by Patricia Ames
If you scan the headlines for “Toshiba” you’ll find a lot of stories about money problems connected with the collapse of its Westinghouse Electric nuclear unit. In March, the company reported huge losses tallying $9.1 billion, doubling the losses reported during the preceding fiscal year. But at their end-user/dealer event, LEAD 2017, the company’s President and CEO Scott Maccabe addressed the elephant in the room. According to Maccabe, Toshiba-Tec Corp. will survive the Westinghouse Chapter 11 meltdown completely unscathed.
“Toshiba's situation does not in anyway extend to TABS, Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions (TGCS), or our parent, T-Tec Corporation,” Maccabe assured the crowd. “In fact, T-Tec is a very well capitalized company,” he said, adding that “its share prices have risen since the Westinghouse news,” which he said indicates that the market can differentiate Toshiba Corp from T-Tec Corp.
Scott Maccabe, CEO, kicks off the event
But LEAD 2017 wasn’t about Westinghouse. Toshiba had plenty to talk about during the event’s general sessions, and more to show off at their product fair and breakout sessions. There was the announcement of Elevate, a vertical-oriented technology platform that will be available on the latest A3 e-STUDIO devices. The company also announced its pact with education technology developer, FlashGrade. Later on, Bill Melo, chief marketing executive at TABS and TGCS, announced the company’s new Eco-MFP that enables businesses to reuse paper, and provided a one-year progress report for its partnership with PrintReleaf.
Toshiba’s new technology platform for its retail and printer hardware, Elevate, focuses on the different ways different businesses use their MFPs. “Up until now, MFPs have been a one-size-fits-all business,” proclaimed Melo. But Elevate takes a different approach. The platform is designed with UIs and apps tailored to meet the specific needs of retail, legal, healthcare, education, government, logistics, manufacturing and finance organizations. “Toshiba MFPs equipped with Elevate allow you to transform your MFP into a completely customized solution that solves many of the usability problems associated with MFPs,” said Melo.
In addition, Elevate addresses the shift in how end users view technology. At a separate press conference, Larry White, TABS VP of sales in the Americas, told analysts about the company’s approach to developing technology for a new generation of users. “We don’t think it’s the electromechanical part … it’s the UI,” said White. He acknowledged that an affinity for smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets is changing what users expect from technology. “If you download an app and you can’t figure out how to use it in 30 seconds, you toss that out, right? So that’s the experience people are getting used to. We need to move that way. The MFP has to be as simple to use as Angry Birds, or else.”
The Toshiba e-STUDIO4508LP is the company’s latest Eco MFP, which enables users to erase special blue toner from pages while also producing monochrome output. In turn, businesses can reuse their paper, thus reducing their carbon footprint and print costs. The latest model erases toner internally, whereas its predecessor required customers to purchase a bulky external accessory.
Bill Melo talks sustainability
Melo also spoke about Toshiba’s successful relationship with PrintReleaf, developer of PrintReleaf Exchange. The cloud-based solution hooks in with popular fleet monitoring platforms and tracks paper consumption across a customer’s fleet in real time to determine their paper footprint. Each month, the customer’s footprint is replanted through the reforestation project of their choosing. Since agreeing to distribute PrintReleaf last May, Melo told the audience that the company has planted 57,000 trees.
FlashGrade Partnership for Education Vertical
Toshiba also announced its new relationship with FlashGrade, developers of Grading Cloud, a test creation and grading solution. Educators can create and print tests through a web-based tool, then use a scanner or their smartphone to capture and automatically grade them. The solution also offers some reporting and analysis features, which can be used to track student progress more closely. Now, Toshiba’s independent and direct resellers in North America and Latin America will sell the solution, which will help the company compete with the likes of Canon, Konica Minolta, Ricoh and Kyocera for a bigger slice of the lucrative education market.
We will be watching closely to see what traction Toshiba gets with their Elevate endeavor. While not completely original (Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Samsung, and Xerox offer something similar), Toshiba’s innovative and unique approach — supporting each flavor of Elevate on each device — definitely differentiates thems from the pack, and should help dealers serve a more diverse clientele.
We were also impressed with Toshiba’s maneuver to improve their standing in the education market. In a time where schools need to use every dollar as efficiently as possible, Toshiba can now offer educators a cost-effective alternative to Scantron, and can help the company eat up more market share from their OEM competitors.
Likewise, Toshiba’s green initiatives are something to cheer for. The innovate 4508LP and PrintReleaf partnership will certainly look attractive to eco-conscious clients who want to reduce their carbon footprint. These solutions could provide Toshiba dealers very effective entry into government and education verticals as well as into enterprise environments that stress corporate sustainability programs.