This June, Ricoh announced it had partnered with Digital Gateway to create a new dealer system interface. The Imaging Channel asked Ricoh’s Meagan Moody a few questions about the project.

What inspired Ricoh to pursue a new system interface for its dealers?
As we continue to approach our process-improvement efforts at Ricoh from a customer-focused perspective, we worked closely with our dealers and learned that they were looking for ways to improve their internal efficiencies. Specifically, they told us that they are looking for opportunities to improve their experience, to eliminate some of the redundant activities that they have, to have real-time access to information, and to improve some of their efficiencies.

When did Ricoh come up with the idea to develop its new solution?
It was probably in early to the middle of 2010 when we started talking to Digital Gateway. At that time, they only had the e-automate platform, and while it looked very promising, that was only going to address a small percentage of our dealer network, and we were looking for something that had an opportunity to benefit a majority.

Last fall, Digital Gateway merged with ECi. Now we have La Crosse, OMD and e-automate, and once you put all three of those together, that’s almost 75 percent of our dealer community. Literally as soon as we heard the announcement, we got back on the phone with them, saying, “Hey, what can we do now?”

How can this solution help the rest of Ricoh’s dealers? 
While the Digital Gateway interface will translate to the three ECi platforms, this foundation allows us the opportunity to build interfaces with other systems in the future. And obviously, our current Ricoh processes and tools will still be available.

What will the new system interface ultimately look like?
We’re going to deliver a robust tool for our dealers to access real-time information out of our Oracle ERP systems. Our interface will allow us to pass information to Digital Gateway, and then Digital Gateway can pass it to the dealers in the format that they use. As a dealer — and it doesn’t matter if you’re on e-automate, OMD or La Crosse — you’re going to log in, you’re going to be on our special portal page that we’re getting developed as part of this solution, and then you can transact and have that right there on your system when you log in.

How is this solution going to roll out?
We’re going to do a two-phase approach. We are in development for Phase 1, and we are also working in parallel with a pilot group of dealers for planning delivery of Phase 2.

What happens in Phase 1?
What we’re starting with is providing dealers with product and pricing information and also equipment configuration rules. In order to transact with us and to do orders and that type of thing — whether it’s equipment, parts, supplies, etc. — dealers have to have the products and pricing information in their system. So as Ricoh has a new product or has pricing changes, we will link in with the Digital Gateway solution, and it can push the information to the dealers. This phase really builds the foundation. Right now Phase 1 is scheduled for fall of 2012.

What will Phase 2 entail, and when will it roll out?
Phase 2 is for the spring of 2013, and we’re going to have a couple different deliveries. The exciting piece here is, first off, order integration. The dealer will be able to generate a purchase order in the system, which will automatically create an order in our system and provide the dealer with an order status.

The second piece that’s going to be coming with Phase 2 is service alerts. We will be integrating that activity so that a service alert will actually auto-create a ticket in the dealer’s system; then, when a technician closes out a call, it comes back in and tells us it’s closed.

Lastly is meter integration. We are going to be doing a joint integration between both our system and our dealers’ systems to pass meter information back and forth and automate the transfer of that information.

What does Ricoh have planned for this interface beyond the first two phases?
From a future standpoint, we really have an opportunity to use this platform for some really exciting things. In the MDS arena that we’re moving into and the new ChaMPS program for the dealers, we can utilize this tool to be able to transact those types of activities. We also want to be able to do returns and marketing programs through this tool as well as provide reporting and other self-service programs.