HP looking to grow channel business in graphics printing

The channel businesses within HP’s Graphics Solutions portfolio leverages highly-specialized partners. HP, however, believes that the opportunity in this area is immense, and wants to bring more partners in, particularly from A3 printing.

Dave Prezzano, VP and GM of HP’s Americas Graphics Solutions business

LAS VEGAS – The Graphics Solutions is probably the most diverse of the businesses in the new HP, with a collection of different printing services, with different go-to-market models. Most are highly disruptive, a trend that Dave Prezzano, the Vice President and General Manager of HP’s Americas Graphics Solutions business, sees as only increasing.He discussed the business’ strategy with ChannelBuzz at the HP Executive Forum event here.

Prezzano has been at HP for a little over 18 years, in many different roles. He has been in this one since last August. Before that, he was Vice  President and  General  Manager of  the Americas Solutions business for managed print and personal systems services, including both Managed Print Services and  Device-as-a-Service.

HP’s Graphics  Solutions portfolio is a collection of different business units within HP, all focused on different kinds of graphics printing. Within HP’s three-pronged strategic overview  — protecting their Core businesses, capturing Growth in naturally adjacent markets to the core, and creating the Future, this portfolio falls into the Growth component. The businesses include several large format printers: HP DesignJet, PageWide XL, and Latex, the latter of which is unique to HP in the rigid printing market. They also include Scitex industrial presses, Indigo digital presses, and PageWide web  presses.

“The Indigo commercial business is really shifting into flexible packaging and folding carton applications, like small cartons for candy, where the paper is not really thick,” Prezzano said. “The PageWide Web business is really big presses, as well as ‘books on demand,’ to fill orders for books which are out of print.”

Last week. HP introduced their newest graphics printing service, HP Piazza, a cloud-based service optimized for HP PageWide Web Presses and HP Indigo.

“Piazza is a cloud service that allows publishers to create a virtual warehouse that literally allows them to fulfil orders as they come in, holding zero inventory, while also allowing them to print out-of-print books,” Prezzano said. “It will enable publishers and Print Service Providers to work more closely together.”

Piazza highlights a couple of key themes in the HP Graphics Business. One is the highly variable nature of the Go-to-Market strategy across the different business. The other is their massive potential for disruption.

“Go-to-market in the Americas is by segment,” Prezzano said. “Piazza will be direct because of the nature of the market. Of the really heavy industrial stuff, a lot of it is direct.”

Other components are almost entirely channel.

“DesignJet, PageWide and Latex are important in Canada, and we don’t have a direct business there at all,” Prezzano said. “It’s all indirect, through a very specialized channel.” For example, Grimco, which has over 50 locations in the US and Canada, is focused on latex. Toronto-based Astley Gilbert is a large design house for on-demand printing, particularly around PageWide.

“They don’t compete with the CDWs of the world,” Prezzano said.

The HP graphics business is based on three fundamental pillars.

“The first is disruption,” Prezzano said. “Piazza is an example in the way that it allows publishers to print one book at a time, instead of tens of thousands.” That’s good news for publishers. For authors, who are likely to see large advances disappear along with the publisher’s commitment to big book runs, it probably isn’t. For customers used to picking up their books cheap in a remainder bin, it definitely isn’t.

While 3D printing is not part of Prezzano’s unit, he thinks that Graphics Solutions will be soon able to disrupt the textile industry in the same way that 3D printing is beginning to disrupt traditional manufacturing – by allowing local manufacturers much closer to their specific end customers to do the jobs at less cost.

“Textiles will be the next industry to be disrupted like this,” he said. “Doing it this way has the same value proposition as 3D printing, in terms of being able to cut costs from a long value chain with offshore manufacturing.”

Prezzano said the second pillar of the unit is actively partnering with well-known brands to leverage digital qualitities. The April issue of ELLE magazine utilizes HP’s Indigo 10000 printer to print personalized covers for 50,000 issues with a subscriber’s first name, and a message to them from Kim Kardashian, using variable-data printing.

“It brings the power of personalization to each of these 50,000 customers, getting a message in their own name in Kim Kardashian’s handwriting,” Prezzano said.

The third pillar is reinventing the operations of Print Services Providers.

“We continue to add to our PrintOS print production operating system.” Prezzano said. “There are many new brands in consumer packaged goods, with something now like 6000 microbrewers. They want to look professional with their labels, but they don’t have the scale to do that using old analog technology. The cost of an order for 500 labels in analog would be astronomical. It’s very different in digital, which facilitates short runs. That’s a paradigm shift for print service providers.”

Prezzano also noted how personalized greeting card provider Inkly was able to leverage digital technology to do a job that would have been impossible in analog.

“They did a promotion online and got 100,000  cards printed in 48 hours,” he said. “It’s unthinkable they could have done this without the right kind of technology that let them leverage print service providers.”

Prezzano also stressed that much of the industry is still largely untapped for this technology

“Digital penetration in the corrugated market, for example, is less than 1 per cent,” he said. “That creates tremendous opportunities for us.”

Prezzano said that the best way to exploit those opportunities would be to broaden their channel, to interest more traditional printing partners in these technologies.

“PageWide XL is really not a fundamental stretch for these partners,” he said. “It’s just leveraging the same fundamental technologies in large format.

“We are talking to all of the big A3 partners in particular about this, and in the A3 Premier Partner Program we have enabled PageWide and DesignJet into them as a default,” Prezzano added. “For some of them, it’s not a priority. But the option is there. It’s a logical way for them to grow their businesses.”