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Horizon & Ultimate Global Partnership


Learn more about an extended collaboration between Horizon International and Ultimate TechnoGraphics.

Here is the first (of two) where CEO Julie Watson, Ultimate TechnoGraphics, explains that Horizon and Ultimate TechnoGraphics have worked together for a long time – and without saying anything specific, the new collaboration means tighter integration and new products that will be released. Enjoy this interview that Morten Reitoft had with Julie Watson.

MR: This is Morten from Inkish TV and I’ve got so many interviews today and now, or actually I should say Good Evening to my good friend Julie Watson from Ultimate TechnoGraphics in Canada. Julie; Welcome on Inkish.

JW: Thank you, I’m glad to be here.

MR: I can’t remember, I don’t know how many times you’ve been here, but I found it a little bit funny because when I said to you that I just clicked the ‘record’ and it counts down from 5, both of us knew; Yeah, yeah, that is the same thing as we have always done, right?

JW: Exactly.

MR: Just out of curiosity, when we do these kinds of interviews, does it have any impact, do you get any feedback from the market? Or are we just announcing something to nobody? What is your impression?
Not of Inkish, but more of having these kinds of interviews.
I tend to make you speak a little bit too much, but I had these kinds of conversations, and in particular I like to talk to you also, because you did the interview about me, which had a great impact on peoples’ understanding of Inkish and several thousand people have seen you as the reporter in that aspect.
How does presentations like this impact Ultimate?

JW: I think it’s an excellent way to get our message out. You know it’s a small company and of course you can do events to meet people face-to-face, but another great way of getting the messaging out is through partners such as yourself, and of course when we hit record and press stop, we think the impact is this small and then who watches, but in fact, through time, I had, in several locations, people tell me “Oh I watched this video at this time” but then there’s a following action or discussion from it. So, we’ve definitely seen a positive impact.

MR: That sounds great because the reason I’m asking is not so much to get roses of our collaboration, but more because I think that in these times it’s important, because software and hardware get’s easier and easier to use but more and more complex in what they can achieve. Therefore, I think the communication of these things are tremendously important. I mean, we are here today talking about an article and press release that was released by you this week, about an extension of a relationship you already have with Horizon in Japan. Therefore, you know, the impact of these collaborations is done because you want to serve your joint customers even better. That is why I think it’s important that there is some kind of resonance to what you and I are doing right now.

JW: Definitely

MR: So, Julie, Canada – Japan, there is a distance right. Of course, there is a distance in culture but both of you are global companies and I actually remember that the first time I met your colleague Ray, that was in Japan at a Horizon event. Tell us a little bit about how is your relationship, how did you get started working with Horizon?

JW: It’s been a very long time and there is a long history. The focus has always been on finishing automation. I think this is the main point in common that brings the two companies together.
You have on one hand a hardware company and on the other hand a software company, but if the print service provides wants to achieve true end-to-end automation, he must tie in multiple pieces together.
Some of these are software. Some of these are hardware. So, the advantage of this kind of partnership is to say, we’re two providers (software & hardware vendors), we’re working together to make sure that not only does the solution offer the automation but is actually translated into smarter and better implementations also at the customer site.
So I think this is really important. It’s important news also for end-users that want to achieve this next step of finishing automation. You know we’ve been automating to the press for years, it’s all about getting that file to the press as fast as possible. But now it’s also about automating the finishing. Otherwise, you lose all that time if that last step, that ‘final frontier’ is not automated, right?

MR: You think it’s the final frontier but it’s not, I promise you, there’s way more to come, but that’s for another episode.
I want to go a little bit back. So, I was wondering, when vendors connect with each other, is it like, you meet at a trade show and shake hands and then exchange business cards and then you acknowledge each other and get into at least having a recognition of each other in the market, I mean what is the actual process of, or is it just a call and you call anyone in the industry and say ‘Hi, I’m Julie and I want to work with you’?

JW: To have a long-standing successful partnership obviously starts at a first meeting point. There’s a first meeting point to any partnership relationship. However, it’s also how you build upon that. So, Ultimate has been focussing on finishing automation software for years now. We started the initial project in 2008. Through the years we’ve had several implementations of several different types of devices and handling different customer integrations and then the confidence of the mutual solutions working together, build through time and trough experience. So, when we’re presenting the solutions into the market today, it’s more than a simple ‘hey we know each other, we work together’.
We know our solution can work together, but it’s actually more than that. It’s a combined amount of experience that we hopefully have more and more end-users benefit from.
End-to-end automation is not just for the big, big customers, it’s also for medium and small sized customers. They can actually benefit quite a bit. The message is that there are solutions out there that are easier to implement if working together and if we all come together as partners, we can make it happen.

MR: I like that approach and I think it is well aligned with how I know both you and Horizon and also how I see Inkish as part of this collaborative world today.
I can’t help think about that when you work as a software company, it may be a wrong assumption, but I think that you sit with your developers, make a decision, develop something and put it to market. How difficult can it be?
The you have hardware manufacturers, that must be a totally different ballgame because they have engineering power, all those things that goes into the machinery. Do you sometime get impatient with hardware companies because they don’t push the envelope maybe as fast as a software company can?

JW: That’s a very good question Morten because I’ve always been an impatient person. My father used to always tell me that great things happen to people who are patient and that learn to wait. So, I’ve spent most of my life learning and implementing this.
So, all this to say, for sure things can go faster as a software company, in a certain way. But, the whole validation is also key to plug & play integration with manufacturers and these types of partnerships and collaborations make the technology capable to be useful for end-users. This collaboration also in testing with manufacturers. The way we do our finishing program, we build each driver, right now we are supporting over 30 drivers from Horizon, just to say. For each of these devices we really implement according to the specs from the manufacturers. But we also work with them to ensure that we do the testing and validation as well. So, we remove this from customers.

MR: So, what understand from what you are saying is that it seems like a mutual benefit. Because if you have software that can support the equipment on the floor, they can sell more equipment and you can sell more solutions, so it seems like a symbiosis, right?

JW: Well, right now there’s a timing in the market. There’s definitely a timing in the market where finishing automation is becoming, you know, we all knew that it’s important, where a lot of customers would say; Yeah, I know, I have to go in this direction’. And we fast-forward to today and customers are saying, or they are implementing it. They are actually in the process of changing the way they work because of the different challenges in the market. As you know, shorter runs, more inkjet printing, faster turn-around times, tight SLA’s, shortage of staff, I mean we all know what the challenges are. One of the key points is automation, so that’s why today there’s a real focus on this.

MR: So, the latest press release about the collaboration with Horizon, what are the implications of that one?

JW: What do you mean by implications?

MR: No, I mean, what is it that you have? What is new? Because you said you have worked with them for many years. What is the ‘New’ thing with the statement.

JW: There is definitely an enhanced collaboration in which our teams are working very very closely together. Also, as Horizon is really focussing on providing solutions to their customers and they are obviously organized to do so.
I think this is definitely a key point of coming together and at the end of the day it’s to benefit the end-users.

MR: O.k. so, it’s not like a product launch that you have done together? This is more like a statement to the industry that you and Horizon have decided to work closer together on certain aspects of the automation part of bindery. That is more the case, right?

JW: It’s definitely a statement, but the innovation happens throughout multiple products and multiple implementations. So, there isn’t a single product or implementation that we’re announcing with this news, but we are definitely announcing that there’s a focus on finishing automation bringing software and hardware together to the market. This will translate in a series of innovations to come.

MR: Ohhh, you’ve really teased me know, right? That is unfair Julie. Great, the way I know both you and Horizon, it seems like, you say that you’re a small company but you have a legacy, you have a long standing, I mean you have many customers, you have established yourself as a well established company in your segment. One of the things I like about Horizon, is that, I got to know Yoshihiro Oe, who was the CEO of Horizon GmbH until recently. What I learned from him when I met him, was that many Japanese companies have a very Japanese mentality, but at Horizon they have realized that the beauty of internationalization, globalization, is through collaboration and learning and work with different cultures, and really appreciate the differences in humans, rather than focussing on geography.
Have you noticed a change in relationship in that perspective, or is it just my view on the change that I see at Horizon over the past 5-6 years?

JW: From our perspective we’ve always viewed Horizon as an international company. Of course, they are Japanese, just as we are based here in Montreal, but with an openness towards the international market. I think that is also common with Ultimate where, yes, we are a small company, but we have reseller, partners and customers around the world. So, definitely understanding and being open to different cultures or different ways of seeing things is key in achieving mutual understanding.

MR: That was a very nice and political answer, so, I like that very much. Thank you very much Julie, we won’t get into too many problems with that answer 😊

MR: Final question; Printing United is coming up and I know that you have big expectations for the show and also know that it’s an important show for you.
Will your relationship with Horizon be in any way visible at Printing United from your perspective?

JW: Our relationship with Horizon is going to be visible at a lot of events up and coming with the presence of our solutions working together, definitely. For Ultimate, Printing United is also a very important event because we are going to be also announcing our second major release for this year.
For those who didn’t know we already had one major release for our flagship Ultimate Impostrip, around the Hunkeler Innovationdays, and now we are coming out with our second major release in the same year with a series of innovations that we are looking forward to announce. It’s a little bit too early but let’s say: ‘Stay tuned’.

MR: So, with that said, Julie, thank you very much for your time here on Inkish. It was as usual, great talking to you, and I am pretty sure that we will see each other at Printing United.
Thank you very much.

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