25 Apr 2024

LFR Spotlight on HP large-format printer distributor Graficomp

LFR Spotlight on South African HP large-format printer distributor Graficomp.

While there are plenty of examples of print service providers (PSPs) that have diversified out of their traditional markets and into new areas, less is said about technology providers and distributors that have followed a similar path in search of new business.

Step forward Graficomp, which, having started out in the 1980s with a focus on architectural design, now finds itself firmly established as a trusted supplier of wide-format printing technologies to print companies and other businesses across its native South Africa.

While serving as a project architect for a prominent retail company, Graficomp founder Graham Roy identified a niche market. Making use of early computer-aided design (CAD) technology, Graficomp operated as an architectural practice, working with a wide range of clients.

However, it was a chance encounter with a CAD plotter salesperson with a lack of CAD knowledge that highlighted a clear opportunity for Graficomp to move into equipment selling, with an initial focus on CAD plotters. This proved to be a shrewd move as when the architectural business faced downtimes, the focus shifted more towards the growing plotter sales business.

This evolution led Graficomp to form a partnership with Gavin Catto, a fellow architect and a close friend of founder Roy. Not long after, Gavin relocated to Cape Town, which led to the creation of Graficomp Cape, marking the business’s evolution from a small-scale operation to a more significant enterprise.

Making the move to print with HP

With significant success in CAD during its early years, Graficomp’s trajectory took a transformative turn with the introduction of HP's first DesignJet, a revolutionary departure from traditional pen plotters.

This innovation not only expanded Graficomp’s product range into the printing market but also underscored its commitment to staying at the forefront of technological advancements in the printing and CAD sectors.

While Gavin sadly passed away in 2016, Graficomp very much remains part of the Catto family. Gavin’s son, Nick, now serves as Director of the business, and speaks with great pride about how Graficomp has continued to grow to become the force it is today.

“Today, Graficomp stands as a testament to enduring innovation, strategic partnerships, and an unwavering commitment to providing cutting-edge solutions to our clients,” Nick Catto said. “Our journey, characterised by gradual growth and strategic pivots, reflects our adaptability and depth of knowledge in both the realms of architecture and digital design technologies.”

 

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From the initial partnership on the HP DesignJet, Graficomp’s relationship with HP went from strength to strength, to the point where this collaboration is now the cornerstone of its business. HP products available at Graficomp still include CAD plotters in the HP DesignJet portfolio but has been expanded to also cover HP Latex printers and HP Stitch dye sublimation machines.

“Graficomp's relationship with HP is a testament to our longstanding and foundational partnership, tracing back to the inception of our engagement with the brand,” Nick said. “From the outset, we've been fortunate to work alongside some of HP's most dedicated individuals, a collaboration that has not only fostered mutual growth but also led to significant milestones within the industry.

“Our commitment to offering these specialised HP machines stems from our belief in providing industry-leading solutions that empower our clients to achieve their creative and professional goals. By focusing on these select product lines, we ensure our team's expertise is unmatched, providing not just equipment but comprehensive support and advice to maximise the potential of each purchase.”

Living life in large-format

While there have been many highlights from the HP partnership, Nick said one pivotal achievement was the development of the first-ever wide-format HP partner channel. Together with HP, Graficomp established the DesignJet channel, marking what he described as a “ground-breaking” initiative in HP's channel program history.

“This endeavour stands as one of the most successful channel programs HP has ever launched, setting a new standard for partnership and collaboration” Nick said. “Although the specific structure of this program has evolved over time, the legacy of innovation and mutual success it established continues to influence our operations.

“What sets HP apart, and what we value most, is their understanding of the importance of service and support. HP's emphasis on service excellence aligns with our own commitment to providing outstanding customer care. This shared value is crucial, as it allows us to offer our clients the level of service they require directly.”

Nick also spoke of HP’s ongoing support, which extends to ensuring that Graficomp engineers receive factory training, allowing staff to conduct all necessary repairs in-house. This capability, Nick said, is significant as it eliminates a reliance on third-party service providers, enabling the company to maintain control over the quality and speed of service, which he added is a limitation with other vendors.

“In summary, our collaboration with HP is rooted in shared values of innovation, service excellence, and thoughtful product design. These elements resonate with our mission at Graficomp, to provide cutting-edge solutions and exceptional service to our customers. HP's leadership in technology and their holistic approach to product development and customer service are why we chose to work with them and continue to value our partnership.”

Helping Graficomp customers achieve success

While Graficomp has obviously benefitted from this working partnership with HP, it has also helped print companies across South Africa, granting them access to and support with HP print technology.

 

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HP products proving particularly popular with customers in South Africa within the HP Latex range include the HP Latex 335 Series favoured for its versatility in producing high-quality prints on a wide range of media, and the HP Latex 630 Series offering enhanced quality, efficiency, a broader colour gamut and a white ink solution.

As for other HP lines, Nick said the HP DesignJet T600 Series is highly sought after and favoured by professionals in architecture, engineering, and construction for its line accuracy and high-resolution outputs. Meanwhile, the HP DesignJet T1600 Series and the HP DesignJet T2600 MFP Series also continue to be popular with Graficomp customers.

For Nick, a standout example of customer success with HP technology involves the Minuteman Press franchise. Previously, the franchise predominantly relied on another manufacturer’s printers for its printing needs, but through the efforts of Graficomp and HP technology, the entire South African and global Minuteman Press market transitioned to HP Latex printers.

“This switch to HP Latex technology has enabled Minuteman Press to leverage the benefits of HP's advanced printing solutions, including superior print quality, greater efficiency, and environmental sustainability,” Nick said.

“The adoption of HP Latex printers by Minuteman Press underscores the significant impact of HP technology on improving operational capabilities and meeting the evolving demands of the printing industry.”

Building for the future

Keen to build on its successful partnership with HP, Nick said Graficomp is committed to evolving the relationship further, with both sides working closely to deliver solutions to customers in all areas of South Africa.

“Our commitment to innovation, service excellence, and providing cutting-edge solutions remains at the forefront of our operations,” Nick said. “We continue to explore new technologies and market opportunities to support our clients’ growth and adapt to the dynamic landscape of the printing and design sectors.

“Our enduring relationship with HP, marked by shared milestones and continuous collaboration, underscores our commitment to delivering excellence and innovation in the printing sector. We look forward to sustaining and expanding this partnership, fostering further innovations and successes in the years to come.”

 

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