I felt it would be clichéd to use the term “Rocky Mountain High” in my recap of the Konica Minolta 2016 dealer event held in Aspen, and so I almost didn’t do it. But every time I sat down to write, it was there in my head – and in my defense I used “New York Groove” as my theme for coverage of the firm’s 2014 New York analyst meeting, so let’s just say that rather than being clichéd, I’m honoring a personal tradition here.
The location of the meeting was notable in its sheer uniqueness. Held at the Aspen Institute, participants got to partake in hiking and bird-watching as they walked to and from the various buildings and tents that held the exhibitors and displays. While the weather didn’t completely cooperate (anyone who has ever planned an outdoor event knows the dread and horror that rain can instill), I was thrilled to get away from the Florida summer — even the rain felt drier.
I may have gotten shin splints from walking hills, but you can’t beat the view.
Venue and weather aside, Konica Minolta had a lot to say at the meeting, and a surprising amount of it centered around production print. But more on that in a moment.
Executives kicked off the event, themed “Inspiration, Ideation, Innovation,” with Shoei Yamana, director, president, and CEO of Konica Minolta presenting a global perspective. He was followed by the always entertaining and charismatic president and CEO of Konica Minolta Business Solutions USA, Rick Taylor, who presented an overview of Konica Minolta’s current place in the world stage: notably, it is 132 on Forbes’ list of best places to work in America and Brand Keys places it No. 1 for brand recognition in the MFP category. Its MFP business grew 3 percent in the U.S. last year; units grew 4.5 percent; ECM grew 17 percent; managed IT service grew 20 percent; monthly IT service recurring revenue was up 40 percent. “The concept of selling more than just a box is really resonating with our customers,” said Taylor.
Continuing on that theme, he noted the firm was spending $25 million to upgrade its SAP system to the SAP HANA Cloud platform, allowing for flexible billing for bundled services. This, he said, is also why Konica Minolta is investing in partnering with MWAi to provide the FORZA product for dealers, built on the SAP Business One platform. “If we can develop capabilities that allow us to bring the customer this bundle of services with reoccurring revenue and flexibility on the customer’s part, we’ll leave the rest of the industry behind,” he stated.
The importance of the Konica Minolta and FORZA relationship was emphasized in a panel hosted by Nick Pegley, VP of All Covered and featuring Konica’s Sam Errigo, Don Duvall and Kay Fernandez. The panel noted that FORZA is the next-generation ERP for clients’ businesses, mentioning last year’s successful PERRY proTECH implementation of FORZA as well as upcoming implementations by Dex Imaging and Copier Fax Business Technologies.
Konica Minolta + FORZA = win.
As mentioned earlier, industrial print is a big part of the company’s game plan, and the company started making a splash in that area at the enormous drupa trade fair earlier this year, including the announcement of acquiring an additional stake in French-based decorative printing equipment manufacturer MGI, with which it has had an alliance since 2014. Kevin Kern, SVP Business Intelligence Services and Product Planning, discussed the fact that the $36 billion commercial print market in North America is only 7 percent digital, while the $47 billion Industrial print market is only 2.7 percent digital. “We’re rapidly growing our market to address these opportunities,” said Kern. He then unveiled Konica’s new production print brand: Accurio. We’ll see AccurioPro, AccurioPress, AccurioJet and AccurioPrint. Kern went through a large line of production, packaging, label and 3D printers — 3D will be a large market, said Kern, particularly in health care as well as automotive and aerospace. Kern then raised the curtain on the monster on the stage – the MGI JV 3DW, a web fed, roll fed, label printing device. According to some of the product’s promotional materials as well as later presentations on the opportunities in specialty and industrial print, it enables inkjet 2D/3D spot varnish and hot foil capabilities with 100 percent digital technology. Combined with the bizhub PRESS C71cf digital label printer and EngageIT label, you have a perfect solution for labeling in the wine and microbrew industries (and probably others, but I think everyone stopped paying attention after “beer”). (Note: Konica Minolta debuted a number of its innovations at Labelexpo Americas 2016 in Las Vegas a couple of weeks later — read more here).
That is one big machine.
According to a number of presentations, Konica Minolta understands that industrial print is a broad and complex category and dealers will need support selling it. The firm will have a dedicated group of individuals building out all core competencies to be able to cover and support their dealers.
Also an important talking point was IT services strategy, covered by Todd Croteau, president of All Covered. Croteau polled the audience to get a feel for general IT needs and pointed out IT services cover a huge set of categories, and IT outsourcing alone represents a $100 billion business. All Covered offers a number of solutions to allow dealers to penetrate this market, including security assessments and compliance — two very hot topic areas. He noted the services that dealers can provide their clients, including corporate branch and office support, cloud services, and remote access and mobile support. There were a number of questions in the live polling regarding the implementation of All Covered; the results showed that about a third of dealers currently take advantage of the managed services strategy. That leaves a lot of room for growth.
The event was not just product and strategy, of course. There were exhibits from partners, showcase pavilions where we could get hands-on with new products, such as the graphic communication and office of the future expos. Konica Minolta also presented its dealer awards, which went to some well-known names such as All Copy, Marco, POA and more. A hearty congratulations from The Imaging Channel to all the winners!
Let us not forget the entertainment — John Oates, otherwise known as half of Hall and Oates, gave an acoustic performance, and American Idol winner Taylor Hicks (not Swift, you guys!) performed at the Western evening at Chapparal Ranch.
As with so many of these events, I feel like I have written a book and yet not remotely covered what Konica Minolta did during the two-day event. One of the key things they accomplished is enforcing the idea that they should no longer be considered a classic OEM. Rather, they are defining themselves as something truly unique and making it their own. I’ll wrap up by stealing from Rick Taylor’s marathon analogy — there are sprinters and marathoners, and Konica Minolta is signed up for a marathon. The firm is making long-term investments and putting in the time and energy to get the payoff. Production print, IT services and ERP solutions are growth areas and when digested properly can be the dealers’ fuel for a strong finish. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the race with in-depth analysis along the route.