Was 2015 a good year for print? How do you measure success?

For Canon Solutions America, 2015 was about launching new technology and connecting more with our customers. 2015 marked a year in which we released three new products that both we and our customers are excited about. We released the Océ VarioPrint i300 – the first sheetfed production inkjet press on the market. We also released the Océ ImageStream 3500 and the Océ ColorStream 3000Z Series. We got an excellent response to these products in the marketplace and we are excited to see how our customers will use them in the future.

We also launched the thINK Customer User Group and hosted the inaugural thINK Customer Conference. We were blown away by the overwhelming attendance and support for this event, which really shows us that customers are eager to partner with manufacturers in more meaningful ways – something which we intend to deliver in the coming years through thINK.

2015 was a good year for Canon Solutions America, but more importantly, it was a good year for our customers. Our customers are utilizing technology to grow their businesses by taking advantage of new applications that digital printing offers as well as new strategies like leveraging data for personalization, implementing color at lower costs, and taking advantage of more media options. Our customers are really the ones pushing the realms of what is possible with digital print and we are pleased to be a part of that process.

Eric_Hawkinson_CSAWhat challenges did you face in 2015 and what did you learn from them?

We were tasked with the challenge of how to deliver more to our customers than just a production printing press in 2015. Customers want to go beyond just learning about their technology – they want to learn how to make money and grow their business with their technology. We had been hearing this request from customers for a few years, but 2015 is really when we tackled that challenge. We needed to improve the Business Development side of our business, in addition to the technical support. It was difficult at first to discern what this support would look like and how we could deliver it. We engaged in a series of conversations with some of our most loyal, and thought provoking customers. What came from those conversations is that printers around the country were looking for ways to learn from each other in addition to having a forum to speak with equipment providers of all kinds in one place. It’s from these discussions that the thINK Inkjet Networking & Knowledge User Group developed and we spent most of 2015 devoted to helping our customers launch a new user group from nothing. It was a lot of work, but ultimately worth it based on the positive reaction from attendees of the first event. What’s notable about thINK is that it is an independent user group, with its own board of directors who guide the organization. While the group is made up of our customers, it is a separate entity from Canon Solutions America and we look forward to seeing how this group blossoms and takes shape in the future.

How are you implementing what you learned during 2015, into 2016

We learned in 2015 that our customers really value the role of the manufacturer as more than just providing equipment and that the industry has become quite communal. Customers are looking to partner with the manufacture in more meaningful ways. Customers still need to understand how products and solutions work, but the conversation is now around building a business with the technology. They look to us to provide industry knowledge, sales training, workflow expertise, and both marketing and technical insights. Therefore, our organization has evolved to include subject matter expertise in areas outside of printing so that we can continue to deliver value to the customers we serve.

How do your products and services help create relevancy, and why is that important for print in 2016?

Creating relevant advertising campaigns is all about knowing your audience and speaking to them individually. Personalized communications result in better performance, new revenue streams and increased revenue from existing lines. The essence is simple – it starts with knowing the customer and understanding what they want. It might cut across a range of insights, including where they are and when, behavioral data, demographic information, and purchasing practices. Savvy service providers are developing ways to help marketers with bridging the personalization gap. They are blending direct mail and digital strategies to deliver an omni-channel experience. Service providers should work with their customers to blend online and offline data, and use mobile, web, direct mail, and social media channels to gather information and create even more relevant communications for clients. This is achievable in print through digital printing advances in personalization, which all of our products offer, whether toner or inkjet, cutsheet or continuous feed. Personalization can make advertising relevant for the end user.

What are three things (not including your products and services) that the print community should have on their radar in 2016… and why?

  • Take advantage of growing media options, especially for inkjet printing. More and more mainstream papers are being produced as inkjet, digital and offset grades, allowing jobs to move between technologies based on the best technology suited to the job. Every major North American paper mill is fully engaged in developing more paper stocks. The mills realize that inkjet production is past the tipping point and is a fully accepted technology for print. This trend will encourage migrating work from more expensive toner equipment or from traditional offset equipment to inkjet, where customers benefit from personalization and mass customization.
  • Evaluate your Workflow Solution for ways to organize and streamline print production. This includes streamlining workflows to benefit customer relations, optimize productivity, and improve ROI. At a minimum, your workflow solution should do the following:
    • Give faster turnaround times
    • Simplify order intake
    • Facilitate order management
    • Increase the service offering
    • Gain insight/control for future direction
    • Minimize overhead/reduce costs
    • Attract new & retain existing customers
  • thINK 2016. The second annual thINK Inkjet User Conference will take place October will take place October 11-13 in Boca Raton, FL. It’s the largest independent user group devoted specifically to production inkjet printing and the 2016 conference should be even larger than the first. This conference brings together some of the biggest printers in the U.S. currently using production inkjet technology as well as paper manufacturers, finishing equipment providers, and software providers to discuss how to push the technology forward and how to make the most out of the investment in inkjet.

What is the best way for people to learn more about what you do, and how you can help them?

Visit our Production Print Resource Center at We’ve developed an entire website devoted specifically to providing production printers and MSPs resources on how to streamline their workflows, grow their business, leverage new printing technologies, and to learn about new industry trends and hot topics. It’s a site full of industry reports, white papers, case studies, and videos!

Eric Hawkinson, is Senior Director of Marketing at Canon Solutions America, Production Print Solutions.

Eric has been part of the Canon Solutions America team for more than 3 years, but his involvement in the graphic arts industry spans more than a decade. His experience and passion for building communities give him a unique perspective on the power of networking, which he leverages to bring people together.

Prior to Joining Canon Solutions America, Eric spent more than 7 years serving as the Global Executive Director of Dscoop, an independent community of business owners and technical professionals. There he used his skills in strategic partnerships to grow the user group into an international organization. More recently, he has assisted in founding and serving on the Board of thINK – an independent Canon Solutions America User Community aimed at expanding the knowledge and reach of inkjet technology. Eric is also active on the Board of Two Sides, a non-profit initiative by companies from the Graphic Communication Value Chain. Its common goal is to promote the sustainability of the Graphic Communications Industry and provide users with verifiable information on why Print and Paper can be an attractive, practical and sustainable communications medium.

Eric resides in Boca Raton, Florida with his wife Amy and three children, Hanna, Tyler and Oliver.


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