Industry Interview: Ernest Azzam, HP

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Industry Interview: Ernest Azzam, HP
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Ernest Azzam, HP Regional Business Manager, Large Format Printing for Middle East, Mediterranean and Africa, discusses the growth potential of the home decor market and signage trends in Africa.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE UNIQUE CHALLENGES THAT SIGN MAKERS IN THE EMEA REGION, SPECIFICALLY IN AFRICA, FACE?

Margins, which are becoming tighter and are driven down by stiff competition, are the biggest challenge. There is business out there and there’s a lot of volume, but the margins are a problem. However, if you have the right partners, with the right focus, you can do business in any situation.

HOW DO HP’S PRODUCTS ADDRESS THESE CHALLENGES?

HP is going after the signage market with the unique Latex technology. Latex ink is water-based so it’s much better for the environment and for people’s health. The main feature is its versatility — you can take on outdoor jobs but also complement them with higher margin indoor jobs. Latex technology supports a wide range of materials, which allow new applications such as decoration, and with users able to print on synthetic leather, textile, wallpaper and signage with excellent quality.

WHICH TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING IN THE LARGE FORMAT PRINTING SPACE IN THE EMEA REGION?

Home decor is growing in both South and North Africa. One of the many examples of this is Robin Sprong Wallpapers, which is based in South Africa and is one of the largest wallpaper application and decoration companies in EMEA. We use his designs for our own trade shows to show customers the creativity that can be achieved with HP’s products. Today signage is 100% digital but only 15% of decoration is done digitally. In some countries, less than 10% of that market share is digital. So there is huge growth potential in this segment.

We also see an increase in the decentralisation of signage printing. With the ease of use of printers, companies tend to print their own signage for everyday jobs and work that is needed quickly. Retail stores especially are bringing printing in-house for simpler work because of faster turnaround times and ease of use of Latex machines, which require no maintenance.

PageWide XL technology is increasingly being used for retail posters. The product is only four colours, single pass but the quality is more than good enough for this type of work. PSP’s use this solution to complement outdoor signage printing with indoor posters for retail at very high speeds.

IS HP PLANNING ANY LAUNCHES OF LARGE FORMAT PRINTERS IN THE COMING MONTHS?

We’re seeing a big trend towards print and cut vs. single function machines so we’ll be launching a few entry level products with integrated print and cut solutions.

A print and cut combination is a differentiator that brings value to our customers. Our software can create the cutout automatically and send it to the cutter. The printer then prints the layout with a barcode and the cutter will read the barcode. The integration makes it very easy to use.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE HP INNOVATIONS THAT WILL HELP BUSINESSES STAND OUT?

Substrates for signage and decoration are key — we’re announcing a new synthetic leather for furniture and other applications. There are also many types of wallpaper. One is a dry wallpaper, which you can print on, take on site and then spray water on the back to activate the glue.

Another unique innovation is magnetic wallpaper. Users can brand walls for events and remove the wallpaper when needed without having to ruin the walls. We are always launching new and exciting products but it means even more when customers get creative with our products.

HOW CAN PRINTERS MAXIMISE THEIR RELATIONSHIPS WITH CUSTOMERS?

HP emphasises printers partnering with their customers by finding out what their problems are and solving them. Printers need to show their customers what they can do for them and approach them with unique differentiated solutions, which will guarantee customer loyalty.

Also important are service, time to market, consistency and quality of the solution. If the quality is not satisfactory, the customer won’t be happy.

THE AFRICAN MARKET

We’re excited about the African market in general, especially in South and North Africa. Signage and decoration are growing in these markets and this is an opportunity for HP to show what we can do, and it gives customers opportunities to try something new. HP is focusing on decoration, because the person is buying the art, creativity and emotion and not the square metre. Targetting that market will make you more competitive.

HEWLETT PACKARD www.hp.com/go/graphic-arts

Falcom Orafol