Konica Minolta dealers and analysts from the document imaging industry converged on Newport Beach, California, for the company’s annual dealer conference in March and as part of the meeting, dealers were able to submit questions to the folks at KM — a visual extravaganza with 16 executives seated on stage to handle the plethora of topics presented. The Q&A wasn’t just a bunch of softballs, either — KM answered some tough questions with genuine answers. Here are some of the highlights.


Is KM still committed to investing in their core business?

When you start investing in a wide range of new technologies, there is the danger of losing sight of your mainstay. One prominent dealer asked if the company was still committed to investing in their traditional business. Konica Minolta has all kinds of irons in the fire, and they make sure everyone knows it, so the question was not unexpected.

But KM assured everyone they haven’t forgotten their MFP business. Kevin Kern, SVP of Business Intelligence and Product Planning, asserted that KM has a long-term commitment to R&D and investing in their MFP business. In fact, he said that KM is investing more money than ever before. However, KM does see a future that looks different than today’s environment and plans to go after solutions with their platforms, using their MFPs to interact with Workplace Hub. Representatives also noted that KM plans on renovating and replacing their A3 and A4 iSeries line, and plan on expanding into new hardware segments.

How can we break into the industrial print arena?

The industrial print space is proving to be an excellent way for dealerships to expand their reach. Between label, decorative print, wide-format, and high-speed inkjet businesses, there are plenty of ways for dealers to create and grow new revenue streams. Naturally, dealers not already vested in this space were curious and wanted to know how they can crack the market.

The beauty of an industrial print venture is how familiar it will look and feel to dealers. “These are technologies that are close the core, meaning things that you are already familiar with — they put ink on some kind of substrate,” said Dino Pagliarello, VP of Product Management and Planning.

But what will make matters even easier for dealers is all the support that KM is willing to provide, with sales specialists and nearly 30 engineers-turned-specialists that can help dealers get on track in the industrial arena. “We get these specialists to help you build that business model,” said Rick Taylor, President & CEO. “It’s kind of like bear hunting. If you track them down, we’ll shoot ‘em and skin ‘em and dress ‘em — finding the target is all you have to do … We’ll get you in the game.”

What is Konica Minolta’s future strategy when it comes to direct operations?

KM’s direct branches are a successful operation and a great way to test out new products and solutions and get them field ready before rolling them out to the dealer channel, says Taylor. Their pricing is based on a dealer cost model, and they pay more on average for hardware than independent dealers do, per Taylor. There are no plans to expand dramatically now that they have a nationwide footprint. KM’s direct operations do have an important rule that they must obey: stay away from the dealers’ customer base.

What’s the deal with the OneRate Program?

OneRate is KM’s response to how they think their customers want to make purchases. “We got feedback from our customers that said, ‘Let’s make this simple to buy,’” said Taylor. So KM went to the drawing board and came up with OneRate. Basically, the OneRate program leverages data to condense print costs into a single monthly bill. There aren’t any per-click charges or overage fees. There is no need for customers to dispute their bill. There’s just one bill at the end of the month for five years, and it’s always the same. KM officials credited the OneRate program with a spike in the direct operation’s profitability. Officials encouraged dealers in the audience to consider the OneRate plan themselves.

What do you think about the DEX/Staples deal?

What kind of Q&A would it be without someone asking about the Staples/DEX deal? Even months later, the industry is trying to get a handle on exactly what this deal means and how it will impact the future. Taylor even gave BPO Media a shout out from the stage for our webinar on the topic that had over 500 people in attendance.

Plenty of people have been sharing their theories, and the folks at KM were willing to weigh in as well. Taylor said that we should expect DEX to be an aggressive M&A player. “I think that’s really good if you want to sell now or in the future, since there will be more buyers out there bidding against each other.”

To recap

KM will continue to invest in their core products, featuring them as the centerpiece of their Workplace Hub strategy. The company will also continue investing in industrial print and providing support for dealers who want to enter that marketplace. In addition, KM is urging dealers to consider fixed rate subscription models, which they see as the wave of the future. And while there might be a huge ripple in the middle of the pond caused by the DEX/Staples deal, the folks at Konica Minolta aren’t too concerned.

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.