Above: Dino Pagliarello
The second and final installment of my recap of the Konica Minolta analysts briefing from December 13, focuses on the company’s product roadmap and e-commerce initiatives and revisits the backorder situation addressed by President & CEO Sam Errigo in Part 1.
Clearing Up Backorders
President Dealer Channel Laura Blackmer presented a deep dive into product availability, which complemented Errigo’s observations at the beginning of the webinar. All signs point to increased availability. “Everything we committed to since the summer has come true around products and toner,” reported Blackmer, who added there is a lot more product available to dealers compared to a year ago.”
Indeed, the status of incoming product has become more predictable since the summer. “Yes, we were short product,” acknowledged Blackmer, “but anxiety and concern were more because we couldn’t tell dealers when their product was arriving. The good news is that it is 100% fixed. Timing has become predictable, and inventory is building, particularly with some key products.”
She emphasized that the situation improved dramatically in September. By the end of December, Blackmer revealed that Konica Minolta expects to be in great shape with most products. By the end of March, the outlook is even more positive. “We expect to be in great shape on all products and back to where we can tell dealers what’s coming in, what’s in stock, and if they place an order today, when can we deliver that product,” said Blackmer.
Another positive development is that there are no backorders of production equipment. Toner was another backorder challenge for Konica Minolta in 2022. However, Blackmer reported that toner availability is improving except for nine or ten SKUS out of 100s. She expects the toner supply chain to be back on track by the end of March as well.
In addition to discussing product availability, Blackmer spoke about the company’s dealer digital transformation program, Revved Up, and a new yet-to-be-introduced MSP program, which we will discuss with her in the February issue of The Cannata Report.
With backorders less of an issue, there are quite a few products in the Konica Minolta product pipeline scheduled to be rolled out in 2023 and beyond. Dino Pagliarello, senior vice president product management and planning, noted that Konica Minolta continues to invest in its core business with the plan to take market share away from competitors. An array of products was referenced in Pagliarello’s presentation.
The company will introduce what Pagliarello described as a “significant product update” impacting the entire i-Series line in April. This encompasses software and internal hardware changes available on the new products at no additional cost. Some of those include security, cloud solution compatibility with a single sign on, updates to Konica Minolta Marketplace, and reduced setup and labor times, as well as reduced costs for operating the device. “We believe this will help our customers take advantage of everything our A3 devices offer,” said Pagliarello. Products in this update include the bizhub 850i and 950i, which output at 85 and 95 ppm in black & white, respectively. Pagliarello described these as flagship monochrome devices on the office side.
Last year’s introduction of the A4 bizhub C3100i and C3120i represent Konica Minolta’s mission to expand its A4 offerings. According to Pagliarello, these products are the first full office/small office devices from Konica Minolta in the single-function printer and all-in-one category. He added that they are unique because they are easy to deliver, have a small footprint, enables self-installation and maintenance, and will be available to customers through Konica Minolta’s upcoming e-commerce initiative.
Not surprisingly, Konica Minolta is investing in the production and industrial print segments, where significant growth is happening in the print space. Pagliarello referenced the C14000 series products introduced at PRINTING United in 2019. These products offer enhanced productivity and high-speed capabilities, finishing functionality, and the ability to do full bleed output in line, which he said is unique in the industry.
In September 2023, Konica Minolta will replace its AccurioPress 6136 series monochrome digital presses with the 7136 and 7136p, and 7120. The company will also release a High Chroma product, the 80-ppm AccurioPress C84hc. Pagliarello said that it is unique to the color space and is suitable for photo applications and spot color matching. For readers unfamiliar with High Chroma toner, it reportedly creates more vivid colors. “It allows you to get those fluorescent colors such as neon greens and purples,” explained Pagliarello.
Specialty and wide-format devices are also critical to the company’s growth in the production and industrial print segments. The AccurioLabel 400, which will be released in April, is based on AccurioPress C14000 technology and enables digital label production. What’s unique about this device, according to Pagliarello, is that it doubles the productivity of the existing AccurioLabel 230, which Konica Minolta continues to sell. It also has a fifth color station, allowing for use with a wider variety of labels.
Also on the roadmap is the AccurioWide 250, a UV wide-format printer scheduled for release in the first quarter of FY 2023. Konica Minolta sees strong growth in the UV wide-format space and will introduce a flatbed device to complement its wide-format lineup at a later, unspecified date.
In October 2022, Konica Minolta introduced its first Konica Minolta-branded AccurioShine product, the AccurioShine 3600. This entry level digital embellishment device allows Konica Minolta to offer a UV spot varnish device with hot foil one-pass capabilities. “We are continuing to invest in this digital embellishment space,” revealed Pagliarello.
Another product scheduled to be released in the next fiscal year is a new AlphaJET—an all-in-one solution with a special automated transport system that can handle up to 1,800 B1 sheets an hour. It offers inline inkjet printing at up to 1,600 dpi, and can print on thick paper up to 15m.
What I found most interesting during the presentation was Konica Minolta’s e-commerce initiative. Velinda Cox, SVP, eCommerce, provided an extensive update. “We’re trying to create real-time interactions and on-demand experiences with a modern technology infrastructure,” said Cox. This is digital sales transformation, which Cox described as the intelligent use of data and analytics to optimize sales and go-to-market resources and processes.
Since last year, Konica Minolta has been building out its e-commerce organization and program. The initiative targets direct and indirect customers who are shopping online. “It’s about creating new experiences, and it’s about a market that’s shifted,” said Cox. “This is about the transformation of people, culture, technology infrastructure, and delivering new value to our customers.”
One element of Konica Minolta’ e-commerce initiative revolves around providing customers with digital assets that will aid in the buying process. Starting in Q1 of 2023, Stage 2 of the company’s e-commerce initiative, customers can purchase printers, Segment 2 and 3 A3 and A4 devices via e-commerce. Third-party products such as cables, cords, laptops, and laptop bags can also be purchased through Konica Minolta’s e-commerce site. In Stage 3, the focus will be on expanding the portfolio and capabilities of the site.
Customers will eventually be able to schedule on-demand appointments with the company to have their questions answered or receive support. Voice activation is another future initiative. Cox noted that the company’s e-commerce initiatives are constantly changing and evolving. “Our roadmap goes out three years as to how we’re going to enhance these experiences and continue to deliver new and surprising experiences to customers,” she said. “We have to be agile, we have to change, but at the end of the day, it’s about giving our customers what they want when they want it, anywhere or anytime they want to buy from us or experience us.”