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Meet Print-Rite North America

1 Apr, 2012 By: Sand Sinclair, imageSource imageSource

print-riteIn wanting to learn more about the expansion of Print-Rite in the North American market, imageSource got up close and personal with Ian Elliott, President of Print-Rite N.A., Inc.

Print-Rite N.A., Inc. is a subsidiary of Print-Rite Holdings Limited. Unique to the industry, Print-Rite’s extensive supply chain network provides more than 4,000 products, including ribbons, inks, inkjet printer cartridges, laser printer cartridges, toners, OPCs, rollers, and chips. With a focus on research and development, Print-Rite has registered over 1,700 patents worldwide.

imageSource (IS): Can you provide a background of Print-Rite?

Print-Rite (PR): Print-Rite was founded in 1982 by Arnald Ho and started out importing typewriter and printer ribbons into mainland China, which enabled people to use the machines that had been authorized for import into China. The foundation of Print-Rite was to focus on Chinese schools and education, corporate social responsibility, and environmental and recycling initiatives. From this start, Print-Rite has grown to become one of the largest after-market manufacturers of printer consumables, holding more patents than any other remanufacturer within the global industry. Print-Rite is one of the largest printer consumables manufacturers in the world and probably the largest in terms of its investment in research and development and product quality.

IS: Why enter the North American market, and why now?

PR: Print-Rite and its products actually have a long history and presence in the U.S. marketplace, so it is not the case that we are only just entering the North American market. Print-Rite has historically had a large indirect presence in the U.S., as well as a significant direct import business through its Hong Kong and Macau-based trading companies. However, the timing is right to establish a direct presence in the U.S. with our own distribution centers. This allows us to provide highly flexible distribution services to our customers and fully leverage our extensive product line, technology and manufacturing capabilities. We feel that the channel is in an ideal position to benefit from our products and technological advancements. This is a matter of the right product, right time, and right place.

IS: What do you see as the role of supply vendors in the MPS market?

PR: Arguably the most significant cost and customer touch point of your MPS program is your toner supplies, and hence, your toner vendor. We see our role as providing the best quality product and logistics possible for dealers to service their MPS customers. With an extensive product line, unparalleled technological breakthroughs, and more control over the supply chain than our competitors as a result of vertical integration and our investment in engineering, Print-Rite is well positioned to become a key vendor to the MPS market.

IS: What is your strategy for the MPS market? Will we see something new?

PR: Technology, higher yields, continuity of supply (other vendors sometimes lack this due to empty core constraints), and innovative “hybrid” programs to help step into MPS are all part of our strategy. So, yes—I think you will see some new approaches to the market by Print-Rite. We have a few unique products that will help MPS vendors. One such product is a 100% compatible line of toner cartridges, which we will be releasing over the coming months. Many people confuse remanufactured and compatible. At Print-Rite, a compatible cartridge does not start with an existing OEM core. As a result of our investment in technology, we are capable of building 100% new from the ground up. Today, many of our competitors’ products are constrained or, at the very least, expensive because of restricted core availability. This problem has always existed, but developing cartridges that do not rely on a core will help ensure that MPS vendors are able to use lower-cost aftermarket supplies that keep their cost-per-page prices low.

IS: Print-Rite offers thousands of products. Can you explain your manufacturing process?

PR: Print-Rite has a long-standing commitment to technology, vertical integration and total quality management in its operations. As a result of its vertical integration, Print-Rite not only has greater control over its supply chain than most of its competitors, it also has the capability to match critical components in complex assemblies in order to optimize performance and quality. While many of our North American competitors focus on product assembly, Print-Rite manufactures products with specialized, tested, and in many cases, patented processes and components.

IS: What differentiates Print-Rite from its competitors in the North American market?

PR: Print-Rite has established large-scale, vertically integrated manufacturing facilities in China. Outside of one or two OEMs, there is no other manufacturer in the world with the depth of vertical integration or manufacturing scale that Print-Rite has established. We believe these factors, in addition to key differentiators such as our proprietary technology, intellectual property and patent portfolio, have enabled us to create one of the most diversified product lines in the printer consumables industry. While MPS is of course a focus in our strategic approach, we will not be offering a “traditional” MPS program to the channel. Rather, we intend to remain focused and invested in our core product, which in turn directly impacts MPS programs in a positive way. By committing to the supplies side of the business, we will help support the channel with a premium product and profitable back-end programs to support MPS program initiatives.

IS: What role do patents play in your business model?

PR: Print-Rite has by far the largest patent portfolio of any aftermarket supplies vendor. Patents have two key roles. Firstly, a patent can protect an innovation that provides an advantage for our products over a competitor’s. Secondly, during the patent due diligence conducted throughout the product development phases, we may discover an existing patent that protects a technology we are interested in and, respecting that patent, we will strive to develop a different technology providing a path forward to a successful new product introduction. There is a common misconception today that, by its very nature, a remanufactured toner cartridge does not infringe an existing patent. We believe this thinking is dangerous and have made intellectual property and research and development a cornerstone of Print-Rite. In the long term, we believe few manufacturers will be able to sustain their market position without the type of investments we have already made.

IS: What are your thoughts about current and historical patent-infringement lawsuits regarding remanufactured toner cartridges?

PR: Historically, the owners of intellectual property have fought hard to protect their rights and we do not expect that to change. Whilst the aftermarket has matured over the last twenty years or so, there continue to be new entrants to the market who maybe don’t have the depth of understanding or technological capabilities that some of the longer-established participants in the market have. To find and understand relevant patents is a time-consuming and expensive exercise, but in order to survive longer term, it is an unavoidable cost of doing business. Print-Rite has over 15 years of experience with patent research and has compiled a vast database of intellectual property relevant to our industry. We have a deep understanding of how to read and interpret patent claims. This is not a capability that can be easily replicated, and we believe this has developed to become a sustainable competitive advantage for Print-Rite. Also, with close to 2,000 patents issued or applied for on a worldwide basis, Print-Rite has established a respectable portfolio of patents that will play an important role in our business model as we move forward.

For further information on the company visit www.prh.com.hk

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