Toshiba Delivers the Difference at Dealer Meeting

from Buyers Lab.

March 31, 2008 - With palm trees and golf courses serving as a picturesque backdrop, The Four Seasons Resort Aviara in Carlsbad, CA hosted the Toshiba 2008 National Dealer Meeting. The warm weather in the southern part of the state complemented the company’s sunny outlook, as detailed by a number of executives. Over three days, representatives from just under 200 authorized dealers and wholly owned subsidiaries learned how Toshiba will “Deliver the Difference” throughout the next year and beyond.

One way was through several major announcements regarding hardware and solutions that will launch in 2008. At the top of the list is the e-STUDIO6530c series, which comprises three Toshiba-manufactured high-end business color models—a groundbreaker for the company in a part of the market it has always sold OEM equipment. Toshiba’s first-generation e-BRIDGE Open Platform was also highlighted.



Mark Mathews, president and chief operating officer of Toshiba America Business Solutions, Inc. (TABS), who BLI interviewed when he was elevated to his position in January, gave dealers reason to smile. “Without you there’s no us, and we’re well aware of that,” he said. “Unlike many manufacturers and during any economic trend, we remain highly committed to our independent dealers and building our network in a sane and sensible manner.”

As evidence of what Mathews expressed at the meeting, it was revealed that Toshiba took home three of the five Business Technology Association (BTA) 2007 Channel’s Choice awards, proving that the company is a paragon of support to its dealers. Toshiba won in the “Corporate Support” and “Distribution” categories, but the highlight was claiming the prestigious “Superior Performance” award for the ninth time since 1989. “This not only demonstrates the hard work of all the people on stage and those behind the scenes, it represents a vote of confidence from our dealers and we appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts,” he said.

Sales

Mathews offered up some statistics to help put dealers at ease, given the current economic conditions. “Toshiba is growing and profitable despite a market that’s relatively flat,” he said. “We’re all facing challenges, but in the 2007 market share results our company was only one of three in the Top 10 that increased placements, while many of our competitors shrank at double-digit rates. Our growth in color was more than twice the market rate, and color devices now account for over 40 percent of our new product revenue.”

A crucial differentiating factor in Toshiba’s sales strategy is that it doesn’t intend on pursuing an “over-distributed” system. “We don’t think it’s the correct thing to do,” Mathews said. “We minimize conflict by requiring our TBS (Toshiba Business Solutions) subsidiaries to operate on a dealer profit and loss model so nobody has an edge and everyone benefits from the greater exposure of Toshiba. We can’t eliminate all conflicts, but fairness in our distribution is shown when we win BTA awards.”

TBS will continue to buy dealers and convert them to subsidiaries. In February, Northcoast Business Systems and Northcoast Duplicating in Cleveland, OH became the 53rd such acquisition since the inception of Toshiba’s expansion plan. “Many of our top-performing and fastest-growing dealers are co-located [same geographic area] with TBS subsidiaries, so we won’t hesitate to add more if it makes sense,” Mathews said. “Dealers [255 total, currently] account for 40 to 50 percent of revenues, subsidiaries about one-third of the pie and the remaining lot is derived from other distributors.”

Toshiba has long had a vertical market approach to procuring business, and it’s now even more focused on perhaps the biggest: enterprises. “Over the last few years we’ve made major investments in tools to support this effort,” said Bill Melo, vice president of national accounts, marketing and operations for TABS. “We’ve had sustained growth in this space, but we want to make better inroads with Fortune 500 and 1000 companies.” In fact, Toshiba recently won a hardware and managed print services contract with a national financial institution, among others; all told, Toshiba manages over 30,000 devices for the organization and envisions an estimated 3,500 placements in 2008. More impressive, the account produces more than 35 million pages per month.

Support

To supplement its award-winning level of support for dealers, Toshiba offers programs it hopes will lead the company and its distribution network to greater heights. “We believe in education because change is taking place in our complex industry,” said Steve Rhorer, vice president of marketing for TABS. “Simple training isn’t enough.”

For starters, the Toshiba Innovation Center at its U.S. headquarters in Irvine, CA features the company’s complete lineup. Although this is Toshiba’s only such facility while some of its competitors have several scattered across the country, Rhorer explained that dealers can use the center by having live product demos broadcast over the Web.

The company’s new solutions selling system—dubbed S4—is a “linear, four-part series of workshops and seminars to get dealers up to speed with solutions,” Rhorer said. “SS1 is the foundation and provides the knowledge necessary for successful engagements.” The online, self-paced module teaches people about Toshiba’s history, products and technologies, as well as customers and competition. SS2 delves into consultative selling, the entire spectrum of the company’s solutions and how they can help businesses, while SS3 provides instruction about the hands-on skills necessary to sell color systems. SS4 ties everything together so reps can make the most customized service sale possible. Vertical markets and advanced color technology are also discussed in S4.

Rhorer talked briefly about Toshiba Financial Services as well. “In a tough economy where 70 percent of the products are leased, it’s critical to have strong financial partners like GE Capital and U.S. Bancorp,” he said. Additionally, the company has adopted a leasing Bill of Rights, which includes portfolio protection, buyout security, a defined return program, no long-term renewals and clearly stated end of lease information.

To further assist dealers with marketing and give Toshiba more visibility, the company will roll out three advertisements that will run in magazines such as Fortune and BusinessWeek, and one new commercial. All will be launched in Latin markets too, and Toshiba’s Web site will be updated with more content and colorful imagery.

Solutions

Mathews introduced the solutions topic by saying that Toshiba will continue its aggressive investment in this arena. “Our e-BRIDGE architecture is in its third generation and now includes an open platform,” he said. “This will enable us to offer unique solutions and better capabilities. We’ll exploit the possibilities of the platform both alone and with third parties, and we’ll push everything toward enterprises and then scale them down to the SMB space.”

Joe Contreras, director of product and solutions marketing for TABS, elaborated on Mathews’ comments. “e-BRIDGE Open Platform, which will launch in the late second quarter or early third quarter in conjunction with our new color devices, is a Web-services architecture that allows us to integrate with our solutions and industry-standard applications like Microsoft SharePoint—right at the control panel.” The company will offer two development tools: e-Connect is a special type of scan template that lets developers create and customize solutions such as Re-Rite, DocuWare, FaxPress and Questys, which is a data capture, storage, indexing, and search and retrieval solution; the second method is via the e-BRIDGE Development Kit (eDK), which is an application programming interface based on an open standard that allows a developer to create an interactive interface into any type of application. According to Contreras, Toshiba is taking a structured three-phase approach to the development of Open Platform solutions.  The first phase is targeting solutions developed by Toshiba's current software partners.  The second will allow dealers, customers and developers to submit requests for potential solutions offerings. And the last phase will allow for open distribution of the eDK to developers interested in developing solutions to work with Toshiba MFPs.

TopAccess is the company’s embedded Web utility, which enables remote configuration of network and other settings. However, for larger settings, Toshiba will soon offer its e-BRIDGE Fleet Management System (eFMS), giving administrators the power of centralized monitoring while users benefit from improved availability of devices. Key operators receive automatic first-tier alerting, while second-tier alerting is available to service organizations. Anybody with administrative access to the utility can clone settings and view meter reads. Via eFMS, administrators can assign costs to specific departments, as well as review device usage and consumables status. Dealers can use the utility to create cost and device streamlining proposals. eFMS can manage other brands’ devices, but only in a limited fashion. This solution is still under development but should be available in late summer.

Melo also talked about Encompass, Toshiba’s five-step program that assesses a business’ document management infrastructure and identifies inefficiencies. The resulting analysis allows the company to offer cost-savings initiatives through an efficient and effective fleet of new and existing equipment. “Today, approximately 70 dealers are using Encompass as a part of their sales strategy,” he said. “There doesn’t seem to be a correlation in size; dealers range in size from small to Fortune 1000 providers. Hagan Business Machines comes across as a large dealer because of tools like this.”

Toshiba’s Global Services Portal (GSP), which is an online supplies ordering system, was launched in July 2006 and “we continue to invest in it and improve its flexibility to meet customers’ purchasing requirements, allowing companies to enforce purchasing approval workflow limits,” Melo said. “There are more than 85 customers using GSP, with more coming on all the time. Typically, portal accounts are managed by TABS, but dealers that utilize GSP are having tremendous success with it.”

Contreras gave a synopsis about e-BRIDGE Re-Search, which was recently announced. In short, this solution auto-indexes content and specifies the level of user access in real time, then tags things in various formats such as Microsoft Office applications, e-mail, images, audio, video and “literally any type of data on any network, with security of items that employees are only authorized to look at,” he said. Toshiba views the legal, financial, healthcare and education industries, as well as enterprises, as the primary vertical markets for Re-Search, and the solution is currently being utilized in governmental agencies, including the Pentagon.

In terms of third-party solutions, Contreras highlighted two that will play a big role for the company. The first is SharePoint, which “has become the dominant tool in lifecycle document creation, collaboration and management,” said Dave Healey, senior product manager for SharePoint, adding that Toshiba has had a long relationship with Microsoft, especially in the PC space, and was one of the first manufacturers to attain Vista certification for its MFPs. “Businesses have more documents than they can maintain: 20 percent in structured repositories, while 80 percent is unstructured and 90 percent of that isn’t managed.” Moreover, he said that a staggering 30 percent of a person’s time at work is spent looking for files. “SharePoint is the single-fastest server product that Microsoft has ever released. It’s a horizontal platform that delivers value from an information management context across the enterprise. The market is expanding dramatically for these solutions—it’s no longer a niche product.” SharePoint is a separate application from Microsoft, and a license is included with MS Windows Server. Toshiba isn’t reselling SharePoint, however it’s developing a connector with the Open Platform eDK that will allow scanned documents to be scanned directly into the application.

Another key solution is eCopy ShareScan and Desktop, which have been updated to versions 4.2 and 9.2, respectively. “ShareScan connects the MFP to an organization’s e-mail, desktop and other networked enterprise applications for low-cost and instantaneous management of paper-based info, while Desktop is an easy-to-use PDF creation and image editing solution that includes annotation, stamping and OCR capabilities,” Contreras said, adding that ShareScan’s upgrades include four connectors, all of which are standard; support for PDF/A documents (a subset of PDF that leaves out features not suited to long-term archiving) and Microsoft Exchange 2007; and new maintenance pricing for three, four and five years.

Toshiba positions its e-BRIDGE Re-Rite solution for small and medium-size businesses.  It’s a tool that allows scans from the MFP to be directly saved in one of sixteen modifiable formats such as MS Word, Excel and searchable PDF.  According to Rhorer, the solution is bundled with all color devices, while if customers use either GE Capital or US Bancorp for leasing, they too will receive it for free. Re-Rite is sold for $2,695 MSRP.

Toshiba will offer Ringdale FollowMe once the open platform is launched. This enterprise-based solution allows print jobs to be sent to the FollowMe queue and printed on a networked device once an authorization code has been entered, which could be useful if, say, an employee sends a document to the queue from one city, then travels to another and outputs it there. Information resides on a hold server, where the jobs can be accessed. This solution also provides a Web-based interface for administrators to monitor a fleet and assign costs to devices and departments.

Products

The product fair was set up as a “virtual corporation,” cementing the company’s vertical market approach. Despite the room being cramped, devices that were on display also showcased either Toshiba-developed solutions or those stemming from third parties. For example, logistics had the e-STUDIO500S—a Lexmark A4 OEM product—running with TypeHaus BarCodeJet, while the e-STUDIO853 was configured to allow scanning of invoices into DocuWare, as might take place in an accounts payable department.

Color is, of course, the most crucial subject regarding MFPs these days. “Our color sales are at an all-time high, and as of today our [previous] lack of breadth of color offerings is a non-issue,” Mathews said.

Rhorer echoed those sentiments. “Color is the biggest reason why Toshiba is the fastest growing manufacturer over the last five years. “And with our new e-STUDIO6530c series, we’ve got the fastest color machines positioned for the office.”

Rory Fox, senior product manager for TABS said about the e-STUDIO6530c: “Make no mistake—this is different. It’s the newest gem in our color lineup, with speeds of 65 ppm in color and 75 ppm in black.” The e-STUDIO6530c can be configured with various paper supplies; the tandem version has two 540-sheet cassettes, a 2,320-sheet large-capacity feeder (LCF), a 100-sheet bypass and an optional 2,500-sheet LCT for a total of 6,000 sheets, while the four-drawer version has a maximum capacity of 4,760 sheets. The drawers can accommodate up to ledger-size paper and automatically duplex on up to 140-lb. index; the bypass can accommodate up to 12" x 19" paper and automatically duplex on up to 110-lb. cover stock, while adding the ability to print banners on up to 47" media, including Toshiba water-resistant AquaAce paper, which is practically indestructible, according to Fox. Additionally, users can open the left tray of the LCF and load paper while paper is being drawn from the right side. Many dealers had asked for the drawers to be equipped with paper sensors, which they now are.

The e-STUDIO6530c has convenience features such as Toshiba’s Easy Replaceable Units; the four toner bottles, which include developer, are examples of this. The device also has the scan to/print from feature via a USB port. The e-STUDIO6530c copies, prints and scans right out of the box, while fax capabilities are optional. PCL 6 and PostScript 3 drivers are therefore standard; users can print at the unenhanced resolution of 1200 x 1200 dpi—new for Toshiba—and the system can eliminate black borders around pages when copying from books. The saddle-stitch finisher is another interesting item as it has what the company labels an “avalanche system”: as booklets are created and the first “tray” gets full, booklets fall down into a second tray as the first starts collecting more, doubling the output amount.

The newly designed 10.4" super VGA control panel, which can tilt and swivel, and move via an extension arm, features an icon-driven full-color touch-screen LCD. By pressing the MyMenu key, users are shown what they can and can’t access via icons, and they can set up the control panel with the icons that they most frequently use. Users can build jobs that have up to 1,000 pages. Additionally, dealers were ecstatic that the control panel now has paper gauges for all sources, which they’d been clamoring for.

Another key feature of the device is its trickle-down developer technology—Self-Refresh Development System. When the unit is installed, the technician adds developer to the system. Because developer is 11 percent of what’s in the toner cartridges, the system feeds developer along with toner, thus eliminating the need for developer to be added during PM intervals or service calls; excess developer is sent to the waste toner bottle. The device comes with toner preinstalled, and “because of this system and constant replenishment of developer, image quality can be maintained at a high level,” Fox said. Furthermore, e-FINE toner and developer will improve production of secondary colors, thus extending the color gamut, according to Toshiba.

There are two additional devices in this series. The e-STUDIO6520c has a rated speed of 65 ppm in color and black, while the e-STUDIO5520c has a rated speed of 55 ppm in both modes. All models in this family will be released in late second quarter or early third quarter, and will feature e-BRIDGE Open Architecture.

For businesses that don’t require such high-speed devices, Toshiba will also launch the e-STUDIO4520c series around the same time. This family of products is based on the same engine as was employed in the e-STUDIO3510c series, but will be open-architecture enabled. “Designed for demanding mid-volume offices, these products have it all,” Rhorer said. “This is a compact, color MFP. Developer comes in the box and will reduce setup costs by 70 percent versus our existing devices. The control panel is bigger and easier to navigate, and it has a new scan preview.” The e-STUDIO4520c has a rated speed of 45 ppm in color and black, the e-STUDIO3530c has rated speeds of 35 ppm in color and 45 ppm in black, the e-STUDIO2830c has speeds of 28 ppm in color and 35 ppm in black and the e-STUDIO2330c has speeds of 23 ppm in color and 38 ppm in black. These four devices will serve as the replacements for the e-STUDIO3510c, 3500c and 2500c, the first of which won a BLI “Pick of the Year” award in Spring 2007.

In the fourth quarter of this year, Toshiba will release the e-STUDIO455, 355, 305, 255 and 205L, direct replacements—with slight modifications—for the current e-STUDIO453, 353, 303, 252 and 203; either later that quarter or in early 2009, the company will add the e-STUDIO855, 755, 655 and 555 to the mix. “We haven’t given up on monochrome and it’s still the solution of choice for many companies,” Rhorer said. “All of these products are perfect for small, medium-size and large workgroups and departments.”

“When it makes sense to partner with companies to bring a full spectrum of devices and solutions for you, we’ll do so,” Rhorer continued. “Not all of them have the e-STUDIO brand. This year we’re pleased to announce a partnership with KIP for wide-format printing of technical documents. We’ll offer a wide range of configurations to please everyone.”

Fujitsu, which is the market leader in standalone scanners, will provide Toshiba with five products; these won’t be rebranded. Dealers will be able to sell any of the models through Toshiba, which will in turn use Tech Data as the VAR (value-added reseller) for distribution. The fi-5120C sheet-fed scanner and fi-5220C flatbed scanner offer a rated speed of 25 ppm (simplex) or 50 ipm (duplex) in color, monochrome and grayscale; 600-dpi optical resolution with dual-color scanning to capture minute details; and a 50-page ADF for hard and embossed card scanning. The fi-5650C scans at 57 ppm (simplex) or 114 ipm (duplex) in color and monochrome; it offers 300-dpi optical resolution with dual-color scanning, corresponding left- and right-handed control panels to give equal access to all users, and a duty cycle of up to 8,000 documents per day. The fi-5900C scans at 120 ppm (simplex) or 240 ipm (duplex) in monochrome and color; it offers 300-dpi optical resolution with dual-color scanning in letter and landscape formats, a 500-page ADF and a space-saving design. The fi-6000NS is a color duplex network device that scans at 25 ppm (simplex) or 50 ipm (duplex) in color, monochrome and grayscale; it offers 600-dpi optical resolution with automatic image-quality adjustment, automatic color detection, image deskew, automatic paper-size and blank-page detection, and removal; a small footprint with an integrated touch-screen display and built-in keyboard; and a 50-page ADF for hard and embossed card scanning, as well as long document scanning.

Toshiba also announced that later in the year it will introduce two additional Lexmark A4 MFPs, thus building upon its relationship with the company to provide more printer-centric products for customers that are looking for an alternative to copier MFPs.

Dealer Reaction

Pacific Office Automation

Founded in 1976 and with 15 locations throughout Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, it’s obvious that Pacific Office Automation (POA) has deep roots in the West. Moreover, it’s one of the world’s largest dealers for Toshiba, Konica Minolta, Ricoh and Sharp products. The company also sells Muratec faxes and specific Xerox, Lexmark and KIP devices, as well as offering services, support and supplies to a wide array of clients.

Doug Pitassi, vice president of sales for POA, thought that the meeting was a success. “Toshiba did an outstanding job of communicating its results from last year, its strategy for this year and its new products,” he said. “Their agenda was smooth and to the point. The company executives indicated a strong commitment to its independent dealers, telling us how valuable we are to their growth. This is not only reassuring but also gives us more confidence for the future of Toshiba.”

“It’s good to see that Toshiba is staying in the ring and consistently developing new products and technologies,” Pitassi continued. “Open architecture is a great feature that will appeal to many of our customers, and the e-STUDIO6530c will help them compete in the market in terms of higher-end color devices. Toshiba is more desirable to certain customers because of what their new products offer. The controllers are made and manufactured by Toshiba, thus support for all equipment comes from the dealer and manufacturer and it’s not third-party supported. Their equipment has a certain ease of operation, and our technicians find it more desirable to work on Toshiba products because they’re more service friendly. Finally, the company is constantly making firmware changes and enhancements that help to keep the customer up to date.”

Office Systems, Inc.

Joel Vockrodt, co-owner and vice president of Office Systems, Inc. (OSI), was pleased with the new color MFPs that were announced at the meeting. “It’s what I wanted to hear about,” he said. “I’m excited about the e-STUDIO6530c series, especially because they’re developed by Toshiba, but am equally ecstatic about the lower-end devices like the e-STUDIO2330c—those will fly off the shelves.” Vockrodt, who’s been with the company for seven years, told BLI that OSI primarily sells color devices, “and now we’ll be even more successful with converting businesses from black to color.”

“Toshiba’s open platform will truly make the copier the center of the office, and the possibilities seem endless,” he continued. “I’m also impressed with e-BRIDGE Re-Search and feel as though it’ll be a nice solution for some of our clients.”

Vockrodt believes that by selling Toshiba products, OSI has a strong advantage over its competition. “They’re the easiest devices to use,” he said. “Plus, we’ve been in business since 1985, and Toshiba has always provided excellent support, which has helped us take great care of our customers and their equipment.”

OSI is located in South Dakota and is also a Konica Minolta dealer. Additionally, it sells office and janitorial supplies, as well as furniture and design services. There are 35 associates in the company.

Copiadoras y Tecnología Láser

“I’ve been selling and servicing Toshiba equipment since 1992, so I’ve seen the whole transfer from analog to digital,” said Carlos Corredoira, director of operations for Copiadoras y Technología Láser (CTL) in Monterrey, Mexico. “We’re an exclusive Toshiba dealer and for us, there’s only one way to go—the Toshiba way. The professional training our sales reps and technicians receive at the Toshiba Digital University is a huge advantage for us.”

Corredoira is also very happy with the new color devices that will launch in a few months. “We can now compete a lot better with both the e-STUDIO6530c and 4520c series, particularly because they can print on up to 47" paper,” he said. “These special products are going to be a boon for us this year. We’ve been waiting for Toshiba to manufacture its entire color lineup, and the international market will benefit from this as much as dealers will in the U.S. As for the new e-BRIDGE Open Platform, this is the future for developers and will be a huge boost to us down the road.”

According to Corredoira, CTL has one of the largest demo rooms and training facilities in Mexico. The company covers 22 states and more than 300 cities, which has translated into lots of major accounts: impressively, the smallest one is 35 devices that range from 20 to 85 ppm, including color, while its biggest client has a total of 239 devices.

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This article is reposted from Buyers Lab. BLI retains all copyright to the preceding.