One of the reasons I love what I do is that I have a platform to share your stories, and this is a great one. Ray Camacho from Yamagata Corporation is a really interesting guy, and although our call didn’t start off with this interview as the goal, I couldn’t pass the opportunity to get his perspective as a kid from Queens, NY (my hometown!) living and printing in Japan. ENJOY!
DC: Who are you and what do you do?
RC: My name is Ray Camacho, and I work for Yamagata Corporation.
Daily responsibilities vary, but are mostly centered around technology and how we can differentiate ourselves in the market. I am most proud of being the driving force behind change management within Yamagata Corp, and creating another entity called Global Speed as a result of that change.
Technology is leveling the playing field and making the world so much smaller; we felt we needed to approach our business with the same speed and tenacity of a global organization; while maintaining the same high quality and customer service that is synonymous with Japanese culture.
DC: How does a kid from Queens, NY end up in Japan?
RC: I have no idea! It’s been a crazy ride. I never had intentions of working abroad, let alone Japan. Basically, my former employer Consolidated Graphics formed a joint-venture with Yamagata Corporation in 2011, and I was the lucky one selected to be president of the new company.
I immediately fell in love with Japan, the culture, food and the work ethic of the Japanese. After RRD acquired CGX, I left, and took on a full-time role with Yamagata Corp.
DC: How is print perceived in Japan? Is the industry evolving as it is in the US – and from what, to what?
RC: I certainly am not an expert on all things Japanese, but from what I can see, printing is alive and well here. I am still amazed at the number of people who still read newspapers, and the countless shops dedicated to manga (Japanese comic books).
Although the industry is changing; and all of the top players here are diversifying their offerings in AR/VR and content creation; I still find that Japanese society is still very much a mix of the old and new.
An example of new technology adoption: contactless payment systems (Suica/Pasmo ) are used here daily. From vending machines to Starbucks; you can pay for just about anything with your train pass. The adoption of this technology is massive, and has long been in place before Apple / Android Pay. To give a little perspective, putting population size aside, look at a NY Metro card compared to that of a Suica Pass in Tokyo.
In contrast, an example of the old technology that is still in place is what the Japanese call a hanko (http://www.turning-japanese.info/2013/08/all-about-japanese-inkanhankochopsseals.html). A hanko is like an official stamp / seal that is used instead of your signature for “signing” important documents such as a contract for accepting employment, or even a loan application.
When I was in the States, I saw countless companies within the printing industry transition from becoming an order taker to a consultant, dropping ‘print’ from their name, and adopting words like marketing or solutions provider. Along with the name change, came new titles, positions, and the need to hire new skillsets.
Unfortunately, this type of mindset of solution selling has not been widely adopted in Japan as of yet; therefore, this is where the Japanese printing industry has much catching up to do compared to the US, but I nevertheless remain optimistic in the direction of where this industry is heading.
DC: What is your process for working with overseas clients? Any hurdles with paper options for example?
RC: Today, we like to provide each client with a single point of contact to assist their needs regardless of geography. We are not perfect; however, we believe communication is key, and our commitment to quality is unmatched. So, if you ever need printing in several different regions, contact us and let us take care of the rest from there.
Exact paper and specification matching can be tricky. All trends are not created equal.
It’s easier to match color from region to region, than it is to source the exact material. Soft touch is very popular in the States but it’s not so common in Japan.
We can certainly source material(s) from anywhere and have it shipped to the producing country, although it all depends on the timeframe and how concerned the client is on the consistency of the substrate from region to region.
We find that clients who do business with us, tend to be more color critical, than substrate.
Overall, we try our best to meet all of our clients’ specifications, guide them on little cultural nuances, and of course stay within their budget.
DC: If you were giving the commencement speech at your alma mater, Appalachian State University, what would your message be in regard to creating a successful global network of service providers, and how to assess companies for partnership?
RC: Whoa, well even though I am a tech geek, I would remind people that all businesses whether global or domestic rely on relationships. I am sure each of you have hundreds of Facebook friends, or Linkedin contacts, but do you really have a relationship with those individuals?
It’s so important that you do what you say, and realize that your word is your bond.
Technology is great and it certainly makes working and partnering with suppliers easier, but at the end of the day; we still need to be able to pick up the phone and talk to them, so solid communication is always key.
I look for someone I can trust, and partner with an organization that is adept at adapting to change. I think a successful global network is built on people and technological API’s. Lots of API’s in fact but at the end of the day. You got to be able to trust that individual from across the globe.
Ray Camacho is co-founder of Global Speed GK (https://globalspeed.co/) and CTO of Yamagata Corporation (http://www.yamagata-corp.jp/en/). Prior to joining GS he was the president of a joint printing venture in Japan between Yamagata Corporation and Consolidated Graphics.