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Aftermarket/Toner Cartridges

Assessing Aftermarket Color Toner Readiness

1 Jan, 2013 By: Dr. David Cameron, Cameron Consulting Group imageSource

When remanufactured color toner supplies come up as a new market strategy, what thought comes to mind?

If you could administer a collective Rorschach test to the North American dealer channel, the results might show two states of mind:

1. Negative view: risk, clones, spotty quality, questionable reliability.

2. Positive view: viable alternative, improved quality, economical, lower risk.

Until recently, there has been a sea of distrust, uncertainty and misinformation about reman color cartridges. It was due in part to a spotty history of inconsistent quality and uncertainty between batches. Also, dealers had nowhere to turn for an unbiased and trusted answer to the burning question, “Is reman color ready for prime time?”

Answering this question was the primary objective of a four-month study launched in May 2012 by Cameron Consulting Group Inc. (CCG). It involved: 1) assessing the manufacturing facilities, processes and results for leading No. American remanufacturers, and 2) an extensive market survey of independent dealers to gauge customer satisfaction and
market acceptance.

The study’s purpose was to cut through the market noise by providing unbiased and independent information about the current performance of recently manufactured cartridges from leading No. American remanufacturers and distributors.

The study addressed key questions including:

  • How does quality compare with OEM?
  • What has changed to improve manufacturing process control and quality?
  • How have the top 10 color cartridges performed over the last year?
  • How does quality, sales support & service compare between Asian suppliers, large No. American & small regional remanufacturers?
  • What are indications that the market acceptance is changing?

A key finding is that the returned cartridge defect rate had a strongly downward trend over the last three years prior to 2012 (chart
available upon request). The data is converging on a significant one percent benchmark level, at which dealers have reported broad
customer satisfaction.

This was based on data from four of the leading No. American remanufacturers, i.e. MSE, LMI, InkCycle and Katun. The flattening of the level in 2012 is deceiving to a degree, as only a partial year’s experience was reported. This is good performance; however it is not sufficient to indicate rising market acceptance by itself. Also required is a thorough understanding of field experience and customer satisfaction, as well as evidence of a robust sales outlook. The basic assumption is that customer experience and sales are the ultimate determiners of market acceptance.

A widely distributed market survey attracted responses from hundreds of independent dealers. This provided the perfect platform to assess field performance of top color cartridges from a broad cross section of vendors including: West Point Products, MSE, Asian Suppliers, LMI, regional suppliers, InkCycle and others.

3 Key Factors

The key findings gave further evidence of rising market acceptance based on three key factors: quality performance, customer satisfaction, and dealer sales outlook. However, the results varied by remanufacturer. Only a few vendors demonstrated results based on dealer feedback of good quality, strong support/service and a positive sales outlook. The key is to engage with a market leader to take advantage of their market knowledge, sales support, and color product quality leadership.

An important question is, “How do you create a successful reman color adoption strategy that allows a dealer to gain confidence in the product while the industry continues to mature?”

Our more aggressive dealers will want to engage now with market leaders to get out in front of the adoption market curve for the general market. This is not absolutely necessary, but taking steps to begin to
build a relationship with a market leader is critical. Delay in taking action can have adverse consequences. The window of opportunity is likely to be limited to the next six to twelve months in which to build a competitive advantage.

One dealer told me that if reman color can provide consistent quality at a significant economic advantage, then this could be the next big thing that they have been looking for.

We believe the time is ripe for independent dealers and resellers to reconsider the aftermarket color toner supplies and assess the potential benefits to their / your business.

Summary: Aftermarket monochrome supplies have provided a consistent long-term source of added profitability to the service and supplies side of the business. The rise of color in the office and continued profit pressures are motivating interest in the use of remanufactured color toner cartridges (reman color). CCG’s four-month study shed light on rising customer acceptance of current aftermarket color supplies and supports evidence of growing acceptance by the mainstream market.

About the Author: Dr. David Cameron

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