Pioneering Photo Scanning Service Equipment; Looking Back, Looking Forward

Posted by Richard Lippert on

Drug Warehouse/Fotomat
Abandoned Fotomat

2007 was a pivotal year for how photos would be scanned going forward. In that year Kodak, the former photography industry global titan, delivered the power of digital imaging beyond the traditional 4x6 picture print.

PMA 2007 Unveiling
At the Photo Marketing Association’s Annual Conference and Exposition, held in March 2007, Kodak unveiled a lineup of custom photo books, collages and digital photo merchandising products and services that could be produced in-store, on-line and at wholesale. Included was the KODAK s1220. This Photo Scanning System provided an in-store solution for converting consumers’ photo prints into digital files on CDs, DVDs and the wholesale KODAK picture shoe-box scanning service.

Kodak Photo Scanner with
Gentle Photo Separator & Auto Feed
A Revolution Hatched
The ability to do quality scans of photos quickly, using scanning equipment with features like a gentle photo separator and auto feeder triggered the revolution of an entire industry. The s1220 has gone on to become the harbinger for the Rapid Print Scanner, capable of being integrated into the over 100,000 Kodak Picture Kiosks located around the world. It also evolved into a family of scanners now referred to as members of the Kodak Picture Saver Scanning System.
Fast Cycle Time 
Ironically, just as Kodak was introducing the power of digital imaging to the photographic industry, Christopher Meyer’s, Fast Cycle Time: How to Align Purpose, Strategy, and Structure for Speed appeared in book stores and in libraries.  In his book, Meyer presents a blueprint for organizational change and re-design through implementation of fast cycle times (FCT). He uses photo-print developing as an example to drive his point home;

“...Technology enables us to make more intelligent products that require less space than ever before. Think about where color vacation pictures were developed twenty years ago. Many people sent them to Kodak’s film processing laboratories using prepaid mailers. About ten years ago, Fotomat appeared, along with supermarket and drug store photo finishing. Today, there are one-hour photo finishing outlets throughout the world, and the free standing Fotomat store has nearly disappeared. What enabled this to happen? The equipment required to turn film into prints no longer fills a factory; it fits in the corner of a store and is almost totally automatic...”  

“Note that these changes are driven not by breakthrough technologies but by the refinement of existing technologies. The competitor who incorporates technology that makes its product or service more attractive first sets a new standard for others to follow.”

Excerpt: Fast Cycle Time: How to Align Purpose, Strategy, and Structure for Speed by Christopher Meyer, published Simon & Schuster 2007
Parallels and History Being Rewritten
Photo developing is the perfect example of a faster cycle incorporating technology that offered a more attractive service.

The Fotomat model began in 1965 and peaked in 1980 with over 4,000 drive-thru kiosks located throughout the United States. The company's main product, one-day development, was made obsolete by one-hour photo development. With equipment available to do perform film developing on-site, customers could now drop off their rolls of photographic film and return in an hour to retrieve their prints. The Fotomat model, that had done in the mail-in services years ago, was now battling the fact their kiosk - with not much more room inside than the interior of a Smart Car - had to rely upon a central processing plant limiting service to next-day, at best. Replace photo developing with photo scanning using technology like the Kodak PSSS and perhaps you can see a close parallel. 
As the adoption of Kodak's Picture Saver Scanning System technology gains momentum, photoscanning options will continue to shift. Centralized bulk scanning services (you mail them your photos) are quickly loosing ground to regional service providers that allow customers to drop their photos off to be scanned then returned same day or next day. And now, some photo organizing/scanning services include offering on-site concierge level support. All made possible with this type of scanning technology.

No doubt the once giant photographic icon  may have issues trying to adapt to how some of the rapid changes in other segments of the photo market has affected its business model. However, Kodak’s 2007 release of the s1220 photo scanning technology was ahead of its time and has established a standard that continues to set itself apart impacting the industry.
Fotomat TV Commercial Aimed at 
Combating a Slumping Marketshare (circa 1987)


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