thINK Ahead 22 Conference Reunites Canon Production Inkjet Printing Community
On the heels of last year’s conference that had to be held in two waves due to COVID-related social distancing protocols, the eighth annual thINK Ahead 22 conference of Canon production inkjet users returned to its winning formula of a single event, complete with insightful educational breakout and general sessions, numerous networking opportunities, and deep-dive equipment demonstrations held at the nearby Canon Americas Customer Innovation Center.
The desire to meet face-to-face drew a robust turnout of 374 total attendees for the July 18-20, 2022, "Back to Boca" event held at The Boca Raton resort in Boca Raton, Florida, including 160 current Canon production inkjet printing customers, 45 inkjet prospects, and 87 Partner Sponsors.
“We certainly couldn’t have predicted eight years ago the new demands our businesses would be facing now — but what we did know then stands true today; coming together as a community to learn how to best tackle our current challenges and capitalize on new opportunities is powerful,” pointed out thINK Board President Todd Roth, VP of manufacturing & distribution at Core Publishing Solutions, in a welcome note to conference attendees.
And the challenges the printing industry faces persists: supply chain shortages, especially paper, as well as raw materials, computer chips, and other components; skilled labor shortages; shipping delays; skyrocketing inflation; and continued industry consolidation.
These issues were discussed during a breakout session focused on macro trends impacting the industry, led by IT Strategies VP Marco Boer. “It remains an offset world but, as print costs continue to rise and economies of scale decline, there will be fewer printed pages,” he said. “The pages that will be printed will be more valuable, or else they wouldn’t be printed. The lowest cost-per-thousand business model will be replaced by the consultative print sales approach.
“And the inherent efficiencies of production toner and inkjet technology have been amplified as a result of COVID-induced supply chain instabilities,” he added.
Boer, similarly, moderated a breakout session focused on managing supply chain challenges that featured Patrycja Wisniewski, director of corporate product strategy, Canon Solutions America; and John Haber, chief strategy officer at Transportation Insight.
She discussed how pricing pressures and inventory management have become major procurement and forecasting challenges when it comes to sourcing external components and materials needed for manufacturing Canon digital presses, predicting shipping and labor rates, and securing the raw materials needed to manufacture ink.
Haber pointed to trucking transportation delays and ongoing slowdowns at U.S. ports largely due to staffing shortages, as well as to rapid increases in small parcel shipping rates, partly driven by fuel surcharges being imposed by FedEx and UPS.
Inflation, supply chain shortages, and labor issues were also addressed during a general session moderated by thINK Executive Director Eric Hawkinson that featured Francis A McMahon, executive VP, Production Print Solutions, Canon Solutions America; and Peter Wolff, senior VP, Canon Production Printing. They addressed why Canon was forced to raise its prices, despite Canon's efforts to control its internal manufacturing costs and to absorb as many external parts prices increases as possible, which continue to skyrocket.
Nevertheless, McMahon pointed to efforts to reinvest in its service organization to better serve customers, including putting more technicians out into the field and having technicians carry more parts with them to expedite onsite repairs and minimize press downtimes.
Asked by Hawkinson to give a sneak peek of future R&D investments and new product launches, the executives pointed to a larger format sheetfed inkjet press offering, as well as inkjet presses suited for label and packaging production.
McMahon closed out the conference with a keynote presentation focused on leadership and the need to cancel the “can’t culture” that can permeate throughout an organization. He noted that people today want to work for companies that stand for something, and companies issuing RFPs to potential suppliers are increasingly asking questions about the number of women employees in leadership roles, overall diversity within the organization, and a company's commitment to sustainability.