70 Sonora customers for Kodak in the first year

Lois Lebegue, managing director of ALMA and VP at Eastman Kodak, tells Ramu Ramanathan that "India is a very successful territory. Be it, last year, as well as this year, we see a very solid growth."

15 Oct 2015 | By Ramu Ramanathan

Ramu Ramanathan (RR): We read a statement by the chief executive Jeff Clarke charting four growth areas, out of which two, Sonora and Prosper, are of interest to India. What is the Sonora update?
Lois Lebegue (LL): First of all, we see Sonora becoming much more than a niche market. It is becoming mainstream for us now. It will be the plates for the future, with 30% to 40% of our production being process-free.

RR: Can you quantify these numbers?
LL: We think that by the end of this year, at least 15% of the total production of plates will be process-free plates. It is huge, and very significantly the adoption of Sonora across the world has been extremely strong. As of today, we have more than 3,000 customers using Sonora plates, which is great for our market.

RR: About Sonora, we know that the new line "live" at Columbus.
LL: Sonora was launched in a staged way, throughout the last two and half years. We didn’t have capacities for production in the US, China and Japan. We have four factories – Columbus in the US,Osterode in Germany, Xiamen in China and Gunma in Japan. Except Osterode, the other three were not capable of manufacturing Sonora. Hence, we staggered it.

RR: Would the production cater for the Northern America territory, or would it extend other markets?
LL: Since, end of last year, Xiamen in China is made capable of producing Sonora and now we have Columbus. Japan produces a sub-brand of Sonora called Sonora XJ – a plate specially designed at the Gunma R&D facility for the Japanese print market. This capability of manufacturing Sonora from three continents is helping us ramping our supplies. We, therefore, started with Europe, moved to the US and then Asia-Pacific.

RR: Would that mean lesser production of your regular plates?
LL: Some customers have moved from process plates to process-free Sonora plates. So part of our Sonora volumes is coming from our own customers. This means, those with interest are moving to process-free, because of what Sonora offers – as the only plate in the market that you can fire on the CTP system and take it on the press, without any special treatment.

An added advantage is that once on the press, it is capable of producing, saleable print without much wastage. So Sonora is a very big step of removing the element of processing from the workflow – chemical, recycling, water consumption, electricity, cost of the processor, people to do it, and all the mistakes that happen. On top of that, we are eliminating wastage.

RR: What are the India numbers for Sonora?
LL: We see Sonora as a very big attraction for customers. We are ramping up in Asia and in India too. We will finish our first Sonora year in India with 70 customers, on premium plates that cost a little bit more than the normal ones, is a good performance.

RR: In terms of plate consumption, Fuji and TechNova have a healthy market share.
LL: In some countries there’s an institution that monitors the plate supplies and gives out official data, and it become easy to assess the market share. We don’t have that here in India.

RR: Is the plate market in India growing? And more importantly, is there room for the big three?
LL: What I can say is, one, we see the markets in India growing. It’s a pre-dynamic market. And we - at Kodak India - are very happy to grow in double digit, in terms of volumes of late. As, we serve only the thermal plates market, I think a double-digit figure is a good performance.

RR: It means that the thermal plate market is growing and is aiding Kodak to grow faster.
LL: Even with the commercial printers, in India, it has been difficult in the first two quarters for Sonora. But after that, it’s been good. And the best part is that our Sonora customers are growing their business. Also, because the more they are comfortable with the plates, the switchover to Sonora is becoming easier. It’s a win-win for both.

RR: Right now, Kodak doesn't have anyone using Sonora in newspapers?
LL: We have but have not declared it yet. These are interesting newspaper publications in SouthIndia and North East of India.

RR: Why so?
LL: Generally, when there was a revolutionary product launch, you don’t go to newspapers, because it may wreck the operation. Hence, we went to small accounts, as we usually do. We ran the Sonora with our alliances, got used to it.

Once, we get the comfort and confidence in the product, we migrate to newspapers. In Brazil, which I often compare to India, they have the same developments and a very important newspaper community. Brazil launched Sonora two years ago, and 40% of Brazilian newspapers are using Sonora.

RR: Does Sonora run on Indian machines in India. Since, Brazil has a number of them, like Manugraph, etc?
LL: Yes, they run on any kind of machines. Brazil is an example that’s very strong in the newspaper. And it’s happening in many other geographies. Also, we are expecting to see more big newspapers in Southeast Asia moving to Sonora with big volumes. And not only for newspapers but many of the other applications. And that’s why we are putting a lot effort on developing Sonora and creating a better version on an annual basis. We have a new version of Sonora coming, with much more improvements

RR: Who is the champion of Sonora?
LL: There are five divisions, one of which is a print system division, that is the pre-press consumables, then there is equipment for pre-press and the lead vision that is championing the technology. When you get a technology that is so successful and is changing the perception of what’s in it for printers, I think all of us at Kodak are champions of the product. And with a super successful product, everybody would like to be the champion.

RR: What about technical support for Sonora?
LL: In terms of technical support, we have a core technical team called the TAG (Technical Application Group) and this team has representatives in every country. These representatives are the technical champions that are allowing our customers the switch, and helping us boost our accounts.