Commentary & Analysis
FREE: More Moments with DocuFrank: “The First 200 iGen3 Installs will be Easy”
by Noel Ward -
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: April 25, 2002
by Noel Ward -- WTT Editor@Large Frank Steenburgh, the marketing maven behind the launch of the DocuTech in 1990, is heading up the even more important launch of the DocuColor iGen3. The 100 page-per-minute digital press is Xerox's great white hope, the machine charged with bringing the company back to the preeminence it enjoyed a decade ago. Some pundits call iGen3 a bet-the-company move for Xerox, and in many ways it is. The company wants to be the leader in digital color and with over $1 billion invested in the new machine, has its very future at stake in a rapidly changing marketplace. The growth of color digital printing that's beginning to sweep the market is only the beginning, with CAP Ventures projecting a compound annual growth rate of 14 percent through 2006, from $17 billion in 2001 to $32 billion. Where it goes beyond that is anyone's guess, but Steenburgh is looking to seize the Document Company's share of this market. Initial Installs While "DocuFrank" Steenburgh won't admit to a number of installs in this introductory year, he says Xerox is expecting to see 300 to 400units (worldwide) installed in 2003. "The first 200 or so are pretty easy," says Steenburgh. "We know who to go to, we've been showing them the product, they're interested. The real issue is building volume. Printers have to get up to a volume that generates profitability. So we've developed a whole range of programs aimed at developing and building business volume. These cover the whole range of printing, because you need to do everything, black and white transfer, offset transfer, variable data. I've spent as much time making sure those programs are in place as in how we get the placements." Over time, Steenburgh expects placements to be roughly evenly split between graphic arts and in-plant facilities. He defines graphic arts as including publishing (especially color books ), service bureaus and direct mail shops, franchise and quick print, and finally commercial print, which he divides commercial print into those who already have digital printing experience and those that do not. The iGen3 Team Steenburgh has been able to build a core team of experienced people to bring iGen3 to market, and also had the latitude to institute some new approaches. One of these is the SmartPress consultants, named after some of the patented technology used in the iGen3 to assure repeatability and consistency of print and image quality. For a couple of months after the initial installation of a new machine, a SmartPress consultant from Xerox will be on hand at the customer's site to provide certain types of technical and business development support. This mix of skills requires people of uncommon abilities. While some of the necessary skills can be trained, it is supremely difficult to identify and hire such people, so the program has a limited life, currently through the first quarter of 2003. For some customers, though, the benefits can continue, as the SmartPress consultants can actually be hired by the customer, a departure from typical Xerox policies that prohibit customers from hiring Xerox employees. "They can go ahead and hire them. We've done an analysis that tells us even though we have spent money to hire and train those people, if they go to work for a customer and bring volume to a machine, that's a gold mine," says Steenburgh. "The focus of this person is volume building. And my number one concern for the success of this program is volume building." Sanity Check Still, whether the SmartPress whiz leaves or stays, the person operating the press has to have the ability to run a complex machine on a day-to-day basis. Steenburgh's team has a well-defined set of criteria that an operator must meet. They must have theoretical and practical skills in workflow, variable imaging, color management, and more. There are quantifiable tests to pass and Steenburgh says he won't hesitate to stop an installation if an operator doesn't measure up. He's aware this stance could potentially aggravate some customers, but in the bigger picture, it's far more important for Xerox to have successful installations than to have even a few that don't live up to the standards necessary for success of the press. He's looking at history here: too many digital presses--from any vendor--have been returned, not simply because they weren't profitable for the owners, but because the operators couldn't run the machines as well enough to deliver the quality or efficiency required. Advance Work Other training programs for owners and sales people are already in place for selling digital printing as an alternative to offset as well as for variable data printing. Support activities, such as teaching customers how to build data repositories for variable data work, are part of the up-front work being done to help iGen3 owners get the greatest benefits out of their new presses. Additionally, Xerox is creating programs to aid market development, educating the marketplace about the benefits of digital printing, says Steenburgh. Frank Steenburgh, as you might expect, can go on almost indefinitely about the detailed plans and strategies for launching what is really the most important machine in Xerox's history. With some beta sites already churning out pages and more on the way, real world testing is helping identify areas needing refinement for various aspects of the machine. Solutions are being put in place to make the pending installations as smooth a ride as possible for new owners. While no highly complex technology can be expected to be flawless, the focus of Steenburgh and his team is doing all it can to make sure the iGen3--and its customers--are equally ready to make an indelible impression on the changing world of printing.