Color War: Toner vs. Ink – A Conversation with Kim Beswick, President of Memjet Office

Is Memjet Changing the Game?

Kim Beswick President, Memjet Office

Kim Beswick
President, Memjet Office

Industry analysts have been predicting color as the game changer for years, yet there hasn’t been a reasonable and accessible solution to make color affordable and fast enough in the office —until now.  After more than ten years of research and development, Memjet has created a revolutionary printhead that delivers color printing that is robust enough for the production print space, yet cost efficient enough to penetrate the office print market. With 70,400 jets per printhead that shoot millions of ink drops per second, it’s up to fifteen times faster than the average color printer, while being more energy efficient and mechanically sound.  To take its technology beyond production printing in North America, Memjet has positioned itself with the right partners to lead the change in office printing technology.  Last month, I visited Memjet’s R&D lab in San Diego, CA and saw a demo of Memjet’s production-class wide format printing technology, label printing and office printing.  After the tour, ENX interviewed Kim Beswick, president of Memjet Office, about Memjet’s color strategy, new opportunities in office printing, and her thoughts on leadership and personal balance.

Memjet Logo with Lockup v2

It’s been a year since Memjet announced the distribution agreement for the C6000 series of office printers with Parts Now.  How is it going?

It’s been a great partnership to date.  As we approach our 1-year anniversary with them, we’re moving from a “market trial” model to an “open distribution” model available for all Parts Now resellers.  Parts Now is an extremely collaborative and effective partner and has helped us make Memjet-powered office printing available in North America.  By introducing the product earlier this year with a small, focused group of resellers, we were able to learn what’s needed to be successful in terms of pricing/margin structure, selling models, customer emphasis, service/support and value to resellers. We found very strong reseller interest in revolutionary ink-based technology from Memjet and tremendous power in the idea of lowering the cost of A4 color solutions for the office. Based on that market trial feedback, we’re now moving to a model in Q4 that generates more scale for our business in the US and Canada.  We’re excited to use the launch of the C6030 MFP and other product updates as an opportunity to present more opportunities to the entire Parts Now reseller community. 

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You have an open-brand strategy for the office printers. Please tell us what this means to dealers and resellers.

For the office space in North America, our brand identity is centered on “Powered by Memjet”.  In this highly competitive market, “Powered by Memjet” represents new levels of productivity and lower color page price points that drive the next wave of color pages and innovative business models such as cartridges designed for authorized refill.  That being said, Memjet doesn’t need to own the primary relationship with the customer or the product brand.  In managed print services engagements, the channel partner who writes the contract is the most important entity to the customer.  The channel partner is the architect for fleet optimization and the guarantor of meeting customer needs.  A Memjet “open brand” strategy allows distributors and resellers to take the primary brand position for the product and to promote their own company value more prominently in marketing and advertising to clients and prospects. 

Memjet has many in-brand office printers through strategic partnerships in other regions of the world, such as Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.  Can you tell us why Memjet does not have such a relationship for the North American office printing market? 

Early interest in our technology for the office market came from partners based in Asia and other emerging markets.  These markets were less affected by the global economic downturn. Partners there were more willing to invest in new technology at a time (2008-2010) when others in the US were seeing declines in office pages, and were, therefore, more hesitant.  The lack of a North American OEM brand has more to do with timing and the initial epicenter of our publicly announced partners than anything else. The US market is healthy again, and it represents a large part of the economic opportunity for printing, providing good growth opportunities in color pages/devices, as well as managed print services. 

A Memjet printer is known for its speed, larger ink tank and ability to provide very low cpp for full color printing.  Yet it’s been pointed out that Memjet printers lack some functionality, such as a duplexing option and a larger paper tray.  Is Memjet addressing any of those issues with its partners?

Yes, of course.  We have an SFP and MFP with great value propositions.  We believe there is a viable market for what we have today, and at the same time, we completely agree that we need to keep improving on basic features, as well as our core technology, going forward.  There are multiple efforts underway that our customers will benefit from in the future.   Generally, Memjet is zeroing in improvements to our core technology: printheads, ink, controller software & hardware, and core subsystems like ink delivery and printhead maintenance. At the same time, we’re working with mature product development partners on new product platforms that will add the features and functionality office users have come to expect.  The good news is that this expertise and capability abounds in our industry.  The key is bringing it together with our technology and getting it to market sooner rather than later.  We are not announcing anything at this present time, but I can say we are looking out at least two generations of technology that will feed multiple platforms of printers and greatly build on and expand what is in market today.

Do you have any plans to introduce open-brand MFPs? 

Our C6030 MFP was announced this fall to select resellers and is available today via Parts Now for all reseller partners in the US and Canada. 

What would you say about the inkjet vs. toner office printing market over the next 2 to 3 years?

It is a time of transition for office printing.  We believe we are at the early stages of a huge market shift towards office ink that will extend well into the heart of the office print market in the next two to three years. 

The fact is that ink-based devices deliver color pages at a fundamentally lower cost than toner based devices.  They are also faster and more flexible to put together from an engine design standpoint.  New ink-based devices will drive new value.   By lowering the cost of color and also making low-cost color printing more productive and accessible to work team environments, ink-based technology is poised to drive the next wave of color pages.  We need to start thinking as an industry about how we transition from a 1c monochrome page to a 3-5c color page pervasively.  Distributed low-cost color pages will offload and complement the A3 color device structure we have today and will breathe a healthy dose of growth and profit into the industry. 

In the next two to three years, I believe every major print industry brand will be looking for a way to add ink-based devices to their office device portfolio.  We are seeing an increase in this interest and activity now.  We will see multiple new engine platforms from both Memjet partners and also from HP, Epson, and Brother who have all introduced or discussed publicly their interest in office ink. 

What can you tell us about Memjet office projects that are nearing completion and are slated for announcement in 2014? 

We can’t share any announcements or projects at this point in time. We work under confidentiality agreements with all partners, and product announcements are made at the time and choosing of those partners. 

As you recently assumed the position of President for Memjet Office, can you share your vision for Memjet office products and your strategic direction? 

At Memjet Office, our goal is to be a catalyst for industry growth and profit via new technology, of course, but also through new ways of doing business. This is an important distinction. When you look at the macro trends in the industry, we know the status quo will not drive growth.  Office pages are flat and even slightly declining in mature markets.  Monochrome pages still dominate.  Mobile technologies present new challenges in terms of print infrastructure. We’re threatened by new pervasive display technologies, all very personal and in color.  The current focus on growth via MPS is really a focus on lowering cost, de-personalizing technology and restricting color. 

For me the choice is very, very clear: Either we shift by driving new value and new thinking and new business models, or else printing and imaging slowly goes the way of the fax machine. 

The Memjet Office vision is to drive the next wave of color pages via very productive, accessible, low-cost color technology.  As the only independent provider of ink-based technology for the office market, our partners play an important role in terms of how this vision is manifested into future products.  We see this as a partnership and a melding of our technology value with partner strategy.  Diversity, creativity and partnership will drive differentiation and growth for Memjet and also new ways of providing value and generating profit for the industry.

In an industry where one does not run into many female presidents, congratulations on your recent promotion.  Do you feel you have had any special or unique experiences because of your gender?  Any advice you’d like to share with other aspiring women for managing a career and a personal life? 

Thank you.  I’m not sure my experiences are particularly deserving of offering of advice – but I’ll give it a shot.  Understanding your own uniqueness and bringing that forward to drive success is key whether that uniqueness stems from gender or background or life experience or personality.   It’s important to be aware of and see our particular set of experience and perspective as an advantage instead of a disadvantage.  If we do this, we can then use it in business to create value.   As women, the only gender-based comment I’ll make is that I think we often wait for the opportunity or the invitation to take the next step in our careers.  If we are working hard and succeeding, we could be more presumptive.   Don’t ask permission.  Leadership is fun and we deserve to be there. 

Parenting is a journey!  Family has certainly helped me to hone my ability to be fully present no matter what I’m doing.  We’re operating a global business at Memjet, and yet I want to be home for dinner and read to my kids at night.  I love being a parent and I also love solving business problems.  Admitting that you can’t do it all opens up the only other solution, which is to do the best you can and to be clear about what is important in each moment.  I’ve sprinted through airports in high-heels to catch the last flight home and I can say for certain that coaching soccer is a great way to get over jet lag!!  Being fully present at work and making the most of my time with my family is part of what makes it all work.  In the end it is the balance of the two that creates the energy and perspective to succeed at both.

Susan Neimes
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