On the Road: Customer Interaction Takes Center Stage at EFI ConnectFebruary 2013 By Mark Michelson
LAS VEGAS—EFI proved that "what happens in Vegas doesn't have to stay in Vegas," especially for the roughly 800 attendees who could select from more than 150 breakout and training sessions at the EFI Connect users' group meeting held here Jan. 15-18 at the Wynn Las Vegas. Sessions covered MIS/ERP software, Web-to-print systems, industrial inkjet printers and Fiery technology.
"This was the largest-ever Connect event (more than 1,100 people in total), and this year our customers had more access to EFI personnel than ever before," said Frank Mallozzi, senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at EFI. "That level of interaction, and the educational programming we've assembled, make Connect one of a select few conferences that provide a high return on investment by giving attendees tangible business strategies for future success." The annual conference helps EFI's customers improve their businesses by giving them tools to operate with greater efficiency, develop new applications and apply forward-thinking innovation.
Event highlights included a fireside chat between EFI CEO Guy Gecht and Indigo founder and Landa Corp. Chairman and CEO Benny Landa. In a free-ranging discussion, Landa noted that his company received 430 letters of intent (with the majority of the deposits paid) at drupa for Landa Nanographic Printing presses, most of them for B1-format sheetfed models. He indicated that the 1,200 dpi, beta machines will be installed in the U.S. and Europe by the end of 2013, with full-scale production beginning next year. Landa revealed that, like the early days with Indigo press installations, a Landa trainer will come with the press, and the trainer will also act as a service technician for other Landa press users as the market adoption grows.
One of the more memorable moments during the fireside chat was near the end when Gecht tried to delve more into Landa's personal life and hobbies. Landa did recount his childhood and the entrepreneurial spirit of his father, but became uncomfortable as Gecht pressed him about what books he's read lately, what music he listens to and what movies Landa had seen. Gecht was left speechless when Landa quipped that he enjoyed a movie he saw in the 1970s called "Debbie Does Dallas." Landa's retort had the desired effect, as Gecht stopped asking personal questions and concluded the 1:1 interview with the audience in full laughter.
Gecht's keynote address earlier the same day, "Opening the Doors to Your Window of Opportunity," offered conference attendees four suggestions on how to take advantage of opportunities and continue to grow in the future: Find out what your customers will need (three-to-five years out). Never stop innovating. Work with companies that invest in innovation. Never stop increasing productivity.
Saying that EFI is "walking the talk" to help its customers open doors, Gecht pointed out that EFI continues to invest 20 percent of its revenue in R&D, with more than 800 developers and engineers in the United States and India. In addition to featuring VUTEk, EFI wide-format and Jetrion inkjet production printers, Connect technology highlights this year included a newly enhanced line of JDF-certified Fiery digital front ends, as well as a complete lineup of EFI Productivity Software products.
Although Gecht predicts that, in 10 years, total printed page output will be down 10 percent, he says digitally produced pages will grow 98.5 percent—and UV inkjet square footage output will skyrocket 156 percent.
Gecht also announced that EFI will seek out more strategic acquisitions in 2013, continuing the momentum the industry supplier has had from the deals completed last year to purchase Web-to-print and dynamic publishing firm Online Print Solutions (OPS) and print MIS/ERP provider Technique. He noted that the leaders from the last 10 out of 11 acquisitions consummated by EFI are still working at EFI today.
In a followup Q&A with journalists and analysts, Gecht also dispelled rumors that publicly held EFI is seeking to go private due to its strong balance sheet (including three consecutive years of double-digit growth), which is not reflected in its stock price or appreciated by Wall Street.
Frank Romano, RIT professor emeritus, moderated a printer panel featuring Christopher Calabria, Tukaiz; Ed MacLean, Daniels; Brett McNerney, Think Patented; Nick Olson, PVS In-Store Graphics; Greg Smith, Vector Printing; and Bill White, J.S. McCarthy.
EFI partners participating comprised 3M Commercial Graphics, Agile Network, Bunting Magnetics, Carlson Advisors, Esko, Honle UV America, KIP America, Kodak, Konica Minolta, MBM Corp., Metamation, Metrix Software, MGI USA, Pantone, Ricoh, SmartLinc, Xerox, xpedx and Zund.
The next Connect conference will take place Jan. 21-24, 2014, again at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort. PI