Konica Minolta Business Solutions USA held its 2019 dealer conference March 2-4 in Newport Beach, California. Titled “Limitless,” it was two days jam-packed with information, entertainment and good news for dealers.
Konica Minolta is in the midst of another strong financial year. Its just-reported fiscal year 2018 revenue was up 2.7 percent over the previous year, and operating profit was up 16 percent (look for a complete analysis at The Imaging Channel in the coming week). Key to its success, according to the company, is sales growth in color models, IT services, industrial printing and professional print. President and CEO Rick Taylor noted that Konica Minolta was bucking trends by increasing print volumes — “That’s a big thing that we’re growing impressions in this market,” he said. And that’s an understatement.
So it made sense that one of the big announcements was the new iSeries Bizhub devices, Konica Minolta’s next-generation MFPs, that, according to Senior Vice President of Business Intelligence Services and Product Planning Kevin Kern, is “the most powerful office product we have ever released.” The devices have better cloud integration, workflow integration with the Workplace Hub, and will be available with voice recognition technology. This is something that is becoming increasingly common on new hardware, and Konica Minolta is developing it in collaboration with Google so users can print and scan hands-free. Security is also a must-have for hardware these days and the new devices will include Konica Minolta’s branded Bitdefender solution.
Speaking of the Workplace Hub — this is a device that has fascinated us since its debut in Berlin two years ago. What exactly is the Workplace Hub? Designed to integrate IT into one system, Konica Minolta touts it as a virtual one-stop IT department, comprising server, storage, security and management tools, as well as an MFP option, which is one of three configurations, along with a blade server and a standalone server. A mix of the devices have gone out now, and it is selling in eight countries across two continents, according to Deputy CTO Dennis Curry, who said it’s had a “fantastic reaction from customers and a great sales round.” It is a product that is creating a lot of interesting opportunities for managed IT. According to Kern users are seeing recurring revenue of $5000 to $6000 a month. He also noted that Konica is selling more All Covered services per placement than anticipated — much higher than expected in terms of services, where the dealer can really make money.
All Covered, of course, is Konica Minolta’s IT services business and its first major acquisition almost 10 years ago. It has since added quite a number of acquisitions to its portfolio, including several under the All Covered umbrella. One recent major one was the acquisition of MWA in July 2018. With its new services division, All Covered is “able to deliver on the promise of a successful ERP implementation,” said RJ Tarantino, who addressed some of the concerns regarding the integration of the previously agnostic FORZA product into Konica Minolta. “Our team has the highest level of integrity when dealing with your data because we know it’s your company,” he said. “We want to make sure that all of your customer data, all of your vendor information, your payments, your receivables, your AR, all of that is transferred from source legacy systems over to the new system and you won’t miss a beat. And throughout this entire process we treat your business as if it’s our business and make sure that you’re successful through the whole process.” Tarantino outlined a number of FORZA’s key features, and reiterated its potential for dealers.
It’s not all office printing and IT services that Konica Minolta is making investments in, though — industrial and production print are also big growth areas. Showcased at the event were AccurioWide wide-format printers, which are hybrid UV wide format devices that use Konica Minolta inkjet print heads, and are monsters, at 13 feet long and 2,500 pounds (“we didn’t know how we were going to get it from Point A to Point B,” said dealer Stephanie Keating of AIS, who shared the story of the device’s transport from California to St. Paul, Minnesota; it included road closures, a skyway and a forklift, and an installation that took an hour. “Within 10 business days the client had the device set up, trained on, and the first saleable piece came off of it,” said Keating.
Label printers from Konica Minolta’s Muratec division were also on display, and Konica says it plans to continue expansion with the Muratec brand into dealers that want to pick up their product.
The dealers, of course, were at the heart of the meeting, and Konica Minolta continuously reiterated their importance. With huge changes affecting the industry — consolidation, mergers and acquisitions, changing technologies — Konica wants to make sure its dealers are prepared. “We are making the case for our dealers to digitally transform and to provide new value-based offerings to grow their customer base and revenue,” said Taylor. With more than a dozen educational sessions on everything from the digital label business to security, AI and attracting and engaging employees, Konica Minolta is working on creating the smoothest possible ride for its dealers.