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Commentary by Steve Aranoff & Robert FitzPatrick, The EAGLE
EDITOR'S NOTE: Following publication of this piece from The Eagle, WhatTheyThink spoke with Fred Rosenzweig, President of EFI. EFI reports that indeed, two VUTEk sales reps left EFI for Nur in the March timeframe. This represents only 10% of the 20 person VUTEk sales force that now includes two recently hired, high-profile regional sales managers who have held senior positions with companies like Creo, IKON and Oce. Additionally, Pitman, Nazdar and Global Imaging, three of the most respected dealers in the industry, handle the VUTEk line. And the customer support and service organization has been increased by over 30% already this year. Rosenzweig indicated that VUTEks business is growing rapidly.
May 3, 2007 -- It happened last week, on the other side of the country from OnDemand, but its implications are just as important to the digital print industry. Wandering the aisles of the International Sign Expo, ISA, this year looks a lot more like Graphexpo than ever before. That's not to say that there weren't all of the traditional sign oriented routers, LED signs, banner and sign materials, engraved signs and the like. But it did look far more digital than ever before. What was new this year was that most of the old Graphic Arts companies have now joined the wide format digital revolution head on and were all demonstrating their wares there.
Looking around the show floor, Pitman/Charrette had a prominent booth showing that it was taking wide format seriously. Showing a smaller HP inkjet, a larger EFI/VUTEk printer and an MGE i-cut digital finishing, it showed that it now clearly has a focus and a presence in the emerging "sign" marketplace, rather than being stuck in the offset model.
Fuji introduced a more complete line of wide format systems taking advantage of the technology and ink manufacturing expertise that it has been garnering over the last few years. Not just partnering with Mutoh anymore, it looks like a major attempt to bring out a full and growing line of products; finally taking this market seriously.
The Agfa booth was also interesting. The Anapurna product line has been expanded, and a revised list of Dealers being added to their channel was released. Agfa now has perhaps the broadest possible line of product, including the Thieme based digital print station for screen print applications, the narrow format Dotrix high speed ink jet printer line and now a broad Anapurna wide format line.
EFI, now a major player in both narrow format through its RIPs and printer partnerships now has a complete line of wide format print capabilities through the VUTEk printer line. As a company very comfortable selling through distribution, EFI has revamped its sales this year to include Pitman, Global Imaging and others, and "encouraged" its sales force to grow their sales through collaboration with the Dealers. Interestingly, about 50% of the VUTEk sales force was seen in the NUR booth here at the show. We all know how hard it is to facilitate a combination of direct sales and dealer sales. Apparently this attempt is having some hiccups. Perhaps the addition of some talented and well performing sales personnel at NUR will allow them to jump start sales here in North America.
A major screen print distributor, Nazdar, introduced a relatively new family of printers from Shanghai based Teckwin. We had the opportunity to meet the strong international management team of this Chinese player and were quite impressed with their understanding of the needs of international markets. In particular, they were sensitive enough, although a major supplier of consumables, as well, to allow Nazdar to perfect the printer's entry into the U.S. market through use of its own inks.
The representation of smaller and "private" players was also still strong. Mimaki was showing two version of its new JF Series flatbed printers, Raster Printers showed a new American made "4X4" printer, Infiniti rounded out their line with a new larger drum printer, and strong presence was exhibited by many more companies, including Durst, Leggett & Platt, Roland, DGI, MyJET, Mutoh and many others including companies new to the market.
We wouldn't want to be competing in the wide format ink jet market, now becoming quite full despite the continued sales growth.
There seemed to be too many printer products trying to catch buyers even in such a growing marketplace. It is our belief that the entry of the "big dogs" indicates that despite the continued significant growth that consolidation is beginning to creep in. Still, it is interesting to see that Raster Printers has introduced a new printer at the lower end of the market, and Gandinnovations has done the same in the mid range. In fact, Gandi has done something that nobody else has done. They introduced a "show bundle" including their new printer coupled with an MGE/Kongsberg i-cut flat bed cutting/routing system at an extraordinary price of $299,000. This bundle represents a significant show special, roughly a 35% introductory price discount. Brisk interest in this package was occurring.
A recent conversation with Gandinnovations management indicated they were increasing their sales staff and promoting new products to take advantage of the presumed disarray at VUTEk. Continuing to add direct sales people to expand business, Gandi and EFI/VUTEk seem ready to prove each other's sales strategy to be wrong. This will be an interesting contest.
Stephen P. Aranoff is founder and principal of ARTTEX Associates. He has 28 years experience in the development and profitable distribution of printing/digital imaging market products. Managing prepress technology companies from start-up through significant growth, such as Xyvision, Eikonix, Raytheon Graphics, UNDA, and ScanView, he has played a leading role in introducing many first-of-a-kind successful printing industry products.
Since 1986, ARTTEX has provided pragmatic business, marketing and sales strategy and implementation consulting to both large and small client companies based upon this successful operating expertise - including bringing off shore products to the domestic market.
Well known clients include: Cactus/3M, Dainippon Screen, Heartland Imaging/VieNet, Island Graphics, Kodak, Ricoh, and Scitex, as well as venture capitalists, law firms and startup technology ventures.
Since 1995, Mr. Aranoff has specialized in the marketing and distribution of Digital Imaging products, with emphasis on marketplace convergence brought about by the use of powerful off-the-shelf components.
Mr. Aranoff also holds a Masters Degrees in Systems Engineering and an MBA Degree, with Distinction, in Sales/Marketing. He often serves as a speaker and forum moderator and for many years, has done so at NAGASA's Forums. He is also a frequent guest writer for digital imaging publications.
Contact Stephen Aranoff at: 25 Canyon Shadows Drive, Sedona, AZ 86336 USA, Tel: (928)282-4173, Cell: (928)300-8757, Fax: (775)254-5768, email: Steve@arttex.com
Robert L. FitzPatrick, president of FitzPatrick Management Inc., is an industrial relations consultant, writer, speaker, facilitator, and trade association advisor. He is a nationally recognized analyst of mature industries. His work involves grasping the fundamental economic needs of all parties in the supply chain as well as understanding the dynamics and life cycles of products.
Since 1981, Robert FitzPatrick has continuously published THE EAGLE, a unique and influential journal that analyzes technology, manufacturer/ dealer relations and trends in analog and digital product distribution. His articles on the dynamics of mature industries have appeared in trade journals for graphic arts, sanitation supply, automobile parts, office automation, wholesale florist and food processing industries, among others.
He has been a featured speaker at dealer conferences for Hewlett Packard, FujiFilm, among other major companies and he has organized international dealer/manufacturer conferences in Antwerp, Belgium and in Guadalajara, Mexico. Consultancy clients of FitzPatrick Management include Fuji Photo, DuPont, Lastra S.p.a., Anchor Chemistry, AB Dick, #1 Network, London Litho, Heartland Imaging, VieNet.com, among others.
He was a consultant and featured speaker at the meetings of Food Industries Suppliers Association (FISA) four consecutive years. In 1997, Robert FitzPatrick co-authored and published the first book to expose and critique the multi-level marketing model of sales and distribution. Entitled, False Profits, this book is available in bookstores nationwide or from the publisher at web site www.falseprofits.com. He has served as Expert Witness in various cases involving pyramid scheme fraud perpetrated against independent distributors.
Contact Robert FitzPatrick at 1522 Lilac Rd., Charlotte, NC 28209 USA. Tel.: (704) 334-2047, Fax: (704) 334-0220, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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