This may not be the most newsworthy year on record for the office technology industry, but with three-quarters of the year completed, and the Labor Day weekend approaching, we thought this was as good a time as any to share our Top 12 Office Technology News Stories of the Year through August 31.
The following list contains some obvious selections as well as a few selections that may generate some debate. That’s the thing about lists like this, not all of us will agree on all the picks. Feel free to email me your picks for the Top 12 Office Technology News Stories of the Year if they differ from ours at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Toshiba and Ricoh Partner – Without a doubt, the top story of the year to date. The news was originally leaked the day before the May 19th official announcement, creating serious buzz in the office technology dealer channel. Under the partnership, Ricoh and Toshiba will integrate their production departments for office technology, including MFPs and copiers. The integrated company will consolidate the production, design, and development functions of both companies starting in 2024. Ricoh will hold a 50% investment in the new company and collaborate with Toshiba TEC, a subsidiary of Toshiba, to integrate their technical capabilities and enhance competitiveness. This represents the first time a major office machine company has joined forces with a competing manufacturer to integrate their production departments. Could it be the harbinger of similar arrangements between other OEMs in the future?
- Visual Edge IT Announces Significant Institutional Capital Commitments – Visual Edge IT, which had been relatively quiet the past few years, announced on July 28 that it had received new capital commitments from Encina Private Credit and funds managed by Ares Management totaling $40 million which the company plans to use to support its long-term growth objectives. According to a Visual Edge press release, these commitments will allow for continued investment in best-in-class print and IT solutions for both new and existing customers. With this cash infusion, expect to see Visual Edge IT further expand its profile throughout the channel, and perhaps ramp up its acquisition activity.
- The Ninestar Corporation Saga – This is a story that remains fluid. After the U.S. government banned Ninestar imports into the country because of human rights and forced labor allegations in China, there has been much uncertainty as to the availability of its toner and inkjet cartridges across the office technology dealer channel as well as for the manufacturers that use Ninestar components in their products. This situation has also created headaches for Lexmark, which is owned by Ninestar’s parent company. Meanwhile, The Business Technology Association (BTA) issued a press release expressing support for the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), affirming that any product produced through forced labor should be removed from industry use. Most recently, Ninestar Corporation announced that it is suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to remove its name from the restricted list. And the beat goes on.
- AI on the Rise – Ever since attending the Executive Connection Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, in January and hearing a presentation about artificial intelligence (AI) from Microsoft, The Cannata Report has been closely following the latest developments in AI, including the AI flavor of the month, ChatGPT. Actually, ChatGPT is more than the flavor of the month, it’s the flavor of the year, and the primary topic of discussion in the channel when it comes to any discussion of AI.
- Electronics For Imaging (EFI) Announces Separation of Fiery Business Unit into Independent Company – On January 25, EFI announced that its Fiery business unit has been separated as an independent company that will remain wholly owned by Siris, the private equity company that owns EFI. According to an EFI press release, as separate companies, EFI and Fiery will have distinct areas of strategic focus that will enable them to serve their customers better and grow over the long-term, with EFI as an industrial inkjet leader and Fiery as the leading digital front end (DFE) provider.
- Nexera Acquired by Valsoft - Valsoft Corporation Inc., a Montreal-based company that specializes in the acquisition and development of vertical market software businesses, acquired Nexera, the premier company in the U.S. for service benchmarking data in May. Nexera is the third print-related company to join Aspire Software – the operating group at Valsoft – along with MPS Monitor and Euroform. This was a significant acquisition for Valsoft, and one with strong ramifications for office technology dealers with existing relationships with Nexera as many of the executives responsible for the company’s success, and who had close ties to those dealers, were terminated post-acquisition.
- Acquisitions, Acquisitions, Acquisitions – The Nexera acquisition wasn’t the only acquisition of note this year even though we deem it the most significant. Others might suggest Novatech’s acquisitions of Carolina Business Equipment (CBE) and ACT Business Machines or DocuWare’s acquisition of DocuScan. And let’s not forget SGT Capital’s acquisition of Elatec GmbH and Konica Minolta’s acquisition of Force Security Solutions as well as acquisitions by Advanced Office, Atlantic Tomorrow’s Office, Donnellon McCarthy Enterprises, Fisher’s Technology, Kelley Connect, Marco Technologies, Nauticon Office Solutions, Pacific Office Automation, Standley Systems, and WIZIX Technology group among others on the dealer side of the fence.
- Sharp Announces Strategic Alliances with ConnectWise and Kodak Alaris – Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America and ConnectWise announced a strategic collaboration on April 20 to provide managed services through their channel partner networks. Not surprisingly, the first deliverable is a managed print security service that reportedly offers unique visibility into print security for Sharp devices. In an industry where security has become a big conversation starter, this is a good move for both companies. The Kodak Alaris strategic alliance was announced on February 17 and provides Sharp dealers with access to Kodak Alaris’ scanners and software.
- RJ Young Promotes AJ Baggott to President – RJ Young announced on February 17, the promotion of AJ Baggott to president of the company. In his new role, Baggott will be responsible for casting the overall vision and direction of RJ Young and Chip Crunk will continue as CEO to focus on strategic planning and acquisitions.
- Melissa Confalone Named President of Fraser Advanced Information Systems – Fraser Advanced Information Systems named Melissa Confalone as its new president effective January 1, 2023. In her new role, Confalone is responsible for day-to-day operations and strategic planning and will serve as a leader of the company. What’s particularly significant about this story, is that Confalone joins an elite group of women leading dealerships.
- Konica Minolta Partners with Epson America – This strategic alliance announced on August 8, enables Konica Minolta to offer Epson’s commercial scanning solutions to its national network of channel partners and office equipment dealers. We’ve been following Epson’s scanner announcements for the past few years as it strengthens its scanner lineup. As the Epson line has grown and been enhanced, Konica Minolta dealers with customers who need a scanner will have a solid set of offerings to sell.
- Terra Energy Services Announces Name Change – Normally, a name change isn’t that big of a story, but with the increased attention in EV chargers across the office technology industry, the name change from Terra Energy Services to ACDI Energy Services makes a boatload of sense, particularly from a branding perspective for ACDI. Meanwhile, the company continues to sign new dealers to sell its EV chargers, which is an equally significant story.