On the road with Esko and Ricoh user conferences

The digital transformations of packaging and commercial printing 

We were on the road in June, attending two user conferences: EskoWorld in broiling (40°C) San Antonio, TX, and Ricoh Interact, in more temperate Boulder, CO.  These industry user groups always present a good opportunity to gauge certain sectors of the industry. Unlike industry-wide tradeshows, which give the entire graphics community the opportunity to come together under one giant roof, user groups are much smaller, more focused affairs that provide more precise insight into certain segments of the industry and into the hosting company.

Our first stop was EskoWorld, where more than 500 registrants gathered to get an update on Esko’s direction and view of the packaging segment, and to do deep technical dives into the company’s huge software portfolio.

President Udo Panenka outlined the major theme of this year’s gathering: packaging connected. In order to respond to changing consumer behaviour the packaging ecosystem must become more integrated and connected. Consumers, he said, want an engaging experience with brands and they want it on their terms; they want more and better information, and they expect consistency between their online and offline experiences. Packaging is usually the thread that ties all these elements together.

To respond, Panenka said, critical connections need to happen at three points: brands have to connect with consumers using compelling omnichannel campaigns, converters have to connect with brands via shorter lead times and faster response, and the production ecosystem must be connected. To that end, Esko announced that it had joined forces with Danaher sister companies AVT, X-Rite and Pantone to integrate its automation and collaboration systems. X-Rite and Pantone provide colour technology while AVT provides camera inspection systems. Additionally, Esko is strengthening its connections with partners suppliers of MIS and ERP systems, equipment manufacturers such as KBA, Bobst, HP, and Windmoller & Holscher, and e-commerce applications.

Ricoh transformation

More than 400 registrants came together at Ricoh’s Interact user event. The group, the largest-ever gathering of Ricoh customers spent a few days hearing keynote presentations and attending a broad selection of workshops on topics that included social media strategies, large-format business cases, hardware dives, production excellence processes, and updates on the latest products and services from the company.

In a media and analyst presentation, John Fulena, vice president of the commercial and industrial printing group, said that Ricoh is continuing on its transformation from a legacy continuous feed provider to a cutsheet and wide-format company. “These are exciting times at Ricoh,” he said. The transformation began about two years ago and Fulena said that much progress had been made by way of new presses, expanded partnerships with third parties, and a larger portfolio of services and software. The company has also expanded its marketing and customer-service teams.

In addition to the recently launched Ricoh Pro C9200 toner cutsheet press, more innovations are in the works, said Fulena. These include clickable paper – an augmented reality application that seeks to bridge the printed piece and the digital realm; more business-support services; a new cutsheet offering that will open opportunities in industrial printing to smaller graphic arts operations with its expanded substrate capability and inline sensors for improved registration and colour consistency; more wide-format options; and a new continuous feed press with new inks and a new dryer technology that will enable the device to print on common offset coated papers without any pre-treatment. Many of these offerings will be on show at Print 18 and SGIA this fall.