When I received the news that Ed McLaughlin was joining NEXERA as a consultant, I had to get both Ed and NEXERA’s president, Wes McArtor, on the phone. If you don’t already know Ed, he is the former president of Sharp and an industry thought leader who is not afraid of going against the conventional wisdom. For about an hour, the two shared their thoughts on what’s on the horizon, and what NEXERA plans on doing about it.

The state of the industry 

Like some of us, when Ed McLaughlin and Wes McArtor look at the document imaging industry, they see massive changes coming over the horizon. Some of those industry impacting changes have already taken place. NEXERA sees this as a massive issue.

These aren’t just their opinions or some hunch. NEXERA combines industry expertise with big data and analytics to help dealers improve virtually every facet of their business. More specifically, they offer solutions and services for front and back-office optimization, performance measurement and coaching, territory creation and management, advanced inventory management, executive insights and reporting, and more. When they look at the data, they’re seeing trends that are invisible to the keenest of eyes. It’s not tarot cards or tea leaves. It’s hard data that can be interpreted and understood. And when NEXERA looks at the data now, they see the near to mid-term future as both pivotal and ripe with opportunity.

One metric they are keeping a close eye on is how page volumes relate to individual devices. McArtor and McLaughlin said that dealers should be concerned, and they are concerned that many dealers aren’t concerned. They think a lot of dealers cannot feel it or see it because they are still billing on minimums. These days, folks aren’t reaching those minimums, and dealers cannot charge the overages that they’ve been so used to collecting. McLaughlin and McArtor believe that acquisitions and industry consolidation are anesthetizing dealers from feeling it on their P&L sheet. They contend that dealers are approaching the event horizon of a cost-catastrophe. In addition, they aren’t convinced that the transactional model is something that can work in 2020 and beyond. “They need to completely rethink the way they go to market, and become more account-focused” said McLaughlin.

“The whole industry is going to need to change dramatically,” said McLaughlin. “And unfortunately, they’re not going to do it right away.” It’s an unfortunate side effect of human nature, a level of comfort obtained after long periods of success.

McLaughlin said that one of the industry’s biggest problems is that we don’t know what this industry is about. We think it is about paper, but what it is all really about is the information on paper. As digital alternatives and other technologies continue to disrupt the industry, dealers and OEMs will have to acknowledge their position in the value stream. They can’t continue listening to the consultants who tell them what they want to hear. They have to listen to customers and fulfill their needs, and that might mean doing something different.

But just because change is on the horizon, that doesn’t mean the sky is falling. McArtor and McLaughlin aren’t shouting doom and gloom from the rooftops. It’s not adapt or die time. Instead, it’s time to start thinking about the future, while shoring up your core business. NEXERA sees an opportunity to help dealers — and maybe some OEMs — transition into the next era.

Patricia Ames is president and senior analyst for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. As a market analyst and industry consultant, Ames has worked for prominent consulting firms including KPMG and has more than 15 years experience in the imaging industry covering technology and business sectors. Ames has lived and worked in the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe and enjoys being a part of a global industry and community.