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Konica Minolta featured in latest Print21

Friday, 03 March 2017
By Patrick Howard

The January/February 2017 issue of Print21, highlights exciting new changes at Konica Minolta and profiles the company’s Australian managing director, David Cooke.

A measure of the man

David Cooke, MD Konica Minolta.

Measures of success are variable and often subjective but in the corporate world the effectiveness of a leader is usually gauged by the health of the bottom line. In the cut and thrust of Australia’s highly competitive digital print technology sector, market share and profit are the key drivers but they’re not the only ones, at least not while David Cooke remains CEO of Konica Minolta Australia. He talks with Patrick Howard about his vision for the broader dimensions of corporate aspiration and responsibility.

David Cooke is a very competitive bloke. You don’t get to the top of your field, especially one as tough as digital print equipment supply in Australia by being shy and retiring. The affable managing director confesses to a love of the chase, to enjoying the rough and tumble of sales and contract renewal under pressure from his opposition.

During his four-year tenure as managing director, Konica Minolta Australia has reinforced its position as one of the top three players in the hard-driving copier and digital printing space, topping the list in a number of sectors.

Fostering the creation of the company’s Professional Printing division, first with inaugural manager, David Procter and more recently with Anthony Lewis, Cooke has successfully driven the company to become a major player in the commercial printing space. In the process he has grown the business every year, earning the regard of his Japanese masters in a manner almost unheard of in the Australian industry.

Japanese companies in Australia have a long tradition of installing one of their own as managing director. Few allow local personnel to take the mantle of power, even if most of the work is performed by Australians. Even fewer allow their Australian managing director to remain in place for very long. There are exceptions, of course, but the industry has long grown accustomed to dealing with the vagaries of Japanese corporate culture even successful CEOs are moved on.

Cooke’s relationship with his HQ is different. Now embarking on an unprecedented third two-year term as Australian leader of the local company, he no longer even has a Japanese deputy in the office to keep an eye on what’s going on.

He must be doing something right. I’d heard tales of his unconventional style, about his emphasis social activism, about putting people ahead of product, about ethical purchasing and hiring practices so, before Christmas, I was looking forward to meeting up to discover the true measure of David Cooke.

Teaming up for success

Anthony Lewis (centre), head of the Specialised Print Group at Konica Minolta, with (from left) Elisabeth Mitchell, Matthew Hunter, Colin Johnstone and David Cascarino.

Putting together a team to address the contemporary printing market now requires people and skillsets vastly different from previous times. The days of measuring success solely by the number of units dropped into an indifferent market are gone. For Anthony Lewis, the new world is about broadening the portfolio of products and bringing specialists on board to deepen longer-term engagement with customers.

Digital technology almost completely transformed the printing industry. It’s difficult to exaggerate the impact of the countless toner-based engines that have gone into printing companies as well as offices and other business over the past two decades. In the process they democratised print, swept away the craft barriers that restricted production to skilled tradespeople while opening up the industry to the potential of the internet.

For digital supply companies the past decade has been one long uninterrupted boom as toner engines were shipped out as fast as they could be made. At a time when the offset press manufacturers were driven to their knees, the digital supply side could barely keep up with demand.

That was then. Now the landscape has darkened with demand for digital engines plateauing as the industry, as well as society as a whole, comes to terms with a different communications environment.  In the local market there was a one-off decline in units moved last year of 41 percent. Adjusting to the longer trend, the outlook is for growth of 2.0 percent to 2.5 percent over the next five years. That’s a total demand of around 1,200 units per annum, scarcely a stellar market for growth anymore – although still far better than the offset side of things.

When Anthony Lewis took over the leadership of Konica Minolta’s print production division last year, one of his first acts was to assemble his leadership team to change the name of the division. “We asked ourselves if we were still doing the same thing as five years ago. The answer, of course, was no, we’re looking at something very different,” he says.

For more, read the latest issue of Print21, available now in print and online.

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