After a 50-year partnership, Agfa acquired independent graphic arts dealer Pitman in 2010 for $80 million. In a nutshell, "We're more diversified since the Pitman acquisition," said Peter Wilkens, president of Agfa Graphics North America. "We have a robust offset pressroom business, and our packaging business is growing as well as our wide-format inkjet business."
The assimilation process is progressing smoothly, Wilkens added. Internally, "the CRM system for our selling organization, supply chain, and financing now is completely integrated. But we still have a ways to go with our back-office IT and systems," he shares.
What's really different is the corporate culture. Previously, Agfa had been more of a manufacturing organization, explains Wilkens. "Pitman's sales and distribution are more tied to customers and demand. This direct sales approach lends a different, more customer-focused perspective, with Pitman now being our path to the marketplace." He added that market studies attest to the strength of the Pitman brand, particularly with regard to logistics, turnaround time, and shipments. He admited, however, that the transactional nature of the wide-format business has been a challenge for Agfa, but growing pains are to be expected.
A different kind of pain is hurting Agfa right now, in the form of hesitancy in customer buying patterns. "Our business is not immune to the economy," Wilkens acknowledged. "Agfa Graphics had a strong year in 2010; growing year over year and exceeding our sales targets. We came into 2011 with great hopes." This year started fairly strongly, but then the economy went soft and "sputtered," he recalled. The down-and-up roller coaster ride continues, with market conditions now being "flat or slightly up. The key is growing our business outside of our existing customers," Wilkens asserts.
At this year's Graph Expo, Agfa Graphics highlighted its broader-than-ever product portfolio, which now includes:
- Prepress products and printing plates, including greener low- and no-chemistry processing
- Pressroom products such as chemicals, coatings, blankets, and ink
- Inkjet products for Epson and HP printers as well as smaller and larger format devices, all the way up to its own 60-ton inline digital UV screen :M-Press
- Its 60" range for wide-format :Jeti flatbed, UV-curable inkjet printers, featuring from 16 to 48 heads, in the three- to five-meter range
- A packaging product line highlighted by anchor relationships with DuPont and 3M.