Ricoh Takes Centre Stage with its Open New Worlds Experience
A BLI Preview of drupa 2016
With just a few weeks to go until the world’s largest trade show for the commercial and corporate production printing markets opens its doors in Düsseldorf, Germany, BLI caught up with one of the industry’s major players to see what it has planned, and to divine the key messages to come out of drupa 2016.
Benoit Chatelard, Vice President of Ricoh Europe’s Production Printing Business Group, is a busy man. With Ricoh taking up one of the largest exhibition stands (just under 2,000 square metres of prime territory), it has a lot of space to fill. Remarkably, he couldn’t sound any more relaxed. “Oh, we’ve been ready for nine months now!” Chatelard laughed. “Preparations are ongoing, and yes, it’s a lot of work on a day-to-day basis, involving many, many people around the world. But we are ready, and there’s a lot of excitement here. It’s a big machine! The previous drupa (in 2012) was big for Ricoh, and we’ve learned a lot from that experience. We have a highly professional team, and our ‘Open New Worlds’ theme should be a hugely creative experience for our customers.”
Brave (Open) New World
With the Open New Worlds concept, Ricoh is using drupa 2016 as its global platform to unite game-changing solutions in hardware, software and services for the graphic arts industry.
“We’ve taken a unique approach this year and led with an extensive view of production printing and business transformation,” said Chatelard. Our booth is organized into dedicated zones, from corporate and commercial printing to more traditional environments, such as publishing and direct marketing. In these areas, we will bring new ways of thinking to the fore and new ways of doing things…[that let you] create opportunities you would have never thought possible.”
Added to this mix is a new Industrial zone that will showcase technology and research in areas such as additive manufacturing, automation, barcode tracking and inkjet printhead development. Near to the Industrial zone is Ricoh’s Studio, which is set to attract brand marketers. “This will be a very design-centric area and very marketing-orientated. We want marketers to understand the technology available and what is achievable with it, and to have the opportunity to get some hands-on experience.
“We want to show how Ricoh can leverage its manufacturing experience and assets,” said Chatelard, citing Ricoh’s involvement in a stereo camera that’s used for self-driving cars. “In the automotive industry, we can create a prototype during the research phase via 3D printing, we develop the software, we can do parts on demand via additive manufacturing, and the same principle goes for printing personalised car manuals on demand. These are all cost-saving approaches. Ultimately, it’s about building a whole eco-system, from design concept to build and final delivery. This is quite a new approach for Ricoh and I don’t think anyone else will display such a wide scope of solutions.”
Spotting the Signs
Following on from Ricoh’s debut attendance at FESPA Digital earlier this year, we asked Chatelard whether there will be any latex signage machines on show. “Yes, we’ll be showing the Ricoh Pro™ L4160 latex large-format colour printer on the stand, along with our new aqueous resin (AR) latex inks, as we did at FESPA,” he answered. “It was the first time Ricoh has attended this signage show in Amsterdam, as we’re relatively new in the business. We had a modest booth to showcase our broader product range but the reaction was extremely positive.”
The Ricoh Pro™ L4160 is capable of printing on a variety of substrates, such as vinyl, plastic, clear, textile and backlit substrates and offering durable printing for outdoor and indoor applications, and garnered the company a lot of leads and traction following its showing at FESPA. “We’ve experienced a continuous flow of industry people interested in our product and our approach,” Chatelard said. “I think we have a good product. We intend to expand our product type portfolio in the future as well as to focus a lot more on the signage market.”
“Ultimately, it’s about building a whole eco-system, from design concept to build and final delivery. This is quite a new approach for Ricoh and I don’t think anyone else will display such a wide scope of solutions.” –Benoit Chatelard
Each drupa event has had its defining theme. Eight years ago it was the ‘inkjet hits drupa’ story, while multi-marketing dominated four years ago. What does Chatelard anticipate to be some of the key messages to leave drupa 2016? “From a pure technology point of view, I’m not too sure there’ll be a strong message. Inkjet continues to be very important, but the technology is already very advanced,” he said. “I mean, you can push the envelope and always announce new technology that will never be available, or take a very long time to develop.
“For Ricoh, we want to show we are industry-aligned and operational,” he continued. “We’ll bring to drupa some new technology and some recent reveals such as our latex machine. But what is very different with our approach is that everything we’ll demonstrate on the floor will be fully operational, almost fully industrialised, and already in operation in our service centre. We’re not showing things that you’ll wait forever to verify that they work, or [that will] never materialise.”
Chatelard believes Ricoh’s technology is still underexploited in some ways, and makes the point that “there is much more we can do with what we already have, whether it’s in offset or digital printing, in book production or in personalisation. Yes, it’s always good to improve the capabilities of x, y and z, but we need to stop and think. Are we really already doing the proper migration from offset to digital? Are we really exploiting all the capabilities of 3D printing? Ultimately, we want to teach the market that yes, there will be some exciting and emerging developments, but let’s look at the existing technology today and how we can use it better, whether to increase commercial printers’ margins, to generate new revenue streams, to improve product lifetime cycle and so on.”
Chatelard believes some of his competitors share this philosophy. “Looking at what our competitors are doing, there’s some level of similarity, so I would say the trend is for the players to try and show how it’s possible to achieve new things and exploit the capabilities of the existing system and technology,” he said. “This could be the defining message to come out of drupa 2016 for the attendees: They have to think differently.”
Ricoh Presses for Production Success
There have been notable developments in Ricoh’s production hardware, which include the launch of a long sheet feeder for the Pro™ C9100 cut-sheet colour press and the integration of that press with the Watkiss PowerSquare finishing unit.
Ricoh’s production printer range has had some remarkable success, especially with its high-end Pro C9100 colour cut-sheet printer series, as Chatelard is keen to point out. “We reached the 200-sale mark within just 12 months of launch, and I think that’s a terrific feat. We moved from a 0% market share to a 20% to 25% market share, and it places us as a leader in the production sector of the cut-sheet market.” Indeed, BLI recognized the Pro C9110 in its recent PRO awards for its exceptional productivity and media handling capabilities.
Chatelard continues, “Secondly, our continuous feed inkjet printer, the Pro™ VC 60000, has attracted a lot of customers. We have installed it in Finland, France, the UK, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, and more, all in one year, and I’m sure, when we analyse the next 12 months of work, we’ll see our continuous flow market share will be ramped up dramatically.” Ricoh will feature a fully-configured Ricoh Pro VC60000 running a variety of media roll-to-roll and roll-to-sheet at drupa; recent feature enhancements include a 25-percent speed boost to 150 metres per minute, support for images up to 54 inches long and enhanced custom colour management.
Suite News for Software Users
“The third and last area to highlight is our software. We’ve experienced continuous growth and Ricoh has been positioned in the 20-percent range of the software market over the past five years. We offer software that covers asset management, MIS and print production workflow. Our Ricoh Process Director is a unifying workflow product; it customizes and automates production print processes and minimizes risks, and it’s going through the roof.”
At drupa, Ricoh will feature the TotalFlow Cloud Suite, which is a cloud-based collection of 12 Ricoh and third-party software products. TotalFlow Cloud Suite is available via subscription, and will be comprised of a range of software types “from colour management to White Paper Factory”. According to Chatelard, Ricoh has set the scene with “so much software available as SaaS. This is a significant move by Ricoh, as historically we have not been in this space.”
Chatelard cites continuous form graphic arts production printing with the Pro™ VC60000, C9100 colour cut sheet press and software as the most recent news, but he’s quick to mention another Ricoh success story, one which has been recognized in BLI’s PRO awards. “Of course, our Pro™ C7110X fifth imaging station for clear and white toner has been a spectacular success with the press. Ricoh’s market share is reported (from InfoSource) to be 40 percent in the production colour press, cut sheet environment. That is a huge volume in this segment.”
“I would say the trend is for the players to try and show how it’s possible to achieve new things and exploit the capabilities of the existing system and technology. This could be the defining message to come out of drupa 2016 for the attendees: they have to think differently.” –Benoit Chatelard
Of course, there are a lot of challenges and room for improvement. “We have a good balance, but the entry-level mass market is an area we haven’t paid the same attention to as other players. It’s a segment in which we could and should get a better share, and we’re working on that.”
10 years is a long time in technology, even in the print world, so how does Chatelard think the industry will develop over the next decade?
“That’s the one million dollar question!” laughs Chatelard. “And I could be quoted on this over the next 10 years, whether I’m right or wrong. The next big wave, I believe, is in consumer goods packaging. Another disruption is 3D printing, but more on the side of a manufacturing breakthrough. 3D printing has completely changed the way you approach your product lifecycle and when we move to parts on demand, like we’ve seen with print on demand, this will impose a massive economic change on the manufacturing side. So, I’d say packaging and manufacturing are the two segments that will be highly impacted. Production time in 3D printing will be reduced, new materials will be brought in, while in packaging we’ll get higher speeds and higher quality.”
We turned our attention to what some industry observers term as the second industrial revolution, 3D printing, and asked Chatelard about Ricoh’s ongoing commitment to additive technology. By how much does he expect revenue to increase over the next couple of years?
“Ricoh is among the few leaders in this space, and this market will soon become a billion dollar opportunity worldwide,” he said. “Our intention to expand our presence in this market is very big. I predict that our 3D and industrial inkjet business will become as big as our current production printing business. In production printing in Europe, we started with a couple of dozen million euro business with one or two products in 2008. Now, we have a couple of hundred million euro business. I will not be surprised if we achieve the same magnitude in 3D printing at a faster rate. The market is there, we have the product, we are early designers and manufacturers of the product, and we’re very determined. We have a clear and overarching worldwide strategy. It won’t be a small business for us.”
“Ricoh has invested in the technology, in research, and has brought in experts in the field to help us achieve our goals,” he continued. “Other players have come in and are trying to establish a presence, and this is good for the industry as a whole. When there is a vortex of investment and scientific research, there’s acceleration and momentum. It’s difficult to predict where it’s going to lead but the landscape, for sure, will look very different in a few years’ time.”
Chatelard’s enthusiasm and belief in Ricoh’s extensive product portfolio and Open New Worlds concept is palpable, and it’s certainly catching. BLI looks forward to seeing it first-hand later this month. Ricoh will be located in Hall 8a on stand B46 during drupa 2016, which is scheduled to run from May 31 to June 10.