Are you experiencing inefficient workflow processes, compliance challenges or a lack of understanding on how your investments can be maximized and leveraged to add value to your print business?
It’s one thing to think about potential solutions or even map them out on paper. Why not take it a step further by scheduling an appointment at one of the Ricoh Customer Experience Centers (CEC) across the USA?
In this month’s Industry Speed Round, hear from Roger Serrette, Director, Ricoh Customer Experience Centers, on his thoughts on today’s top industry challenges he is seeing with clients around the country, more about the CEC, and how to participate in order to identify the specific issues that underlie your everyday challenges.
Q – As the Director of the CEC, describe what and who you’re seeing in the industry visiting your centers.
In some ways maybe my answer is more of what I am not seeing in the industry first. I think over my tenure in print production or commercial print I have always been aware of the extraordinary pressures on businesses maintaining relevancy in a shifting world of communication avenues. There has consistently been a downward external pressure being placed sometimes through ignorance of the broader digital markets that result in leaders in the print space to put off investment or look at their business in terms of “years left.” But this past year, where we have seen immense pressures on all industries – challenges with supply chain, employee resources, and an accelerated need for change, the production print space has been incredibly resilient. What I have not seen is panic which I take as a bright spot. It illustrates that owners, directors, influencers, and workers have a common characteristic that is defining their success which is their ability to hunker down, experiment with creative responses to market changes occurring week to week rather than year to year. This ability to be pragmatic, to understand the need for investment around technologies around workflows and business solutions is the very thing that delivers solutions to complex problems.
Q – What is the biggest challenge our clients are trying to solve or should be trying to solve?
Looking at where the data that they collect about their business points them. Too often we collect data and then fail to utilize it in order to challenge the efficiencies we have in place or the processes that control our manufacturing. I think being open to addressing some level of change systematically is critical. We all know that wringing out efficiencies in our operations is critical to our optimization, but we also know that the first 80% of the journey to an efficient state is far easier than the last 20%. If you have already done a lot of work towards the first 80%, then a review of that journey is a good place to look to solve additional challenges. If you haven’t done much of that review – now is the time to start.
I know most business leaders will tell you that the challenge is looking for growth – and that absolutely is true, but oftentimes when we are looking to the market or the industry to find those areas, we forget to invest in the ongoing solutions already within our grasp.
Q – How important is the use of data and metrics for customers and are they utilizing it correctly?
This really goes to the heart of what I am calling the data utilization revolution. We are literally drowning in almost every form of collected data but the sifting of that data to create relative or meaningful information to inform decisions is in its infancy to some degree. We have gotten the data rocket ship off the ground with incredible investments into data investment, but it is now time to escape the confines of gravity and punch the data into useful space. So the answer is that metrics are critical, but the actionable part of the equation is inescapable if you want to succeed.
Q- Walk us through a day in the life at the CEC. What are the offerings and what can customers expect?
We are a fully functioning boutique production shop immersed in the language of our customer’s challenges. On every shift we are asking questions around applications, workflows, and technology implementations that our customers present us with somewhere in the sales cycle. Our team works everywhere from media qualification to data presentation in every corner of the commercial and industrial print aperture. We spend countless hours interacting directly with our customers to support them pre and post sale and what we invariably pick up is industry insider information or education that helps us improve our ability to help not only what Ricoh develops to meet future needs, but also help our customers with current challenges and making the most out of existing or new investments regardless of what OEM is involved on their floor today. I think the easiest way to get feel for what and how we run in the CEC is to get on our calendar and spend 30 minutes to an hour in an educational exchange with our team – we all learn when we are challenged.
Q – Is there a common thread on the audience at the CECs? What segments of the print industry are typically joining you?
We support every facet of the production print space – from digital, to digital growth, and all the way across to offset and the digital transformation. I think the common thread is that people are looking for growth opportunities and transformative efficiencies, resulting in almost every engagement discussing workflow and wide format. I think our team spends the most time in these exciting areas of the business because of the uniqueness of what the wide format or sign and graphics space offers along with the flexibility of our solutions in the form of workflow in all areas of production print.
Q – What do you say to customers who attempt to build their own homegrown systems?
Most customers start conversations around homegrown solutions with a statement like ‘we have that area already working as we need it to’. I would suggest sitting down with subject-matter experts in that space and exploring what is out there from off the shelf or a customized offering to help identify ways of leveraging your existing the investment that you have in place. In those discussions that I get to participate or observe we typically move from we don’t need anything’ to ‘tell me a little bit more because I would love to solve this unique problem’ in rapid succession. People are consistently surprised that much of the unique challenges are actually fairly common at the base and the agnostic approach Ricoh takes to those challenges allows low cost easy to implement complementary solutions that keep in most cases leverage the best of what you may already have in place.
Q – What is the biggest/most common mistake customers are making in their print business?
I would have to say that the most common business mistake in mature industries, and the print business is not immune or unique, is that leaders fail to continue investing in groundbreaking technologies and adjusting their ways of thinking. We begin to get lulled into systemic thinking and a bubble mentality and I would challenge that getting out, taking a look at merging industries and mature industries and looking to see what and how they are responding will give you a wealth of information and desire to think transformative within your sphere of influence.
Q – Where do you think the biggest opportunities are for print service providers in 2021?
I think the biggest opportunities are first optimizing your existing resources in new and more creative ways in order to maximize your investments, then focus on opening doors to getting seats at tables in the industry where before you were not even thinking about participating.
Just for fun: Get to know Roger!
Q – What’s the latest tech gadget you’ve purchased for yourself?
What?! I literally just received a decibel recording device. I am obsessed with lowering the internal noise in my Jeep on the highway and since I am looking for empirical data to track the impact of altering things on it such as tires, sound dampening, air deflectors, etc. For a guy like me who started working around heavy equipment on a farm as a youngster and parlayed that into industrial workflows inside of transportation hubs and ended up in production print, my hearing, or what is left, is a prized resource.
Q – The first place you’re going to after COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted?
Home to see my mom. I think a reset for me is to sit at the kitchen table in my childhood home and just listening to my mom talk about her garden.
Q – If you weren’t doing this (at Ricoh), What would you be doing?
I actually have a heart for human resources and helping employees on their journeys through the complex world of business. If I had a wand, I would wave it to spend my time public speaking to internal groups within industries helping map out growth plans and baking in excitement for where you are on the journey. I would spend any free time reading, mountain biking with my wife, and running with our dogs – pretty simple desires for a fairly simple guy.
Be sure to connect and reach out to Roger!
Meet the Author
Based in Boulder, CO, Roger is a development engineer turned customer experience director focused on building partnerships, long-term client relationships, technical contributions and thought leadership in the communication-delivery ecosystem. His team leader specialization is in interdisciplinary engineering, centering on reliability and quality/customer communication from concept to delivery, to help Ricoh’s clients and partners in the industry deliver results more efficiently and effectively.