The overriding goal of the INTERACT 2019 Ricoh user conference, held at the Denver Marriott Tech Center June 4-6, was all about fostering human interaction and information exchange — and Ricoh delivered on its mission. It did so by bringing together 140 executives representing some of the most progressive printing operations across America; key Ricoh executives (including new Ricoh USA Chief Marketing Officer Heather Loisel), subject matter experts and developers; more than 30 partner sponsors; and industry trade press and analysts.
What had been a smaller, focused event for Ricoh's continuous-feed inkjet press user base, it marked the second year that the user conference was expanded to include Ricoh cut-sheet digital toner, wide-format printing, and software customers. The investment to grow INTERACT further illustrated Ricoh's commitment to become an even bigger player in the graphic arts industry software and digital inkjet and toner printing press spaces.
Before INTERACT 2019 officially kicked off with an opening reception and dinner on June 4, a special press and analyst briefing was held at Ricoh's Customer Experience Center (CEC) in nearby Boulder, Colo., that afternoon. The briefing enabled Gavin Jordan-Smith, VP, Ricoh Commercial Printing Business, to outline his vision for the organization after having joined the company 90 days earlier.
Describing the remarkable resiliency of the printing industry to embrace technology shifts throughout time, Jordan-Smith — who formerly served in key executive roles at Konica-Minolta, Xerox, Toppan America and Global Document Solutions — noted how excited he was to be on the forefront of those changes as Ricoh continues to further technology advancement with cutting-edge solutions.
Among them are new Ricoh-branded LED flatbed and latex roll-to-roll wide-format printer models suited for the sign, graphics and décor markets, which incorporate Ricoh inkjet head and ink technologies that the company had already been providing to other printer manufacturers. Greater emphasis going forward, Jordan-Smith revealed, will also be to further grow Ricoh's industrial printing solutions and ink science technology for printing on multiple media types.
"These past 90 days have been an incredible ride, but it has not been a ride behind a desk," he said. Recognizing the competitive nature of the industry on the supplier side as a "zero sum and zero market gain industry," Jordan-Smith noted how a customer win by one vendor typically results in a loss for another supplier. "As a result, we have to execute far better than any of our competitors," he added, reinforcing the need for Ricoh to continually focus on operational excellence, customer intimacy and Ricoh's 40-plus-year legacy of innovation.
Jordan-Smith was followed by Mike Herold, director, inkjet solutions, who provided a timeline of Ricoh's continuous-feed production inkjet printing press lineup, which began in 2006 with the introduction of the InfoPrint 5000 platform. Today's press lineup includes the Ricoh Pro VC60000 introduced in 2015, the Pro VC40000 (2017), and the launch this year of the Pro VC70000 that incorporates an expanded gamut inkset and enhanced drying system for printing on standard coated stocks without the need for precoating.
Following a tour of the CEC, a customer panel shared their experiences. Heeter VP of Sales and Marketing Tom Boyle talked about the Canonsburg, Pa.-based direct mail printing operation's experience serving as the beta site for the Pro VC70000, which enabled expanded offerings for Heeter's color-centric retail and gaming industry clients.
Mark Little, VP of Quik Print of Oklahoma City, related his company's success in leveraging more than two dozen Ricoh monochrome and color cut-sheet toner presses, Ricoh's 5th Color Station kit and its Business Booster program. Little also revealed how Quik Print is currently in discussion with the Oklahoma City Thunder to use Ricoh Clickable Paper, which would enable the NBA team's printed magazine and game-night programs it prints to incorporate an interactive experience.
Josh Bonham, COO of new compliance-driven solutions startup Sepire, in Burr Ridge, Ill., described its investment in a Ricoh Pro VC70000 continuous-feed inkjet press and Pro C9210 and Pro 8220 devices. And Andy Poole, president of Sacramento, Calif.-based Time Printing (TP) Solutions Provider, discussed his wide-format printing success with the addition of Ricoh Pro L4160, EFI Pro 16h and Mimaki CG-130 FXII printers, and a Colex Sharpcut 1631 SXC.
Kicked off by an inspirational keynote presentation by author Ken Schmidt — the former director of communications who led a company turnaround while at Harley-Davidson — the following three days of INTERACT 2019 featured a robust schedule of nearly 50 educational sessions broken down into four concurrent tracks: Business Development, Print Solutions, Operational Excellence and the ProcessDirector user group. New in 2019 was the Operational Excellence track, which was geared toward lean manufacturing, media options, how to attract quality employees and case studies.
Ample time was also provided each day so printer attendees could meet with the more than 30 sponsors in a special tabletop pavilion area.
But INTERACT 2019 wasn't all business. On June 5, conference attendees were able to tour the exhibits and ride in three different flight simulators inside the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum located on the former Lowry Air Force Base. And the formal portion of the conference concluded the following evening with a reception, brief awards banquet, and an act by local comedian Sam Adams. Optional tours of the CEC were also available for attendees the morning of June 7.
Ricoh has not announced the date or venue for INTERACT 2020, other than to confirm that it will happen. Either way, this year's event reaffirmed the unique value proposition of networking and unfiltered educational information sharing that a well-executed industry user conference like this can provide.