‘Creating a recipe for success’
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Last month’s EFI user conference in Las Vegas may have marked a number of debuts, most notably the inaugural Connect for its new private equity owners, new CEO and new CTO, but the overarching message was a very familiar one.
Chief executive Jeff Jacobson used his opening keynote to ask the sector to do more to “lift itself up... because there’s a lot of growth in this great industry”.
He said that his “break from industry” between leaving Xerox in May 2018 and returning, initially as EFI executive chairman and then as CEO, had given him a great perspective and the ability to reflect on print’s opportunities.
“It’s what this conference is all about, it’s about connecting, it’s about learning, connecting, socialising and lifting each other up,” he said.
The focus of his session was “the now and future pendulum” looking at the competing interests many print businesses leaders face in running a successful business today, while remaining agile enough to embrace the opportunities of tomorrow.
“My question is a simple one with perhaps a more complex answer. Why do we need to choose between the now and the future?” he asked the circa 800-strong audience of EFI customers attending the 21st Connect convention.
He added that the same question had been asked throughout his 30-plus-year career in print and, he believed, always would be.
“The technology may change, but the questions remain the same,” Jacobson stated.
And on the subject of technology, while the firm didn’t drop any Drupa bombshells about its plans, other than to hint that there would be a number of “significant launches” on display, it did use Connect as the official launchpad for two new mid-range roll-to-roll superwide LED inkjet printers: the 204sqm/hr, 3.5m-wide EFI Vutek D3r and 244sqm/hr, 5.2m-wide D5r (see p48).
It also used the event to give customers a taster of some of the upcoming enhancements to its print and packaging workflows, including EFI Productivity Suite. Many of the new features were detailed in workshop sessions and shown in practical demonstrations in the event’s solutions centre, which also featured exhibits from EFI partners including 3M, Duplo, Enfocus, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Riso and Zünd.
As well as the new technologies, EFI’s new CTO, former Xaar CEO Doug Edwards also made his Connect debut at this year’s event.
Speaking nine days into his new role, he said: “In the short term, I’m looking at the industrial inkjet business, trying to look for the synergies across those business units because I think there are many.”
However, he said that he was still developing his understanding of the full breadth of EFI’s portfolio, which he called “unrivalled”.
In terms of longer term plans, Edwards said it was very early days, but that the scale of the opportunities in some of the markets EFI operates in was one of the key draws of the role.
“We’re in some areas of early transition. I mean textiles is, as you know, couple of percent digital now and packaging, likewise. So they’ve got lots of runway. But I also think there’s some new applications we could very easily get into if we wanted to.”
He was tight lipped on some of the new applications, although with 3D one of the successes during his tenure at Xaar that seems likely to be a possible area of interest.
“If you look at the capabilities of this organisation technically, there are a lot of things that we could get involved in if we chose to, and probably could do extremely well. But I’m keeping my powder dry on those for now,” said Edwards.
And the future direction of businesses, albeit from a client perspective, was something Jacobson explored in his keynote.
“Companies will never move forward if they do not take well-thought-out risks, create sound plans with measurements, metrics, and KPIs and have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
He said one of the keys to successful leadership was: “Blending those who are risk averse with those who are risk takers, and creating a recipe for success.”
Jacobson also talked about EFI’s new owner Siris Capital. He noted that, like all PE firms, Siris cared a great deal about growth, cashflow and profitability. But he said just as important were the “quality, service and technology investments we’re going to make. So that we don’t focus on short-term thinking, we focus on long-term thinking.”
“So, I don’t think this company can have a better owner than we have today.”