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Industry Leaders’ Flo-Tech, DocuWare & Walters & Shutwell Share End of Year Thoughts

3 Dec, 2013

As imageSource's December issue is chock full of "electryfying" industry leaders citing what worked; what not for 2013, and what they see on the horizon for 2014, here is more from a few "movers n' shakers" in our industry:


From Leo Bonetti, CEO, Flo-Tech  

In our target markets, what we see as a continuing challenge is the growing complexity and size of fleets customers want to support under an MPS agreement.  While a good problem to have, the resulting volume of data generated by those devices (alerts, page counts, service history, etc.)  on both the printer and copier side can be overwhelming.

The challenge has been to figure out how to leverage that data to improve customer service levels and provide greater value without driving up service delivery costs.  Flo-Tech has developed technology and is continuing to develop technology for the marketplace of tomorrow that is allowing us to do just that – and in the process is actually driving down the cost of service. 

From Thomas Schneck, President, DocuWare Group 

I think one of the most exciting market opportunities in 2014 for dealers will be will be created by the convergence of Mobile and Cloud computing. Having the ability to capture, route, retrieve and print any document with a phone or tablet from anywhere opens a complete, new universe of applications.

New solutions for field teams, frequent travelers, and basically any knowledge worker will allow an office equipment dealer to reach wider and deeper into its existing base or to acquire completely new customers.”

From Greg Walters, President, Walters & Shutwell  / President, MPSA

So, at a glance, what appeared to work well for office channel dealers in 2013?

“I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.”  ― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

For the channel, 2013 was less disruptive than 2012. Indeed, we all were getting back to basics of equipment sales, leases expirations and conversions.  We've reached a level of normalcy - or so it would seem. 

The transformation from A3 to A4 continued if not accelerated with many OEMs releasing the smaller format.  It’s a bit odd to see those who sold against the small footprint no less than 24 months ago, espouse the benefits of “cartridge based” output devices (MFD vs. MFP)

In the year 2013, we’ve ended up with a surfeit of Managed print Services providers, and resellers - if judged by the sheer number of participants alone, MpS has worked well for office channel dealers.   Alas, most everybody offers one flavor or another, the MPS hype has dropped into the mundane.  The maturation, saturation and commodification of MPS was predictable  - 2013 proved to be the year interest in managed print services leveled.

Has there been much profit? Is the model sustainable?  Will the model outrun the downturn in paper-based information transfer?  Time will tell.

2013, for some, was the year of managed services.  Most success in managed services seems to have settled upon the more advanced copier dealers.  But still, an exact business model is yet to be determined.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that a cookie cutter approach benefits those promoting their business model more than the dealers who buy into it.  Maybe those dealers who say they are committed to transformation mean the transformation of managed services into the copier model instead of transforming their business model.  Again, time will tell.

All in all, 2013 will go down as a most unremarkable year were the success of the office channel dealer was more a result of paying homage to the status quo before turning into the fire of transformation.

What do I see percolating on the horizon for 2014?

“The future is uncertain but the end is always near.” Jim Morrison, The Doors

Coffee and water sales. No. I’m serious.  I believe more than ever, dealers will be looking to adjacencies for new revenue streams.  Once we think about it, anything can become a service and a great example of this expansion is uniform sales.  At one time, Cintas (The uniform company) supplied shop towels to manufacturers all over the rustbelt - then they supplies uniforms, then floor mats, then paper towels, hand soap, outdoor mats, catalog sales, first aid kits, mops and brooms, then document management in the form of shredding, storage and imaging.  They even offer hard drive destruction services.

In a strange, “...deja vu all over again...” twist, the search for more revenue streams will lead to a resurgence of interest in electronic document management (EDM) from the SMB as more and more solutions reside in the Cloud.  The days of expensive, enterprise level software packages ruling the EDM ecosystem are waning, if not at an end.  More powerful, easier to use and billed on a usage model, these new breed EDM/Workflow systems will be on the path to ubiquity in 2014.

Tighter control on the shrinking supplies market, with more off-shore entries on the equipment side.  In the very near future, The HP Way will be more akin to centralized-control than free flow innovation as they secure the lifecycle of supplies.  Of course, this action will lock down access to HP supplies, but what about all the other machines coming to market?  The biggest barriers to entry are declining volumes not technology - the HP logo doesn’t carry as much clout as it once did.  Perhaps the Princess Leia quote, “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers” is apropos.

The rate of shrinking page volumes will increase in 2014 as more companies embrace a digital stance.  Motivation for this posture will be less sustainability and more efficiency based - paper is too slow.  Tablets will get cheaper, access even more ubiquitous (if possible) and transfer rates faster.

Of course all this adds up to fewer copiers, less money.  Not the best of worlds (see comments above regarding adjacencies).

2014 will see greater interest in 3D printing by the traditional copier dealer.  Not a panacea, but for some, 3D printers might bridge the transformation into the services led realm.  But the jury is still out on 3D printing.  An indicator of 3D printings true ‘arrival’ will be an increased commitment to the niche from one of your traditional OEMs. 

Time will tell…it always does.

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