The market for office printing is a mature one, but it is by no means static. Today, paper and digital workflows are continuing to converge – a dynamic that is reshaping the demands on both devices and services. As a leading market player, Konica Minolta has not stood still. In the face of continuous change, it has continued to expand its portfolio of products and services, developing significant offerings in fields such as IT services. Office printing still remains at the heart of the company’s business, and it is driven by the aim to not only maintain its market leadership position but to actively expand it.
Konica Minolta’s commitment to this objective is clearly demonstrated by the launch of the bizhub i-Series, a completely new, intelligent office printing fleet and the biggest product launch in the company’s recent history. This represents a step in to the future in every sense: Konica Minolta’s vision of digital office solutions brings together office printing and IT services for its customers in a seamless fusion that will help them realise the promise of digitalisation.
Digitalisation reshaping customers’ business’s needs – and the office printing market
The trend seems clear: between 2000 and 2018 the number of OEMs in the office printing field shrank from 20 to 12 as a maturing market saw successive waves of consolidation. Print itself is still in robust health, however, with Quocirca reporting that 64% of businesses believe that printing will remain important to their daily business even by 2025, and 60% of industry players optimistic about future revenue growth. This is despite a slow ongoing decline in the actual volume of printed documents, with the numbers of printed pages expected to continue to decline from 48.8 trillion A4 sheets in 2017 to 48.1 trillion in 2022.
What accounts for this apparent contradiction? The reason is that printers have evolved, and today’s MFPs offer far more than simple printing. Driven by customers that are steadily embracing the opportunities of digitalisation, devices have become more intelligent and as a result empower increasingly digital workflows. Digital transformation has changed the role of MFPs.
As digital services grow ever more important, a convergence of printing and content management solutions is emerging. Today’s MFPs are enablers for such process flows, placing these devices at the centre of the digital office. As a result, MFP vendors now have to adopt a holistic approach, going beyond the manufacture of hardware to also act as solution providers able to deliver crucial IT services. For vendors, it is this ability that now defines market success.
Konica Minolta recognised this development early on and took steps to focus its expertise and offerings accordingly. This strategy has proved effective: a recent IDC market evaluation “IDC MarketScape Western Europe Smart Multifunction Peripheral 2018 Vendor Assessment” (doc #EMEA44808019, February 2019) named Konica Minolta a leader in Smart MFPs, noting that the company has succeeded in remaining at the forefront of the print and print-related market through continual innovation and anticipating evolving customer needs and changing market dynamics.
“The leadership position built by Konica Minolta reflects our longstanding strengths and expertise in printing and decades of investment in R&D in this space. Crucially, it is also built on strong related IT solutions and services and, equally importantly, upon our deep understanding of customers’ needs based on close, long-term relationships,” says Olaf Lorenz, General Manager, International Marketing Division at Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe GmbH. “Our vision and strategy are built around our customers, and how we can take their businesses forward as they digitalise their processes. While retaining an unceasing commitment to innovation, we use the insight of customer experience as our guiding star, learning exactly what they need – and in what form to best support them. All of these strengths came together in creation of the new bizhub i-Series range.”
The new Konica Minolta bizhub i-Series – smarter, simple and secure MFPs to drive business value
As in all of their business units, insights on customer requirements are the basis for Konica Minolta’s strategy in office printing. Taking this as a basis, the introduction of the new range of MFPs is a logical step towards meeting those needs – not just today but also in the future.
We drew insight from our customers’ changing workflows and needs with regard to MFPs. Organisations today want to empower their users with strong features for data processing and identify the MFP as being a powerful element in the data ecosystem of their company. As a result, our new generation of smart MFPs have been conceived as intelligent devices that effectively become the heart of the customer’s digital office. Each MFP comes with access to Konica Minolta MarketPlace pre-installed. This platform opens the door to a vast portfolio of customisable applications for users in 133 countries. It enables customers to arrange the functionalities of their MFP exactly how they best fit their precise business requirements.
Maria Kharlampidi, Product Manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe
This ability to tailor a solution is key: a crucial insight gained from dialogue with customers was that innovative features were not in themselves valuable so much as having the right features for business. More important still was the need for solutions to offer simplicity and security – two factors prioritised in the development of the bizhub i-Series.
Keeping it simple for the business and for end users
Creating a simpler solution requires focus on two areas – the experience of the IT team administering the MFP fleet and also that of end users.
Konica Minolta helps to reduce the burden on administrators through high-quality devices that consistently deliver outstanding reliability with minimal downtime. Printer and fleet management is optimised through a single customer point of contact for sales, services, billing and access to support via a global support centre.
Fast service response and troubleshooting in the event of an emergency as well as the possibility for simple self-diagnosis of problems are the key customer needs that were directly addressed through the enhancement of the remote service capabilities of the MFPs. To make this possible, more device data needs to be captured through an increased number of sensors, which are able to monitor relevant performance parameters of the MFP. Consequently, the devices are able to proactively take care of consumable replenishment or calling for technical maintenance. IT experts are hence relieved from tasks like ordinary MFP issue management.
Konica Minolta clearly has process optimisation for end-user tasks in mind with the new simple design of the user interface. Workers need to be able to focus on their core competencies and skillsets rather than be forced to figure out how to work a complicated MFP. The UI is therefore specifically designed in a tablet-like fashion to have the most important and frequently used functions intuitively available right at the top of the menus. Employing a Universal Printer Driver to simplify the user experience even further ties right into this strategy. Usability however does not stop with the software but also needs to take into account how the hardware is set up. In order to increase convenience and accessibility, Konica Minolta specifically designed the display to be tiltable up to a vertical 90-degree position to also ensure an optimal view for wheelchair users.
Optimising workflows while increasing simplicity
Any modern business should automate and integrate routine office tasks as much as possible when striving to maximise efficiency and economy. This is where smart MFPs can help unlock true value to the business, and the new bizhub i-Series MFPs have been designed from day one to work with powerful workflow tools such as Konica Minolta’s Dispatcher Suite.
Enabling advanced process automation to enhance document workflows, the Dispatcher Suite lets operators, administrators and users concentrate on their core tasks – enhancing the productivity of the entire office. It assists customers in centrally managing, securing and improving their print environment by simultaneously digitising their manual, paper-based workload and transforming it into automated document workflows – all integrated into a single solution suite. The suite ensures higher productivity and fewer human errors thanks to an intuitive MFP panel for a harmonised and improved user experience. The Dispatcher Suite is highly suitable for any business, from small companies to the largest enterprise environment, and helps to realise the promise of the digital office while making day-to-day operations simpler.
Leveraging connectivity without compromising on security
The overall awareness for system and network security is rising. As MFPs are network devices and often represent a vital switch for document flows within an organisation, they need to be as secure as every other part in the system. In fact, security is among the most important supplier selection criteria made by organisations to print vendors, as 43% demand this now and the number will keep on climbing to 58% by 2025. Konica Minolta is well aware of this requirement and hence has built a unique and powerful set of security capabilities into the bizhub i-Series range.
To ensure the highest security standards, Konica Minolta decided to partner with Bitdefender – a leader in IT security. The outcome is a unique and comprehensive security system with a built-in anti-virus solution on the device and additional real-time protection that is capable of scanning all data that enters or leaves the ecosystem.
Another example is bizhub Secure, a special offering for MFPs on which different security levels and access licences can be set to ensure the security of office devices and protect device memory and network settings. The responsible project owner is also notified when settings are changed through a notifier app.
Konica Minolta’s goal: dynamic growth in a mature market
Konica Minolta is accelerating the transformation of the office printer into a digital office device. Ultimately, achieving this goal really depends on trust. Konica Minolta’s customers already rely on the company’s products, excellent service and long-term customer relationship approach – all of which have built a strong foundation of trust from which to consider how smart MFPs can indeed prove transformational.
And this trust goes both ways. Thanks to its long-term and open customer relationships and partnerships, Konica Minolta has gained hugely valuable insight into how it can best meet the needs of the customer today and tomorrow.
Olaf Lorenz, General Manager International Marketing Division, Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe GmbH:
This new range of MFPs truly brings the best of Konica Minolta to the table. They offer a solution wholly shaped around our customers’ needs, providing them with access to the wide range of Konica Minolta services via the Konica Minolta MarketPlace. MFPs are not a relic from the paper-based era – but an empowering tool in the digital transformation process. Being an industry leader in Smart MFP fills us with pride – but most importantly motivates us to continue on our path forward.