Leading the way: An interview with two Landa visionaries

It is not hard to write an article about the company Landa, the amazing technology behind its presses, or even the visionary behind it all. They are all fascinating topics, and there is a lot of information to share. I have absorbed much information over the years by reading articles, attending drupa, and through press briefings with Benny Landa himself. And yet, something was still missing for me. I wanted to know more about the company itself, and the people working there. I wanted to know more about where the company was going, and particularly, what its plans were for the North American market.

So I did the only sensible thing: I asked.

I feel very privileged to have been able to interview two very significant people within Landa’s senior ranks: Nachum Korman, and Gilad Tzori. They not only answered my questions, but shared very real and candid details with me, including the exclusive scoop that the first beta site is confirmed, and it is in North America.

The Interview

I started the interview with some questions for Gilad Tzori. Gilad is the VP of Product Strategy for Landa, and came to the company with over twenty years at HP Indigo. Gilad leads the product management team and vertical market activity at Landa. I knew that Gilad and Benny had a long working history together, and I decided to work that knowledge into my questions.

Jason: Gilad, you and Benny have been working together for close to 30 years, and it is clear that you have been part of his lifetime quest to reshape technologies and challenge the status quo. Nanographic printing is no exception. With Nanography maturing nicely, what is the next big thing Landa wants to tackle?

Gilad: While Nanography is the nanotechnology-based solution Benny is devoting himself to now, there are many other nanotechnology projects in development within Landa Labs.

Benny started working with nanotechnology over a decade ago, and Benny naturally gravitates to applications he feels will meaningfully benefit people and the planet – the two passions that inspire him the most. Landa Labs has already achieved success in some nanotechnology segments, and a few of the team’s innovations have progressed to commercialization.

The IEEE is one of many professional associations and research organizations that cite energy, the environment, consumer electronics, and defense among the hottest nanotechnology segments; i.e., where the most demand, and the most development, are occurring. Benny is particularly excited about utilizing nanotechnology in medicine. There are many possible applications, such as employing nanoparticle-sized medications to target damaged tissue with unprecedented precision, at the cellular level.

Jason: One thing I have found fascinating, yet I have not seen a lot of in mainstream press, is Benny’s work in creating energy out of natural light. Can you tell me a little more about how and why he started this work, and why it is important to him?

Gilad: Many energy sources; especially natural light, are being harvested and converted into useable energy to provide low cost, clean power to society. Landa is not ready to share its specific progress on this front, but I can tell you that Benny and his employees share strong beliefs about salvaging the earth’s resources. Israel has no natural resources such as oil, coal, or even water; and so we are aware that there is only a defined amount of fuel remaining, to pull out of the earth. We are one of a great many companies – and a relatively high number of those are in Israel – working on technological methods to protect the planet.

Jason: So many of us have heard all about Benny Landa, the digital printing pioneer and technological visionary. I want to hear about Benny Landa the philanthropist. Tell me about Benny’s visions for a better tomorrow for mankind, and the work he is doing to help this vision become a reality.

Gilad: Benny’s parents escaped the Nazis in Poland and moved to Canada. There, his father operated a cigar shop that also housed a photo studio. Business was hard, and the family did not have much. Benny tells a humorous and sometimes bittersweet, but wonderful story about the life lessons he learned from his father during that time in his life.

Benny feels that his father’s affinity for mechanical engineering and imaging, both of which his father studied and utilized in his business, was critical to his own career choices. Those of us who know Benny would say that this is when Benny’s love affair with the imaging sciences began.

Years – and hundreds of patents – later, when Benny and his wife Patsy had made Israel their permanent home, he reached a socio-economic point that is commonly called “successful”. The concept intrigued Benny, and after much thought he came to the conclusion that success is generosity of spirit and persistence applied to work toward a cause that benefits the whole of mankind.

As one of Benny’s closest friends and colleagues for these 30 years, I can tell you that the man they call “the father of digital printing” – the man of humble beginnings who later sold Indigo to HP – is the least materialistic and endlessly generous human beings I’ve ever known.

Inspiration for the Landa Fund for Equal Opportunity Through Education was the Israeli people themselves. Benny had long studied and noted a strong but unidentifiable purity in Israelis’ ambition. He says that they seemed to be inspired by some higher purpose.

In our age of explosive technological advancement, Benny says that society’s economic strength is not determined by its coal mines and steel mills, but by its technology… and he usually, proudly, notes what any of us who read business and technology news know: that Israel is one of the most technologically creative and innovative communities in the world.

At the point in time when Benny saw his Indigo machines being shipped all over the globe, and all displaying the “made in Israel” sticker, Benny felt that his dreams had come true. He wanted to give back to society, share his luck with others, and help them fulfill their dreams.

The first thing Benny and Patsy Landa did was to set up the Landa Fund – which Benny says invests in “privileged minds of underprivileged means” and which he says brings returns for society as a whole.

Today, the Landa Fund has invested tens of millions in students on the periphery, including new immigrants from Russia, Ethiopia, kids from poor homes, and especially Israeli-Arab youth.

Jason: Gilad, we have all heard about the successes of Nanography, and were thrilled to see presses running at drupa. Can you tell us about the challenges, or new lessons, that you learned in getting the technology to where it is now?

Gilad: It has been 50 years since there has been a major development in the printing press technology platform category. Offset came into being about 100 years ago. Inkjet about 80, and it is now 50 years since electro-photographic based printing became feasible. It is no small thing to build an entirely new category of print, but we have been successful and our customers are excited.

Shortly after he sold Indigo, Benny started to investigate nanotechnology, and this led to the development of Nanography. It is a major change from what we knew, but over the last decade we made great strides and now the results are extremely good. We have but a few more things to accomplish, and we are there.

We also have great partners: efi, AVT, and Komori, to mention the leading ones who are working closely with us and assisting us.

When I look at where we are now, I can tell you that we are very close to being where our customers expect us to be.

Jason: As we heard at drupa, there are some beta sites starting up with your presses. Can you explain a little more about the beta phase, and what the next steps for Nanography will be? What is “phase two”, and when can we expect it to happen?

Gilad: As of this moment there are eleven presses undergoing heavy-duty, mandatory, (alpha phase) testing. It is a tremendous undertaking, but it is essential to meeting our own and other standards.  Even so, beta phase testing, which is conducted at customer locations after alpha is completed successfully, is equally critical.

Landa has selected beta customers based on who can benefit from our Nanography technology, and whether they are suitable for evaluating the Landa products. Those customers will evaluate all aspects of the presses in order to verify their fit with the market, and will share their observations so that we can determine whether, for example, we should modify a function.

The beta test includes millions of printed sheets, a wide range of substrates, many applications, a variety of finishing solutions, and more.

Once we successfully complete the beta program, we will release the press commercially and ship it to our customers around the world, based on our rollout plan.  The first press we plan to deliver is the Landa S10 for the folding carton market.

Jason: Nanography is truly a unique concept, and offers several advantages over more traditional and established forms of digital printing. As you continue to develop your product, other vendors are also refining their product offerings to be faster, more flexible, and more suited to a variety of substrates. What steps are you taking to stay ahead of the curve, and remain unique in the marketplace?

Gilad: In general, we do not comment about our competitors’ products, but we do wish to point out that when employing direct inkjet-to-paper printing technology there are well-known and inherent limitations of substrate variety, ink coverage and productivity. From our experience and knowledge of the process, these limitations cannot be overcome and for this reason we are looking forward to offering Nanography as a solution that by means of its unique NanoInk together with its innovative printing process, overcomes these constraints and opens new avenues of profitability for printers. There is currently no real competition to the combined advantages offered by Landa: high speed, high quality, B1 [41″] format, low cost short to medium run length – and the lowest total cost of ownership available.

Jason: I am sure with over twenty years working with digital printing technologies, you have a lot of insight into the various technologies on the market today. With this in mind, tell me why a print company should invest in Landa’s technology instead of something more tried and tested from a competitor.

Gilad: Between the low volume offering of digital and the high-volume offerings of offset there is a gap where neither offset nor digital printing is profitable. And in today’s market it is precisely these unprofitable short-to-medium run-lengths that make up the vast majority of commercial printing jobs.

This is where Landa Nanographic Printing technology comes in. Landa Digital Printing offers a breakthrough method for production of super-efficient, light-absorbing nanopigments – Landa NanoInk Colorants.

As I mentioned earlier, the Landa Nanographic Printing process differs from other printing processes in that the ink does not wet the paper as in inkjet printing. Landa Nanographic Printing technology converts the ink image into a super-thin polymeric film which is then laminated onto the paper surface, avoiding typical inkjet issues of paper saturation and enabling the creation of high quality images at high speed – on any kind of paper, at the lowest cost-per-page of any digital printing process.

In other words, Nanography offers printers digital printing technology for mainstream applications – for the first time.

We have also engineered the user experience (UX) for “touchscreen generations”. Landa presses feature an ergonomically designed control area, called the Landa Cockpit, featuring a large touchscreen and offering operators a true, 21st century work environment.

Jason: How did you determine the locations of your beta sites for the Nanographic printing presses? What strategies were behind choosing these beta sites? Is there a plan to add more sites in other areas before the testing is done?

Gilad: Our beta customers are leading printers in their fields who share our vision for the future of the industry, and we are fortunate to partner with them. Because we live and work in a global economy, geographic differences are less important than they were in the past.

There are concrete criteria for being a beta site, of course. The first criterion is physical readiness. Beta sites have to be able to take delivery pretty quickly, in contrast to our customers who need more time to expand buildings, move equipment, forecast volumes, and to schedule jobs and human resources accordingly. These are just a few considerations that any press buyer must consider before scheduling delivery, installation, and training. The most important task is to insure that regular job turnaround times are not affected during the install and testing phases.

Equally important, the second requirement is that personnel involved must have adequate skillsets and the assertiveness needed to put the press and integrated systems through their paces. Landa does provide a beta testing guide, of course.  For the shop, and for Landa, to benefit, involved personnel should adapt the perspective of all stakeholders, including customers, and be prepared to share both with their own company and with us.

Jason: Where do you see Nanography’s largest market to be in the next 24-48 months, and what strategies do you have in place to establish a strong foothold in that market?

Gilad: Our first product, the Landa S10 for the folding carton and POP markets, will roll out, step by step, in all regions where Landa is active. These include the Americas, Europe, and Asia Pacific. We are fortunate in that the potential offered by our technology and presses is of great interest around the world, as reflected in drupa orders valuing close to US$480,000 (€450,000) from customers worldwide. The next product to be launched will be the S10P, a product to cover the commercial printing market and some publishing applications.

No less interesting is the W10, which is focused on the flexible packaging applications.  This is a huge opportunity for digital printing, and I expect big things based on the W10’s speed, quality, width and supported substrate range.

After speaking with Gilad, I decided I wanted to ask Nachum Korman some questions specifically about Landa’s interests in North America. Nachum is Landa’s Vice President and General Manager, North America. Nachum has had a long and successful career, with key positions at well-known companies such as Scitex and HP, just to name two.

Jason: Nachum, you have a large market to serve in North America. As you can imagine, there can be different challenges in different countries. How are you and your team poised to address the unique needs and challenges of each country, and how do you plan on providing support and service to such a broad base?

Nachum: We hit the pavement running in 2016, when we opened the doors to Landa Digital Printing’s North American offices in Atlanta. It’s a great central city that is an optimal hub for North and Latin American travel. We have a beautiful facility in which we are planning to house a demonstration suite and training centre, down the road. It will also be suitable for events such as open houses.

Our first objective was to implement marketing and sales that would bring deeper awareness and understanding of Landa to the Americas. From the moment we acquired marketing and sales staff, they were holding meetings with existing and interested customers. When we returned from drupa in mid-2016, we had to step-up activity to serve a larger group of customers across the US, Canada, and Latin America – where the highest demand is coming from Mexico and Brazil.

Additional activities include information updates and a regular schedule of educational webinars, as well as a higher frequency of one on one, increasingly consultative meetings with customers and prospects.

It is in these one-on-one meetings that we are sharing a more in-depth look at the scope of opportunities and benefits available in each of the Landa presses. We are identifying what mix of functionality, such as number of colours, will fit the shops’ current and potential needs best. We are doing the math so that buying, and possibly waiting for, a Landa press, will be a sure win. For those who are already customers, we are beginning to audit the specifics of their production workflows and requirements.

With final phases of development in progress at headquarters in Israel, master-level service engineers are being trained in the assembly line build, press integration, and overall R&D before they relocate to the Americas. In parallel, we will be recruiting local engineers who will travel to Israel for extensive training, and then return to support customers.

There are many exciting developments happening right here, in the meantime. We are in building mode, and so I am now supervising due diligence on a third party logistics provider for parts, ink, and consumables. I am recruiting people for field positions, as well as for a growing headquarters campus. The idea is to have a company capable of providing all sales and service for North and Latin America.

Job #1 is to do this right, on behalf of the Landa customer. This directive doesn’t just come from headquarters: it’s an intuitive philosophy that drives Landa Digital Printing professionals in the Americas and all over the world. No matter how or where our customers come in touch with us, from sales to marketing and top-of-the-line service, they will have an exceptional experience.

Jason: I know there are many people here in Canada, and in the U.S., that are anxious to find out what Landa is doing, now, in the North American Market. Can you share any insight with us as to the work you and your team are doing today, and when we might be able to get our hands on the technology?

Nachum: Every shop in the world has its own DNA, comprised of the people, equipment, and software that has been added, integrated, reconfigured and often, inherited from companies it may have merged with over the years.

The result is a unique mix of systems, workflows, specializations, and production philosophies. The number of combinations is infinite.

Enter Nanography – new and unprecedented in capabilities, and serving the folding carton, flexible packaging, publishing, and commercial printing (including direct mail and POP/POS) segments with a precise approach best suited for each.

And so we are out there now, meeting with prospects so that we can exchange the information (i.e., what they need and what we do) that will bring us to a decision point. For instance, how much of the shop’s current business will be served better and faster by the Landa press, and how should It be integrated in these unique configurations to support existing, as well as new, business? More specifically, what are the average run lengths and types of jobs being produced? We give, and take, as much information as possible; and then we can show them the precise savings and efficiencies they can achieve. Every case is different: if a shop is delivering 100,000 plus runs most of the time, Landa is not the answer.  However, if a prospect says that a part of their job basket is under 10,000 copies, we will likely be able to bring them incremental growth – and so there’s a good chance that a Landa press will make sense in that situation.

Jason: Landa is currently undergoing an extensive beta program for its presses. Can you share any updates about the beta program in general, as well as how it relates to the North American market?

Nachum: The first beta program, which will serve as a model for those that follow, kicked off with Imagine! of Minneapolis visiting our Israel-based manufacturing and R&D facility this past December.

Landa systems analysts joined us along with the Imagine! VP who will be project manager for Landa Digital Printing, as well as the company’s colour prepress manager and pressroom supervisor.

We showed progress, development, and the new modules of the press such as the inspection systems. They then did what press and production people do: checking, measuring, watching – and were very happy with the results.

We then sat down and put together a schedule of milestones with Imagine! We agreed that we will do a site visit at their location in the next few weeks, and will then study their workflow and other requirements for site preparation.

After this North American visit, we will walk away with action items to be taken by both Landa and Imagine!, team members with both companies speaking regularly as we begin testing real jobs.

We will meet again in Israel before the summer to cover literally, everything. At that time we will be able to conclude details and plan delivery and installation sometime after the summer and before the end of the year.

We are excited to have such an enthusiastic customer in Imagine! They are the first to go through every phase, and will be paving the way for their peers in the Americas and around the world!

Conclusion

I really enjoyed interviewing both Gilad and Nachum, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have done so. I am very grateful for all the help I received from Helene Smith of HSPR, who worked closely with myself and the people at Landa to make the interview, and this article, a reality.

I feel Landa is a truly visionary company, and with people like Gilad Tzori and Nachum Korman helping to lead the way, I have no doubt Landa will continue to intrigue and amaze us moving forward. I personally am very excited to see what lies in store in the near future.

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