A funny thing happened on the way to Graph Expo this year… No, this isn’t the start of a joke, it’s actually the start of a movement! thINK First is the inaugural educational event for inkjet created by Canon Solution America (CSA) customers, and sponsored by CSA. The timing puts me in NYC Sept 8-10 and then I head directly to Chicago to get The Printerverse ready for Graph Expo, but travel logistics and 500 pounds of luggage aside, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to attend and share what I learn with you, and I am quite honor to be invited.

I’ve only been speaking with Eric and his team over at CSA for a short time getting ready for Graph Expo (CSA is in the Printerverse Alliance with Canon USA!) and talking about thINK First. What I have learned about Eric is pretty simple – he is real. I think that genuinely comes across in this interview, and although Eric wont be on the panel, he will make at least one scheduled appearance in The Printerverse when Guy Broadhurst represents for CSA along with David Murphy from HP and Dustin Graupman from Xerox on the panel, “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Offset! Everything You Need To Know About The Inkjet Revolution!” on Tuesday Sept 15, 11-11:45AM CT in booth 3867. If you are in Chicago, don’t miss this! If you can’t make it, you can watch LIVE via Liverstream! All info is here.

I have a LOT of packing to do… so here is Eric and enjoy!

Eric_Hawkinson_CSADC: Who Is Eric Hawkinson and what does he do?

EH: I am a Senior Director of Marketing for Canon Solutions America.  Along with my amazing team, we are responsible for all outbound marketing for Production Print Solutions (PPS) throughout North America.  Additionally, I am also a big part of the Hawkinson family with wife Amy and children Hanna (6), Tyler (4) and Oliver (4 months).  While I live in sunny Florida, I was born in Chicago and lived their for 38 proud years.  I still consider it my home and bleed most every Chicago sports (Cubs not Sox – sorry southsiders, don’t take offense).  If anyone wants a good tour during Graph let me know – I’m your guy!

DC: Why has Canon entered the inkjet market, how long have you been at it, and what have you learned so far?  

EH: Canon acquired Oce’ Technologies in 2010 and have since that time made tremendous inroads into the production inkjet market.  Beginning with the Oce JetStream in 2008, we have seen Canon become the undisputed leader in inkjet technologies with currently 41% of the worldwide markets.  It’s estimated that in that time we have printed over 125 billion inkjet pages.  While the history is storied, it’s the future that we are the most excited about.  With our equipment now being able to print at amazing quality (1200 x 1200 dpi) and on offset, non-inkjet treated medias – we are confident our company will continue to lead the inkjet growth curve for years to come.

DC: What are three things a printer should know before they even entertain purchasing one of your inkjet presses?  

EH: First, they have to analyze their own business to define why they are migrating to inkjet.  Is there a desire to move away from offset to digital?  Are they looking to replace their existing digital toner devices with a more cost-effective approach?  We would never want a customer to look at inkjet like the “field of dreams.” Just by buy a press, the business will magically acquire new customers and grow your business.  However, there are countless reasons to transition, we would just want to assist them with their business plan on why inkjet is the smartest bet.  Secondly, what makes more sense – Continuous Feed or Sheet-Fed inkjet presses.  We are fortunate to have both.  If you have the volume, you could move with one of our Continuous Feed machines, or does it make sense to have the versatility of a sheet fed press like our new VarioPrint i300?  They both offer tremendous productivity while dramatically reducing the operating costs of traditional digital equipment.  Lastly, they need to know that if they choose equipment from Canon Solutions America, we will listen to them and work to grow their businesses.  We take our leadership position seriously and have worked closely with our customers to develop programs and initiatives that are aimed at creating awareness and growth.  Two perfect examples would be the creation of our “Designers Guide for Inkjet” which teaches customers of all levels everything they need to know about designing files for inkjet presses.  The other example is when our customers approached us at creating a User Group for Inkjet Customers.  We listened and fully supported this organization – thINK which will host its first event in New York City on September 8 – 10th.

DC: How did your previous life working in politics prepare you for the print industry? What would be your pitch to politicians to move their print from offset to inkjet?  

EH: What’s funny about that is that I remember being in print shops reviewing press proofs for a variety of campaigns and never did I think I would ever be working in the industry. In all honesty, I always saw politics as a big game. There is a winner and a loser – it’s that black and white.  As a result, in an effort to come on top there was always a need for project management, execution and an over arching sense of urgency to everything you do.  I have taken that with me throughout my career and it has served me as well. Interestingly enough, while politics consumed me for my early career, I am largely apathetic around the system. It’s sad, but true – I’m waiting for people to work together to move the country ahead to be energized once again. That said, it’s mesmerizing that more political campaigns aren’t using the true power of digital printing for their advantage. I have seen it used sparingly, but the ability for campaigns to communicate 1:1 through targeted mailings is the one thing I would like to educate all campaign managers. These campaigns all generally have useable data that could translate into amazing fluff or attack pieces. If I only knew then what I know now….

DC: You have graciously invited me to attend the “thINK First” conference coming up September 8-10 in NYC to help share information with the people at home. What is it that you hope the attendees take away, and please also give us a brief overview of the event, and how it came to be.

EH: The first thing to know about thINK is that it’s an independent organization that was created by our customers.  Secondly, it has been created as an effort to educate Canon Solutions Customers on the current and future state of inkjet (INK stands for Inkjet Networking and Knowledge).  I am fortunate to serve on the Board of Directors and I can tell you they have an amazing event planned.  Last I was told, there are well over 350 people attending with close to 30 partners (solutions providers) – amazing turnout for a first event.  What I would like them to come away with is a better understanding of inkjet and how they can become more successful businesses.  The organization has 16 different customers speaking on how inkjet has changed their business – these people are truly print pioneers and we would like to see more companies learn from their path and apply these practices to strengthen their businesses.

DC: If you were invited to give the commencement speech at your alma mater Western Illinois University, what would be your message regarding the process an organization undergoes to adapt and change, and how to know when the time is right to implement?

EH: To be honest, if I was honored to give that speech I would have a blast.  It would probably involve a lot of jokes that wouldn’t hit the mark, but I would have to take that opportunity to hit them with my latest and greatest stand-up material.  Of course, when those jokes bombed I would take a serious approach and discuss how we live in a time where change is happening at break neck speed.  Not everyone can handle that rate of change and you need to identify the right people in your organization who embrace the excitement and can execute plans that make an impact.  I have been fortunate to have led, and been led by, some visionary thinkers.  It was from this type of “on the job” education where I developed a passion to not take the easy road and drive change when change is needed.  Through proper leadership, a clear vision and surrounding yourselves with the right people, organizations can quickly and effectively implement change.  It’s critical in this day and age.  If not, the world still needs ditch diggers….

Visit Canon at booth 1213 at GRAPH EXPO 2015!
Connect with Canon Solutions America:
Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn / YouTube

Connect with Eric: LinkedIn | Twitter

Follow: @thINK_Forum | #thinkconference2015

Get “The Designer’s Guide to Inkjet”
by Elizabeth Gooding and Mary Schilling

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