I spoke with Kodak support people quite a bit during that time and they always gave me the impression that Kodak was not giving them the support they needed to keep up with demand. The ML-500 at least seemed to have been hand-built, and when I called in because it stopped printing yellow or whatever I would often end up speaking to one of the actual engineers. Great for figuring out what was wrong with it, but it seemed really weird that these guys were seemingly fielding calls all day.
The main thing I remember (other than the printers broke constantly) was that after a few years it became next to impossible to get media for it- we'd call our distributor and he'd say "I don't have any this month, try xxx." So we'd call them and they'd give us another lead, and eventually we'd find some and order as much as we could, and then start the process again the next month. We always assumed that most of the stock was reserved for kiosks.
I'd love to hear more about what was going on with that, if you know.
There was a few years there where demand really outstripped supply. We were the only place in the world that made the media for Kodak at the time and I'd say 2002-2006ish the kiosks were really doing well and we just couldn't keep up (good or bad Kodak didn't seem able to predict the market for it's products). They added on and doubled our capacity somewhere around 2005 and then added on another manufacturing center in Rochester towards the end.
It's interesting to hear your experience with printer breakdowns - I always thought of them as real workhorse machines. But then again I was surrounded by dozens and dozens of each model (except the ML 500, we only had 4-5 of those) and there was a full staff of mechanics running around and a handful of them fixed the printers in addition to the other industrial machines / electronics around.
The 6800/6805 was my favorite - we used to take it out to local events and print off 1000s of free 4x6s for people (we'd take some digital cameras too and set up some sort of "scene" for people). Even running non-stop in the 90 degree sun I only had one overheat on me a couple times.
Can't complain too much. We did a lot of school athletic tournaments and stuff like that, we could shoot a team and we'd have 8x10s ready to sell to parents before the kids got off the risers. Assuming everything was working smoothly it was a license to print money!