There's a coffee maker in Mike Kucharski's office. Not content with the standard office blend offered by the workgroup machine a few doors down the hall, Mike brews a pot or two of his own every day. It is amazing stuff that makes the so-called super-caffienated beverages marketed these days seem like watery Kool-Aid. For a dedicated caffeine addict like me, it's always a treat to have coffee in Mike's office.

Mike has been one of the principal architects behind Xerox's FreeFlow Digital Workflow Collection and has recently taken on a new role as Vice President of the Production Solutions Business Unit of Xerox's Production Systems Group. In this role, Mike is responsible for product strategy, planning and delivery for all of Xerox's high-end digital systems for the graphic communications industry. This includes all color and black-and-white production systems including the iGen3, DocuColor, Nuvera, DocuTech, DocuPrint and wide-format product lines.

WTT talked recently with Mike about his new role and how he sees the industry changing.

WTT: What do you see as biggest challenges-- and opportunities-- in your new role?

MK: Our customers continue to look for ways to reduce costs, improve productivity and generate revenue opportunities. I'm focusing on how Xerox can be partner with our customers, not just a vendor selling products. Xerox is all about helping our customers grow and be successful. Our systems, software and services need to align with the changes that the print industry is experiencing--shorter run lengths, faster turnaround times and personalization. At the same time, print providers need to look at how they can improve their print processes as a whole, from creative and prepress, to production and finishing.

Print providers need to look at how they can improve their print processes as a whole, from creative and prepress, to production and finishing.

With my workflow background I've seen how our most successful customers have integrated and automated workflow solutions as a key ingredient for continued growth and profit. They do this for the same reason Xerox does, to stay at the forefront of the industry and ahead of the competition. We will continue to deliver greater value to our customers and workflow is one of the keys to getting there.

WTT: What do you consider to be the most important trends in the printing industry today? What is the opportunity around those trends?

MK: Printers today want to make sure they get a return on their digital investment. To deliver the greatest value of digital printing services, print providers must look beyond the technology in a way that isn't required in traditional printing. They need to understand their customers' sales and marketing programs, and partner with customers to execute their strategies.

Printers need to understand their customers' sales and marketing programs, and partner with their customers to execute their strategies.

Many print providers now seek help from outside experts, including their print vendors. Xerox is the leader in this area, and we have decades of digital business experience. We have a set of business development tools and programs called Profit Accelerator Digital Business Resources that's designed to help customers "accelerate" their businesses.

The portfolio aims to address everything a print provider needs to run a business, from assessing digital opportunities before investing to increasing revenues and profits after an acquisition. The resources address financial operations, sales and marketing, creative and design, application development, paper and media, training, and business development support. Some of the tools and programs are aimed at print provider executives, others to sales and marketing staff, and still others to operations professionals.

 WTT: You have a tremendous background in workflow, which is so important to printers today. You also worked with Gil Hatch, who encouraged sales people to "Lead with Workflow." How does your workflow background help you in your new role and do you also have a workflow mandate in your new position?

MK: It was a privilege to work with Gil for several years and see his passion for this industry and toward helping customers. One of Gil's mottos, "Lead with Workflow," continues to ring true, since the biggest impact being felt on the business of today's printers comes from workflow. It's helping printers streamline, automate and integrate traditional offset and digital print processes to enable their businesses to grow revenue, cut costs and improve productivity.

The biggest impact being felt on the business of today's printers comes from workflow.

Xerox is continually making progress on the FreeFlow Digital Workflow Collection. As a company, we continue to provide innovative and comprehensive solutions for print on demand, book printing, personalized communications, promotional transactional, and continue our focus on complementing offset and digital printing.

WTT: Most of Xerox's efforts with the iGen3 and the rest of the DocuColor line have been directed at high-end production color. I know there is a transactional print installation in Japan that uses 24-iGens, but that may not be the best model for full-color, high-volume transactional printing. Do you see a market for full-color printing for high-volume transactional and direct mail applications that don't require iGen quality printing? How can this market be addressed?

MK: There absolutely is a market for these customers, and there is demand for full-color, high-volume direct-mail and transactional printing. And our customers are responding to the growing demand from their clients.

We have many customers using the iGen3 for direct-mail and transactional applications. Many are printing more than 1 million pages a month and have multiple machines. We are proud of their success and ability to generate these profitable print jobs. We also have customers such as Anderson Direct Marketing in San Diego, one of the leaders in using digital color printing for direct mail with multiple Xerox DocuColor 2060 and Xerox DocuColor 6060 Digital Presses.

WTT: If you could change one perception in the industry, what would it be? And what would you like to change it to?

MK: It would be that personalized printing is not as daunting as it may seem. While personalization can seem complex, the rewards are powerful, and many of our customers are profiting from a wide variety of revenue-generating applications. The new generation of digital color presses provides the right combination of excellent color image quality, fast processing and economical operation for profitable, but affordable personalized printing

Personalized printing is not as daunting as it may seem.

For example, DMI, a marketing services provider in Woburn, Mass., recently produced a personalized self-mailer for a services consulting company, inviting prospective clients to a seminar. The number of attendees who registered using the personalized mailer increased by 140 percent compared to the client's previous static data campaign.

EU Services, a full-service direct-mail provider in Rockville, Md., is producing customized promotional pieces for a long-distance telephone service provider on its iGen3 press. A Web site interface was created that allows the company's national office to change overall content and service offers on-demand. Local offices can then personalize promotional pieces specific to their regions, thereby eliminating the need to maintain an inventory.

WTT: What's Xerox's most undervalued offering or best kept secret?

MK: That we are providing customers not only the technology, but also the information they need to profit, such as workflow solutions, business development tools and customer support services that maximize uptime. We're helping our customers reach new markets by developing new applications that can help drive revenue -- whether it's personalized or transactional printing, MICR or wide-format printing, or a number of other markets in which our technology is helps drive our customers' success.

For instance, digital book production solutions could be considered one of our best-kept secrets. Xerox digital presses and "book factories" are used around the world to help revolutionize the economics and availability of book publishing and to create compelling books that are virtually indistinguishable from offset print technology.

In addition to supporting large publishers and book manufacturers, people who want to self-publish can use this technology to print their books the way they want to -- from choosing a cover design, to choosing a book size, to printing the number of copies. A great example of this is the Aspiring Authors Contest that we are showcasing at Print 05. In this contest, each "aspiring author" that entered had their book printed and perfect bound by ColorCentric Corporation, a Rochester-based commercial printer that produces more than 25,000 books on-demand every month.

WTT: What is Xerox showing at Print 05?

MK: At Print 05, we are demonstrating better ways for printers to generate revenue, streamline operations, add affordable color and create new business opportunities. The booth is divided into seven real-world application zones that address the needs of commercial printers, quick printers and in-plant print shops: offset and digital integration; print on demand; book solutions; personalizing for profit; agency and design services, wide-format solutions and ProfitAccelerator resources.

We differ from our competitors in that we're not just showing the latest digital printing technology. We are continuing to give customers the information they need to implement the technology to grow their businesses and increase profits.