Joe Wigzell - Academy and Creative Centre Manager at Roland DG UK
Roland DG is a worldwide leader in the sign, graphic arts, commercial print, packaging, labelling, promotional gift, textile, engraving, milling and 3D modelling industries.
The company is committed to offering the best after-care support in the industry through its dedicated training courses at the Roland DG Academy to help customers feel comfortable and confident when using Roland DG products, and always be on hand to assist when a customer needs help and to continue to contribute to the growth and success of its customers’ businesses.
We talk to Academy and Creative Center Manager at Roland DG UK, Joe Wigzell.
How did you come into your role as Academy and Creative Centre Manager?
When I was at university I studied product design and innovation in Bristol and I knew I wanted to do something graphics or creative based. I've always loved art and design, but just doing art didn't have enough direction for me, so I went down the product design route, and a big part of that was manufacturing where I did a lot of 3D modelling and CAD design as well as graphics.
It was while I was doing this that I became more drawn to graphics and I fell in love with it. Any time I went near graphics I found I was fascinated by the output and the technology of what was producing the output, and I wanted to know more about how you could design and create graphics suitable for printing.
Following university I went into graphic design for a small print outfit in Bristol where we produced signage and vehicle liveries and I loved every minute of it, and I joined Roland DG UK after I heard they were looking for somebody to manage the day-to-day activities at its Academy and Creative Centre at its headquarters near Bristol.
What does the role entail?
At the Academy we provide training courses for customers, end users, and our dealers and so forth. We provide a wide range of hands-on 'how-to-do-it' courses right through to providing customers with a unique blend of business builder courses. In the Creative Centre we showcase what can be achieved with our printers and this is also where we hold a lot of Academy events, so it's a pretty busy facility.
The Roland Academy is a brand and there are Roland Academies all around the world. The aim is not to just sell the customer a printer but to help people grow as they're learning to use their new kit, or if they're learning about the industry or getting to grips with software, or helping them to get into a new part of the industry if they want to produce something a bit different - in a nutshell it's about helping and supporting people to learn and develop. We work with customers to support them, even if they just have the seed of an idea for a business, we will support them all the way through the process.
We quite often find that people attending our courses also want somebody to bounce their ideas off, and get some answers to questions they might have, and within the company there is always somebody that can help, so I try and nurture that information from within the company and channel it out through the Academy and into different businesses and markets. We offer a lot of regular structured courses that customers can book for themselves through our website, but we are also highly flexible. For example, if I am repeatedly asked to organise a one-off course for a specific application, I would recognise this as a trend and add that particular course to the wide range of courses that are readily available.
Does your role bring you into contact with customers using the Roland DG UK online web forum?
Yes, it does. The Roland Forum is a really important tool that provides direct engagement with our customers and is a huge pool of valuable user information. I frequently post on there and we monitor it regularly so if something that crops up with a user and we can offer our response to it then we will. But otherwise it's mostly end users from all over the world who are sharing information and offering ideas and solutions to problems that somebody might be experiencing. It's a fantastic resource.
What would a visitor to the Roland DG UK Creative Centre expect to find there?
You can expect to see a spread of Roland equipment ranging from small engraving and 3D milling machines through to a flatbed printer and everything in between! But what sets the Creative Centre apart is how we showcase all of the varied applications for each of the machines we offer. So the walls, shelves, floors and even the furniture have all been decorated using the equipment on show in the Creative Centre. We always get a very good response when people visit us because it's quite vibrant and bright and has a sense of the wow factor.
Roland DG was among the first companies to introduce eco-solvent inks. How is this ink technology going over in the market?
I rarely hear people talking about full solvent printing these days because the market has shifted toward the mass adoption of eco-solvent inks. So much so that we no longer offer a full solvent machine. Full solvent was once regarded as the best ink process for outdoor durability as the solvents were aggressive enough to bite their way into any manner of rugged outdoor banner materials, but eco-solvent inks today are outdoor durable as well, and when you look at it like that, why would anyone want to use solvent inks when there are much better alternatives?
What key trends are you seeing from end user applications?
A lot of people are realising that digital print is no longer flat. You can print onto any object these days and the consumer market is driving this change. Everybody likes having the ability to purchase a personalised item, and the demand for printed pens, pencils, golf balls, phone cases, key-rings or coffee mugs etc. continues to grow.
This is now crossing over into the industrial printing sector. Where screen or pad printing was once commonly used to decorate large, non-flat objects, the same UV ink printing technology that we use now for personalised printing is also driving change in the industrial printing sector, and I think we are only just starting to scratch the surface where UV inkjet object printing and personalisation is concerned.
What advice would you to offer somebody looking to get into wide format printing for the first time?
I would recommend they talk to suppliers, talk to manufacturers, talk to media and consumables people, and get a good overview of everything that's currently available in the market. It's quite easy for somebody to just jump on board and buy a bit of wide format printing kit and think "Hey! I'm ready to go" but if they want to really understand how to do it properly and not waste time and money, it's about asking questions and having somebody that you can trust to answer them for you. You also need to know your competition, how to price your work and so forth. It's not about buying a printer and thinking you're all set.
That's why trade shows like Sign and Digital UK are so important because it offers the visitor a wealth of information and gives them access to entire industry for three days of the year.
Anybody thinking of starting out in wide format should attend the show so they can ask questions and talk to suppliers about their business and find out what they can do for you. When there's a room full of suppliers you will always discover things that can make your work life so much easier.
Roland DG has exhibited at Sign & Digital UK for many years and we continue to view it as an important opportunity to get out and about, strengthening existing relationships and meeting potential new customers. We also use Sign & Digital UK as an opportunity to gauge future market trends and identify emerging applications as well as getting feedback on our products from existing customers. We often have visitors coming to see us at the show who say I'm just starting out in a business and what's your advice? We will talk them through the processes and ask them questions to get a better understanding of where they sit and where they're looking to go, and as such it's much more of a consultative handholding process these days.
That's why I love what I do. It really makes a difference when I meet somebody at the show for the first time and then see them a few years later and they are really doing well with their business. It’s a great feeling to be able to help people to achieve what it is they have set out to do.
Finally, what plans do you have for developing the Academy and Creative Centre moving forwards?
Yes, a big part of the Academy plans for the future is to provide more online support. It's important that we provide users with the ability to access information out of hours and we are now making a lot of video content available online. These can be anything from a short little 30 second videos showing a process for those who have no idea about how something is made, or a more in-depth video showing users how to do things with software. In many ways it’s the market that dictates the content we are providing.
The Roland DG Academy offers a wide variety of 1 and 2-day courses to suit your business needs. With courses on general print, wrapping, getting the most out of your business and software training, there’s something for everyone; no matter what your skill level. https://www.rolanddg.co.uk/support/roland-academy/courses/training-courses