thINK Ahead 23 Conference Unites Canon Inkjet Press Users
thINK Ahead 23 conference co-chairs Shelley Hyde, partner and co-owner of PrintMailPro, and Chris Wells, executive VP of DS Graphics | Universal Wilde said it best as they kicked off the ninth annual Canon inkjet user conference at The Boca Raton resort in Boca Raton, Florida, July 17-19.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Wells stressed to the 395 total attendees — more than half of them Canon Solutions America customers and prospects. “It’s about community. Canon has great products, but the community they’ve created is what makes this event so successful.”
Wells wasn’t exaggerating. The three-day event featured four general session keynotes, 10 highly topical educational sessions, and numerous networking opportunities, including the ability to meet with 37 Canon partner co-sponsoring companies in the Partner Pavilion. And 115 thINK Ahead attendees also signed up for press demonstrations at the nearby Canon Solutions America Innovation Center, where personalized demos were provided for the Canon varioPRINT iX-series, ProStream 1800, and ColorStream 8000 inkjet presses, as well as the newly launched Canon imagePRESS V1350 toner-based digital press.
During a general session keynote, Francis McMahon, executive VP of Production Print Solutions — who is celebrating 35 years in the industry — stressed his business philosophy that strongly encourages Canon Solutions America employees to be selfless and care about doing what’s right for clients. “Everything we do begins with the customer,” he said. “It’s an inside approach. You start with the customer and you work into Canon. If you approach every day by having some empathy for the customers that we serve, in the end, the rest will take care of itself … I expect that you, as our customers, are experiencing that from every single Canon employee you work with,” he told the conference attendees.
Maintaining a selfless attitude and listening to customer feedback, in turn, is what enables the Canon factory to build products like the iX, the ProStream, and the ColorStream, as well as to create customized service offerings, McMahon added.
Inkjet Printing Press Market Share Leader
The drive to remain customer-focused has proven to be a winning formula. McMahon pointed out that, since the introduction of the JetStream in 2008, Canon has maintained the Number 1 market share position the majority of the past 12 years for production inkjet printing presses in the U.S. Of the 247 total inkjet units placed in the market in 2022, he said Canon enjoyed a 39% market share. On the sheetfed front alone last year, Canon had a 44% market share, primarily due to the success of the newer iX-series and the varioPRINT i300. In total, with 381 units placed in the industry, 41% comprised Canon inkjet presses, McMahon revealed.
"When you see market results like this, you know that we have an incredible future," he added. "Last year, 22 ProStreams went into commercial printers and photo speciality accounts. We placed 60 iX systems, just in commercial printing and photo specialty. We expect to own the commercial and photo specialty market by working with all of you, and with the technology we have today and the technology of tomorrow." According to McMahon, Canon Solutions America customers printed 86 billion inkjet pages in 2022.
Freestyle+, which was created by cast members of a Tony Award-winning Broadway show, closed the opening night kickoff with an energetic vibe of creative voices and improvised freestyle rap, including a good-humored rap session built around an on-stage interview with audience volunteer Chris DuBach, executive VP of Phoenix Innovate.
Full Program of thINK Ahead Educational Sessions
Following optional morning health and wellness activities such as yoga and pickleball, the conference kicked into high gear on July 18 with a full slate of educational sessions, including various panel discussion and expert speaker presentations. They focused on relevant topics such as helping print providers better understand how to address today’s hiring and retention difficulties, Wayfair tax law complexities for direct mailers, how to deploy and leverage key performance metrics to increase efficiencies, sustainability, response optimization, innovative trends in direct marketing, as well as general practices in innovation.
The sessions ended in the late afternoon with open time for networking throughout the Partner Pavilion, as well as to listen to informative theatre presentations from Solimar, Quadient, and Muller Martini. And the busy day ended outside with the traditional Cabana Nights party and entertainment by the Harborside pool.
The final day of thINK Ahead 23 kicked off with an optional 5K Fun Run and yoga classes, followed by two general keynotes. The 75th U.S. Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, opened his speech by admitting that the USPS had a lot of explaining to do for the $87 billion losses it has accumulated during the past 10 years. Nevertheless, he indicated that his focus since his appointment in June 2020 remains to streamline and modernize the venerable agency, while also transforming it into the preferred packaging delivery service provider.
Closing out the program, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) men’s basketball coach Dusty May — who led his team to an improbable NCAA Final Four 2023 appearance — shared insights into his leadership, teamwork, and motivation styles that has fostered winning basketball teams.
It appears that the thINK user group community, supported by team members at Canon Solutions America, has developed a similar winning strategy when it comes to its annual inkjet user conference and supporting Canon's market share position within a competitive digital printing industry landscape.