Being part of a “seismic change”

This article was first published in the November 2020 issue of AP

In early 2020, Asher Levy was named active chairman at Landa Digital Printing (LDP). Previously the CEO of Orbotech Ltd, Levy joined LDP at a time of great opportunity, but also faced unforeseen challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting most global industries.

Speaking about his first few months with the company, Levy provided AP with insight into this transition for the print industry, his role at LDP, and his future plans for Landa Digital Printing.

Q: Given a long and distinguished career at Orbotech what were your reasons for joining LDP?
Asher Levy (AL): I was heavily influenced by my first meeting with Benny Landa in 2019. Benny visited us at Orbotech and gave a brief presentation about LDP – I was simply fascinated by what he shared. We then kept in contact and later in the year, Benny invited me to join the company as active chairman.
I joined the company as Benny himself is very impressive. Secondly, I did some research of my own and looked at the company, the technology, the addressable market size and then the wider industry. At that point, I realised that the opportunity for nanography could be huge.
In business, not many people can say that they were a part of a revolution, or a seismic change within an industry. Of course, I wanted to be a part of it.

Q: What are your responsibilities in the role of active chairman?
AL: In its broadest terms, it is to compliment, support and to be a true partner to the CEO. In the day-to-day, that means that I have an active role in business development planning, as well as helping to define all strategic initiatives as to long-term product and growth strategies. What’s more, it also means preparing the company for its next key initiatives – whether that be in raising capital or hiring senior personnel. In addition, and together with the CEO and its founder, my role is also to underpin the company’s values and its culture.

Q: Not long after you joined, the world was hit by COVID-19 – how did that impact your first few months?
AL: Well, COVID-19 has had a huge and profound impact on the whole world, so it naturally dominated my time, especially as I was also acting as the interim CEO.
The pandemic’s impact was felt in every area of the business, with many questions for us to answer, such as, how do we now communicate with customers? How do we demonstrate our presses? What happens now that drupa 2020 has postponed? And critically, how do we continue to support customers in the field?
And in answering those questions, I have to say that I was impressed by how the business responded. The management team did an amazing job in reacting quickly, making swift changes to limit any long-term financial impact.
Travel was instantly shut down, including in Asia Pacific, and physical meetings became a challenge. Our comprehensive service infrastructure that includes both remote support offered by our centre in Israel, together with our experienced local engineers in the field, proved its effectiveness and adeptly handled/is handling the challenge of keeping our customers operational and trained up.
We also quickly and nimbly transformed our ongoing onsite customer visits and press demonstrations to ongoing full scale online demo events – which on the positive side, has enabled more of the industry public to access the information about our presses and technology that they want.
In addition, our wider team also worked very quickly and smartly to address the other key challenges too. Crucially, hiring experienced local engineers in the field to support our customers and to keep them operational.
In hindsight, the pandemic definitely fast-tracked my on-boarding process, and this meant that I very quickly got to know the business. And while COVID-19 continues to be a challenge, I can’t think of one situation where the team wasn’t able to find a solution.

Q: What were your initial key observations about the business?
AL: There are many. If I start with culture, some companies make you feel like everyone is replaceable, but this isn’t Benny’s way. LDP is all about its people and this makes you feel very comfortable and welcome from day one.
My other lasting impression has been one of opportunity. We’ve clearly got a superior solution that aggressively answers market needs, presenting a huge opportunity for us and for our customers. We’re now in the execution phase, which brings other challenges, but I now know that these are all within our control. We have the talent and professionalism within our team to successfully conclude this phase, even within a pandemic.

Q: LDP recently announced that Arik Gordon had been appointed as CEO, also from Orbotech, what can you tell us about him and his suitability for the role?
AL: Hiring a new CEO was one of my first tasks and Arik was my first choice for the role. I feel very lucky to have secured him. Arik has a strong technology background with lots of relevant experience, but he also brings with him a unique combination of attributes. He’s a nice and genuine guy, but he’s also a great leader with a solid approach to people. He brings the most out of them. What’s more, and from our previous life at Orbotech, I can tell you that he’s also great at business strategy – he’s not afraid to challenge and he’s also able to think differently. A great fit for Landa.

Q: So, what are your main objectives for the next 12 months?
AL: In the immediate future, and like most companies, it is to be ready for when the market re-opens. Of course, there are still some great unknowns, especially with regards to the COVID-19 challenge and its potential impact on the world economy and our customer’s businesses. But from conversations with our customers, who are positive about the future, I’m very optimistic.
So, to support them and to keep them running when the world starts to unlock, we will further strengthen our consumables model, which will undoubtedly see increased demand. We will also continue to build a challenging yet reliable and achievable business plan for 2021.

Q: LDP installed its first Nanographic Printing press in Asia Pacific in January. What are some of the company’s plans for this region?
AL: Landa’s first customer in the region is ZRP, one of the top three carton printing companies in China. It has around 40 offset presses installed across four plants, utilising state of the art production processes to deliver international quality in China for global brands. Subject to the pandemic, our current plan in the region is to continue shipping to China and to commence shipping to Australia sometime in the near future – but not before 2022.

Q: What are some trends in Australia that LDP intends to capitalise on?
AL: In the Australian market, there are trends similar to many other global markets. For instance, we see growing demand to improve efficiencies in the production process – often, to support end customer requirements for faster turnaround of smaller quantities with a greater number of SKUs, whilst also reducing inventory. We also see an increased demand for environmentally-friendly products – end-to-end.
Nanography offers a real solution to these challenges. With its unique digital printing process and water-based NanoInk, Nanography can print on any substrate without special treatment, and as a result, provide the efficiency, flexibility and quality that Australian print houses and brands are looking for.

Q: Having received a capital boost in Nanographic print, what lies in the future of this technology? 
AL: Our focus remains on the roll-out of our Landa S10 and S10P for the commercial, folding carton and display and publishing sectors, as well as the continued development of our Landa W10 series press for the flexible packaging sector. Beyond that, with the substrate flexibility provided by Nanography, we expect the technology to touch all mainstream printing markets in the future: from web-fed publishing and corrugated, to labels and metal printing, textiles and more. 

Q: As LDP will be attending drupa 2021, what can we expect from the company at the tradeshow?
AL: Yes, we definitely plan to participate in the next drupa. But this is of course subject to the then-prevailing public health situation. If we feel it is safe for our employees and our customers, we’ll be there. As for what visitors can expect, as you know, we like to surprise – but you can rest assured that it will be a good show.

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