Incoming Xerox CEO Jeff Jacobson on Industry Challenges, Inkjet Game Plan
Effective the first of the year, Jeff Jacobson will be promoted to CEO of Xerox Corp. following its separation into two publicly held companies. Prior to joining Xerox in 2012 and serving in various roles there, the longtime industry veteran has held leadership positions at Presstek, Eastman Kodak and Kodak Polychrome Graphics. Printing Impressions Editor-in-Chief Mark Michelson sat down to conduct an exclusive Q&A session with him.
Mark Michelson: How do you think all of these past industry positions have prepared you for your new role at Xerox?
Jeff Jacobson: Even though I’ve been in the printing industry for 30 years, I’ve never been more excited about its prospects. Say, we size our market as basically a $90 billion market, but that’s [just] the digital market. Think about all of the offset and packaging that will be moving over to digital. The opportunities here alone are absolutely phenomenal, almost as large as the market we deal in today.
Michelson: With that said, our industry does still face many challenges. What do you think those challenges are?
Jacobson: Again, let’s go back to the market — $90 billion, and it’s declining two to three points. We consider ourselves the industry leader, but no company in our marketplace has more than a 30% market share. This means there are many customer opportunities and pockets of growth, such as direct mail or packaging. Look at some of the exciting things we’ve introduced in packaging and direct to object printing.
If we’re just going to think of the world as print on paper, I would probably share the view of the pundits of secular decline. We look at the world of print as a hub, but the adjacency is phenomenal.
Michelson: We’re now seeing an industry shift to production inkjet adoption, but Xerox still has a large manufacturing infrastructure and market share in digital toner. How are you going to segue to inkjet as a company because you really have your feet planted in both technologies?
Jacobson: Digital toner is going to be around a long time. We’ve been talking about inkjet now at least a good 10 years, and our industry is still in the very early stages of the inkjet game. When you think about being able to print on different stocks, the different workflows needed and the quality needed, we’re in the very early stages of inkjet.
We want to make [inkjet] additive and to build on top of it, so we’re making those investments. There’s no question, there is a shift moving to inkjet. We’re probably, on a single line item in production, certainly spending more on inkjet than any other technology. But that doesn’t mean we’re not investing a lot in our iGen platform as well. Together, with our partner Fuji-Xerox, we invest about $1 billion in R&D.
Michelson: With that said, Xerox is a latecomer to the inkjet space. Obviously, with the introduction of the cut-sheet Brenva HD, roll-to-sheet Rialto and continuous-feed Trivor 2400 inkjet presses at drupa, you’re trying to ramp up quickly. Still, some of your competitors do have a large head start.
Jacobson: We were later, I’d say, into the inkjet game. We had CiPress technology, no question. But then with the acquisition of Impika in 2013, we said all right, aqueous is really where we should be moving more toward. That doesn’t mean CiPress was not a good technology. It’s a great technology for certain applications, but we knew that if we wanted to go mainstream we had to be in aqueous inkjet.
If you look at where we are now — with the press introductions you mentioned — we’ve chosen to go into a space that will leverage our very large Xerographic base and the nice [inkjet] add-ons, not replacements. Customers tell me, ‘I’m still running my iGens, my entry-level production color devices and my Nuvera black-and-white presses. But I’m using this new technology to add on and supplement them.’
Right now, they still represent different applications, and we’re enabling our clients to get into inkjet printing at a lower total cost of ownership point, where it makes sense to them as they’re still learning.
Inkjet adoption represents big bets for everybody, but especially for the medium-sized printing businesses. And they realize that they don’t want to buy a technology that — five years down the road — is somewhat obsolete. We’ve more or less leveraged our portfolio so it could be more modular, which enables our customers to make those bets and still feel good about them.
Michelson: Workflow has always remained one of Xerox’s strengths, in that you have always looked at it more from an end-to-end solution offering. Is that still a key part of your value proposition?
Jacobson: That’s very astute. That really is Xerox’s value proposition to our customers because, in most cases, we are the face of the customer from the standpoint of systems integration with our various partners.
Michelson: You have a long industry background and are known for your desire to build close relationships. Some of your CEO predecessors at Xerox were never customer facing or they came up through the ranks as engineers. What added value do you think that really brings?
Jacobson: Everybody has a different style. I started my career in human resources, then became a labor and employment lawyer. I learned a long time ago that if you’re going to be successful, you better get out in front with customers and you better provide leadership. You learn so much more when you’re out in the marketplace visiting with customers.
One of the ways my executive team and I will differentiate ourselves is by giving customers the assurance that they can put a face to Xerox. That’s the beauty of this separation into two companies. We are de-layering and simplifying the organization so customers know who everybody is.
We want that intimacy, those close personal relationships with our client base because — when you have that — that’s a true formula for success.