Ricoh Puts the Focus on Dealers at Convergence 2013; New GW+ MFP Platform with Smart Control Panel, Cloud Connectivity, More
This year, Ricoh Americas held its annual North American dealer meeting October 28 – 31 at the Aria Resort & Casino, a new hotel that bills itself as “the most technologically advanced hotel every built.” At the Aria, this was true for the most part, as there were plenty of ways to network and charge your gizmos, as well as swipe-enabled door locks, automated curtains, and a touch screen “waking system” that could open the curtains at the scheduled time (among other things). The bottom line is that the facilities were attractive and efficient, and the guest rooms were large, comfortable and quiet. On a more humorous note, I returned to the room about 5 pm from Ricoh’s Day 1 activities only to find the banks of lights above the beds turned on. Since it was a bright sunny afternoon and electricity was being wasted, I wanted to turn off the lights. Each bank had its own set of switches labeled “Reading,” “Resting” and “Good Night.” Which button to push? I pressed “Good Night” and went off to the bathroom to freshen up. When I returned, I was startled to find the room in near darkness as “Good Night” had also automatically closed the blackout curtains. I didn’t take the opportunity to mess with those lights again and never took the time to figure out how to actually turn them off without the curtains closing. I suppose that you have to press “Reading” or “Resting”–go figure.
But back to the Ricoh show, which attracted about 1,200 attendees and representatives from over 500 dealerships. As we previously noted, the conference’s focus was square on dealers. Since Ricoh has recently handed over some of its direct accounts to dealers, there was a lot of focus on dealers’ importance – the message from Ricoh to dealers was “We want to work with you” NOT “This is what you’re going to do” – a refreshing change.
During its current fiscal year (which began April 1, 2013) and next year, Ricoh will be launching six A3 and two A4 MFP engines with the GW+ architecture and features. One thing you’ll see is that Ricoh has also dropped the “Aficio” brand name from its MFPs. A mix of new A3 and A4 were privately previewed, with more attention on A4. While details are confidential, several unique A4 SFPs and MFPs and a host of A3 replacement products will be announced in the next few months.
Beginning in its fiscal year 2012, Ricoh has put in a new management team, and also says it’s sought to provide a better balance between its direct and dealer channels. It’s also been revamping its training for services-selling, with resources such as a more flexible CHAMPS program, with services better equipped for Ricoh dealers’, as opposed to a focus on direct sales. Ricoh also says it’s been better sharing resources with dealers, for instance, sharing competitive knowledge obtained from its Ricoh-run competitive testing lab, “Monster-In-A-Box.” These efforts, it says, have led to a 10-percent year-over-year growth for its dealer channel,
Services- Led Approach
As with other office-imaging vendors, Ricoh cited declining print volumes – research from Morgan Stanley, for instance, shows that corporate printing has declined by 16 percent due to both tablet PC adoption and company measures to reduce printing. Within the office MFP/printer market, Ricoh pointed out research from IDC indicating that sales of MFPs will grow modestly within the next few years (with MFPs replacing standalone printers), while sales of standalone printers will modestly decline. Within the MFP market, sales of A4 monochrome, A4 color MFPs, and production printers will be responsible for the most growth, while sales of A3 monochrome and A3 color MFPs will just remain steady (see charts below). Now more than ever, Ricoh says this calls for a services, not printing approach, and urged its dealers to adopt a services-led approach, not just moving boxes (hardware), but solving customer problems and bottlenecks, for instance, automating the scanning, processing, and routing of documents, and by addressing today’s business trends: mobility, cloud connectivity, and big data.
- Managed document services – Management services that encompass the entire document life-cycle.
- Business process optimization, including document process optimization (DPO).
- Communication services – Development, deployment, and integration of telecommunication and collaboration solutions.
- Production-printing services.
- IT infrastructure services – Consulting, design, hardware, and installation to support IT infrastructure for small-and mid-size businesses.
- Sustainability management services that reduce customers’ environmental impact.
New GW+ Architecture Provides New Touch Screen, Mobile Printing, More
At an exclusive analyst’s briefing, Jason Dizzine, vice president of Technology Marketing for Ricoh Americas, took us through Ricoh’s current MFP approach:
Jason introduced Ricoh’s new MFP GW+engine architecture, which provides:
- Mobile printing from Apple iOS and Android mobile devices with new standard AirPrint mobile-printing support, and new free Smart Print App for iOS and Android mobile printing to new and legacy Ricoh devices.
- Also supporting mobile workers, new printing from USB memory drives and SD memory cards.
- New customizable 10.1″ touch screen with tablet-like “pinch” and “flick” operation, shortcut icons, and Web-browser option with printing of Web pages. A4 MFPs will have a new 4.3″ color touch screen.
- Embedded OCR for converting scanned documents into text-editable documents.
- A new Eco-Friendly Indicator displays the company’s printing policy and paper-reduction ratio for each user.
- Cloud-enabled with Ricoh’s Integrated Cloud Environment (ICE) for scanning to and printing from cloud-based document-storage sites.
Ricoh’s roll-out of its Smart Operation Panel will come in three phases:
- Phase 1 – Introduction with the new color MFPs, focusing on usability and customization.
- Phase 2 – Release of an iSDK for developers to create and add-on applications.
- Phase 3 – Development of future features and applications.
The new MFP platform also integrates Ricoh’s Integrated Cloud Environment (ICE) Print Cloud for mobile printing and printing from cloud-based document-storage sites such as Dropbox, Evernote, etc., and “cloud printing” – with cloud printing, the print job is sent to a cloud site, and then held there until the user logs-in at any supported Ricoh MFP or printer, then accesses their job, and prints it. For a more in-depth look at Ricoh’s ICE, visit Ricoh here.
Ricoh’s new Advanced Capture is part of its Integrated Cloud Environment (ICE), and is targeted at small and mid-size businesses, which frequently have minimal IT support. As such, Ricoh says it’s designed Advanced Capture to make it easy for customers with minimal IT support to deploy it, with little or no IT support required. It’ll be available for an annual user subscription, and will provide MFP cloud-connectivity and mobile printing.
Also new will be:
- Ricoh Smart Presenter – This was actually introduced several months ago – see our story here, and is a meeting solution that lets presenters and participants use their Apple iPad tablets to share information during a meeting. It also links with Ricoh wireless projectors for attendees who don’t have iPads.
- Device Manager NX Pro/Enterprise is a device-management solution for managing and controlling all settings of multiple devices at once, with the ability to create reports detailing device status, and with the same user interface from desktop devices to multi-server products, including third-party devices. It can also be linked to external systems, such as Ricoh’s Remedy. Target customers will include managed document and print services customers with five or more devices that need a device-management solution to configure, monitor, and maintain their fleet of Ricoh and non-Ricoh devices.
- Fortis V2.6 will have a new Web-based user interface that Ricoh says provides an updated look and feel. Additionally, software doesn’t have to be installed on each desktop. Users can view documents as PDFs, or use Active X controls. With Active X, Portal users can change index data, and annotate and add pages to documents. The Web-based user interface supports Firefox, Windows Internet Explorer, and Chrome Web browsers.
- Ricoh says the latest version of its DocumentMall document-storage solution, Replicator v4.0, provides document-synchronizing capabilities that will make it more of a “Dropbox-type” document-storage product
In November 2013, Ricoh will launch Printer Driver Packager NX, which it says will provide these benefits for Ricoh print drivers:
- Will reduce printing costs by enabling IT to control users’ print driver settings, for instance, by requiring two-sided duplex printing to reduce paper usage.
- Will reduce users’ time to set up printing by allowing IT to create a print-driver deployments package that pre-sets parameters for the installation.
- Will reduce the time IT needs to distribute print-driver packages.
New Production-Printing Systems
New in the production-printing department will be the Pro C5100s/C5100s printers, which are rated at 65/80 ppm respectively. They feature 4,800 dpi resolution, and are designed for graphics applications and proofing, and are for franchise print shops, in-plant print shops, and central reproduction departments.
The forthcoming Pro 8100S, Pro 8100EX, Pro 8110S, Pro 8120S with print, copy, and scan are rated at 95/110/135 ppm respectively. They feature a single-pass document feeder, 1,200 x 4,800 dpi resolution, and are for production printing, central reproduction departments, education, and print-for-pay.
Recent Ricoh Production Inkjet Updates
Ricoh also updated its position in the hot high-speed inkjet production-printing market, a segment where IDC reports that Ricoh is the market-share leader in the United States. Ricoh currently has nine models in the production-printing inkjet segment, with more than 40 different configurations supported in the field
Among recent developments has been Ricoh’s extension of Arcis Pantograph support for the security of negotiable documents, and it’s also updated its Ink Savvy ink-management tool to support some coated papers, such as Appleton Utopia 45# Book with Extended Media Dryer Option.
New Large-Format Printers
Ricoh will introduce two new wide-format printers in January 2014:
- The Pro L4130/4160 is Ricoh’s next-generation large-format color inkjet printer, and is for printing displays, signage, and point-of-purchase (POP) materials. It uses Latex ink for high image durability without the use of solvents. Ricoh also says that with its printing with up to six ink color, it has an expanded color gamut. Optional white ink is available for printing on transparency media. The printer will be available in two versions, one for printing on media up to 54″ wide, another for printing on media up to 64″ wide.
- The MP CW2200SP is a large-format color printer that can print on standard bond paper, and incorporates copy, scan, and print. Ricoh is positioning it for applications in indoor signage, architecture, construction, and engineering,
A new line of projectors is on the way from Ricoh. The PJ WX4141N (networked model) and PJ WX4141NI (networked model with interactive features) will launch in December 2013. Ricoh says they feature brighter projection at 3300lm. The projectors can be wall-mounted, and are designed for education, corporate meeting rooms, small portable meetings, and for digital signage.
As usual, Ricoh VP Terri Campbell had an interesting talk about newer entrants into today’s workforce – “millennials,” who are extremely comfortable with mobile technology, and are less inclined to print. According to IDC, the worldwide mobile-worker population is set to increase to 1.19 billion in 2013, accounting for 34.9 percent of the workforce. The United States will remain the most highly concentrated market for mobile workers, with 75 percent of the workforce being mobile by 2013, making mobile access to printing and scanning key.
Upon reflection, we were impressed by a number of items:
- Ricoh Americas and AR Advisors went out of their way to make it easy and comfortable for industry analysts to effectively attend the event and digest its message.
- The general session meetings were mercifully short and to the point (e.g.: no on-stage product demos, minimal slides, and no excessively long speeches by Japanese executives).
- The focus on Ricoh dealers was a refreshing change of pace and a long time coming. Other vendors who have been mercilessly courting direct distribution at the expense of their independent dealers should sit up and take notice.
- The sheer number A4 configurations that Ricoh will be launching in the coming months was notable – about 13 according to our count, versus five A3 configurations.
The bottom line is that it was refreshing that Ricoh’s annual dealer meeting seemed sincerely focused on Ricoh dealers and sales executives, and was not just another opportunity to push the sales of solutions and hardware. Overall, It felt good to be part of it, and was a job well done.