Konica Minolta’s Vision 2009 Provides Dealers with a Unified Roadmap for the Future

<p>By Scott Cullen, Contributing Writer</p> <p>If the purpose of a dealer meeting is to inspire and rev up dealers for another year of selling, then Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. (Konica Minolta) did a heck of a job in Orlando, January 11-13. A host of new products, solutions, programs, and initiatives, underscored Konica Minolta’s status in the upper pantheon of imaging equipment manufacturers and should go a long way toward keeping its dealers competitive, and if luck holds out, profitable during the next fiscal year. </p> <p>Konica Minolta’s Vision 2009 with its theme of “1 Company, 1 Vision, 1 Voice” provided an opportunity for many dealers to see and hear Senior Executive Vice President and COO Rick Taylor for the first time. Taylor did not disappoint, revealing several key initiatives, including a strong commitment towards leveling the playing field between Konica Minolta’s company-owned locations and its dealer channel, a serious bone of contention for many Konica Minolta dealers, and what Taylor described as “the most important business issue to solve at Konica Minolta.”</p> <p>Among the initiatives outlined by Taylor that should go a long way towards solving that issue, include management changes within the company’s dealer and direct divisions. Additionally he reported that the company-owned locations will now operate under a dealer P&amp;L and that those individuals within the direct organizations who don’t comply will suffer the consequences.</p> <!--break--> <p>“Our determination to manage this issue is unshakeable,” said Taylor. “I believe ethical behavior begets ethical behavior and I believe mutual trust begets mutual trust,” said Taylor. </p> <p>If that wasn’t enough to soothe the concerns of the dealer audience, the announcement that Konica Minolta will set up a committee of independent dealers and Konica Minolta executives to document and review instances of channel conflict further illustrated the company’s commitment. </p> <p>“Our promise is to earn your confidence in our business integrity,” said Taylor. </p> <p>For anyone with misconceptions that Konica Minolta is more vested in its company-owned locations than its dealer channel, Taylor’s words helped dispel any doubts. “I believe that multiple channels of distribution are required for success in this industry.” </p> <p>He also noted that the company-owned locations will not sell to competing dealer’s existing accounts and that it will compete fairly for new placements, and equally important, will not recruit the employees from a Konica Minolta authorized dealer.</p> <p>Clearly the economy was a topic on everybody’s mind and that was addressed by Taylor and other Konica Minolta executives throughout the General Session. Conversations with dealers, who noted that business remained strong, and Taylor’s report that revenue was up 8 percent for the first nine months of Konica Minolta’s current fiscal year compared to last year, in large part because of color unit sales, was especially refreshing to hear in an economic environment where doom and gloom tend to be the norm.</p> <p>Turning on the Programs<img hspace="10" src="http://beta.bertl.com/images/KM_Vision09_Nielsen.jpg" align="right" border="0" /> <br />Alan Nielsen, executive vice president dealer sales and administration, presented dealers with information on a host of new programs, including the Konica Minolta Premiere Finance program. As he said, “the timing couldn’t be better,” for rolling this program out. The new program with US Bank and CIT offers competitive lease rates and a high rate of lease approvals as well as guaranteed portfolio protection, which was music to the assembled dealer’s ears.</p> <p>“It guarantees your customer names will not be divulged to anyone no matter what,” said Nielsen </p> <p>Konica Minolta’s Optimized Print Services (OPS) program is another program that will likely resonate with a dealer audience looking to add value and lock in customers. It’s a flexible one-stop managed print services program that is geared towards dealers who already have some experience with managed print services as well as those who are just starting out. </p> <p>“This is a huge opportunity,” noted Nielsen. </p> <p>With growth in the 30-40 percent range, Nielsen couldn’t be more right on target with that statement. </p> <p>OPS leverages Konica Minolta’s opt-WORKFLOW model and provides a variety of services to control a customer’s output costs. The word throughout the industry is that managed print services is the wave of the future, and this program should help place Konica Minolta squarely atop the crest of that wave. </p> <p>Are dealers interested? If attendance at the two 2+ hour seminars on OPS are any indication, then Konica Minolta dealers are most definitely interested in providing their customers with managed print services. OPS targets organizations using several printers and MFPs on their network. Unlike other managed print service tools and programs that dealers may have to piece together to come up with a complete program, Konica Minolta’s offers dealers a single source. </p> <p>Chatting informally with dealers over breakfast and at lunch, the hope was that this program really will simplify the process and that Konica Minolta will be able to manage and handle the fulfillment on a timely basis of OEM-compatible supplies, which is so important to the cost saving benefits of a managed print services program. </p> <p>As more manufacturers look to extend their solution offerings by making it easier for developers, end users, and dealers to adapt applications to their devices, Konica Minolta unveiled its bEST (bizhub Extended Solution Technology) Developer Support Program. </p> <p>For dealers looking to make an impact in major accounts, Nielsen unveiled key initiatives in the major account area, including the KMAP+ program that will enable Konica Minolta and its dealers to become more competitive in this important market segment.</p> <p>“Our mission is to grow Konica Minolta’s major account business and expand key accounts to include dealers,” revealed Nielsen. “We’re here to play and we’re here to win.”</p> <p>Product Fare <br />Vision 2009 was a good show for new products with the most recent additions being the bizhub 751 (75 ppm) and buzhub 601 (60 ppm), two monochrome MFPs designed for mid- to high-volume offices looking for high-speed output and professional finishing capabilities. The new devices use the same engine as the bizhub 750/600 Series and offer monthly duty cycles of up to 300,000 impressions. With options, paper capacity is 7,600 sheets. Both models include PageScope Software Suite, network scanning, and support for IPv6 Network Protocol, which enhances IP addressing power and ensures that all bizhub devices on a network have their own IP addresses for enhanced communication and security. </p> <p>The new devices also use Konica Minolta’s Emperon Print System, and include an 8.5-inch color touchscreen control panel interface that tilts and rotates for easy access, and User Box and User Authentication. </p> <p>As far as enhancements, the new bizhubs offer a few, most notably InfoLine status reporting with new LED lights; biometric authentication and HID card authentication options; Scan-toWebDAV; Scan-to-USB memory, Print-from-USB memory; as well as enhancements to the Emperon controller such as higher processing speeds, unification of printer drivers, advanced user box editing and storing capabilities, and user box thumbnail preview. The bizhub 751 has an MRSP of $26,500, and the bizhub 601 is $19,950. </p> <p><img hspace="10" src="http://beta.bertl.com/images/KM_Vision09_Kerns.jpg" align="left" border="0" />Although it’s still too early to talk specifics about some of the other Konica Minolta products previewed at Vision 2009, Kevin Kern, vice president of marketing reported that Konica Minolta will enhance or replace its entire color product line during the next year. Expect to see two new color devices released in the next month or so with two more color devices hitting the street later this year. What we can say about the first two color introductions is that they will have a 15 percent faster processor, a 10 percent increase in print speed as well as faster scanning speeds than their predecessors. Dealers seemed to be impressed too by the fact that the RDF will be shipped standard with these devices, which will save them time when setting up the RDF. </p> <p>In addition, five new desktop color printers and all-in-ones for the SOHO (small office/home office) market are also in the works. Although exact details are not for publication right now, don’t be surprised if these devices are the smallest sized printers on the market, and the lowest priced color lasers ever from Konica Minolta. Those A4 devices will be comparable to the company’s A3 product line. BERTL will provide more details on these new products at launch, but for now it’s safe to say that A4 is an area where Konica Minolta will become an increasingly important player.</p> <p>“We are committed to expanding this key segment,” said Kern about A4. </p> <p>Other interesting products on display were the bizhub PRO 950 Series slated for February release along with the bizhub C6501/C5501 (introduced last fall), and the bizhub PRO C65hc, the latter, a device that is expected to make an impact with users looking to create color direct mail pieces and photo books. </p> <p>Finally, dealers were given a heads up on a new production print device that can handle up to 3 million impressions per month and has the first integrated GBC punch system. If the reaction of the dealer sitting behind us who said “Excellent” at the news was any indication of feelings of the overall dealer audience, Konica Minolta is doing the right thing with this enhancement. </p> <p>Kern also revealed plans for the company’s marketing and advertising campaigns, with an enhanced focus on branding in 2009. </p> <p>“The goals of this campaign are to build trust, go beyond product[s], and associate [the] bizhub [brand] with Konica Minolta,” concluded Kern.</p> <p>A Word from Jun<img hspace="10" src="http://beta.bertl.com/images/KM_Vision09_Haraguchi.jpg" align="right" border="0" /> <br />President and CEO Jun Haraguchi reinforced the messages presented by Taylor, Nielsen, and Kern, whom he described as a “dream team” and spoke about Konica Minolta’s commitment towards protecting the environment and becoming a more sustainable company. </p> <p>Although he didn’t go into specifics, for a casual observer, it seemed as if Haraguchi was laying the foundation for the future and preparing the dealer audience to step back and consider the big picture.</p> <p>“The current economic model is based on the assumption that natural resources are unlimited,” said Haraguchi. “…today’s business model may not be the business model of the future…as a manufacturer we will try hard and develop a solid strategy on how we can grow into the future without harming our environment…we can be a model for every other industry.” </p> <p>Final Words <br />A lot of initiatives were presented and promises made during Vision 2009. The dealer audience seemed receptive both by their reaction within the General Session and in casual conversations during the event. Still, seeing is believing. Now’s the time for Konica Minolta dealers and the industry to witness just how effectively the company will implement those initiatives outlined at Vision 2009 and make good on those promises to its independent dealer channel.</p>