New Kodak focusing on tech innovations

Eastman Kodak Co.'s chairman and chief executive officer,

Eastman Kodak Co.'s chairman and chief executive officer, Antonio Perez, says the company has emerged from “excruciating restructuring." (March 23, 2011) (Credit: Bloomberg)

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Kodak emerged from bankruptcy protection Tuesday vastly different from the company of old.

Gone are the cameras and film that made it famous.

The company hopes to replace them with new technologies such as touch screens for smartphones and smart packaging embedded with sensors.

"Look for a case of a company that had to go through this kind of excruciating restructuring and kept innovating," said CEO Antonio Perez in an interview last week. "It just doesn't happen, but we've done it."

Perez was appointed CEO in 2005. Under his leadership, the Rochester company had restructured its money-losing film business by 2007. The company closed 13 factories, shuttered 130 film-processing labs and eliminated 50,000 workers around the world at a cost of about $3.4 billion.

Under court oversight, Kodak continued to shed costs in the form of businesses, facilities and workers. Much of Kodak is gone except for its commercial and packaging printing businesses. The company will emerge with about 8,500 employees. At its peak in the 1980s it had 145,000.

Perez said that by slimming down, Kodak is able to focus research and development on businesses the company sees as more profitable.

The restructured company's operations are split between a trio of businesses: packaging, graphic communications and functional printing. All three are rooted in Kodak's commercial printing technology.

One of the company's biggest projects in development is a cheaper touch screen for smartphones and tablets. Kodak wants to use its printing capabilities to lay out super-thin lines of metals like copper and silver, which can be more effective and cheaper than current technologies. -- AP

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