Xerox did the right thing by acquiring Impika. Everyone knows Xerox has a major hole in their product line and technology portfolio related to production inkjet printing. They have been lapped by HP, Ricoh, Canon/Océ, Kodak and EFI and risked being shut out from this lucrative market given the limitations of their solid ink technology.
InfoTrends estimates over 90 billion pages were printed on high volume continuous feed color digital presses (inkjet or EP, 10 million+ monthly duty cycle) in 2012 and that the market will exceed 500 billion pages by 2017.
With their CiPress system (solid ink), Memjet OEM relationship (wide array), and acquisition of Impika (piezo drop-on-demand), InfoTrends believes Xerox can legitimately play in the key segments for high-speed inkjet transaction, general commercial, labels, packaging, and graphics printing.
Much credit has to go to Jeff Jacobson, who joined Xerox in February 2012 as President Global Graphic Communications and had the vision and persistence to get this deal approved by the Xerox senior management and board. As I noted in a recent publication (Xerox Business Review and Outlook), since purchasing ACS in January 2010 Xerox has invested approximately $750 million in acquisitions with virtually all of it going to software & service or office distribution. Impika is Xerox’ first acquisition related to the production printing area since XMPie back in 2006. Given the momentum within Xerox towards Services along with the general maligning of the printing industry, Jacobson clearly had his work cut out for him to make the case for buying Impika and convince Impika ownership that Xerox was the right suitor.
Equally, credit goes to Paul Morgavi, Impika founder and CEO, who formed the company in 2003 as a spin-off from Gemplus, a digital security and smartcard technology company. Under his leadership, Impika has developed world-class proficiency in piezo drop-on-demand inkjet product development and integration for various applications. Impika also has built a global network of distributors (including Xerox in Europe and Fuji Xerox in Asia Pacific since 2011) and OEM customers that Xerox will likely want to retain because of their local market presence and application knowledge. Morgavi will stay on to run the group, which will be branded as Impika, a Xerox company, reporting directly to Jacobson.
A Sense of Urgency
Once the celebration dies down, Xerox needs to maintain its sense of urgency related to the production inkjet market. DRUPA 2012 was awash in high-speed inkjet products and technology demonstrations. (See our DRUPA 2012 Show Report for full details.) Higher speeds, higher print quality, wider widths, sheet-fed systems, lower running costs, more substrates, more finishing integration. You name it and someone was showing an inkjet system doing it at DRUPA. Xerox really wasn’t part of this conversation.
InfoTrends anticipates Xerox will primarily focus on general commercial printing solutions and revive efforts to establish a meaningful presence in the labels and packaging markets. Look for Xerox to tune and, potentially, expand its sales and marketing resources for the inkjet market through staffing, training, events, and other customer engagement activities.
When asked about a B2 sheet-fed implementation, Mr. Morgavi stated they have a plan but was not ready to share any details. We suspect Xerox will elevate this area to a higher priority and, perhaps, deemphasize industrial markets for the near term.
One concern we have is that Xerox’s R&D spending has been drifting downward for over 10 years. While the company has always strategically aligned its spending with Fuji Xerox, we wonder to what extent Xerox can maintain a competitive rate of innovation across a growing portfolio of technologies and product platforms. Our sense is that Xerox’ R&D funding needs to be shifted (Impika, CiPress, iGen, B&W EP?) or the total budget needs to grow. When asked about this issue Jacobson indicated that if the product teams have good ideas and can make the case for additional development resources, he will fight for the funding.
Xerox has made an important bet on Impika, and we think it’s a good one. The decision reaffirms Xerox’s commitment to production document printing and opens the door to non-document markets (labels, flexible packaging, ceramics, materials jetting, etc.) which are likely to provide sustainable growth for many years.
We think the potential impact of this acquisition is significant for Xerox and the industry, but that it won’t be felt until at least 2014 or 2015 when the sales organization has been fully engaged and development priorities have been fully funded.
Print service providers should be very excited that Xerox is moving aggressively into the high-speed inkjet market. Xerox will bring additional choices, product innovation, and market development resources. Competitors need to re-calibrate their plans and assume that Xerox is in it for the long term.