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With a New Launch Pad, Kodak Polychrome Graphics Takes Off

October 1998
At Graph Expo and Converting Expo later this month, Kodak Polychrome Graphics—the joint venture of Eastman Kodak and Sun Chemical—will showcase a new product, its first major launch since the company's inception. The device is the Kodak Approval XP4 digital halftone proofer.

Recently, Jeff Jacobson, president of Kodak Polychrome Graphics, U.S. and Canada, met with Printing

Impressions to share his thoughts on the company's aggressive positioning in the digital halftone proofing market, the direction the now-established joint venture is heading from a technology and marketing standpoint, and why he absolutely can't tolerate the annoying acronym that often plagues this young company.

BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO


Getting Jeff Jacobson to sit still long enough to give an interview is no easy task. He travels—beyond extensively—visiting commercial printing sites, attending trade shows and industry conferences, making sales calls and leading meetings with members of the Kodak Polychrome Graphics team.

Taking days off isn't in Jacobson's daily planner. He's 110 percent business, 111 percent corporate and 112 percent entrenched in marketing and sales decision-making.

As a key figure in the energetic young company that is Kodak Polychrome Graphics, Jacobson knows there is much to do, so taking time off isn't in his chemical makeup. He's decisive, hard-working—all business. He is a self-confessed workaholic.

On this particular afternoon, though, Jacobson is not traveling. He is not responding to e-mails on his laptop while flying at 36,000 feet, bound for a conference. He is not standing in front of a crowded room of trade press, fielding questions about his company's positioning in the industry and reporting on corporate activities. He is not shaking hands with a top commercial printing executive, as a critical sales call begins.

On this afternoon, Jacobson is relaxed, perhaps for a change, sitting in his office in the Norwalk, CT, headquarters of the Eastman Kodak/Sun Chemical joint venture that has caught the attention of the prepress industry.

Kodak Polychrome Graphics is a new player, but an enormous presence in the market. Jacobson speaks proudly of the company's vitality and its strength in the United States and Canada.

"The creation of the joint venture signals our parent companies' commitment to the graphic arts industry," Jacobson states definitively.

But great lineage does not equal success, Jacobson warns.

"Our parent companies' commitment brings us to the table," he says. "But this organization will thrive in the marketplace because we have the very best technology and customer support, and because we have collected an outstanding group of people."

Now, Jacobson is fired up. He leans forward in his chair, punching each word for emphasis as his thoughts focus on Kodak Polychrome Graphics' market presence in the graphic arts. One can easily tell Jacobson takes the company's success very personally.

"We intend to be the very best in this business," he announces. "Part of being the best is the introduction of cutting-edge technology."

Recently, the company—never to be referred to in an abbreviated manner, always as Kodak Polychrome Graphics—launched its first major new product, the Kodak Approval XP digital halftone proofer.

Building on the name and technological reputation of the Kodak Approval, the XP4, the four-up version, can output 16 pages per hour.

Kodak Polychrome Graphics also recently launched the Kodak 800 XL laminator designed for use with the Kodak Approval XP.

Termed an integral component in the Kodak Approval XP system, the 800 XL allows for three levels of gloss and is capable of laminating large projects, including posters.

Jacobson is quick to talk about the Kodak Approval XP—what it means to the joint venture and its potential ramifications for the now quite aggressive digital halftone proofing market. Modesty isn't on Jacobson's mind when the topic is the success of the Kodak Approval.

Then again, few would argue against his view of the digital proofing device that caused such a stir.

"The original Kodak Approval system set the standard for industry performance in digital proofing since its introduction in 1992," Jacobson says. "Now, with the Kodak Approval XP, we have raised the bar once again.

"We are on the cutting edge in CTP, we are at the forefront of digital technology, and we are a generation ahead in thermal plates, introducing the second wave while our competitors are just riding the first wave," Jacobson trumpets. He also notes that, at present, the company is in the process of developing several new plate products—many with a thermal focus—a unique dry thermal film and a series of proofing systems.

Beyond these specific products, though, Jacobson's thoughts drift to Chicago's GRAPH EXPO 98 and CONVERTING EXPO 98, the first major showing of Kodak Polychrome Graphics in the United States.

He is quick to point out that GRAPH EXPO and CONVERTING EXPO will solidify to the U.S. market that Kodak Polychrome Graphics is indeed a completely different company: a unique collection of leading technologists, savvy corporate administrators and world-class innovators from Eastman Kodak, Sun Chemical and Horsell Anitec, which the joint venture acquired in April.

"We are putting a great deal of energy, vitality and dollars into extensive research and development," Jacobson reports. "We may be a new company, but we are founded on decades of top technology innovation and leading products."

And the hits keep on coming.
 

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