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Sun 19 Jun 2005 04:00 AM

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Making sure your colours match up

Ben Gale from Xerox believes the company is well placed to meet the demand for colour printing — and help businesses justify the cost of colour-capable solutions

|~|main_xerox_interview.jpg|~|Xerox is working on colour technology solutions for a number of customers including graphic arts, Gale states.|~|A study conducted by Xerox and IDC revealed that about 15 billion pages were printed in digital colour in 2002. Both parties expect this number to grow exponentially, reaching 75 billion pages in 2010.

Colour printing is fast becoming the latest focus of printing and imaging companies, with companies such as HP increasing their range of colour-enabled devices. Xerox also considers colour printing, along with its document services, as the company’s key growth areas.

Ben Gale, general manager, sales and marketing, distributor operations, Xerox International, describes what his company can deliver in terms of colour technology and how Xerox can help business users achieve return on investment on its colour-capable devices.

It seems that Xerox is making a big marketing push in the region. What is the reason behind it?

We are very well positioned at the high end, in terms of our solutions, the people, the process, and the technology. Xerox is moving more into the small and medium-sized businesses. Within that arena, you not only need to have the right coverage level, you also have to make your customers, your partners — whether it’s distributors or resellers — understand what technology, what solutions and what value-add we can bring to their business. Our marketing strength lies more in campaign awareness because Xerox is, and always has been, a market leader in terms of colour, networked solutions and in terms of bringing all the technology that we have into play in the right way. We just need to take that and use the marketing campaigns for awareness to our customers and to our potential customers. So the marketing spend absolutely underpins our strategy, which is the route to market.

Xerox is very much known in this region as a manufacturer of printing and imaging devices. Is this what you will be focusing on or are there other parts of your business you want to highlight in the region?

If you look at Xerox, we have three main areas. We have Xerox Global Services, which is very much about document management. It is based around facilities management, whereby we take on board our customers requirements that we can address through our core competencies. Global Services is very much about not only having the technology but also about the right people that we can bring in to manage those processes and the right software that we can bring in to underpin that.

We also have our production systems, which is where our high-end customers come from. We have Xerox Office as well, which covers the small-end, low-end printers all the way up to multifunctional devices that sit in the office.

According to your CEO, Anne Mulcahy, one of the key points of focus for Xerox will be on colour printing solutions. HP has announced a similar strategy. What will be the impact of this new trend in terms of the technology and market pricing?

Our strategy is very much built around bringing colour to what is already a colourful region and a colourful world. Colour is important to business because it increases retention and puts across a professional image.

We are working on colour technology on different fronts. For instance, we are addressing the needs of the most colour critical users we know, which is the graphic arts community. In the past, the graphic arts community used to complain that in terms of digital printing the size of the paper isn’t big enough to do their work, or that the cost is too high, or that the quality isn’t as good as offset. They were not sure about digital printing.

Xerox has spent, and is spending, a great deal on research and development. We are one of the top spenders worldwide on research and development and also one of the top five spenders on research and development in the printing industry.

From the time when we launched the first colour copier for Walt Disney we have been trying to drive innovation. We have addressed the issue about size of the sheets so that they [graphic arts community] can print on an A4, an A5, a postcard sign, or all the way up to a full banner. Regarding the cost concerns, we’ve been trying to drive the cost down for our business so as to make the cost per page cheaper, while at the same time improving the quality.

If you look at business colour or people using colour in the office, we have launched something called Colour Capable strategy for our multifunction devices in the region. What we are trying to do with colour capable is to keep the black and white printing price the same, have the entire multifunction features — print, copy, fax and scan — available in our products, and also add a fifth function, which is colour. What this means is that our devices are now colour enabled so everyone who wants to use colour in the office, whether it be for the traditional PowerPoint slides, the office documents or the proposals they’ve put together, our colour capable strategy enables our customers to do that.

Aside from your Colour Capable strategy, you also have something called Colour Everywhere. What is this all about?

We have launched a number of new products; iGEN3 is one of those products. We’ve launched a number of new office products as well, and we will continue to do that, so we are launching another five new products this year. We’re also bringing in more innovation into our products. Last year, we had over 750 inventions, a lot of it within the colour market space, and over 450 new patents, specifically from Xerox in the printing and imaging business. We are bringing new and innovative products to market all the time, as well as new and innovative software. Colour Everywhere is also about working with our customers and how best they can utilise our products. There are a number of open houses and workshops where we bring our customers to see the value of colour to their business.

How do you make sure that Xerox understands what business users need?

To understand our customers better, we speak to them face-to-face rather than just sending a questionnaire out. Xerox Global Services, our document consultancy arm, initiates such customer meetings by having a Global Service specialist visit a customer site, work the floors, and talk to the people about how they utilise colour, what type of functions they need, what type of problems they have and what type of applications they would like to have.

A majority of these customers say that they want something that’s easy to use, that has all the functionalities of a black and white multifunction device while, at the same time, they want colour included as well. That’s one of the things that have actually driven us with our colour multifunction strategy.

When it comes to colour printing what kind of technology do you offer that is unique to Xerox?

We have recently announced a new partnership with Creo. Creo is well known throughout the pre-press world for its excellent colour management. Xerox does the press marking engines — the actual engine that puts the toner or the ink to the paper — that helps people in the printing business make sure that the colours they are printing are absolutely right — that it is the exact Xerox red or Coca-Cola red being printed. For this industry, you have to make sure that you get the pantone matching correct. You have to deliver consistent replicable colour across every single page you do.

In fact, one industry expert, Dr. George Nubar Simonian, has said that when he tested all the digital technologies available, he found that Xerox offers a 1:10,000 match, which is the most consistent throughout the first page and the last page.

We also have something called I-TRACS (Intelligent-Toner Reproduction Auto Correction System). I-TRACS is an intricate arrangement of sensors and software, which constantly monitors every aspect of the system and makes quality adjustments on the fly. I-TRACS automatically prints a test page and inspects the image as it exits the machine. It could tell the density of the colour, whether the colour is laid down the right way, so every single page remains consistent. For the SMBs, we have a technology called solid ink technology, which provides a low cost per run, high-quality colour printing.

What about in terms of security?

One of the big concerns people have about colour is if the added costs that a colour capable device will impose because everyone is going to want to print in colour. What Xerox has done is to make sure that we have password entry features and other security features, which does not allow people to reprint We also have card systems in place where people have to actually get an authorisation to print [in colour].

We have software security around documents, and around controlling who can print colour and in what quantities they can print colour. One of the key things that we’ve looked at is variable data. Everyone likes to be treated as an individual.

For example, if you are writing to a customer, you want it to be personalised. Instead of printing ‘Dear customer’ you want your client’s first name printed instead.

Tesco in the UK, for instance, has a loyalty programme where that loyalty programme allows it to take a customer’s card, swipe it, and from there understand what its customers buying patterns are and subsequently send that customer vouchers (printed in full colour) that are specific to his or her buying habits. We have software that enables this one-to-one marketing approach, so every single page can be different for every single customer, and it’s all done in full rich Xerox colour. The technology enables companies like Tesco to sell more products, to be able to speak to their customers much better, and to improve their customer relationships.

In fact, that’s what colour printing should be about. It shouldn’t just be about having nice printouts because it’s in colour. Colour should actually have a return on investment, and that’s what we are trying to do with our people, our processes and our technology. It should always be about how to get the return on investment from colour.

Do business users understand the need for colour and not just look at it as simply an add-on?

I think if you look around the world, there aren’t too many black and white things around. Let’s talk about black and white TVs. At some stage someone took the first colour TV. They started broadcasting in colour. People were already using colour, whether it’s in overhead projections, in-house printing, out-house printing through their commercial print partners —which is all done in colour. If you give users the ability to work on the screen in colour, think in colour, and understand what their customers want in colour, then they will absolutely know why there is a need for colour, which is about making sure that the return on investment justifies the costs in colour.

Is Xerox primarily focused on enterprise users? Are you looking at targeting consumers as well?

At the moment we focus primarily on business to business. We work very much with small businesses all the way to medium-sized companies, large enterprises and multinational, global companies. Xerox works on laser printers. We don’t have an inkjet printer range. And that works very well for the SMBs. In terms of the home market, we don’t focus on it. We tend to work with business critical documents, offering the best ROI and the best value-add within those businesses. If you look at Xerox’s business value proposition, it is very much about people, process and technology. It’s about taking all those together, and the support that we can give are best served for the SMBs and large-scale enterprise.||**||

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