The word on the street is that supply chain and backorder issues are improving. As we wind down the first quarter of 2023, we thought it would be interesting to get various perspectives on this issue. In our first installment, Laura Blackmer, president, dealer sales, Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., responds to our questions.
1. What is the status of Konica Minolta’s backorders as we enter March 2023?
Laura Blackmer: We have no hardware backorders and no dealer supply backorders. We do have a handful of accessory models (totaling about $1 million) but we are within 15 to 30 days out of being able to deliver.
2. What is the biggest lesson Konica Minolta has learned from the supply chain disruptions of the past two years?
Laura Blackmer: In some ways, it is to expect the unexpected. There were things that happened that were so far out of our control, i.e. containers falling off ships, fires, and the complete shutdown of an entire country. Do your best to manage what is in your control, which I think is what we did.
If you could do anything differently about how Konica Minolta handled supply chain disruptions and backorders, what would it be?
Laura Blackmer: There wasn’t anything that we controlled that I would do differently. We communicated regularly and were completely transparent about the situation. If we didn’t have an answer, we said that; we didn’t make it up. We said if we didn’t know when a product would show up. We tried to educate our dealers on ways they could mitigate the situation through extending leases or looking for alternative products.
We were really open and transparent about how to work our way through this. We did our best to communicate as often as we could. I believe the priorities we picked, which were basically single-line dealers and then customers with key orders, were the right way to do things. Then as we got into filling backorders it was a very clean process. We listened to what our dealers were asking in terms of what to prioritize. I don’t think I would do that differently. It caused some of its own challenges but it was the right way to make sure dealers were able to handle their most critical customer situations.
4. How have last year’s supply chain disruptions prepared Konica Minolta should a similar situation occur again?
Laura Blackmer: We added a supplies manufacturing facility in the U.S. that has been instrumental in building our inventory levels back up. This facility will continue to be a resource for us to make and provide toner and be much better prepared for anything else that may come up in our supplies business. On the hardware side, Konica Minolta, Inc. has built backup manufacturing plants, double sourcing of key components, and renegotiated contracts. So, they have done quite a bit to protect from a future disruption at any point in the supply chain.
We are still somewhat challenged by what’s out of our control – like do the ships leave and come to the U.S. If there is a stoppage of that situation or a shortage of containers, we will all be affected. But we are doing everything in our power to find and build alternate means, even shipping. We are renegotiating all of our contracts, including air freight, to respond very quickly as appropriate.
This taught us a lesson in building redundant backup systems to react quickly if a situation arises. We will always be at the mercy of global situations that cause global shortages, such as chips. But we have done everything we can to control our destiny should (or when) another supply chain disruption comes around.
5. With the supply chain flowing again, what products are in the pipeline for the next few months that will excite Konica Minolta’s dealers?
Laura Blackmer: We do have a refresh of our high-end mono line, which is an area where our dealers have been very successful, particularly in the education business. We continue to see great success with our most recently refreshed color and mono office lines, which have extended yields on running costs and exciting new software to help manage the device that will help our dealers to be more profitable in selling and supplying these products.
Our product line continues to be one of the best in the industry, particularly in high-end color. The AccurioPress C14000 flagship press is still a very exciting product with which our dealers have found real success. And our AccurioPress C7100/C7090 line is also giving our dealers new things to talk about with key customers.
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