by Amy Weiss
Kyocera has spent its last couple of dealer meetings placing a heavy focus on solutions, even when there was big hardware news. And while the same could be said of this year’s event, there really was a notably big hardware announcement in the most literal sense of the word, in the form of the TASKalfa Pro 15000c, a production printing system that tops out at 27.5 feet and 4,000 pounds.
While the photo above is clearly far from a studio glamor shot, I like it because I had to use the panorama setting on my phone to capture the fully configured device as it was displayed at Kyocera’s Innovate 2018 event, held in Orlando, April 9-11. The look we got at that event was just a preview; the device is not scheduled to launch until early 2019.
It is big not just in the physical sense, but in that it marks Kyocera’s entry into the high-speed inkjet market. Kyocera says that, at 150 ppm in A4 regardless of media type, the TASKalfa Pro 15000c will enable Kyocera and its resellers access to a broader audience in the production print market.
There was much more than the TASKalfa 15000c to talk about at the event, however, and the theme “It Takes a Team” had a great deal of focus on many other aspects of the company’s plans and initiatives, as executives Norihiko Ina, Yukio Ikeda, Ed Bialecki, Terry Knopsnyder and Danielle Wolowitz ran through the morning’s introductory sessions, bookended by special guest host, sportscaster Hannah Storm.
Kyocera also placed a few other hardware models in the spotlight at this year’s event — announcing the rollout of the TASKalfa 9600, 1100 and 13600, which print 96 ppm, 111 ppm, and 136 ppm, respectively, and offered the opportunity to test out the new A3 monochrome 90 ppm TASKalfa 9002i, launched in March. Kyocera says these devices are a direct response to requests from its dealers, who were frustrated about having to look outside Kyocera for production black-and-white devices.
Software, solutions and more
For the last several years — even in the heavier hardware years, and I’ll include this year with its giant production device preview — software and solutions have been a main focus for Kyocera. TDS 2.0, announced last year, upgraded Kyocera’s original TDS offering by adding new services around business process improvement, business process outsourcing and IT services. Key to this is Kyocera’s alliance with Hyland reseller DataBank; announced as a partnership last spring it was quickly bumped up several notches when Kyocera acquired DataBank — a huge move, making DataBank a “Kyocera Group Company” and essentially creating a partnership with one of the world’s largest providers of enterprise content management (ECM) software, with more than 19,000 partners.
Bill Premier, president and CEO of Hyland, gave the keynote address, and emphasized the importance of ECM in today’s office environment, citing an AIIM statistic that shows 87 percent of organizations are either planning or in the midst of digital transformation initiatives. “And for the 13 percent who haven’t yet recognized the need, it’s only a matter of time,” he said.
Kyocera Fleet Services (KFS), a real-time remote monitoring service rolled out last year throughout the Americas, remains key to Kyocera’s strategy as well; it has been a success, said Kyocera executives, and there are plans to expand it further in FY 2019.
Kyocera remained positive in discussing its financials, noting overall growth, even though the bulk of it was outside the North American market, which itself remained flat. In general, the firm underperformed based on projections, but its executives touted solid sales of high-speed color A3 MFPs, growth in entry-level A4 color, and overall 2 million units sold as a group for the first time in company history.
Kyocera’s financials are fairly representative of the office print industry — no one likes saying it, but office print is not strong. This is why we see so much focus by traditional office dealers on other areas — namely document solutions, production print and managed services. Kyocera is deeply enmeshed in the first and is making its move into the second.
It is definitely too early to say what role the TASKalfa 15000c might play in any sort of success for Kyocera in the production space — it won’t be commercially available for another year and there is almost no information available on costs or pricing, so it’s difficult to predict how it will perform; regardless, it will not make much, if any, impact on the current year’s financials. However, although this is Kyocera’s first branded entry into the production inkjet market, it has long been a successful manufacturer of the print head technology used in other OEMs’ devices, so it does have an established track record.
What is worth focusing on for this year for Kyocera is the TDS 2.0 segment of its business. The importance of the DataBank division and resulting Hyland connection cannot be overstated — those have the potential to be real game changers in an industry that is increasingly focused on digitalization, ECM and solutions. Hyland’s OnBase is a staple in the ECM world and leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for content services platforms (you’ll note the term used by Gartner is not ECM – at Workflow magazine we chatted recently with Hyland about the evolution of that term). Hyland actually categorizes the powerful OnBase as an Enterprise Information Platform, and that’s indicative of the power and flexibility behind it — all huge wins for Kyocera, which is now able to integrate those capabilities into its TDS 2.0 offerings.
In a panel with dealer Bill Shuey, president of the document management division of Phillips Business Solutions; Chuck Bauer of DataBank; Premier and Ikeda, the importance of these solutions to dealers was reiterated. “ECM is a particularly sticky kind of application,” said Shuey. The uses are infinite, with numerous vertical applications — healthcare has been the greatest success area, he said, with education and large retail right behind. “Paper gums up the system. People are mobile.”
There is massive market opportunity in ECM, and the combination of hardware, software and services can be invaluable. We have frequently written, at both The Imaging Channel and Workflow, about the MFP as an onramp to numerous electronic document management systems, and this was reiterated by the panel. The phrase “this is how you get paid for using the top of the device” stood out as a great way to sum up the need for an integrated approach — something Kyocera is certainly espousing in TDS 2.0.
Will it be enough to turn Kyocera’s financials around from its current not-disrespectable-but-under-expectations fiscal year and once again show some growth in FY 2019? We know all too well that document solutions sound great and make a lot of sense, but can be a tough sell in practice. It will take the right combination of solutions, training and support to get to where they need to be, but the backbone is certainly in place. Between its production devices and solutions offerings, Kyocera has the parts in place to let its dealers branch out — all that remains is the right level of adoption.
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