Ricoh Makes Strategic Investment in Print MIS Provider Avanti

Ricoh announced that is has made a strategic investment in Avanti Systems, a leader in Print MIS for Commercial Printers and In-plants. According to Yasuhiko Hosoe, associate director and deputy general manager, Ricoh Production Printing Business Group, “The investment also speaks to our “imagine.change.” initiative – by enabling commercial and in-plant printers to streamline their businesses and seek efficiencies to lower costs, and improve their bottom line.” The deal reflects the demand for software solutions that help print service providers optimize their production capabilities through transparency and a need for digital equipment vendors to strengthen their relationship with these solutions.

Founded in 1984, Avanti Systems has spent the past 29 years providing its print management software, Graphic Arts Management System (GAMS), to commercial and in-plant print shops with customers in North America, Europe, and Asia. Avanti has a strong focus on digital print workflow automation as well as a strong Customer Relationship Managament (CRM) component that helps companies align sales, customer service, and production. Avanti’s solution supports automation and integration using a variety of methods, including JDF/JMF, XML, ASCII, and CSV files, helping print operations integrate and automate data collection from various aspects of the print workflow, including prepress, print production, finishing, and fulfillment. It also has pre-built integrations with a number of workflow and web-to-print solutions, including PTI MarcomCentral.

While the press release describes a multimillion dollar investment, the specific amount of the investment was not specified. Ricoh made a similar investment in web-to-print and marketing automation provider PTI Marketing Technologies, taking a 30% stake. Despite the significant investment, Avanti will still operate independently, working with Ricoh to provide custom solutions for print service providers. This also means that Avanti will continue to work with and sell through existing channels and partners.

Ricoh’s portfolio and interest in Avanti align in many ways; however, a few key areas stand out. The first is Avanti’s focus on in-plant print environments which is a large customer market for Ricoh as well. Another is Avanti’s ability to manage advanced fulfillment, inventory, and mailing which are requirements for enterprises, publishers, and marketers. With version 12.4, which launched at Graph Expo last year, Avanti announced a bi-integration with Neopost GMC Inspire, also a Ricoh partner, to automate transactional and direct mail production. While Ricoh has focused on production workflow automation with its TotalFlow solutions, it has previously chosen to partner with Print MIS solutions, primarily from EFI through Digital StoreFront.

According to Patrick Bolan, Avanti’s President and CEO, Ricoh’s investment will “provide capital to accelerate product development, engage in acquisitions and expand into new markets.” Avanti has made progress in all three of these goals on its own, however, being privately owned it can be difficult to maintain a pace similar to that of EFI, Avanti’s biggest competitor. Most recently, Avanti leveraged the flexibility of the cloud to launch Avanti LF at SGIA 2012, an industry-specific solution for large format printers (which also aligns well with Ricoh’s wide format offerings).

From an acquisition perspective, Avanti has been relatively quiet. Its last acquisition was in 2006 which it acquired Parsec Corporation, a U.S. based Print MIS provider. With Ricoh’s assistance, Avanti will be better equipped financially to make additional acquisitions, primarily to expand its customer base and accelerate growth outside of North America. This should produce some interesting competition, and announcements from EFI and Avanti.

Overall, the investment is a good move for Ricoh and an ideal situation for a private company like Avanti; further emphasizing the importance of business and information management for print service providers who are looking to become efficient and transparent. As we’ve seen with any production software solution, market education and business development services are paramount, and this is where Ricoh can play a strong role. Bolan also noted in the press release that Ricoh’s investment “ensures the long-term availability of our award winning software to our customers.” With Ricoh’s support, Avanti will have the resources it needs to accelerate growth and endure the rapid consolidation of the Print MIS market, eliminating concerns that Avanti may be acquired by another Print MIS vendor. We expect to hear some additional announcements from Ricoh and Avanti as we get closer to Print 13.

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