Birch taking over for retiring Hunt

Like most hardware vendors, Kodak Alaris is going through some changes. For one, what has historically been known as the company’s “Document Imaging” division has been re-branded as Kodak Alaris Information Management (IM). This is designed to reflect the organization’s transition toward selling more software solutions. Kodak Alaris has also appointed a new regional GM for the U.S. and Canada (US&C), as Martin Birch takes over for Russell Hunt, who is retiring at the end of this month.

Birch had been serving as IM’s GM for the EMEA region, a position he assumed in 2012. He will be replaced in EMEA by industry veteran Erwin Schwarzl, who, in the mid-2000s, served as GM of DI worldwide. Hunt is retiring after 24 years in the industry, which started when he was appointed president of the Bell+Howell Scanner Division in 1991. Hunt joined Kodak through its acquisition of Bell+Howell in 2009.

Hunt certainly had an adventurous tenure over the past five-plus years. This included the DI division being spun off and sold to the Kodak U.K. Pension Plan (KPP) as part of the bankruptcy proceedings at Kodak corporate [see DIR 5/17/13]. With the organization’s future uncertain during the period between the bankruptcy filing in early 2012 and the sale to KPP, sales suffered. However, by all accounts, the organization bounced back strongly in 2014.

“We have a lot of good things happening here, and we want that to continue,” Hunt told DIR. “Martin is certainly going to change some things, but his appointment is designed to keep our momentum going and build on it. We went through some challenges with the Chapter 11 filing and the acquisition. But things have settled down, and in 2014, we showed some strong growth—faster than the market. In the production segment, we grew 22-23% year-over-year. We want to keep battling for market share on scanners and service and do more with software solutions.”

Kodak Alaris IM’s regional GM positions reports to Dolores Kruchten, IM president. The GMs are responsible for all field sales—this includes hardware, service, software, and solutions. There are also Latin American and Asia-Pacific regional GMs. “EMEA and the US&C are our two biggest regions,” Birch told DIR. “It changes from year-to-year as to which is larger, and it has traditionally been a bit of a rivalry. Together, the two regions account for about 65% of overall sales.”

Birch agreed that his main goal initially will be to keep things going in their current direction. “Russell has taken the organization forward on a clear course, and I plan to come in and do a lot of listening, at least at the start,” said Birch. “I want to get to know the team, as well as the customers, and then take the organization forward in the way that Russell has been building it out so far.”

Birch joined Kodak in 2001 through its acquisition of wide-format printer vendor Encad. Previous to moving to Document Imaging in 2005, Birch served as GM of Encad. From 2009-2011, he served as EMEA GM for Kodak’s Business Solutions and Services Group.

“One of the reasons that Martin was selected for his new position is because he has a track record of selling solutions,” noted Hunt. “He has much more experience than I personally have in working with corporate accounts and engaging customers directly. My experience is all working through indirect channels like resellers and distributors.”

Birch’s team in EMEA has already achieved some success selling the Kodak Alaris Info Insight advanced capture platform. “We have sold between five and 10 deals and are gaining some very valuable experience,” he said. “Unfortunately, because the software is designed to give its users a competitive advantage, we are under NDAs.”

Birch indicated that the transition to solutions sales will be gradual. “It will be evolutionary; there will be no big revolution in the way we work in the US&C,” he said. “We are going to continue to take the software and solutions business forward and hire more people to focus on it. I can’t give you any specifics yet, but we will be making investments.”

Hunt feels the time is right for Kodak Alaris to move more deeply into software. “If you look at the technology curve, the maturity of document scanners has started to negatively affect our sales channels,” he said. “Newer scanners are delivering higher performance for less money. What a user paid $45,000 for five to eight years ago, they can now get for $25,000 and they are typically thrilled with the performance.

“If you are a reseller that sold 100 scanners in 2005, selling 100 scanners today will result in a significant drop in revenue. So, everyone has to sell more scanners every year to even maintain the same revenue. To help us grow, and to help themselves grow, we are trying to get our partners to look at software as another vehicle for growth.”

Hunt indicated that his primary plan for the future is spending more time with his family.

When we spoke, Birch was still planning his relocation to the U.S. He was excited about the prospect of moving closer to his father, who already lives in the States.

For more information: http://bit.ly/BirchBio