Benoit Chatelard’s ambition and resourcefulness have fuelled his climb up the corporate ladder in the global digital printing market. Starting out as a computer salesman in 1987, Benoit worked his way up the ranks at industry giants IBM and Ricoh, across Singapore, London, South Africa, France and Austria. The culmination of 30 years of hard work, was Benoit being named President and CEO of Flint Group’s Digital Solutions Division in May 2017.

Headquartered in Luxembourg, Flint Group is the leading global print consumables and solutions provider to the packaging and print media industries. Benoit’s immediate mandate is to develop the portfolio and customer reach of Xeikon, the Belgian digital press developer acquired by Flint Group in 2016.

Founded in 1988, Xeikon is a longstanding leader and innovator in its field, and a company with a 100% focus on all aspects of digital printing technology – from digital press and inline equipment, to front-end, toner and print media. With the principles of quality, flexibility and sustainability at its core, Xeikon designs, develops and delivers web-fed digital colour presses for label and packaging applications, and document and commercial printing.

Combined with Flint Group, it has forged an enviable market share in digital printing with more than 1,000 printing presses worldwide, a figure that continues to grow under Benoit’s insight and direction. “All our presses together print the distance to the moon and back every year,” says Benoit.

The impact of Ecommerce

“Ecommerce is having a major impact on our industry. With the rise of sites like Amazon, we’re seeing massive growth in online purchases, creating greater demand for small packaging for postage,” explains Benoit. “Industrial printing presents a huge opportunity, with analysts showing us that almost every segment of our industry is growing by double digits.

“In this industry, the expectation is to be served faster, so manufacturers have to react quickly to market demand,” explains Benoit. “We’re also seeing special editions, promotions, and even personalised packaging. The best way to achieve shorter lead times, increased reactivity, and creativity is to move to digital technology.”

To stay at the forefront of the industry, we invest time, money and resources. With 10% of our turnover allocated to research and development, we’re able to engage in the new generation of products and stay ahead.

Benoit has no doubts that inkjet printing is key for the future of Xeikon. By 2022, Benoit expects that 50% of the company’s revenue will come solely from inkjet. “We’re proud to be technology agnostic. We’re all about supplying the right technology for the application, not making the application fit the technology.

In-house, we boast the best technology in the printing industry, with both an inkjet and an electrophotographic press. We have the best fit for whatever our customers require,” says Benoit. “Every company is,
of course, customer driven, but we go further – we’re also application driven.

We’re not selling just presses, we’re also selling the add-ons – the converting aspect of finishing, and the development of the application. Although we function as part of a multibillion-dollar corporation, we have an entrepreneurial spirit.”

A threefold strategy

At Europe’s Labelexpo 2017, Benoit announced his threefold strategy for the future of Xeikon. “First, we will focus our document business, on graphic arts with high-speed, high-coverage, high-quality colour printing. In our label business, we are a clear leader,” says Benoit.

He then plans to consolidate this position by leveraging Flint’s contacts with converters, particularly in North America and Asia, where Xeikon has previously been unable to establish a strong presence. “We want to go for all geographies, all technologies, and all applications,” explains Benoit.

“The third element of our strategy is to build the future of the business in packaging, with a focus on corrugated packaging. This means moving towards more colourful, personalised boxes as seen in food and ecommerce packaging. We are expecting 44% growth in digital printing in the next three years for packaging, and our hope is to be in the same position in packaging as we are in label printing,” he adds.

“We have strong partnerships with sub-contractors, software partners, resellers and distributors – some of whom have been with us for decades. We are direct, digital and dedicated,” explains Benoit. “Xeikon is a game changer.

We are a knowledge-based business so we don’t just rely on what was invented a long time ago: we adapt. If we want to keep our operations lean, we have to invest in the right people, invent new products, and be consistent. We don’t try to be all things to all people.

Instead, we select our market and focus on being the best within that segment,” says Benoit. “The world of technology is much more open than before and I’m a firm believer in continuous improvement. Instead of making big changes every two years or so, each time I see something minor that’s flawed, I fix it immediately. I don’t wait.”