Last week, I joined a small group of media and analyst colleagues at Ricoh’s Global Executive Briefing Center in Boulder CO, the largest of four such centers worldwide, for an update on Ricoh’s strategy and a visit to some of the company’s labs. Ricoh, whose headquarters are at the previous IKON facility in Malvern PA, employs 21,000 people in the U.S., including more than 950 professional services, IT and service personnel. According to Brian Dollard, Director of Strategic Planning and Business Development, the company has doubled the size of its Commercial and Industrial Printing Group (CIPG) sales force since April, an indication of the level of investments the company is making in this part of its business. Ricoh defines “industrial” as any printing that is part of a manufacturing process, including wide format (including textiles) and packaging.
Dollard stated, “Our intent is to increase outreach to the market for CIPG with both internally developed and acquired technologies, and extend our service and sales footprint. This includes a complete workflow and an extensive partner program.”
In addition to expanding its internal sales force, Ricoh is also investing in the expansion of its dealer channel, including the ability for dealers to sell production-class sheetfed and wide format printers, but not continuous feed at this time. A dealer advisory council has been established to help in these efforts.
The company has an impressive collection of products, both from Ricoh and its partners, in its extensive demo center at the Boulder facility, including the Ricoh Pro VC40000 (on the right) and various configurations of the Ricoh Pro VC60000 (one at the far end), as well as a variety of sheetfed and wide format printers, including printers from Mimaki and EFI. A wide selection of partner finishing equipment is also available on site. And the center features software from Ricoh and its partners as well, with the ability to demonstrate a complete end-to-end workflow for many applications.
According to Chris Reid, Vice President of Software and Services, “We have the broadest software and services offering in the market, and we find that we are spending more time these days talking about the workflow with customers before they make the equipment decision.” Reid reported that there is a team of more than 50 people in Boulder who are dedicated to project management, custom development, integration and support of Ricoh and third-party software. “An increasing number of deals are turning into a subscription model that includes software and management of the services,” he added. Ricoh also offers an extensive color management service that supports offset as well as digital.
During the session, we were also able to visit several of the Ricoh labs, including the paper lab where substrate testing is constantly underway, and a lab that contains at least one of most of the inkjet continuous feed printers Ricoh has offered to the market, including various configurations of the InfoPrint 5000, which is still being sold. This allows them to not only continue development of the newer products, but to troubleshoot hardware and software issues that may occur with any of the systems currently installed in the field.
While Ricoh, through its joint venture with IBM that was ultimately fully acquired by Ricoh, was one of the earliest entrants into the production inkjet marketplace, our readers may not be aware that its inkjet expertise goes beyond those presses. In fact, Ricoh inkjet heads are used in a wide variety of third-party devices, including printers from Mimaki and others. Globally, 5.3% of Ricoh revenues are plowed back into R&D, and while the specific amount devoted to inkjet development was not specified, one can imagine it is an important component of the overall R&D program, applying not only to 2D printing but to other industrial uses as well, including 3D printing. The company also has an extensive development program for inkjet inks, as well as toners for its electrophotographic presses – we were able to see white, clear, fluorescent pink and fluorescent yellow samples from the Ricoh Pro 7100 and were given to understand that perhaps more colors might be on the way for use in the 5th station of the press. It was clear from the discussion that both inkjet and toner development continues apace, with each having its place in the market for the foreseeable future.
With the new energy and investments infused into CIPG, Ricoh has promised to increase its outreach to the media and analyst community, keeping us updated as new developments occur. And in turn, we will keep our readers updated. Stay tuned!