Network Times was fortunate to get a look into Konica Minolta’s European Leadership Conference late last year.
Konica Minolta held its bi-annual European Leadership Conference in Hamburg, Germany, late last year. This conference saw 1300 Konica Minolta partners from the EMEA region gathering to hear what to expect from the company in the coming years. Two local partners, Taropa Technologies and PC Palace, both based in Pretoria, joined the conference and Network Times was invited to join along with journalists from the region.
The theme of the conference, The Power of Change, was aptly reflected in the direction Konica Minolta is taking, a direction its partners and customers will need to understand to take maximum advantage of Konica's technologies.
Hideki Okamura, president and CEO of Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe reminded attendees of a concept he introduced at the companies' previous European Leadership Conference. 'Kizuna', is a Japanese expression that stands for mutual understanding, reliance, trust and respect.
Hideki Okamura, president and CEO of Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe
Okamura said these are the qualities of a solid relationship among family members and should be applied to the Konica supply chain.
"I believe that Kizuna is essential for the business world if we want to succeed in maintaining a long-term relationship between Konica Minolta and its business partners," Okamura said. "We, Konica Minolta, have made great efforts to improve the relationship with our partners these past few years and we will do our best to keep improving our relationship in the future."
He highlighted the fact that Konica has become the world leader in the colour MFD market and ascribed the company's ongoing success to its competitive and diverse range of products. He was also clear in that the company's channel partners were crucial to Konica's success. However, he was adamant there was still a way for the company to go.
"For Konica Minolta, being the top MFP vendor is not enough," Okamura added. "We are not satisfied with merely being a supplier of output devices. Our aim is to be a solutions company which can provide our customers with the professional services they require to optimise productivity and customer costs.
"We want to meet the demands of as many business customers and professionals as possible no matter who they are or where they are, whether in corporate offices, satellite offices, small offices or home offices, by providing full-package solutions."
The first step in this direction was to integrate Konica's Printing Solutions companies and printer divisions into Konica Minolta Business Solutions companies. With that complete, Konica is now able to offer a complete portfolio and a wide range of products extending from production printing to personal laser printers - as well as full solutions.
Supporting these sentiments, Atshushi Kodama, executive director of Konica Minolta Business Technologies, Tokyo, noted that the rapid expansion of the network environment has created substantial changes in the printing industry. In addition, the amount of information and the volume of data being generated continues to grow with no signs of slowing, even though we are supposedly in the digital age.
Atshushi Kodama, executive director of Konica Minolta Business Technologies, Tokyo
"This also means that the pace of business is becoming faster and faster and that we must adapt our products and services to the needs and applications of our customers," Kodama said. "Konica Minolta anticipated this trend early on and for this reason we not only developed hardware which is at the hub of customers' businesses, but also software solutions which help customers manage their changing needs for document management and deal with new situations in the document workflow environment."
Supporting changing customer patterns
"Companies today are more interested in full-package, integrated solutions which provide MFPs and printers from a single source with the objective of optimising their productivity as well as the total cost of ownership," Okamura explained. "We believe that our strategy is completely in line with market demands and we are now able to serve both the MFP and the IT channel, and this allows us to maximise sales opportunities and promote business together with our partners.
"In addition, market analysts predict a substantial increase in print volume through the IT channel. If we use the right channel strategy, we at Konica Minolta will no doubt expand our business through the IT channel in addition to the MFP channel, winning as much print volume from our competitors as possible and maximising the amount of volume generated by our products."
He noted, however, that Konica is merely at the beginning of the process to take advantage of these changes and is far from being a completely solutions-oriented company.
Significantly, Konica realises that future revenues from its hardware business will show a decline in proportion to the company's overall revenues. In the press conference it was noted that this did not indicate a reduction in hardware sales, but an increase in revenue from non-hardware sources, in other words, software and services.
As a clear indication of the company's move away from a hardware-only approach, the Leadership conference was used to highlight Konica Minolta's OpenAPI technology. Using OpenAPI, Konica's hardware can be integrated into third-party software to deliver more value from customers' MFDs and printers. This includes incorporating more security features, user authentication, better accounting features and so forth.
Partnerships define the future
To provide the best solutions to its customers, Konica Minolta Business Solutions makes use of its own in-house software and services innovations, but has also set up partnerships with independent application providers to enhance the Konica customer experience. The partner companies profiled at the conference included eCopy, Objective Lune, Captaris, Y-Soft and Pcounter.
Of course, Konica's OpenAPI can always be used for those companies requiring specific customisation.
eCopy: the eCopy ScanStation application is used in document management and document distribution. It establishes a connection between the MFPs and the company's e-mail application; and other applications that are used to distribute and manage paper-based information are also linked directly to the Konica Minolta machines via eCopy. The processing time and effort is reduced significantly and e-mail traffic is encrypted via an integrated document encryption feature.
Objective Lune: the PrintShop Mail application by Objective Lune offers users a solution for simplified personalised printing with Konica Minolta's postscript-compatible MFPs. PrintShop Mail makes it easy to import design elements, such as photos or signatures. Database information can also be integrated quickly.
Captaris: with Captaris RightFax, Konica Minolta's bizhubs give users access to all network-based fax services and on the same machines that handle the daily printing, scanning and copying tasks. This optimises the document flow for both electronic and paper-based faxing. The administration is kept to a minimum and the RightFax MFP module even offers the company improved control over the document flow and security.
Y-Soft: Y-Soft's SafeQ allows optimum use of network printer resources with a server that controls printing across the network and distributes printouts appropriately. This applies for both Windows and Linux platforms. The system determines whether and where each document is to be printed and the print job is distributed to a user, a group or a project. Because this solution can offer a complete overview of the printed documents, both on the local and network devices, it can also be used to optimise the print infrastructure. A Fax Server module and a Scan Management module are also available as optional extras.
Pcounter: with Pcounter, Konica Minolta relies on a flexible and extremely scalable network server-based solution for print and copy management. It incorporates a wide range of cost control and cost recovery capabilities.
Atshushi Kodama also offered delegates more of a global view of the businesses as a whole, noting "Konica Minolta is at the forefront of many revolutionary developments, which have resulted in components and products used by you on a daily basis well beyond the realms of business technology."
He pointed that Konica Minolta Opto is a leading manufacturer of optical products. Lenses are made for MFPs and printers, but the company has the number-one market share in the pick-up lenses business as well. The majority of pick-up lenses used for CD-ROM and DVD-drives and micro camera parts used for mobile phones are made by Konica Minolta Opto.
Konica Minolta is also a major manufacturer of TAC film, which is used as a protective film for LCD polarisers in PC monitor displays, laptop displays and television sets. Another important product is glass for hard discs on mobile equipment such as laptops and 'the most famous MP3 player'.
In the field of medical imaging, Konica Minolta MG, plays a role in computed radiology equipment. "In this realm we are witnessing an accelerated trend towards digitisation and networking as well, and the result is an increasing demand for equipment and systems such as X-ray digital image readers and recorded image output systems."
Another revolutionary development which Konica Minolta plays a pioneering part in is OLED technology. OLED stands for organic light emitting diode. "This is the light source of the future," Kodama said. "Together with General Electric we are now working on the first products, to be brought to market in a few years. These new products will replace light bulbs, the background lighting of displays as well as other light sources. Imagine being able to apply a thin OLED film to your ceiling that emits a bright, but warm light, but without the power consumption needed for lighting used today."
Throughout the conference, even though the focus was on Konica Minolta and its solutions, the company's leadership paid homage to its partners and the importance of their contributions to the ultimate success of the organisation. In ending off, Hideki Okamura said: "Konica Minolta has the right solutions and a very sophisticated portfolio of advanced technologies. Even though we have the competitive products, solutions and technologies, we cannot survive without our channel partners. As I have said repeatedly, the Japanese word Kizuna really expresses our aim to build up a strong relationship with [our partners] so we can help each other grow. We will do our utmost to meet your demands and satisfy our customers to maintain a long-term relationship with you which carries into the future."
As a wholly owned subsidiary company of Taropa Group, Taropa Technologies is a focused, added value distributor of IT and OA equipment to the reseller, VAR and sub-distributor channel.
Established in November 2005, as a dedicated Samsung OA distributor to service the SMME channel the company has grown its brand and product offering which today includes; Konica Minolta and Samsung across fax, MFP, printer, PC and consumables.
PC Palace was registered in 1992. With the boom in the information technology market in South Africa, there is an almost unlimited market for computer products. Most corporate entities have come to realise the value of up-to-date technology and what it can mean in terms of financial growth, better productivity and control in the workplace. PC Palace was formed to meet these demands of mainly government departments, large to medium corporate customers and to a lesser extent to individuals.