Thinking Outside The (Printer) Box

12 Jun 2018 | 11.47 am

Thinking Outside The (Printer) Box

Printers are getting ‘smarter’, so printer vendors are too

12 Jun 2018 | 11.47 am

The printer market can’t sit on the sideline as technology marches past. Neither can printer vendors, writes OKI Europe’s Dylan Haworth (pictured)

Technology is becoming so complex and intertwined that vendors are no longer able to simply ‘sell boxes’. And as companies transform their business model to take advantage of new technology, they need expert advice on cost-effectively tailoring the products and systems they buy to their business.

As a result, many resellers have had to evolve their business model, replacing the high-turnover, low-margin model with the slower burning, but ultimately more rewarding, consultative sale.

Printers and printer vendors are a good example of this shift. Printers no longer just sit in the corner to be used occasionally – instead, they are an integral part of a document workflow, managing and storing documents with the help of integrated computing systems.

So how do the companies selling these new solutions adapt their businesses to survive? To begin with, they have to address a whole spectrum of different questions that printer vendors never thought they’d have to answer. For example, print security is now a major concern.

Copytype Evolution

Tony Carey is managing director of Copytype, a Limerick-based printer supplier, selling a range of brands, but in particular OKI multifunction devices. In the business for over 30 years, Carey is helping Copytype evolve to address the technological transition.

The company currently employs several engineers. “This means we can differentiate ourselves from the competition through our service expertise,” Carey explains.

“A few years ago, everybody bought printers on price. Now they have become far more complex – and having the technical knowledge to install and configure them in a way that maximises the benefits for each individual customer is a great selling point.”

Increasingly, Copytype’s business is coming from IT companies that don’t have in-depth knowledge of print and printers. “An IT company will spend time writing specifications for a server, PCs and laptops for a company, but when it comes to a printer they tend to just choose one from a list,” says Carey.

“Take OKI printers – or rather, ‘multifunction devices’, as they are now. They are increasingly sophisticated, often integrating with enterprise IT systems and playing a key role in digitising workflow. If an IT consultant installs one of these, they don’t have the expertise to set it up in a way that suits the individual business.”

Print Security

One of the main shifts in attitude has been around print security. Carey recently bought a small multifunction device for home use. “As soon as I took it out of the box and put it on my desk, it immediately picked up WiFi and started ‘talking’ to me, asking for my Google account and other details.

“The device wasn’t even plugged into anything but with these details it could already talk to the outside world. And this was a relatively inexpensive and straightforward device for domestic use.”

Printers now tend to come with customisable tools that can be accessed with unique ID cards or PIN codes. But this is another area where those inexperienced in the printer world can come undone.  “Customers worry about data protection and GDPR. By stressing the features that can be put in place to address this, we can help.”

Carey adds that compliance and data security – as opposed to total cost of ownership or print quality – are currently his customers’ main concerns. “Now, many printers have USB ports. Without such features as PIN protection, anyone could download documents onto a USB and put it in their pocket with nobody knowing they’ve got it. A year or two ago, all a customer wanted to know was price. Now, it’s whether a device is secure or not.”

Some companies will choose to retrain staff to handle the new demands emerging around new technology. Carey is betting that his staff will provide the extra expertise for the businesses looking outside for guidance.

“It sounds a cliché, but it’s a case of thinking outside the box, about a total solution that can be designed and configured to align with our customers’ business goals.

“We’ve come a long way from only thinking about products, but we believe the changes have been worthwhile,” he says.

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