'Take a Look' at Ricoh Interact

Conference gathers PSPs, industry analysts, and OEMs in Denver for four-day event.

Interact, Ricoh’s annual user conference, hosted 65 sponsors, 140 customers, and a plethora of industry leaders, press members, and Ricoh executives and partners at the Denver Marriot Tech Center June 4-7. The event offered networking, tours of the Customer Experience Center, and educational sessions (49, to be exact). In previous years, the event has centered around the company’s continuous-feed inkjet presses, but Interact 2019 broadened its focus to the wide-format digital print industry. 

Big Picture’s Editor-in-Chief Adrienne Palmer led a panel session touching on just that: “Bridging the Gap: Commercial Meets Wide Format.” The session helped connect Ricoh’s current commercial print users and the company’s latest wide-format offerings. The panel consisted of three former commercial-only PSPs who shared how they successfully transitioned to the wide-format digital print world. Attendees were give a unique chance to hear about accomplishments, challenges, troubleshooting, and more, straight from the shop floor.Interact 2019

Panelists included:

● Bill Ensley, founder of Bear Printing in Milwaukie, Oregon
● Nathaniel Grant, president of Graphics and Marketing (GAM) in Sterling, Virginia
● Andy Poole, owner of Time Printing Solutions Provider (TP) in Sacramento, California

Ensley, a second-generation printer primarily in the real estate business, entered the signage market in 2007 with a small sign designed for realtors called a PermaFlyer, an all-weather, plastic version of real estate flyers that mounts directly to sign posts to replace the “always empty” flyer box.

The signs were originally created via Bear Printing’s digital presses by printing onto a vinyl label and then laminating with a UV protective film. The shop purchased its first flatbed, the Mimaki JFX200-2531 UV press, in 2015 and then an EFI Pro 24f in 2018 through Ricoh. “It was a complete no brainer,” Ensley said. “We actually had about a $4000 negative delta back into our pockets in the cost savings of the manpower, UV laminate, and waste.”

While Grant and Poole find success in new and exciting wide-format print applications (“Wide format allows you to get out of the box. … I enjoy the reaction from the customers when they see the product they’re getting,” Poole said), Bear Printing “strives to consistently be boring,” Ensley said. “New and exciting can break our flow.”

While the panelists’ offerings vary, they found common ground in what to do before entering the market and the consistent challenges that arise once you’re in it. 

Interact 2019 graphicsGAM has undergone many transformations since its opening in 1976, from lithography, to 4-color presses, to digital printing and web-based technologies leveraging variable data. The shop brought wide-format operations in-house in 1998 and went completely digital in 2013. When it comes to paying attention to advancements in technology and changing with the market, “identify what you need and what you can afford,” Grant said. “Know what you want to sell and who you want to sell to,” Ensley continued.

Color management was also a hot topic:

“Getting products to match each other in color is our challenge,” Ensley said. 

“Emphasize color management out the gate,” Poole added.

Lucky for Grant, he has placed the highest value on his in-house design team since the beginning. “As soon as my designer can see what a machine can do, he can run.”

Poole, an industry vet with 40-plus years in the 40-inch world under his belt, believes “It’s all about reputation and quality.” He loves to push the boundaries of every print application, but said “the money is made in banners and signage.” Through TP’s relationship with Ricoh, the shop now owns an EFI Pro 16h, a Ricoh Pro L4160, a Mimaki CG-130FXII, and a Colex Sharpcut 1631SXC. 

Notable Wide-Format Sessions

Market Trends

Eric Zimmerman, director of wide-format print service at Keypoint Intelligence, presented a session on current wide-format market trends. 

Top takeaways:

● More than 70 percent of wide-format print providers address environmental demands with no negative impact on business.
● More than 75 percent of wide-format output is produced on flexible media.
● Top growing applications are wallcoverings/interiors, P-O-P displays/signs, and vehicle graphics.
● PSPs are investing in VOC-free inks, training their employees on the benefits of being a sustainable shop, and using energy efficient and certified equipment in order to be environmentally responsible.
● Fourteen billion square feet of wide format will be produced in 2020 in North America alone.
● Zimmerman compared 2019 wide-format digital print customers to Veruca Salt from the iconic film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” – "But I want it now!" Turnaround times are getting shorter and shorter as technology improves and the “Amazon effect” sets in.

Growing Your Business

Dan Johansen, marketing manager of commercial and industrial printing at Ricoh, led an interactive session titled “How to Grow Your Margins Exponentially with Wide-Format Printing.” Johansen discussed how PSPs can leverage wide-format printing to deliver impactful products to their customers and high-margin products to their business.

Johansen’s first question to the group:

Which client base is spending more on wide-format purchases in 2018? 

A.    Healthcare
B.    Advertising
C.    Construction
D.    Education

The answer is healthcare. Did you get it right? How are you leveraging this market?

Johansen believes customer demand for diversity in substrates is driving new opportunities. “There's a product for virtually every application and every surface is an art board,” he said. “Substrates are a critical component in wide-format manufacturing and economics.”

What’s the average sell price across the US for wide-format output (price per square foot) at retail? 

A.    $4 
B.    $5
C.    $6
D.    $7

The answer is $7. Most printers aren’t charging enough. 

Do you know what reasonable net profit your shop can make from wide-format printing? 

The answer is 60 percent. Take a look at your profits YTD to see where you land.

For live updates from industry conferences and shows around the world, follow Editor-in-Chief Adrienne Palmer and Big Picture magazine on Twitter.