Commentary & Analysis
FREE: An Interview with Jan Dix, Chairman and CEO, Océ North America
By Noel Ward,
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: October 11, 2004
By Noel Ward, Executive Editor of OnDemandJournal.com and Managing Editor of WTT's Trade Show Coverage October 11, 2004 -- A few weeks ago, Jan Dix was named as chairman and CEO of Océ North American operations. This marks a return to this continent for Dix, who was deeply involved in U.S. operations in the '90s. Dix began his new position on September 15th. WTT was able to arrange an interview with Dix and are pleased to include it this week as part of our Graph Expo Show Coverage. WTT: Mr. Dix, returning to Océ in the U.S. is not new territory for you. You were Group Vice President for Digital Printing Systems and then CEO of Océ-USA until 1998. Since then, the industry--and Océ in the United States--have certainly changed. How does your previous experience in North America and recent time in Europe prepare you for your new role? JD: When I was here in the 1990s was the dawning of the digital age in the U.S. At the time, my job was to get the company ready structurally for this new age. We made a number of strategic acquisitions to give us the operational backbone for the developments to come. We acquired the Charles Bruning Company, which provided infrastructure for the innovations we developed for our wide format initiative. We acquired the Siemens High Speed Printing division, which became our vehicle for leading the production-printing marketplace. We also acquired Archer Management Services, which has provided the foundation for our fast-growing Océ Business Services professional services offering. When I returned to Europe in 1998, I became involved with our larger European operating companies and, for the last 2-3 years, I have been responsible for overseeing the global activities of the Digital Document Systems business unit. These activities included system development and introduction of our future product offerings. Many of the new concepts were developed with the USA specifically in mind and are beginning to reach the market now. WTT: The Océ VarioPrint line of cut-sheet printers is the first product line from any vendor to offer a distinct alternative to cut-sheet machines from Xerox. How have these machines been received in the market, and how do you see the cut-sheet market evolving? JD: I am very excited by how well our VarioPrint product line has been received in the marketplace, both by the analyst community and our customers. The VarioPrint line is quite broad, ranging from the VarioPrint 2045 through Océ VarioPrint 5000 systems. No other company in our industry offers a cut-sheet product line that spans the enterprise, from the office workgroup to the high volume work center to the data center and commercial print facility. This breadth provides a strong, clear alternative to Xerox. This year we have expanded the VarioPrint line with the VarioPrint 2090 and 2110 production-class systems. The 2110, which we launched at drupa, has been well-received by customers in CRD, networked office, and print-for-pay environments in Europe. We launched it formally in the U.S. in August and anticipate similar success here. As for the evolution of the cut-sheet market, we believe solutions will continue to be driven by application requirements and changing volume requirements. For example, we foresee many transactional volumes shifting to mid-production platforms, driving demand for mid- to light-production devices. In commercial environments, there will be continued migration of pages from offset to digital. In corporate and networked office environments, we see additional opportunities for multi-functional cut sheet devices as the consolidation of desktop devices continues. At the same time, we see continued interest in handling high-volume applications with continuous forms solutions. WTT: Océ has always been a leader in continuous forms printing. But your perennial competitor, IBM, along with Delphax, Kodak Versamark, Nipson, and Xerox, are not about to go away. So how is Océ planning to continue differentiating itself from these companies and maintaining its continuous form leadership? JD: Competition is what keeps markets healthy and strong, driving the innovation that ultimately benefits customers. We take pride in our leadership position in a very competitive market and intend to build on the momentum we've created with the recent introduction of the VarioStream 9000 and enhancements to our VarioStream 7000 product families. These product lines are not just new. They represent groundbreaking innovations that enable customers to get more from their technology investments. Innovations include the industry's first convergent system capable of addressing transactional and commercial applications in a single system that simply does more. In the VarioStream 9000 systems, for example, our TriboPrint multi-stage imaging technology enables color-capable systems to be customized with as few as two to as many as ten color toner stations. This enables a future-proof migration path from black to CustomTone and ultimately to full-color--in one system. Innovation is not the only differentiator. We are committed to a customer-first focus that combines the appropriate hardware and software products to provide solutions that really do help customers improve their businesses. We are committed to delivering the highest level of customer satisfaction at every touch point. This includes direct customer involvement throughout the product lifecycle. You may not know it, but we work directly with customers--from R&D through manufacturing, delivery, installation, ongoing support, and end-of-life product management. We believe our customers prefer working with a company that understands their requirements and works closely with them to develop effective solutions to real issues. WTT: The Océ VarioStream line of continuous-feed machines has some clear advantages over models from Delphax, IBM, Nipson and Xerox. What do you see as the greatest strengths of the Océ VarioStream family and how do you plan to leverage these in the North American market as your competitors bring other products to market? JD: We have always believed in protecting our customers' investments. The VarioStream family approach enables customers to purchase solutions and functionality that grow and adapt as their needs change, giving them full investment protection. The VarioStream 7000 and 9000 product families are designed to complement one another, enabling customers to select the solution that best meets their requirements. For instance, the VarioStream 7000 family is for high volume convergent environments that require MICR, highlight color or black-and-white output at high speeds. On the other hand, the VarioStream 9000 family is optimized for commercial, CRD, and graphic arts environments that require high print quality and the flexibility of both color and black output, with options like variable data, personalization and edge-to-edge printing. WTT: Océ is unique in being able to provide custom toner colors through the CustomTone program. However, your competitors--and more than a few print providers--say spot or highlight color is not enough, and that full color is what the market is coming to demand. How does Océ see the market for color evolving such that spot or highlight color is still a relevant offering? JD: We believe there is a need for highlight color in production environments. Today, there are significant corporate requirements for highlight color and their own "Corporate Identity" colors. In many cases, highlight color is the most effective and appropriate solution--especially for documents like schedules, invoices, statements, and reports where highlight color provides enormous value in helping people understand numbers, tables, and charts. In the past, customer choices have been limited for high-quality highlight color. We are proud of our ability to provide numerous CustomTone standard colors and any custom color a customer could want. But there's also more flexibility, because customers can print MICR without requiring dedicated MICR printers. This means an insurance customer can run a highlight color statement and billing application today and an EOB check application tomorrow on the same system. And with recent changes in financial regulations required to support Check 21, customers can produce MICR applications at the speeds and quality they need to flexibly meet these requirements and print customer statements with highlight color on the same system. We also agree the industry direction is toward full process color. This is exactly why we brought the VarioStream 9000 family to market. The VarioStream 9000 product family is a new and unique concept in our industry and the only electrophotographic machine available that can provide high speed, high quality, black-and-white and highlight color applications today with a migration path to color on demand. WTT: That leads me to my next question. As you point out, the VarioStream 9000 is the only toner-based machine available that can be upgraded from black-and-white to full color. Yet at the Océ Open House in March and at drupa in May, it was noted that full-color capability was as much as three years away. HP-Indigo, NexPress and Xerox already offer full-color toner-based machines, and Kodak Versamark has several high-speed color inkjet machines available now. To what extent do you think delaying full-color on the VarioStream 9000 places Océ at a disadvantage in the production color market? And do you anticipate accelerating introduction of the full color VarioStream 9000? JD: Most of the competitive products you mention are focused on graphic arts printing or the print-on-demand full color market. In contrast, the VarioStream 9000 family is in a class by itself: it is the industry’s first black and color-capable continuous forms digital printing platform. It is designed for production class environments with the ability to deliver over twenty million impressions per month including both black and white and highlight color. We are on target to deliver on our commitment to the market. We have announced the first system in the VarioStream 9000 family on time and on budget. Next week at Graph Expo, we'll unveil the next stage in this revolutionary product family. WTT: Software is becoming more important than the equipment it drives, especially when it comes to workflow. Océ PRISMA is acknowledged as a leading workflow architecture for print production workflow that gives Océ an edge for several applications in mixed environments. What is your view of the importance of workflow? How do you see leveraging PRISMA as a distinct Océ advantage? Might it even be a primary offering, rather than part of print engine sales? Workflow is one of the biggest challenges facing customers today, and it is the key to delivering the value customers need from their document management operations. However, while almost all customers have the same business goals, very few share identical workflow requirements. The challenges a commercial printer faces are very different from those in a networked office, a data center, or a CRD. As a result, customers shouldn't be forced into cookie cutter solutions. Workflow solutions should give them the flexibility to meet environment-specific requirements. This is why we have made PRISMA available in solution sets that address workflow management from creation through archiving for four distinct customer environments: on-demand publishing, central reprographic departments, networked office environments, and transaction printing. We are already seeing the validation of our strategy in industry response and the acknowledgement from leading analysts like Gartner, InfoTrends/CAP Ventures and MWA Research. Whether PRISMA might be a primary offering is an interesting question as we already view it that way today. PRISMA is an essential component of every solution sale we make. Today, very few single-vendor environments exist. Customers have made it clear to the marketplace that they want the flexibility to mix products and solutions from different vendors to achieve best-of-breed solutions. We believe PRISMA's functionality can meet customer workflow requirements and integrate mixed environments to reduce costs, enhance productivity and efficiency. WTT: Océ is a household name in Europe, but is not nearly as well known in North America. Branding is clearly key to growing market share and gaining customer confidence. What are the best ways to build the Océ brand and how you anticipate doing this? JD: The very best way to build the Océ brand is through word-of-mouth. This is how Océ has grown to the stature it has today. The markets where we operate are usually close-knit professional communities where people network with each other and share experiences. Our greatest challenge is that many customers consider their Océ-developed solutions to be integral to their competitive advantage so they are unwilling to talk publicly about them. That makes it a little harder to get the word out! Océ does a certain level of advertising in key markets and will continue to do so. As our business grows, we will invest more in getting the word out. WTT: Over the past year or so, Océ North America has been promoting a "One Océ" strategy. So two questions: First, how has One Océ been playing in the marketplace for the different business units? Second, what are the top two or three things you feel must happen for One Océ to be fully implemented and successful? JD: The focus of "One Océ" is putting the customer first. It means making Océ the easiest company in the market to do business with. It means selling to customers the way the customers want to buy. If they have centralized, enterprise wide decision making, we can provide all of our solutions through a single interface. Customers don’t have to figure out how to buy from Océ; we do it for them. If they have specialized needs, they can work directly with our divisions. To deliver One Océ" to customers means that we have to operate as One Océ internally. This has been our operational challenge. Because our North American infrastructure was built up from acquisitions there have been some cultural and operational differences to bridge. We have invested in common systems and made some organizational re-alignments to make this easier. We like to think that we have broken down the walls between our North American operational units. Still, there is more to be done. One is to extend the One Océ concept globally. At the same time, North America has become a primary market for Océ. We are working to streamline and integrate the product development process to ensure U.S. market requirements are driving our R&D activities. We will continue to train our people in our solution delivery process to improve their skills at analyzing customer document management processes and pulling together the Océ teams necessary to craft the needed solutions. We will also continue to make sure all employees know about all the capabilities within our company so they can effectively offer them to our enterprise clients. We have a number of customers who have been loyal production printing customers or wide format customers who don’t realize we have an outstanding range of solutions for the CRD or office environments. Thus, we have some work to do to be One Océ for everyone.