2013 Konica Minolta Dealer Meeting: The Plight of Hardware (Part 2 of 3)

By Carl Schell, Associate Editor, December 12, 2013

While Konica Minolta continues to call hardware its “core business,” devices clearly took a backseat to software at “Shape the Future”—and have for the past few shows. Regardless, as Senior Vice President of Marketing for Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. (KMBS) Kevin Kern said, “We still need to sell hardware, otherwise there won’t be any software.”

Though Kern spent more time discussing production print, an area in which the company has invested heavily and, based on its market share uptick, obviously played a key role in Konica Minolta’s growth since Rick Taylor was hired to lead the organization, the underlying theme as it pertains to office equipment was, without a doubt, portfolio uniformity.

A3

Because the bizhub 454e series was launched a week prior to the event, there was nothing in the way of new product announcements. Instead, Kern highlighted the following on the A3 front…

  • With the bizhub 454e family now launched, the “e” series refresh is complete
  • Common accessories—finishers, namely—make life easier for everybody, especially when it comes to servicing devices and maintaining better levels of inventory
  • Standard security offerings carry certifications for IEEE 2600.1 and ISO 15408
  • Konica Minolta has 23 devices that meet the requirements of EPEAT Gold
  • On-going development of its IWS and bEST platforms

One particular option that Kern felt deserved its due is LK-110, which brings versatility and environmental friendliness to the table. Once installed, the add-on lets users save scanned files as encrypted or searchable PDFs; convert them to Microsoft Word or Excel format (covert to PowerPoint is standard on newer devices, while businesses can add PowerPoint on older devices via LK-110); and OCR them. Direct PDF printing of email attachments is another feature of this option that could boost productivity.

A4

When it comes to the company’s recent A4 lineup, here’s what the always humorous Kern had to say: “Our A4 product strategy was … it sucked, frankly. It looked like we had products from 72 manufacturers, and because of this we couldn’t consistently implement solutions for your customers.”

Now, however, the game has changed. Konica Minolta introduced a new platform for its A4 devices, one that includes a very similar touchscreen as on its A3 hardware (7" instead of 9"), as well as open architecture so dealers can more easily sell and support solutions. The public will first see this fresh design with the 40-ppm color bizhub C3850 and 35-ppm color bizhub C3350, both of which will launch in Q1 2014 and serve as the replacements for the bizhub C35. Kern remarked that the two MFPs look very much like mini bizhubs—and they do, again bringing portfolio consistency to the fore. Also, single-function printer versions, as well as all-in-one configurations (won’t be solutions-ready, more or less only basic features), are scheduled for release in Q2.

Konica Minolta will also launch two monochrome MFPs based on the new platform in Q1, the 50-ppm bizhub 4750 (replaces the bizhub 42) and 42-ppm bizhub 4050 (replaces the bizhub 36). Meanwhile, the company will continue its partnership with Lexmark to round out its A4 offerings with two all-in-ones, the 42-ppm bizhub 4020 and 35-ppm bizhub 3320.

Production Print

For the third straight show, production print played a big part of the proceedings. “We started the light production market with the [bizhub PRO Di] 850,” Kern boldly declared, “It gets exponentially more expensive to develop [devices] over 100 ppm, but we feel like we’re in a sweet spot in the mid-production space.”

In late spring (though we were told it could be as early as February), Konica Minolta will launch the bizhub PRESS C1070 (70 ppm color, replaces the bizhub PRESS C7000) and bizhub PRESS C1060 (60 ppm color, replaces the bizhub PRESS C6000). With monthly duty cycles of 330,000 and 280,000 pages, respectively, these devices clearly fit into the light production space and are designed for CRDs and print-for-pay businesses. Both have a maximum paper capacity of 7,500 sheets, can duplex on media up to 300 gsm, and can be outfitted with several finishing options and either the Konica Minolta controller or one from EFI or Creo.

Moving upstream, the company plans to release the 100-ppm color bizhub PRESS C1100 (a new addition to the line) and the 85-ppm color bizhub PRESS C1085 (replaces the bizhub PRESS C8000) in early summer 2014. “These devices, unlike the C8000, have only one fusing section, not two, and it’s an entirely new design,” said KMBS Production Print Product Marketing Manager Mike Fego, adding that both will deliver full productivity regardless of media weight. “And along with better color registration, quality and stability, as well as perfect front-to-back registration, the C1100 and C1085 will use a “light” version of bEST, including compatibility with Equitrac for tracking and other tools.”

Sometime during the first half of next year, the company will launch the bizhub PRESS 2250P. Employing two bizhub PRESS 1250P engines, this device will print 250 duplex ipm and is designed for book production and the light transaction market.

To conclude his presentation about production print, Kern brought up the KM-1, a UV inkjet press meant for high-end cut-sheet environments and direct mail operations. “At 17' long, almost 9' wide, and 8' tall, I’ve actually seen two people inside it,” he remarked. “It’s able to produce 19,800 images per hour, or 9,900 duplex pages.” Other noteworthy details about it…

  • Has 64 printheads, each one of those with 16 heads that have 512 nozzles
  • Support for 29" paper makes it ideal for offset workflows
  • Being beta tested in the first half of 2014
  • Will launch in 14 to 16 months; has an 18-month sales cycle
  • Cost is over $1 million; utilizes 5-gallon ink containers

The Net-Net

The trend of late at Konica Minolta dealer meetings has been to spend enough time keeping the channel abreast of office hardware news, but not to delve too deeply into it so it doesn’t take away from software and services. By no means do we believe that a huge launch won’t be given its due at a future show, but the presentation strategy at least for this event certainly mirrored the company’s overall message. Still, the fact that Konica Minolta is getting closer and closer to having near-complete uniformity with its lineup is truly impressive and, for the dealers we spoke with, exciting.

The production print side of the fence is different. Whereas, like with dealers, selling office devices helps “pay the bills,” with production equipment there’s real money to be had. To further the point, there were no breakout seminars about office devices, but there was one about production print, and the expo featured plenty of the company’s production hardware, and it’s important to note that production print is one of the seven verticals currently included in the EnvisionIT solutions strategy. Therefore, it stands to reason that Konica Minolta wants to put the spotlight on production print, and did in a crystal clear way, but it will probably reserve launches on this front to other trade shows.

Though it wasn’t discussed at length, 3D printing was mentioned because, as Kern said, “It’s a business that relates to, or is adjacent to, what we do at Konica Minolta. There’s growth potential and it’s a perfect fit in the manufacturing and engineering verticals—a great opportunity for us to get in there and sell something else.” So maybe we’ll be hearing a lot more about this hot topic at the next dealer meeting…

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this event coverage, where we’ll dive more deeply into the news about solutions.

For coverage of the Konica Minolta European Sales Channel event, click here.

Republished with permission from Buyers Laboratory LLC (www.buyerslab.com). ©2013 Buyers Laboratory LLC