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Canon’s Maxify printer range is but one range within a much larger print solution offering. We sat with Jimmy de Waal, Canon South Africa’s head of marketing for the Professional Print Group, to discuss the big boys – large format printers.

TechSmart: Can you perhaps begin by explaining how the Professional Print group is structured?

Jimmy De Waal: Within Canon South Africa there are two main business units; the Business Imaging Group (BIG) which provides business to business (B2B) solutions and the Consumer Imaging Group (CIG) which provides consumer products. Just over two years ago we started the Pro Print Business Group as part of our B2B business unit, offering higher end, specialist print products. These include high volume laser, continuous feed inkjet, UV flatbed and wide format inkjet printers to name a few. In July this year we acquired Océ South Africa and as result Canon SA now offers a direct sales force and service division which concentrates on key accounts on the higher end of the print market in SA. Our indirect channel continuous to be a key component of our business model and we continue to work closely with our various distribution partners both in South Africa and Sub Sahara.

How did the acquisition of Océ affect local Canon operations?

The impact of the integration of Océ South Africa into Canon SA has been very positive. Historically, we’ve been focused on our distribution network. With the acquisition we had to re-evaluate our business and ask some important questions like: How do we improve our service level too all clients? How do we change our structures to better respond to clients? This is what it ultimately comes down to; clients purchase Canon products and with that client expect a certain service level . It is a big drive at Canon SA to ensure that we become the preferred suppliers for all our customer’s needs and we are working very hard towards reaching this goal.  

Large Format Printing is a tough market to be in. How is the market currently looking?

We are very excited about the market and our position growing steadily within this segment. The construction industry in SA is doing well, making architectural and engineering firms which use large format printers a significant market for us.. 

In the UV Flatbed segment we offer the Océ Arizona range of products and we work with a specialist distributor in the Cape Town called Sign-Tronic. They are widely regarded as the go to guys in the UV flatbed industry for sales and after sales service. 

Within the whole of Canon Europe [under which Canon South Africa falls], Canon South Africa rates as the second fastest growing Regional Sales Office in the Wide Format Printing segment, a fact we are very proud of!  

Canon South Africa’s 2014 Market Insights Report noted that print was alive and well. Is that still the case?

Yes indeed, and the latest figures confirm that. The printing industry is definitely changing but the companies surviving, or even thriving, are the ones that work closely with their suppliers and print buyers. This collaboration really helps us to predict trends in the market and evidently plan ahead with our business partners.

Volumes are moving from static content, longer run jobs, to shorter specialist runs with more personalization on the documents. As an example; in years gone by, marketing agencies would order 10 000 brochures, because volumes smaller than that on the traditional print engines would be too expensive and cumbersome. These brochures would be used for three months, become outdated and end up in the dumpster. This costs a lot of time and money. 

With the new printing technologies, this model is changing. Companies are willing to spend more on print jobs, but they want to place the order today, they want more flexibility in the jobs, they expect good quality, shorter turnaround times and they want to be able to order what they want, when they need it. Canon SA’s products makes this possible.

Are there other trends that you’re picking up on?

Few people realize how much wide format printing they see during the course of a day. For example, you walk into a shop, how do you know there is a promotion in-store without a poster reflecting it? What we are seeing is that retail chains are investing in printers to be able to print short run promotional material at quick turnaround times. A coffee shop chain might decide on a promotion that they want to implement before the weekend starts. If they have their own wide format printer, that will be possible and the turnaround time would be immediate, however this will not happen if they make use of traditional printing services. Traditionally, the content is created at head office, printed, and delivered to all the branches which can take a few days or even weeks to complete.

Turnaround time has become increasingly important - customers want more specialized printing, with much shorter notice, on a faster turnaround time, while still maintain quality.

What makes Canon’s printer different from others?

Our product offering is one of the largest in the print industry, catering to a number of segments. It includes our PIXMA and MAXIFY ranges, large format inkjets, UV flatbeds, laser light production presses, full digital presses and inkjet continuous feed machines. Most of the platforms are able to talk to each other, so if you want colour matching between large format and digital presses, we can help to set that up.

But in reality, this is not where we want to be different. Our key differentiator is that our focus is on working more closely with our customers and eventually their customers. It is only through knowing our customers and understanding their customers’ needs that we can build a long lasting mutually beneficial relationship. Our Bigger Picture Insight report clearly told us that printers want to be in a business relationship with their supplier and that through this relationship ideas are shared, new products concepts are conceived and growth can be planned at the right pace for our customers. As a final step in the process we can actually look at the hardware and solutions we have available to see which products are right for the requirement instead of starting with the printer and then trying to crowbar applications to fit the press.

What role does service play in the industry?

We believe that service is the key differentiator in the professional print market. Service was one of the key deciding factors with the Océ acquisition. Through the acquisition we now have a national infrastructure where Canon offers best in class service to all our potential and existing customers.

Any advice when having to choose a large format printer?

As an end-user you must determine what exactly you would need from your purchase, and this is difficult to do on your own. My advice would be to talk to the manufacturers/suppliers as  they will provide you with all the options you would need to make an informed decision to maximize your investment.

Any final thoughts?

Canon SA is truly excited to be part of this growing market and to extend our relationships within the industry. As when you have PC problems and you call “your go to guy/girl” to see if he/she knows how to solve your current need or knows anyone who can help; our aim is to be “your go to guy/girl” for the South African and Sub Saharan printing business.  

For more about Canon South Africa's Large Format printers, click here

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