Service has always been an important arm of the business for an office equipment dealer because it generates a lot of the profits. But creating profit in service is contingent on filling up the base with devices, and then billing out the service. When boxes aren’t moving as quickly, and with page volumes declining in the current environment, it means dealers can’t capitalize on service as easily.
Some well-known industry veterans have a solution to this problem, however. I spoke recently with Ed McLaughlin and Shawn Cashmark, who announced a new venture, Predictive Insights. The new business aims to help dealers make up what they’re losing in volume with making their service arms as efficient as possible. The new company will provide business intelligence (BI) and data analytics solutions to help dealers get the most out of their business — specifically, their service business.
BI and data analytics is the answer
The human brain has evolved to perceive and interpret only the information that is relevant to survival. It’s why we only see a tiny sliver of the entire spectrum of light, why we only hear sounds that are within a specific frequency range, and why the air smells different when it’s about to rain. It’s also why we cannot suddenly understand and solve a problem by looking at 40,000 rows of data — it would be a great skill to have when you’re trying to run an office equipment dealership, but absolutely useless for trying to survive in the ancient world. Nature is brutally efficient like that.
It’s OK that our brains aren’t tuned to find the anomaly or the hidden trend within enormous datasets, however, because we’ve got BI and analytics tools. These tools vacuum up data and ship it off to a data warehouse so it can be sliced, diced, visualized, and analyzed. The tools can help dealers be proactive instead of reactive since they can predict when a consumable will run out or a part will fail. BI and data analytics also help dealers identify and fix inefficiencies at a customer’s account. For example, BI and data analytics software can be used to identify a bottleneck in a customer’s workflow, enabling sales reps to approach them with a solution. And perhaps most importantly, BI and data analytics software can help dealers reduce overhead costs, by identifying inefficiencies in their own business.
A little different than the rest
Predictive Insights isn’t just another BI and data analytics firm, though. Predictive Insights’ digital collection agents (DCA) only collect the relevant data from MFPs, such as meters, alerts, consumables, and so on, and cleans the data before it is transmitted.
It’s a big difference from other DCAs which, according to Cashmark, typically collect everything, which can be hundreds of lines of data. Predictive Insights’ approach to the problem is, “why send 50 lines of data when you only need four?” The selectivity of what is collected and transmitted reduces network load, which is much more efficient than dumping everything you can find. It also doesn’t interrupt print jobs, which Cashmark called “unforgivable.” And since the data is cleaned at the point of capture, only the data that has changed will be sent, which reduces network load and makes it easier to analyze the data. The company also leverages store and forward “military-grade transmission algorithms,” which means if the transmission is broken, the data will be stored than forwarded as soon as power or the connection is restored, thus eliminating data loss. “Losing data, especially billing meters, is one of the main concerns most dealers have,” said McLaughlin.
It’s a simple equation: If your MIFs go down, and pages are declining, but the cost of servicing those devices remains the same, then you are going to sink. But, if you can decrease the cost of servicing machines at a rate that is proportionately faster than your these declines, then your profits grow. Locked away in the thousands of lines of data generated by each MIF is a gold mine of insights that can help you run your service department like a Swiss clock.
That is the 10,000-foot view of McLaughlin and Cashmark’s venture: you cannot control the market’s demand for print, but you can help increase the margins for every machine you place in the field — you just need to lean on BI and data analytics to get you there.
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.