Executive Q&A: Todd Zimmerman, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, FUJIFILM Graphic Systems Division

1. Tell us a little about your company, the segment of the market it serves, and who you consider to be your “core” users.

Fujifilm Graphic Systems is a division of FUJIFILM North America Corp. and is the nation’s largest distributor of equipment, consumables, and technical service for the graphic communications industry. We have created a comprehensive portfolio of products and provide solutions for workflow, process control, remote monitoring, color standardization, prepress and pressroom products, CTP and plates, proofing, digital printing, and wide-format and we’re uniquely able to bring these products and services together.

We view our “core” users as both offset and screen printers as well as sign, display, and packaging printers and have developed a wide range of solutions.

2. How did you get involved with the company? What is your background before that?

Before joining Fujifilm in August 2006, I spent 23 years at Kodak in various sales and sales management positions for graphic communications products in the US and abroad. My most recent role prior to coming to Fujifilm was director of strategic partnerships, where I was responsible for building and managing business relationships with industry leaders.

3. What do you consider your greatest achievement in this market to be?

In the mid-1990s, I was involved with the introduction of one of the industry’s first thermal CTP plates. I worked with the team on virtually every aspect—from the development of the plate to the creation of the sales strategy to launching the plate into the marketplace.

In our work, we were tasked with understanding what our customers’ requirements were, how this new technology fit with those requirements—and into the industry as a whole. Over time, our efforts helped establish thermal technology as the standard for the industry and I was really proud to have been a part of that.

I feel like I have that opportunity again, as Fujifilm readies for the US launch of the new Fujifilm Digital Inkjet J Press 720. It’s a new technology. It defines and fills a new niche and is something that’s going to change the way printers do business. We know what our customers’ requirements are and know that this new device will meet those requirements and we’re looking forward to the J Press 720 making its debut at Graph Expo 2010 in October.

4. If there was anything you could change, either about your career in regards to the print industry, your company, or the market as a whole, what would it be and why?

There are two things that come to mind. Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to work outside of the US, overseeing the graphic arts business for Kodak in Stockholm, Sweden, as general manager of Nordic Region. After that assignment ended, I had the opportunity to come back to the US or to work in another part of the world on another assignment. I opted to come back to the States. But, given the expansion of our business into a more global market, I think I could have benefited from some additional experience and time abroad.

Secondly, I wish I could’ve stayed more involved in the education side of the graphic arts. My background is in education and I taught graphic arts at both the high school and college levels. While I enjoyed that, I eventually opted to take a sales position with an industry manufacturer. I’ve missed being in the classroom from time to time; it was both exciting and rewarding knowing that I was playing a part in helping students build the right skill set, explaining to them why our industry is such an important one, and preparing them for their future careers.

5. What do you consider the greatest challenge to be for the industry now? Why?

Without a doubt, the greatest challenge for the industry is the economy. The effects of the current economic storm are being felt by manufacturers, printers, and end users alike and everyone is focused on working as efficiently and effectively as possible in an effort to weather this current climate.

In addition, technology continues to change at a rapid pace and it’s difficult for printers not only to stay current, but also to understand the benefits and challenges of implementing these new technologies.

Another challenge the industry is facing is the overcapacity in the marketplace; there are simply more print providers than there is demand. And that overcapacity has resulted in very competitive pricing. But, this also related back to the shift in technology. Those printers who are able to invest in it now will be the ones who succeed in the future; they will have positioned themselves for growth once the economy begins to bounce back.

Overall, we need to ensure that the industry positions print as a viable medium, whether it’s delivered by offset or inkjet.

6. What do you consider the greatest asset to be for the industry right now? Why?

There are two key industry assets: our ability to adopt and implement new technologies that continue to advance speed and quality and our ability to better protect the environment.

We’ve seen a gradual move from toner-based technologies to new inkjet solutions, answering the industry’s need for smaller, high-quality runs. This new digital technology is a powerful tool for them and can help them transform their businesses to pursue short-run, variable data jobs as well as to provide a wider range of production capabilities to support their customers’ overall media campaigns and not just one or two elements.

We’ve also seen a move from processed printing plates to processless ones. This removes chemicals from the printing process and offers printers an environmentally friendly option, with no compromise in speed or quality. We’re working with a number of printers who are not only making their operations more “green,” but are demonstrating that care for the environment can also be a benefit to the bottom line.

7. In your opinion, what have been the biggest changes to the way we communicate with one another in the past few years? How would you recommend this industry take advantage of that?

Social media, along with the more recent introduction of e-readers and e-books, have had a tremendous impact on how we communicate with one another, on a personal level as well as a business one. With the introduction of applications like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare, communication has become instantaneous and ongoing. And, combined with e-readers, we’re seeing our customers and end users get their information in an entirely new way.

The best way to take advantage of it is to really find out how and where your customers are getting their information and communicating with their peers and begin to engage them in those arenas and become part of that conversation.

8. Looking ahead, what major innovations or technologies do you believe will shape the future of the industry? Why?

The future of this industry is digital. Industry experts predict that we’ll see indistinguishable quality between litho and inkjet printing in less than 10 years—and Fujifilm’s Digital Inkjet J Press 720 is well ahead of that curve. Run lengths continue to decrease, but customers still demand/require a high level of quality. Fujifilm’s J Press 720 offers the look and feel of an offset press, but comes with the versatility and job handling that only a digital product can provide. This solution allows printers to be more competitive in the short-run print market and allows printers to produce jobs more efficiently.

We’re also going to see a trend towards stricter control of processes as an effort to not only maintain the quality that print buyers have come to demand and expect, but also for printers to operate as effectively and efficiently as possible. We see that as a prerequisite for long-term success and, as such, developed our patented Taskero Universe ColorPath Verified solution that allows printers to monitor and manage the entire color production process.

Lastly, we’ve seen an increase in dedicated efforts to make our industry more environmentally aware and we hope to see that trend continue. We’re working to develop new technologies that not only provide today’s printers with the output quality they need, but are able to do so in an eco-conscious, sustainable manner. Solutions such as our Ecomaxx family of processless and low-chem plates and our ZAC plate processor, which was honored this year with an InterTech Technology Award, are excellent examples of where the industry is—and should be—headed. And, of course, there is the rapid adoption of dry, inkjet printing and the growth of solvent-free, low VOC, and UV-cured inks.

9. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to printers and others involved in this industry?

While it may seem counterintuitive or even a bit intimidating, economic climates such as the current one do offer business owners an opportunity for growth. This kind of growth requires both an unwavering focus on what’s most important—cash flow, cost control, expansion of services and capabilities and effective marketing—as well as a strong partner like Fujifilm. Investing in new technologies now will put printers ahead of the curve as the economy begins to bounce back, arming them with tools that allow them to deliver a broader product portfolio to their customers and achieve higher levels of profitability through process improvement and waste reduction.

It’s with this in mind that we’ve assembled our current portfolio, including traditional prepress and pressroom solutions as well as new digital solutions in wide-format printing, xerographic printing, and inkjet printing.

10. Is there anything else you would like to share with the Printing News readers?

Fujifilm has the benefit of industry experience, a diverse product and service portfolio, and knowledge and presence in a number of industries that are now converging. As our customers work with us at their side to adapt, change and grow in this difficult economy, we continue to hear them tell us that there are no other industry manufacturers or vendors who are able to offer the kind of total solution for their specific needs the way that Fujifilm can.

Unlike others in the industry, Fujifilm isn’t selling a single solution. Depending on the needs of our customer, we can and do provide the combination of output solutions that make the most sense, whether that is offset, wide-format inkjet, narrow web, screen, color management, even photo solutions. We are eager to work with our customers to help them find the right solution to expand and grow their business.