Having spent most of his career at Canon, current president of Canon Solutions America Peter Kowalczuk sees the concepts of agility and innovation as the keys to emerging from the current global crisis and thriving in a rapidly changing marketplace.
Having begun his career at Canon in1984, Peter Kowalczuk believes he very much grew into his current role as President of Canon Solutions America, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Canon U.S.A., Inc. He was promoted to the position in January 2018, and more than three years later he sees a unique opportunity for the subsidiary to tap its best-in-class products and solutions to take advantage of the ever-changing marketplace, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Right as the pandemic was hitting, Canon Americas [which includes all Canon Group companies in the North and South America region] went through a leadership transition from our longtime chairman and CEO, Yoroku Adachi, to our new president and CEO, Kazuto Ogawa,” Kowalczuk told CEO Magazine in an exclusive interview. “With that shift, it was crucial as an organization to stay efficient and focus on our day-to-day operations, and we were very successful in that regard. Our success through that time is due to the hard work and dedication of our Canon Solutions America employees, as well as the continuous support of our customers.”
Canon Solutions America, Inc., supplies industry-leading enterprise, production, and large-format printing solutions, supported by exceptional professional service offerings. In addition, the company provides integrated systems technology, comprising one of the strongest solutions portfolios in the document management industry.
INNOVATION AND TRADITION
Digitization has changed the printing industry forever. While Canon is adapting to the times to accommodate such developments, Kowalczuk also noted that demand for consumer inkjet and consumer laser products has been thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic as people print documents from home.
“We know print is not dead. Print is still very much alive and well and thriving in correlation with digital communications,” Kowalczuk said. “What we’re looking at in terms of the print industry is the commercial print sector. Canon has always been very strong in R&D and it is leaning very heavily into color industrial printers. In fact, Canon has been recognized by Keypoint Intelligence as the No. 1 market share leader for total production inkjet in 2020 and we will continue to focus on that growth sector. For example, people might argue that physical books were finished with the growth of e-books, but we differ. Books are certainly a growing sector for print right now.”
“Our core direction is to continue to expand the B2B sales and service of Canon products. That’s the underlying direction we have,” he added. “What we’re hearing from our customers is a real need not only for print, but also for digital transformation. So we’re very focused on supporting our customers in their business, whether it’s digital mail, content management, onboarding that content management using our technology from the scanning perspective, and integrating that holistically into their organization.”
“Because we’re a diverse organization focused on all aspects of business, we have growth opportunities in every area. So I think one of our most valuable assets is agility. We can add solutions and additional products very quickly,” Kowalczuk elaborated. “Being customer-centric, people trust us. We value that trust because that reputation is very hard to gain and maintain. It’s critical not only to hold on to that trust, but also to build upon it.”
CRISIS AS OPPORTUNITY
COVID-19 has altered many aspects of business for nearly all industries, and Kowalczuk was keen to explain how Canon Solutions America has moved to quickly address the challenges resulting from the pandemic. He believes that the company’s agility has been crucial in enabling this process, especially as customers seek signage for their buildings and offices and innovate designs for face masks.
“During the pandemic, everyone had to swiftly learn how to deal with a changing world,” Kowalczuk highlighted. “Many questions plagued us as we were adapting to this new normal. What’s going to happen this year? Is everybody going to go back to the office? Will it be a hybrid workforce from now on? How do they digitize everything? How do they share documents with clients and peers? But also from a security perspective, how do you digitize information with security in mind? We’re trying to work with those different environments and we get a lot of feedback from customers that they need help.
“Over the next three to five years we see the development of a core technology for Canon products, but also an increased emphasis on the area of services and solutions, especially in terms of digital transformation. This is where our consulting service capabilities can help our customers learn and understand how to transform quickly. What I believe is really unique is our national service organization structure that provides both maintenance and onsite staffing components to our customers.”
A key step for Canon was the 2010 acquisition of Dutch firm Océ. This enabled the parent organization to acquire a whole array of new products in the inkjet sector, with both large/wide formats and continuous feed devices. Kowalczuk believes such consolidation has only strengthened Canon’s ability to deliver solutions to its customers and differentiate itself from its competitors.
“Above all, Canon continues to be a financially secure company which gives us the opportunity as a direct B2B organization to bring innovative products and solutions to market,” he explained. “We’re very focused right now on reevaluating every aspect of our business, harnessing the best of Canon Solutions America and Canon U.S.A., and strategically utilizing the prowess and efficiencies of both organizations to drive home optimization and productivity.
“We’re always looking for areas of improvement, breaking down the silos between divisions if we can. How should we run our business differently? How do we react more quickly? We also need to be able to reinvest in new products and services. Trimming and cutting is only one aspect. You have to continue to grow market share and Canon is very focused on that.”
Outside of its portfolio, Kowalczuk said that Canon Solutions America is always looking for hardware solutions that are complementary to its products, and yet again the coronavirus pandemic provided opportunity to expand its range. During the pandemic, Canon Solutions America sourced an automated, FDA-cleared, touchless temperature kiosk, known as the welloStationX, from a company called Wello Inc. As an additional workplace safety enhancement, Canon Solutions America also developed Check-In Online to allow employees and visitors to be remotely pre-screened and cleared to enter into the workplace, a product which the company subsequently took to market.
“We are currently creating a new portfolio of products to help enable customers bring their employees back safely,” Kowalczuk explained. “The other aspect of remote work is the concern of security. This is a very big problem both in corporate America and higher education, so we partnered with Agile Cybersecurity Solutions (ACS), a leader in cybersecurity, to sell their services for a virtual CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) to help clients take steps to secure their information and data through assessment and consultative services. We research and strategically find the best-in-class partners, like ACS, and we work diligently with them.”
Such important partnerships enable Canon Solutions America not only to reduce costs, but also give and receive support in developing new ideas to meet customers’ needs and enhance other Canon products. “Cost is one aspect, but the biggest factor in looking for strategic partners is someone you can build a business with, supporting each other,” Kowalczuk added. “We only select partners that are best-in-class; some have been so critical that it has resulted in Canon acquiring those entities.”
Looking ahead, Kowalczuk cited efficiency, improved productivity, and that vital ingredient—agility—as the key factors in optimizing Canon Solutions America’s business model and pushing the company in the direction of further success.
“Agility, especially, is critical for any company, particularly as the business environment changes so rapidly,” Kowalczuk concluded. “Otherwise it’s very difficult to keep your business growing. We demonstrated that quality prior to the pandemic, but we proved that even during the most challenging of times this organization could be flexible. The key is to always reevaluate, always listen to your customers, and understand what their real needs and goals are so you can build your business around that and not take them for granted. That’s what we really pride ourselves on.”
By Paul Imison