Fireside Chats with RR Donnelley, 3D Printing Systems CEOs

EFI Connect 2015 is scheduled for January 20-23 at The Wynn in Las Vegas, and the WhatTheyThink video crew will be there to capture highlights and some great executive interviews. Senior Editor Cary Sherburne spoke with EFI COO Marc Olin to learn more about what we can expect to see at Connect. He also shares insight into EFI strategy and his evolving role as Chief Operating Officer of the company.

WTT: Marc, Guy’s Fireside Chats at Connect have become a tradition. I understand there will actually be two at Connect 2015.

MO: Yes, sort of bookending the conference. We had already announced that 3D Systems President & CEO Avi Reichental will be joining our CEO, Guy Gecht, for the closing Fireside Chat. And we just announced that RR Donnelley CEO Tom Quinlan will join Guy for a Fireside Chat on Wednesday the 21st.

WTT: That’s exciting! I’m looking forward to both of them. The 3D Systems choice is interesting, since EFI doesn’t have any 3D printing offerings at this time.

MO: We first brought up 3D printing as a trend that our customers should be looking at in our Executive Sessions at Connect about four years ago, before the big wave of energy around the technology. We have been keeping them updated about what we see in that space, and it seems now that some are starting to dabble in it. Staples, for example, has a 3D printing offering. As a company, we haven’t done much yet in terms of providing products for 3D printers or for customers using 3D output technology, but we are looking at some adaptations of different products to work along those lines.

WTT: One area that is just beginning to gain attention in the 3D space is color and color management. Do you think there is a Fiery 3D printing front end in EFI’s future?

MO: Color is becoming more of a discussion point in that segment; previously there wasn’t a technology capability with those printers. They are doing color by mixing together materials to simulate a color. As their capabilities become more significant in terms of being able to get to a specific PMS or other surface color and for halftone images, there seems to be growing interest. I think we are still a couple years away from getting close to the types of color we are used to in 2D print, but it is only a matter of time. Fiery is the predominant color management tool in the 2D industry, and I personally think there could be a 3D play for Fiery in the future.

WTT: It will be quite interesting to hear from RR Donnelley’s Tom Quinlan as well. What kind of questions do you think Guy will have for him?

MO: RR Donnelley is one of our largest customers, especially after its acquisition of Consolidated Graphics. RR Donnelley has EFI technology in at least 100 locations. We want to get some insight from Tom on what he sees as the general direction of the industry as a whole, including future trends, from the standpoint of customer demand, technology, consolidation, and so on. We are also interested to hear what he sees as the future of RR Donnelley in the industry, how he came to be where he is today, and any advice he has for other people in the industry. We probably won’t be asking about his favorite movie.

WTT: Yes, at Connect two years ago, Benny Landa had quite the answer to that question. I know it is early in the registration process for Connect, but how is that shaping up?

MO: We are up about 20% over this time last year, so that bodes well for overall attendance. By increasing our Connect curriculum to over 200 educational sessions, and having exposure to the CEO of the largest 2D printing and one of the largest 3D printing companies in the world, we believe we will draw even more people to register in the coming weeks

WTT: You also have NAPL’s Andy Paparozzi back again for a keynote.

MO: We think it is important to our customers to have a resource like Andy available who can talk about the larger economic trends. This is a valuable thing that they don’t get exposed to on a day-to-day basis. With Connect, we are trying to be more of a resource for the things they need to run their businesses and that has driven how we have shaped the speakers and topics we have covered at Connect over the years.

WTT: What else is new at Connect?

MO: The NAPL Executive Leadership Summit is co-located with Connect for the first time in 2015. This provides an opportunity for attendees to be exposed to a whole new range of topics which NAPL offers as part of this summit, and we think that will be extremely valuable as well.

WTT: Changing gears, maybe you could talk a little about your role as COO at EFI and what that entails.

MO: There are a lot of opportunities that EFI has not yet taken advantage of, to apply our technology in new ways for others in the general imaging supply chain. Our goal is to look for new areas where we can grow our business through additional acquisitions in new spaces, by partnering with new companies in new spaces, or by selling or licensing technology to companies that haven’t purchased from us before for new types of applications. I think we haven’t pushed the boundaries in a lot of areas. That’s one of the things Guy has charged me with to help grow the company. There’s nothing yet we can talk about, but a number of seeds have been planted that we can talk about later in 2015. When we do, they will be in areas that you never thought EFI could play in, but it will make a lot of sense when you think about it,, and of course it goes without saying that this is on the top of keeping very busy by staying involved with the activities we do with our existing clients around the world

WTT: A little mystery is always good. We’ll look forward to that news. Anything else you would like to share before we close?

MO: Connect 2015 will be like Connect on steroids, with the speakers this year, the NAPL executive leadership summit which we have never had before, plus the rest of the great content the team is putting together and our great group of sponsors increase the value Connect can provide to the industry. In addition, we have lots of new technologies that we and our partners will be showing in the computer lab to help our clients find new ways to grow their businesses and become more profitable. We’ve found that the industry leaders have discovered ways to grow both their revenues and profits much faster than others by going after new market segments and leveraging new technology – going to the “windows of opportunity” that Guy has mentioned in his speeches before. Connect is a great place to learn both from EFI and from other printers what is working today within the industry. We are hoping this will encourage a lot of additional customers to come out and enjoy the conference and the Wynn!