The first order of business for Xerox will be to establish the Impika brand in the U.S. market, where it currently has little visibility. Next will be getting Impika equipment into Xerox’s well-established distribution channels alongside the company’s other production inkjet solution, the CiPress. Harmonizing sales forces, aligning R&D activities, and building up customer support capability will cap efforts to cement the major-player status in inkjet that Xerox hopes the Impika acquisition will give it.
Andrew Copley, senior vice president of the Xerox Graphic Communications Business Group, sketched the go-to-market strategy for Impika in a call last week with WhatTheyThink. Impika, he said, significantly broadens Xerox’s color production portfolio by giving it a base in aqueous inkjet, a technology that Xerox has not developed on its own. Xerox will return the favor by offering Impika a U.S. market footprint that it could only dream about as a relatively small independent manufacturer in its home country, France.
Impika makes piezoelectric, drop-on-demand, continuous-feed production presses as well as an inline inkjet engine that can be integrated with other printing systems, including offset. The Xerox CiPress, in contrast, uses a phase-changing solid polymer ink that enables it to operate as a waterless inkjet printer. Xerox says that having both processes means that it can offer inkjet solutions to customers regardless of what types of paper they commonly run. The combination also spans the broadest range of quality requirements for inkjet production, according to Xerox.
It’s Copley’s job to make these advantages clear to the marketplace at large. He’ll begin by placing Impika hardware where potential customers in the U.S. can see it—an important step forward given that Impika, lacking a U.S. distribution channel until now, has not yet installed its iPrint or iPress machines anywhere in the states.
Copley said that the first Impika press on U.S. soil will be a machine destined for Xerox’s Gil Hatch Center for Customer Innovation in Webster, NY, where it will be used to get Xerox sales and service personnel better acquainted with the new product line. Impika presses will have their general North American debut at Print 13 with a model on display at the Xerox stand.
Xerox, which had been reselling Impika presses in Europe prior to the acquisition, will deploy a continuous-feed inkjet sales team in the U.S. to represent both Impika equipment and the CiPress. Xerox will cross-train its technicians to service and support both platforms, Copley said.
The sales group also will offer Impika’s iEngine 1000 inline units, which have been installed at a few U.S. plants. Copley said that inline inkjet was “one of the most exciting parts” of the acquisition, opening an entirely new opportunity for Xerox.
Announcing his company’s acquisition by Xerox last month, Impika founder Paul Morgavi said that plans were in place to add a cut-sheet, B2-format inkjet press to the Impika product line. Copley said that although it was too soon to comment on the progress of that development, building a sheetfed inkjet press was a project that Xerox could significantly assist with its expertise in cut-sheet paper handling and other digital printing technologies.
Xerox has no current plans to make a cut-sheet version of the continuous-feed CiPress. Next month, said Copley, the company will introduce a non-inkjet cut-sheet device aimed at transactional printing.
Transactional printing on low-cost paper was promoted as one of the primary applications for the CiPress waterless printing system at its launch in 2011, and Copley said that this kind of work continues to be a “sweet spot” for the platform. Impika presses have many sweet spots of their own, he said, adding that customer preference will dictate how much crossover there is to be between the two systems in terms of end-use.
Now that it is developing a substantial capability in inkjet, Xerox will have to make similar marketing distinctions between that process and the electrophotographic systems—iGen, DocuColor, Nuvera, and others—through which it holds sway in toner-based production. But, being obliged to help its customers decide which method to use for what application is “a nice problem to have,” Copley said.
The selling proposition for all Xerox products, he said, is “not just the technology” but a compilation of hardware and services that includes support in workflow, business development, and other areas of vital concern to customers.
Having added Impika, Xerox believes that it finally is poised to make this proposition as credibly in inkjet as it always has in toner. The acquisition “gives us the jump-start in the inkjet space that we were looking for,” Copley said.