it comes up frequently in Boston display-community gatherings. However, there is always that element of concern about the human factor and whether the stereoscopic effect is more beneficial or detrimental to the intended result. No one has treated the subject in a more comprehensive and thoroughly understandable common sense way than our friends who have written this most recent article. I think you will find this an extraordinarily complete treatment of this subject and I'm glad we could finally bring it to you as part of this issue.
Finally, on a somber note, we lost a well-known colleague and display-industry pioneer on September 18, 2011. Dr. Peter Brody is widely recognized as an industry pioneer who developed the active-matrix backplane for LCDs as well as many other applications. He published over 70 scientific papers and received more than 60 patents – his work lives on today in endless display applications. I'm told he never missed a single Display Week conference. He will be missed by many. •