Ricoh Interact 2019—A Very Engaging Experience

David Zwang reports from Interact 2019, Ricoh’s annual customer event comprising nearly 60 sessions which covered a wide range of topics, both high-level and highly detailed. It also provided an opportunity to meet some of the new Ricoh leadership team.

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Interact, the Ricoh customer event, initially was just an event for their production inkjet customers. As of Interact 2018, Ricoh opened it up to their entire customer base regardless of the type of equipment they have, and it was an immediate success.

Interact 2019 took the event to new heights. Unlike many of the other equipment vendor customer events, which tend to focus on a specific type of hardware like toner-based presses and production inkjet, or on specific applications like wide format and labels, this event encourages disparate discussion and learning across different press and application types. It is designed as an event for their customer base, product teams and Ricoh management to “Interact” with each other.

There were almost 60 sessions that covered a wide range of high-level topics focusing on marketing, sales, business management, new application adoption and process optimization. Interact 2019 also included sessions that dug into the weeds like paper types and futures, color management and how to use fifth-color techniques. Some of the busiest sessions were those related to RPD (Ricoh Process Director) with discussions on enhanced data collection and analysis where Ricoh product experts and customers had very dynamic discussions. They discussed how the customers were using RPD and what Ricoh could do to develop additional features and functions to better support the ever-changing needs of the customer base and that of their customers’ customers. There were 31 partner sponsors covering paper, software and services in a pavilion area that always seemed busy.

Interact 2019 was also a great time to meet some of the new Ricoh leadership team, including Gavin Jordan-Smith, the new VP of the commercial printing business, and Heather Loisel, the new CMO of Ricoh USA.

While only at Ricoh for about 90 days, Jordan-Smith met with media and analysts before the event to share some initial thoughts on Ricoh and the industry. He related some of the history and lessons learned from the NPES book, "Challenge, Change and Opportunity: A History of NPES." While the book offered a lot of information dating back to 1933, it seems as though much of what is old is new again. A lot of the same problems that we discuss today can be seen at varying times in industry history. Ultimately though, we seem to be a very resilient industry.

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He also discussed Ricoh’s recent growth and its future, which are equally impressive.

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Jordan-Smith was not at all blind to the challenges going forward. He acknowledged that we are all living and trying to expand in the “age of the customer” market realities. In fact, he sees Ricoh as not just a B2B company, but really a B2B to C to C to C (etc.) company, and one that needs to understand the full impact and implications of all of those relationships in order to provide the best solutions and help Ricoh’s customers to deliver them to their customers.

Mike Herold, the Ricoh global director of inkjet solutions, presented the history and successes of Ricoh inkjet starting with the original InfoPrint 5000, developed by IBM and released in 2005 before the Ricoh acquisition. He then provided an update on the current production inkjet product line. 

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He paid special attention to the VC70000 released this year. We covered the VC70000 last year, prior to its release, and had a further opportunity to see it in action at Hunkeler Innovationdays earlier this year. This press, along with many of the other current production inkjet presses recently released, are proof that we have finally passed the discussion of whether production inkjet could meet the quality levels of offset, to the more important discussion of the best machines for your specific application.

At the media event, there were also four different customers who told stories about their relationship with Ricoh. Tim Boyle, of Heeter, discussed his role as a VC60000 customer and subsequently the U.S. beta site of the VC70000. Andy Poole, of Time Printing, talked about his more than 50 years of printing experience and how he is adapting to the changes in the market. Mark Little, of Quick Print Oklahoma, discussed their network of 40 family operations across six states, and their business and hardware decisions. Finally, Josh Bonham, of Sepire, experts in secure communications delivery, discussed their new startup, a “clean sheet” business with a few million dollars of new equipment specifically selected for today and tomorrow. (We also shot several video interviews at Interact 2019 which will appear on WhatTheyThink over the next few weeks, starting with Heather Poulin.)

I am fortunate that I can attend some of the many events that are hosted or sponsored by industry leaders. The Interact event may not be as big as drupa, Hunkeler, SGIA, PRINT, etc., but it seems to me that it’s a very valuable event for Ricoh customers and Ricoh product teams. This enthusiasm and engagement was also echoed by many of the attendees I cornered in the elevator, hallways and sessions. I am looking forward to Interact 2020.

More to Come…

I would like to address your interests and concerns in future articles as it relates to the manufacturing of Print, Packaging and Labels, and how, if at all, it drives future workflows including "Industry 4.0." If you have any interesting examples of hybrid and bespoke manufacturing, I am very anxious to hear about them. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] with any questions, suggestions or examples of interesting applications.