In February 2018, Quantum Group announced that Cheryl Kahanec would take over as the company's new CEO. Prior to joining Quantum, Kahanec served as president of the Marketing Solutions Group for Mittera/EarthColor, preceded by various positions within the industry. With more than 35 years of experience, Kahanec is expected to continue to drive the company's strategic vision, as well as develop innovative solutions to meet the needs of marketers in the industry. Kahanec took some time to speak with Printing Impressions about her experience and what her plans are as the new CEO of Quantum Group.
Printing Impressions: Your more than three decades of industry experience has led you to become a top innovator and expert in the printing industry. Can you talk about the major roles and organizations that you served during that time period and what you have learned along the way?
Kahanec: Throughout my 35 years in this industry, I have had the great fortune to hold senior management positions within prepress and printing companies. At the same time, I have been offered the opportunity to participate in many different advisory roles and on several boards and councils for manufacturing and technology companies such as HP, Xerox, Canon, Ricoh, Landa and more.
Through these roles, I have been able to both actively influence the technology roadmap as our industry has grown and changed, and also receive valuable upcoming technological advancements.
A great example of how the industry has changed can be seen in my own career. I started working for the Boston and Maine Railroad in their in-house printing department as a typesetter. After that, I moved into the prepress industry. What is interesting is that those two industry verticals no longer exist, however, both processes happen every day - just in a very differently way than before. Both have also been transformed into steps in the marketing communications process.
In the past 25 years of my career, companies have been transitioning from conventional offset print to hybrid and digital print. As we transformed to digital for short runs, we realized that each piece could be personalized. That enabled brands to create relevant and unique communications, targeted to each of their customers.
I love that this industry is continually evolving - the pace of change can be rapid and you must be willing to change with it.
PI: You were one of the leading implementers of variable data color imaging technology and also helped to spearhead its growth. Can you discuss how this technology has evolved over the years and what the keys are for its success?
Kahanec: Variable data color imaging didn’t exist until about 25 years ago, so when it first came on the scene it was groundbreaking technology. In the early 1990s, we suddenly had presses that would allow us to change the contents of the entire page, on every collateral piece. Early on, the problem was that there was no variable data software that existed to handle all the possibilities of personalization other than mail merge or transactional programs.
I love technology, and advances in it, so I was determined to bring a new kind of digital printing to our clients, whether we had the right software or not. I’ll never forget the two months I spent working on my first variable data color imaging project. It taught me one of the toughest lessons I’ve ever learned: To be successful, make sure you have the software to support your new capabilities. Eventually, the software caught up to the hardware, but I would say that this technology is continuing to evolve. In our industry, we are always working to perfect things, grow them and take them to the next step.
PI: Along the same lines, what are some of the other big technological changes that you have witnessed during your career?
Kahanec: The biggest change I’ve seen is not actually within the technology itself, but in how we think about it. A huge paradigm shift is taking place with the growth of digital printing. We are moving into inkjet, nanographic imaging technologies and more. But while printing technology is continually changing, that's been occurring since the inception of the first printing press. The biggest change that I see happening now is the mindset of those in the industry. Print is not dying; rather it is undergoing a dramatic shift - moving toward highly variable, data-driven communications. We are now responsible for not only delivering a great product, but proving ROI and ensuring the effectiveness of our client’s communications.
PI: In your new role as CEO of Quantum, what do you hope to achieve in your position?
Kahanec: To start, I want to optimize the services we already offer and continue to look at new and better ways to serve our customers. We want to be the best in the country and, to do that, we are going to offer solutions that others aren’t even thinking of, let alone offering yet.
Quantum is the perfect-sized company. We are small enough to be nimble, but large enough to make waves in the industry. In this new role, I get to drive advancement and transformation, for our clients and our industry, which I am very excited to do.
PI: What are some of Quantum's plans (M&A, new equipment, expansion) in the next few years?
Kahanec: I have a lot planned for the next few years and I can tell you this - it’s all about the future benefits to our clients. One of our company’s pillars is guiding our customers to be more efficient and effective in today’s technology- and data-driven marketing environment. In the next few years, my plan is to help take Quantum to the next level by focusing on services that enable direct interaction between our clients and their customers. This will be key to our future growth
It used to be that we were just one component in the printing process – today, we are responsible for the quality of a piece, and we are also responsible for the entire supply chain surrounding it. My goal is to tie all of this together for our clients and guide them towards the best possible marketing communications results.
PI: What is your view on the future prognosis for the printing industry in general?
Kahanec: Although print continues to change and evolve, I fully anticipate the industry will continue to be critical to modern marketing communications. I love this industry and I have seen it regenerate itself in all kinds of ways throughout my career. A lot of people say that print is dead or dying; however, I think that we are actually on the cusp of a huge technological change, not at the end of one. The only direction from here is forward. I am proud to be a part of an industry that continually embraces new technology and is always asking, “what can we do to push the boundaries next?”
PI: What do you think the printing industry can do to help attract the next generation of leaders?
Kahanec: When we are trying to attract next generation of leaders I think it’s important to remind ourselves that the printing industry isn’t old, it's new. There are so many advancements in our industry bu,t when thinking about printing, most people picture an outdated conventional printing press. We need to show that printing is a sophisticated, technology-forward business. If we want to keep attracting the next generation, we can’t be afraid of technology and innovation - print is part of the future.