by Amy Weiss
Kyocera Document Solutions America held its annual Business and Technology Conference April 18-20 at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. The event, which serves as the firm’s fiscal year kickoff as well as a dealer meeting, rang in FY 18 for the company and more than 1,000 dealers and vendor partners.
Kyocera titled its conference “Navigate Your Success,” calling it a response to an industry in transition, with customers looking for help managing not only documents, but all forms of information needed to run their businesses.
The focus of this theme was quickly apparent as the big news of the conference was not hardware. There will be no major hardware launch this year in the U.S. market, although there will be 37 new models globally this year; some will be specific to South America, and many will be released toward the end of the year – but essentially, Kyocera had no new hardware on display.
This isn’t unprecedented or even particularly unusual. For one thing, Kyocera, unlike many other OEMs that hold events on an 18-month cycle, hosts its event once a year; last year it previewed 31 new devices at its dealer meeting and ultimately launched 43 models, including a complete renewal of its A3 MFP lineup. For another — well, you may have heard that software and solutions are key these days, and Kyocera had a few of those.
Norihiko Ina, president of Kyocera Document Solutions outlined five key challenges and opportunities for the company in the new fiscal year: price competitiveness, environmental responsibilities, changes in print volumes, changes in print demand, and the Internet of Things. As the rest of the event progressed, we got to see more of how Kyocera was planning on meeting those challenges and taking advantage of the opportunities presented.
In his opening presentation, Senior Vice President Ed Bialecki noted the continued focus on Kyocera’s Total Document Solutions (TDS) approach. Now in its fifth year, TDS is designed to take dealers beyond hardware by teaching them to be partners, rather than simply selling apps or hardware. Kyocera is taking TDS to the next level this year with TDS 2.0, which includes new services around business process improvement, business process outsourcing and IT services. Key to this is Kyocera’s alliance with Hyland reseller DataBank; announced last year, it will be available to a small group of dealers in the first quarter of FY18, with the scope expanded in the second half of the year. The alliance will give dealers access to the entire portfolio of Hyland ECM products.
Also a highlight of the event was Kyocera Fleet Services (KFS), a real-time remote monitoring service rolled out last year throughout the Americas. It will integrate with e-Automate, enabling meter-reading capability for Kyocera and other OEMs’ devices. According to Terry Knopsnyder, vice president, response has been extremely positive, with more than 250 dealerships in the U.S. signed up and more than 40,000 machines registered in the system in the U.S. and an additional 10,000 in the rest of the Americas. Knopsnyder noted that an open API interface was also in development, allowing other dealer management systems to create their own integrations with KFS. Also coming are features that take advantage of the IoT opportunity: remote panel operation, predictive maintenance and management of toner ordering and delivery.
Kyocera executives were positive about financial performance as well as product development. President and CEO Yukio Ikeda noted that performance in the North American market was 104 percent compared to last year; a strong result in a fairly flat market. Latin America, and particularly Mexico, were stronger — Mexico achieved KDA’s highest year-over-year growth at 117 percent (in local currency).
Kyocera also rolled out upgrades to its websites, including its dealer portal, which will allow dealers to access marketing collateral, downloads and the partner commerce system.
There are a myriad of reasons that solutions are still not the bread and butter of most dealerships, but it’s also true that they need to play an ever-bigger role, and that’s a path that needs to be smoothed by the dealers’ OEM partners. Kyocera has typically done a good job with this, with a number of software integrations available across the board in its products. More than half of Kyocera’s dealers are TDS certified, and the DataBank alliance got a lot of play at the event, and with upcoming offerings like Workspace-as-a-Service, it should serve dealers well in the document solutions space. Note also that Hyland just picked up Perceptive and some other solutions from the Lexmark Enterprise Software group, which could add a whole new dimension to the DataBank partnership. Kyocera also announced enhancements to a number of its applications, including PinPoint Scan, Accusender, and the DMConnect line of products.
Although Kyocera, like many in the industry, has some rough waters to navigate — the incoming HP play will hit its space directly — the company and its executives have a positive outlook and were optimistic about the future. It should be an interesting year for the market in general and assured positivity and a concentrated, long-term focus on the solutions that allow their equipment to be a central hive of productivity and efficiency should serve Kyocera well.