by Jim Continenza, Executive Chairman, Kodak
We all know the conventional Kodak narrative: The company that invented digital photography overlooked its potential and became the poster child for corporate shortsightedness. Now we have learned from the past and this time we see digital not as a threat, but as a golden opportunity.
It’s an opportunity we’re ready to capitalize on because today Kodak is stronger financially than we have been in many years. We’ve repaid in full our First Lien Term loans and eliminated tens of millions of dollars in annual interest payments. We’ve reorganized so we can capitalize on our unmatched strengths in print and advanced materials and chemicals – the foundation of many of our proprietary print technologies. We are energized, confident, loaded with great products and ready to lead the next revolution in digital print.
The digital print era starts now
We believe more than ever that the future of print lies in digital. Digital technology, especially Kodak digital technology, now offers print quality that matches offset. I’d challenge anyone to see the difference between images printed with our Kodak Ultrastream inkjet technology and conventional offset. That knocks down a huge barrier to digital adoption and changes everything. Add to that the fact that digital print can do things that offset can’t: improve workflow efficiency, print very short runs and customize communications and packaging using variable data. Those strengths have become even more valuable during the coronavirus crisis as the packaging segment continues to grow and direct mail becomes a more valuable tool for marketers looking to engage with consumers.
That’s why digital is growing and projected to grow even faster as more printers (and their customers) recognize its advantages. In fact, Smithers Research projects a Compound Annual Growth Rate of seven percent for digital between 2019 and 2024, even as analog print shrinks.
Doubling down on digital
Based on the clear evidence about where the industry is headed, Kodak is doubling down on digital print, especially technology that enables digital package printing. We’re investing approximately $25 million a year in print technology, adding to our already great portfolio of digital solutions. Before we commit to any R&D activity, we listen to our customers. We are building the products printers need to increase simplicity, improve productivity, drive growth and thrive in the digital future. If they succeed, so do we.
Kodak has always had the scientific horsepower to drive more innovation than its competitors, and still does today. Our IP portfolio includes approximately 2,500 printing-related patent assets. In fact, Kodak created just about every game-changing invention in modern printing, from Kodak Prosper presses to Kodak Sonora Process Free Plates to our new Ultrastream inkjet platform. And now that Kodak is much leaner and nimbler, we can drive the development and commercialization of disruptive technologies such as digital package printing.
A big factor in all this is experience. Print is in Kodak’s DNA and we still employ thousands of people with decades of experience developing and servicing leading-edge technologies. I’m also a print industry veteran, having run several printing companies and paper companies. I know the print business end-to-end. I understand technology transitions, as well as the power of digital, and can see the opportunity – right now – in digital print.
Kodak’s all-star portfolio
And that’s just the stuff we do on our own. We’re also open to collaborating with partners to build technology neither of us could create alone. A good example is the Kodak/Uteco Sapphire EVO W press, which delivers the next level of print quality, customization and productivity in digital package printing. What’s more, the amazingly affordable Kodak water-based inks and coatings it uses actually lower the cost of print. It’s a game-changer for the packaging industry.
And these products are just the beginning, just the tip of the Kodak iceberg. We have other technologies in the works which will round out our portfolio and give our customers a truly complete range of solutions so they can compete in digital at any stage of their business evolution. And they can continue improving the productivity of their traditional print operations with Sonora Process Free Plates and highly automated CTP platesetters – the industry’s fastest.
This time we’re not in it to merely become another player in the print industry. We are in it to rewrite the narrative about Kodak, restore our name to respectability and prominence and lead the print industry to a growing digital future.