In 2007, the Dover Corporation formally merged the century-old Markem Machine Company with the European printer giant Imaje, S.A., making Markem-Imaje one of the world's largest suppliers of product identification solutions. Since then, Markem-Imaje has maintained a great reputation and stands today as a global leader in the industrial coding field.
That same year, Blue Bite was formed by two graduates of the NYU Stern School of Business, Mikhail Damiani and Tom Duncan. The company’s mission was to help businesses enhance their products with the aid of technologies like QR codes, NFC tags, and geofencing. With these technologies, Blue Bite enables companies to instantly provide their customers with benefits like:
Since 2007, this business model has allowed Blue Bite to acquire a number of high-profile business partners, including Adidas, Redken, Vita Coco, and Samsung.
As Blue Bite’s success rose, so did its profile within the business world. Recently, Blue Bite caught the attention of Markem-Imaje, and on June 28, 2021, the company announced that it had acquired Blue Bite for an undisclosed amount of money.
Here, we take a closer look at Markem-Imaje’s acquisition, examine what its upcoming business goals are, and speculate on how these moves may affect industrial coding.
Over the last 14 years, Blue Bite has earned its reputation by providing high-profile companies with the tools to build digital experiences for their products. For example, Adidas used Blue Bite’s platform to embed their Campus 80s MakerLab sneakers with NFC tags. When tapped by a phone, these tags send the user to a webpage where they can access exclusive videos and information about how the shoe was made, what the designer’s motivations were, and why the final product looks the way that it does.
In another example, luxury fashion brand PINKO embedded NFC tags into its Love Bags collection. With these tags, consumers can immediately verify that the bag is an authentic release from PINKO and not an imitation. In effect, PINKO is placing supply chain traceability directly into the hands of its customers.
This idea of complete product traceability is likely where Markem-Imaje finds the most value in the Blue Bite acquisition. Industries like pharmaceutical development and aerospace engineering need to follow stringent traceability standards to ensure safety and prevent counterfeiting. Traceability boosting methods like Blue Bite’s NFC work are likely to become a major focus for Markem-Imaje—an idea supported by Dover, Markem-Imaje’s parent company, purchased another anti-counterfeiting company named Systech in January 2020, which is now a subsidiary of Markem-Imaje.
The acquisition of both Blue Bite and Systech gives Markem-Imaje an opportunity to move further up the value chain, positioning itself for the future of traceability that appeases the product managers, designers, and marketers. By working with these stakeholders, traceability can be interwoven from the time of product conception and prototyping versus the traditional time in which batch lot date code product identification is an afterthought and when other competitors are still focusing on incremental improvements of the actual machine.
Markem-Imaje is betting that the lifetime value of a customer increases with the stickiness of switching costs from software. C&M Digest’s educated guess is that more than 90% of customers that use the Colos software will stay with Markem-Imaje when it is time to purchase new equipment. If Markem-Imaje can continue to move closer to decision-makers within a product management group, it would be nearly impossible for competitors to compete. Industrial printers are the vehicle to power the application of technologies that enhance the brand experience.
Through acquiring companies like Blue Bite and Systech, Markem-Imaje has greatly expanded its portfolio of traceability and anti-counterfeiting solutions. While Markem-Imaje’s hardware has been used for decades to outfit products with fully traceable codes and markings, its new acquisitions have brought in the software programs and expertise needed to perform the complete product tracing process.
Markem-Imaje’s acquisition also promises to positively impact Blue Bite’s software capabilities as well. In an official statement, Blue Bite’s CEO and co-founder, Mikhail Damiani stated:
“Our mission is to improve lives by connecting people and information through the physical world. We’re thrilled to join Markem-Imaje and take our mission to the next level with the resources to improve and scale our platform. The increased global footprint will allow us to offer even better support to our current customers while increasing reach to more brands and consumers around the world.”
These developments are likely to increase Markem-Imaje’s ability to provide insight into product movements, not only throughout the stages of raw material sourcing, manufacturing, distribution, and sales but even between second-and third-hand customers, as proven by Blue Bite’s authentication work with PINKO.
In our current hyper-globalized supply chains and international distribution networks, these traceability advancements are likely to become one of the next major areas of focus within the industrial coding industry. The ability of Blue Bite’s digital technology to go beyond simple traceability and authentication enables its users to enhance the relationship between brand and consumer. How Markem-Imaje specifically plans to leverage these abilities isn’t exactly clear yet, but what we do know is that it’s their big bet for creating a Blue Ocean Strategy where few can compete.
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