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Gun team to launch Canon imagePRESS

Monday, 06 August 2007
By Print 21 Online Article
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The production print market, the billions of pages currently printed by offset, is the treasure trove for digital printing, Every engine manufacturer knows it and now Canon, fresh from its dominating run in the office sector, is preparing a serious assault on the market with the release of its imagePRESS technology.

Pictured: The Canon imagePRESS DPSG A-team; (left to right) Sumitta Jayaratne, national operations manager, Christophe Lambert, general manager, and Mitchell Filby, national sales manager.

One name has been conspicuously absent in the recent invasion of production printing by digital technology – Canon. Once the recognised forerunner in digital printing, Canon came to the market early with its famed CLC series of colour engines, setting benchmarks for colour quality and reliability. But then the company seemed to shift its interests elsewhere, mainly into the office market where it has enjoyed unqualified success.

However, the office market for digital engines is now mature with the amount of pages being printed having reached a plateau and prospects of continuing growth fairly limited. So Canon has again turned its attention to the production printing market, recognising that only by being a major player in this billion dollar sector can it hope to have a long-term future as a digital print engine supplier. It has halted production of its workhorse CLC engines and privately admits it has slipped in market share over recent times. But it is also determined to win it all back. It is basing its ambitious target of gaining 50 per cent market share by 2010 on two strategic pillars – the imagePRESS 7000 allied with Canon services and customer-friendly culture.

The imagePRESS is a brand new technology engine, long in development and released here in February in the C1 model, a 14-page-per-minute version suitable for proofing and shopfront printing. The production model, the imagePRESS 7000, previewed at last year’s IPEX in Birmingham, will be launched here at PrintEx in May. At a rated speed of 70 ppm, the imagePRESS is targeting one of the most competitive sectors of the market where a number of established and new players, such as Fuji Xerox, Océ and Konica Minolta are already competing fiercely.

That’s nice, that’s different

To stage its assault on the production printing market Canon has restructured its Business Imaging division, dividing it into Office and Digital Production Solutions Group (DPSG). This latter is headed up well-known industry figure, Christophe Lambert, who was largely responsible for the company’s success in the office sector in recent years. He has assembled a high-powered team to drive the imagePRESS campaign with the promise of many more hirings to come. He is emphatic that this moment in time is a watershed for Canon and the industry.

The main differentiator he identifies is the print quality of the imagePRESS. Based on a system that incorporates 17 new patents, he believes the press will create a demand for a higher quality of digital print. According to Mitchell Filby, national sales manager DPSG, high-end commercial printers who have seen the output are very impressed. Using a wax-based toner it has the ability to replicate gloss or matte paper printing in the same way as offset. Among the other new techniques is the use of a unique rubberised imaging belt that moulds the toner to the substrate.

“I would say to the customers, don’t miss the opportunity [to buy an imagePRESS] or you may find yourself losing business to someone near you who has made the decision,” said Lambert.

No more hard noses

In addition to the quality differentiation, Lambert is banking on providing imagePRESS buyers with an enhanced level of support that brings into play the entire Canon imaging technologies. Under Sumitta Jayaratne as operations manager, DPSG is banking on a change in corporate culture away from the sometimes hard-nosed approach of the industry. In identifying the user-friendly corporate culture of Canon as a prime strategy to woo customers from the opposition, Lambert maintains, “People like Canon. They like the way we nurture relationships over the long term.”

There is no doubt that Canon is preparing to spend whatever it takes to win back and overtake its market share. Apart from ramping up what appears to be one of the largest sales and service squads in the industry, it will establish an imagePRESS centre close to its North Ryde headquarters in Sydney. This will function as a demonstration and education facility for Canon customers and partners in the development of the imagePRESS culture.

Pricing for the imagePRESS in the local market is still not confirmed, although it is sure to be competitive. It is targeted at just about all print-for-pay markets and in-plant users, with the first machines being available from July through to September. As part of the global launch of the imagePRESS, DPSG has lined up more than ten imminent sales in Australia and New Zealand with a target by year end of at least 20.

The arrival of the imagePRESS and the re-emergence of Canon as a player in production digital print will only intensify the battle for the minds and business of the printing industry. By taking the high ground in regards to the quality of digital printing and shifting the debate away from price, it is attempting a radical realignment of the contest.

Undoubtedly the Canon booth at PrintEx will function as ground zero for the printing industry of the region.

This article was brought to you by Canon Australia Pty Ltd

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