Functional printing is getting smarter, and it’s doing so by improving graphics quality, expanding production capabilities as well as decreasing cost and waste. One BC company has been on the cutting edge of this industry for a long time. Welcome to Kodak Canada. One of BC’s tech industry jewels, they are a major BC employer with one of the largest Kodak offices outside of Rochester, NY.
Kodak’s imaging system, SQUAREspot, is the key technology in their consumer packaging hardware offerings. SQUAREspot provides the differentiation of the system, leads the market in terms of imaging technology and is proudly developed and manufactured in BC. I recently had a chance to talk to Paul Beaumont, director of output devices, at Kodak Graphic Communications Canada in Burnaby, BC, about the factors that contributed to their success.
Q: Kodak Canada continues to develop SQUAREspot, leveraging improvements to thermal imaging technology. Can you tell us a bit more about this technology?
“How SQUAREspot works is our trade secret, but the end result is that SQUAREspot images a 2 by 10 micron laser spot on a plate/media. That is extremely high resolution,” explains Beaumont. By achieving such an accurate energy spot, Kodak adds process stability. Lasers are used in making masters of printing plates, that master is highly stable to facilitate use in different applications. The success and effectiveness of the product has been rewarded by the market as they recently shipped their 20,000th SQUAREspot image head.
Q: So where do we find examples of Kodak’s work?
“People are exposed to the quality of our products every day, whether flipping through their favourite magazine, browsing through the newspaper, eating breakfast out of a cereal box, or walking on the pattern that is applied to their laminate flooring in their home,” says Beaumont.
Q: SQUAREspot, as I understand it, provides the key differentiation of your computer packaging system. Can you talk about one of your recent innovations that uses SQUARESspot?
“A recent innovation is the launch of our Flexcel NX system for the Corrugated Packaging market,” says Beaumont. “At its core, the Flexcel NX systems utilize SQUAREspot imaging and it empowers customers in the post-print and pre-print corrugated markets to drive significant print quality improvements while taking advantage of increased print stability and pressroom efficiencies”.
Q: What have been the benefits of founding the original company in Burnaby, BC?
“Globally we are an 8,800 employee company with Kodak Canada as one of the largest Kodak facilities. We have been hiring with the recent expansion of our Burnaby based Technical Response Centre, and the expansion of manufacturing for some of our Very Large Format systems in Burnaby,” Beaumont says, and adds, “Being in Vancouver is key to working with our other manufacturing locations in areas such as Shanghai.” Ironically, it might even be what Vancouver lacks that sets the table for Kodak Canada’s success. The limited resources and limited large scale clients in Western Canada, compared to major population density areas such as China and the manufacturing powerhouses in the United States, forces Kodak to be collaborative.
Q: So building partnerships with customers and suppliers has helped Kodak, can you describe how it keeps Kodak at the forefront of the digital printing technology industry?
“Kodak has always stayed close to the customer. This is key to understanding their needs, and their customers needs, and is absolutely critical to developing the right products and features,” says Beaumont. “This means direct contact not only through our Sales and Marketing teams but enabling effective communication directly with our Product Management and Engineering teams when defining product requirements.” In the last West Coast Correspondent article, I wrote about how the decreasing size and cost of processing power and other components is opening the door to innovation in wearable technology. Innovation has been one of Kodak Canada’s achievements over the long term, to continue to analyze and anticipate customer needs and use the latest technology to deliver high quality, robust solutions.
Q: Kodak Canada has a long history of success with being nimble and innovative. What tips can you share about how Kodak has carved a competitive edge?
“Stay close to your customers and don’t be afraid to take risks, as that is the key source of innovation. Don’t get complacent – embrace, drive and lead change even when it may feel uncomfortable,” says Beaumont.
Q: Any words of advice for a budding tech entrepreneur?
Beaumont shares one of his favourite Japanese proverbs: “Challenge the larger projects, the small ones will not lead you anywhere, and have the vision/plan to drive you, and your organization, past your goal.”