This Week in Imaging: Distribution Changes, Layoffs, at Ricoh; What Does HP Offer Dealers?

Photo credit: Kathy Wirth

Probably the most intriguing news this week came from Ricoh USA, which seemed to indicate in an announcement that it may transfer many of its direct-sales customers to Ricoh dealers. That’s at least how the wording appeared to us, but others may differ (see the announcement here).

If we’re interpreting this correctly, the significance of shifting direct sales to dealers can’t be understated, as Ricoh has long had one of the industry’s largest direct-sales operations, and industry insiders have long recognized that this has always been a major thorn in the side of its dealers. Notably, managing the relationship between the direct-sales channel and the dealers-sale channel has naturally always been a tightrope act – with dealers often complaining of being undercut by the direct-sales force, and only the best company executives were able to successfully walk it.

If Ricoh goes through with this, it could mean greater profitability for the corporation. That would likely be because in-house sales and support teams are usually generously compensated and are major expenses that can now however be passed along to independent dealers, who are also typically lighter on their feet and more in-tune with local customers. It could also mean that Ricoh direct will retain their existing Fortune 1000 customers and direct all lesser direct-sales accounts to the most appropriate dealers.

Meanwhile, NJBiz reports that Ricoh USA is laying-off 77 people at its West Caldwell, NJ, location. The affected employees include: “technical servicing and customer administration workers, as well as sales and sales-management staff.” Ricoh is also said to be laying off employees at its Boulder, Colorado, location – the site of a large production-printer facility that it acquired from IBM.

All of these changes also follow-up on some even bigger changes at Ricoh Company of Japan, including the elimination of the Ricoh Americas’ CEO position in February 2017, and a new CEO and president for Ricoh Company (Japan) in January 2017.

This week also marked an important milestone for HP Inc., as it began shipping its next-generation A3 copier/MFPs. To date, HP currently has recruited 495 dealers.

As those who’ve been around in the industry know, HP has tried before to break into the copier market and not succeeded, but this time it’s counting on two things: its acquisition of Samsung Printing Solutions group (now spun off from Samsung and called “S-Printing Solution Company”), and what it sees as a more effective approach to minimizing dealers’ service costs – HP Smart Device Services.

According to HP’s David Laing, the cloud-based Smart Device Services brings intelligent predictive maintenance to copier/printers for much more effective remote troubleshooting, and, in some case, remote resolution of service calls.

Smart Device Services is also said to continually monitor copiers and printers, including “health indicators” to predict when trouble is imminent, at which time Smart Devices Services begins parts-servicing. And, since Smart Devices Services is compatible with HP’s FutureSmart firmware technology, it will be upgraded over time to become even more responsive.

Ultimately, HP says that repair costs can drop by as much as 50 percent, something any dealer should appreciate.

What else is HP offering prospective dealers?

  • Closed distribution with selective geographic coverage.
  • Stable pricing.
  • Various incentives and leasing programs.

As they say, try, try again, and although we don’t see HP replacing any of the top copier vendors any time soon, with these initiatives, along with 54 new SKUs, a substantial piece of the $55 billion A3 copier may certainly within its reach.

Office-Imaging News

  • HP Shipping New A3 LaserJets, Pagewides, as it Begins Bold Venture into A3 Copier Market – Read more here.
  • Big Changes Afoot at Ricoh, Calls for Shifting Direct-Sales Customers to Dealers – Read more here.
  • Panasonic Says its Document Scanners Have Virtually Zero-Failure Rate – Read more here.

Commercial- and Production-Printing News

  • ‘Trifecta’ of New Xerox Versant Digital Presses Feature Print Speeds up to 100 PPM, New Automation – Read more here.
  • Canon Rolls out $995 Entry-Level imagePROGRAF iPF670E Wide-Format Printer – Read more here.

Executive-Management News

  • Norihiko Ina Promoted to President of Kyocera Document Solutions – Read more here.

Acquisition News

  • RJ Young Acquires ACS Technologies, Expanding Reach in Alabama – Read more here.
  • Clover Acquires ColorLabs, Maker of Imaging Products and Consumables for Mailing, Packaging, Printing – Read more here.
  • DEX Imaging Continues Acquisition Strategy with Fifth Acquisition this Year – Read more here.

3D Printing News

  • Wohlers Report Shows ‘Vibrant New Business Activity in 3D Printing,’ but Softened Growth Worldwide – Read more here.

Other News

  • Lexmark Joins European Remanufacturing Council as a Founding Member – Read more here.

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March 2017

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