In the Spotlight with Epson - Sustainable advantage with business inkjet
Welcome to In The Spotlight with Quocirca, the definitive podcast on digital disruption in the print industry. I'm Louella Fernandes, director of Quocirca and today I'm joined by Rob Clark, senior vice president of Epson Europe. Today we'll be discussing business inkjet technology and sustainability in the hybrid workplace. So welcome to the show, Rob, it's great to have you here today. Hi Louella, nice to be with you.
Before we get into the conversation. I know you've been in the print industry for almost 30 years. So could you tell us a bit about your career history and your role at Epson? Yeah, sure. So, I started working for the ministry of defense. I did an electrical engineering apprenticeship working for the ministry of defense and quickly decided that the civil service was not for me. So,
after the apprenticeship moved out into the private sector, I worked for a distributor and then I moved on to work for Epson. I started as product manager for Dot Matrix printers. I did 10 years working in Epson UK and Dot Matrix and then in inkjet printers and then I moved into a role in Epson Europe and I've run the consumer in jets, I've run projection, I've run large formats and now as I say, the senior vice president responsible for all of the sales and marketing for Epson Europe. Yeah, so as I mentioned, the theme of this podcast is how business inkjet technology can lower environmental impact and I was reading the latest green report from Epson, and it's very clear that sustainability runs through the whole business there, I think from people, technology, operations, supply chain, and so on, and it's all focused on reducing environmental impacts. So can you talk a bit about sustainability technology from Epson's perspective, particularly around your heat free inkjet technology and the role it can play in reducing an organisation's environmental impact? Yeah. So first of all, let me start with going back to those early days working for Epson because it was in 1993 when it launched its first consumer inkjet to the market and at that point we introduced a technology based on a piezo crystal, which is a different technology to other printers on the market, other inkjet printers. It uses, as I said,
a piezo crystal and when you put a charge across the crystal, that crystal changes shape, you take the charge away and it changes back again. If you put the charge, remove it at the charge, remove it, you start a pumping mechanism, which pumps the ink out and that in itself because of the piezo crystal is actually a very low power technology and we started with it, as I said in '93 with our consumer products. As well as being low power, it's very controllable. So we were delivering a very high quality print to the market and '94, we launched our first photo printer and moved on through there, through the consumer range, actually skipped the business markets to start with and went into the large format for the photo and fine arts to start with and expanded our range into higher end and large format into commercial and into, even up into the industrial, but all the time using that piezo technology.
We've now brought that technology back to the office market and launched a range of products into the office market, which really focus in and hone in on that sustainability, the low power usage of the piezo crystal and the piezo crystal print head. The latest iteration is, as you rightly said, is heat free technology. We call it precision core. But the nature of it is that using the piezo crystal, we can lower the power that's used, particularly compared to a laser printer that's heating the toner to fuse it to the paper. With the heat free technology that we're using. It means much lower power, which means much lower CO2 emissions. It also means a lot less waste because, you don't need to change so many components.
You're not using the components through the thermal process that's going on inside a laser. Even compared to other inkjet technologies it's more efficient and more sustainable, you know, the competitor products on the market use a thermal inkjet technology. As I said, ours is completely cold technology. So, even against the inkjet products, it's more sustainable. Yeah. It's interesting because we see particularly now post pandemic, a lot of organisations are becoming more environmentally conscious and they're looking for technology that can really help them lower that carbon footprint, reduce their environmental costs and so on. It sounds like, you know,
Epson's technology really sort of helps businesses really sort of reduce their energy consumption and, you know, particularly interested in the hybrid workplace, whether you're seeing more interest in this kind of technology from your end user perspective and whether that's something that you are sort of actively sort of promoting in terms of the benefits around sustainability in the office. Yeah. I mean, I thin the first thing to say is that the priority of sustainability has been increasing. So when we're talking to end users about print and sustainability in print, the priority they place on sustainability has increased and increased. It's different across Europe and the different countries. So, you know, in the Scandinavian region and in Germany, it's been a high priority for quite a while, and that's spread now across the rest of Europe.
They are still running at different pace, but we are seeing that priority increase across the entire region. When it comes to our resellers, our resellers need to be able to demonstrate the technology and really show that the sustainability is something that the end user can trust in. So we're providing a lot of tools to them to help them explain the message and explain the sustainability arguments. With regard to working from home,
certainly we're seeing an increase in the requirement for print in the home and that means a distributed print fleet out in the home office environment, which in itself means that we need to be able to provide a full range of products from A3 all the way down to the A4 product for working in that environment. So it's something that has increased over time because of the prioritisation and I think the proliferation of product into the home business product, into the home because of the work from home that we're now seeing, requires that larger range. Yeah. So HP recently announced it's exiting the business inject market, and,
you know, clearly this has opportunities for Epson. So can you talk a bit about how you're responding to that and your continued commitment to business inkjet technology? Yeah, I mean, we do see that this is going to have a positive impact for us, you know, both HP and us were taking the inkjet message to the marketplace. We focusing very heavily on the sustainability message and I know that was part also of HP's sell. So there are many customers that are out there that have bought into the idea of sustainable inkjet technology. That means that there are customers out there that actually have nowhere to go if they want to remain with that message that they've bought into other than moving across to Epson technology. So from our point of view, and from our channel's point of view, this really is an opportunity for us to take the Epson message to more customers.
Could you give a bit of insight around what this really means to your channel. So you mentioned that you're really looking for channel partners who are able to articulate that sustainability proposition and you mentioned that you provide tools and support for the channel. Is there anything in particular that you're seeing in terms of the response from the channel to actually capitalise on that opportunity from HP exiting the business inkjet market? Are you already sort of seeing some movement there and some interest from some of the channel partners and what are you recruiting more as a result? Yeah, we've been recruiting resellers over the last three or four years as we've expanded our office range and really we're looking for resellers that understand how sustainability can be important to their customers and in fact, how it changes the conversation that they have with those customers. So rather than simply going in and offering another laser product at a cheaper price or a cheaper CPP, actually they can move the conversation to something different which is about, you know, the policies for sustainability in the office and how those are being implemented by the customers. So, as we talk with resellers, it's actually very interesting to receive the feedback from them.
It's quite quick that we can tell whether this is going to be a reseller that we can really partner with and work with, those that actually understand the messaging and how it can help them and their customers with their sustainability requirements. I'm sure there will be a number of HP resellers that will have bought into the messaging of inkjet and sustainability and in fact, we're already receiving inquiries from some resellers looking for something to enable them to continue taking that message to market. So, yes, definitely. It's something that we'll be looking at. We do have a good range of resellers already, so we won't be taking on lots more, but, you know, here and there, there may be places where we have the opportunity to expand the reseller base by working with some of those ex-HP resellers.
Yeah. I guess it's very much about sort of encouraging your resellers to make that shift from price based to value based sales. Could you talk a bit about the, cause I think there was sort of some key differentiators around sort of Epson's technology and you kind of touched on it earlier about around the low ink intervention because of the rips model that you use, but the replaceable ink packs, which I think is really great, particularly for home workers, as well as in the business space and maybe there's opportunities around there for resellers to extend their MPS contacts to the home. Also the
other side in terms of, you know, the kind of, I suppose, innovation around the actual technology, reducing energy consumption and so on. So yeah, maybe you could just give a bit of insight in terms of that shift from that price based to value led approach. Sure, sure. So, as I said, we are looking for resellers where we can have a partnership and where we can work with them to deliver those messages to the market and to the end users and the messages are based around number one, sustainability, but talking about low intervention, low intervention in itself is a sustainability message or, it can be a sustainability message, you know, the fact that we are heat free, the fact that we are not causing thermal stress in the engine means that the number of components that have to be replaced is fewer than in a laser printer and also because we're using ink rather than toner the capacity of ink bags as they are actually is significantly or can be significantly higher than an equivalent laser. So,
certainly for many customers, the possibility of having a printer, which can be in fact, in some cases fit and forget, you know, it's installed and it has enough ink, you know, for example, 80,000 pages worth of ink, it has enough ink to take them for a long time in their contract without having to replace that. You know, particularly if you're in, for example, a retail environment where you have many stores, you'll have a head office that will have the IT guys in it, but in the stores, they rely on the store manager or the store staff to replace consumables, you know, the last thing you want is a product that needs constant maintenance and a consumable replacement. So the rips products with those bags with the 80,000 pages with the low intervention of the parts that are required means that the store staff can get on with what they should be doing, which is selling through the store rather than dealing with the maintenance of the product. So, low intervention, as I said, it's a very key message for us and in terms of our channel, the low intervention means that from their point of view, they can service far more product, far more of the installed base with the service team that they have, because they are servicing them much less often.
Yes, so I really liked that sort of fit and forget kind of approach to printing, because I think there's always a perception, that it does require more maintenance, you know, particularly with supplies replenishment and so on. So I think, you know, that Epon's proposition around that has, you know, benefits, like you say, in terms of reducing it burden as well as improving environmental impacts. So, in terms of, if we could just go back to that sort of hybrid place, hybrid workplace opportunity.
So are you saying now in terms of the return to the office we're seeing perhaps more of a move to agile working where workers are perhaps not going back to work full-time, but still working a couple of days home, a few days in the office, and we're seeing as a result, a real shift from the need to have a centralised A3 copier based fleet. I'm moving more to this distributed A4 model, and I know that plays very well to Epson's proposition around its workforce, portfolio. So I'm just curious as to whether you've seen changes there from your customers and how you're working with your channel to adapt to this new work environment. Yeah, we've certainly seen changes, as we went into the pandemic, you know, we saw a huge increase in the demand for a work from home, which meant that, print was very high on the agenda and printers were very high on the agenda for putting together a working from home environment.
I think initially it was any printer that people could get their hands on but moving forward as we go into this real hybrid working, agile working situation, actually what we'll find is that companies will see that, you know, they really need to manage that much more distributed fleet than they've had before. Those printers that are in people's homes, you know, they'll want to be part of their overall managed fleets. So, you know, even to the point that they may want to have them on a managed print services contracts. So, the shift to agile working will mean that the, A4 range, with the capability to have tracking and MPS management will become much more of a requirement. We're already seeing that move when we talk to large corporate accounts where they want to be able to roll out a managed fleet rather than an unmanaged fleet to their home workers. Yeah, and I think it seems Epson's very well positioned in terms of having that broad portfolio across the consumer sort of home soho market as well as the enterprise space now, and I think, you know, there's very few vendors that have that kind of full portfolio.
So would you say that's your capitalising on that in any way in terms of how you're seeing your customers procure print technology? So, we've seen in recent research around home printing that, as you mentioned at the beginning of the pandemic, employees were buying their own devices and rather than the employers providing that, and then there's been a bit of a shift to some organisations actually procuring office printers, as well as home printers on, you know, sort of online marketplaces such as Amazon and so on. So yeah, just interested in how Epson is building, it's kind of e-commerce strategy around that to kind of target both the home workers and the office workers. Yeah. So, you know, our range of products goes all the way from consumer into what we call office basic, and then into our full office range. At the top of the range, we have the A3 and higher end A4 devices and they really are for the domain of the resellers, but at lower down the range, we still have a full range of A4 products, that is available to those resellers, but also through other channels, be that other resellers or online. So, you know, the, the, the opportunity for the wider reseller base to get involved with the Epson range is certainly there and the range is a very large range that are very extensive portfolio of products that they can buy into. So,
and it's not just in the home office where we're seeing this more distributed print, obviously as there are less people in offices, you know, by the fact that there are people working from home, there's less people working in the office, which means that perhaps that big centralised device is not as necessary as it has been in the past. In fact, one of the big pushes that we were taking to our resellers even before the pandemic was, is it really necessary to have that centralised A3 device, you know, the move towards centralisation was driven by manufacturers and by resellers rather than by the requirement of the actual user. So, giving the capability to have a distributed fleet because of its low intervention, means that now we can deliver print exactly where it's required to those users in the office, rather than them having to get up and go to a centralised device. So both in terms of office print and home print, we're seeing the more distributed nature starting to permeate through the whole organisation.
You've just announced him as an ambassador for Epson. Could you give a bit of insight into the motivation for working with Usain. He's an extremely iconic figure. Everybody knows him and, you know, when we look into who could possibly be the ambassador, you know, the positivity around him, you know, his achievements is very very high and you know, his ethics are very similar to ours where we're working with him and his foundation as well to be part of that. So, you know, it started as a consumer ambassadorial role but it will I'm sure, over time it will develop into, not just the consumer, but into the business side and, you know, maybe a projection or scan or, you know, and he will be the ambassador for a much larger part of the portfolio than just the consumer base. Of course, you know, we're all consumers at the end of the day. So, you know, it touches all of us.
We see that ambassadorial role take shape. Yeah. I think it's very much like you say, we're in this kind of B to B to C kind of era now, and, you know, I think this partnership with Usain Bolt where he has the opportunity for Epsion to sort of build that halo effect around its products in the business space as well. So it'd be really interesting to see how that, you know, sort of impacts your sort of your business sales and opportunities as well. But,
you know, I think it's a really great partnership. So Epson obviously has this real sort of strong sustainability focus around business inkjet technology, but I know you've got Paperlab as well, which is all about recycling of paper so could you give a bit of information on how that develops and where that is in the market today? Yeah, this is a really interesting product. I have to say, you know, as I said earlier, I've been working in the printing industry for many years and I've worked for Epson for quite a while as well. This product has had the most interest of any product that we've launched, I think. This is a product that will take in printed paper at one end and it will spit out a clean paper at the other end. So, you know,
the whole idea of being able to close that circle and, you know, provide the print, but also provide the device that turns it back into clean paper. That's really the basis of what this is all about. It's really sparked the imagination of people because they see this as a little bit of the elephant in the room, you know, where we are now able to use paper and on-site, we can then turn it back into into clean paper and it's been a really interesting development for us, and it really has captured the imagination of many, many of our customers.
So you talked a bit about the heat free technology and the energy benefits and sustainability improvements that can be made from using inkjet technology. I think in the business environment, there's always been perhaps a barrier to adoption because of the perceived quality around inkjet versus laser. How has that changed over past year? Is it now really on a par in terms of inkjet versus laser technology? Yeah. I talked a lot about the way that we moved through our consumer and then skipped the office and went to large formats and into commercial and industrial, and actually, that skipping of the office was down to, first of all, the fact that we were focusing on photography and the photography quality. So when we went into large format, it was about photo and fine art.
The difficulty you came to the office market is that we're printing on plain paper rather than coated paper. So actually what we were doing in that time was we were focusing on large format and, commercial and industrial was developing ink technology that enabled us to print on any media types. So, it doesn't matter now, whether it's a plain paper, we can still create, you know, extremely good quality output, which can rival laser. They are slightly different, one is slightly more glossy, you know, the laser comes out slightly more glossy. In terms of the actual quality, the quality has now caught up through the developments in ink chemistry. So,
those developments have enabled us to overcome that barrier and it's being adopted as we're seeing now in the office market, because we've overcome that quality issue. Are there are any particular vertical markets that Epson is more dominant in, or has seen more success in terms of adoption of business inkjet technology? Yeah, I mean, it started with markets that you would imagine would be interested in sustainability, ecology, you know, low emissions. So, the education market, the healthcare market, they were two of our initial target markets.
They really took up the sustainability and ecology messaging. But I have to say, as I mentioned earlier, that the prioritisation of sustainability has moved up the list and so now we're seeing every area of the market interested in seeing what ecological printing, sustainable printing is all about. So, I wouldn't say there's one particular target or, you know, a few particular targets anymore. It started with healthcare and education, but it's expanded since then.
So what's next for Epson in terms of its strategy for 2022, is there anything in particular that you would be focusing on? Yes. So the expansion of the range, I think is the main thing for us. We have products that are up to 24 BPM, and then we, actually when they print, because they have no warmup time can compete with a 40 BPM laser, and then we have products 60 BPM, 75 and a hundred. So for
us to fill out that middle range really is where we're looking at, that's our focus to expand the range. Yeah. So do you have any predictions in terms of which trends do you think will really have an impact on the industry in the next year? Yeah, I think we've already touched on it, to be honest with you, you know, we started, we were talking about the shift towards agile working and how that's going to change the market. I think, that new norm, as we're calling it, really is the area that is going to expand for the printing marketplace.
For the end corporate customers to really get to grips with what is going to be required for them to manage such a distributed workforce. That's really going to be the key, I think, over the coming a year or so and that will include everything from the workstation through to print. So, that I think is the area of focus.
That's been a really great conversation, Rob. It's been really interesting to hear about Epson's strategy, its response to HP exiting the business inkjet market, but also learn more about the sustainability benefits around Epson's heat free inkjet technology, particularly around low intervention, reduced energy usage, but also opportunities for the channel to build their sustainability proposition. So many thanks again for joining me today, Rob, I really appreciate you taking the time to join today's podcast. Thanks a lot, Louella. Thank you for joining today's In The Spotlight with Quocirca episode.
For more information, please go to Quocirca.com or subscribe to our YouTube channel. Thanks again and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode,