by Patricia Ames
We sat down recently with Bill Melo, chief marketing executive for MPSA Platinum member Toshiba America Business Solutions to discuss what Toshiba is doing, what’s new in the MPS space and advice for MPSA members.
Tell us a little bit about what Toshiba is doing in the market with managed print services and how you're differentiating yourselves. There is a lot of discussion around the commoditization of MPS and you are a strong player in MPS - what is Toshiba doing that is working?
BM: I think when it comes to services especially, there are two ways that you can differentiate yourself. One is very obvious and easy to appreciate, which is that you offer something that other people do not. And then the other way of differentiating yourself, which is more subtle and requires a bit more insight from the eye of the beholder, is that you simply execute better than other folks. This could be because of better systems or more experience or the degree to which you focus on something. The second method is harder to prove out, but I think we differentiate ourselves a little bit on both elements.
I think we have a unique product set. When it comes to laser MFPs, we pretty much have the same thing as everybody else does, but what we have that is unique (and which we started to put into our MPS program) are thermal barcode printers. Barcode printers are used a lot in logistics and manufacturing operations for labels, and pharmaceutical scenarios for printing labels on prescriptions and wristbands and those types of applications.
We’ve come up with a way of remotely monitoring those types of devices. So the same way you would use FM Audit or any kind of utility for getting meter reads from MFPs, we can deploy our solution to secure usage totals off those barcode devices. In that world, you measure by the linear inch, not by page. So we measure with linear inches, and we can offer MPS to incorporate not only the laser printers and MFPs but also these devices on the server/barcode side. I think we are the only ones that have this.
Another good differentiator is to offer some solutions that appeal to corporations that have a sustainability or good corporate citizen initiative. Has Toshiba focused at all on this?
BM: Encompass is the cornerstone of our larger MPS applications and implementations. Encompass is the cloud-based utility that we use for capturing what the customer is currently doing as well as designing an optimized fleet. The insights gained through Encompass allow us to then offer solutions that can lower their printing costs that are very transparent. One of the updates we've recently included is building PrintReleaf into our MPS program. It's not only available to offer to customers, but it's actually embedded in Encompass. That makes it easy to incorporate into the overall story.
PrintReleaf is a platform that ties paper consumption to reforestation. PrintReleaf allows companies to certifiably reduce the environmental impact of using paper products by automatically planting trees across a global network of reforestation projects.
What would you suggest MPS providers focus on in 2017?
BM: The most important thing they can do is make sure that their implementation and execution is solid. If you are not just going in and completely replacing the existing fleet with one brand and selling it on a cost-per-copy model, then it's still a complex process of managing a blended customer-owned fleet. You need to optimize what they already own, augment it with new equipment and solutions that meet their needs and then put it on a really simple billing program. That’s complicated. If you're making it easier for the customer, essentially what you're doing is taking on that complexity yourself. That means that you need to be really good at assessments, pricing, implementation and reporting, or else all you've done is taken on somebody else's problem and probably made it worse. And made it your own.
The MPSA has spent a lot of time helping build guidelines to do this properly. One of the latest trends we are seeing is a migration from MPS to MCS, or managed content services. The providers that have become adept at offering MPS seem to now be pushing into the workflow arena. Are you seeing any of that?
BM: Yes. Toshiba has been offering workflow products for a while. We’ve recently launched our Nuance relationship with AutoStore and Equitrac for imaging. These solutions will be incorporated into our front panel on our MFPs. I believe that the “managed” model is really around using your expertise to relieve the customer's burden on an area that they're not expert at. We're just expanding our offering set logically to offer clients solutions to their current pain points. We have been offering managed workflow, security, scanning, digital and hardcopy to digital, etc., for a while.
What are some of the biggest challenges you're seeing the channel right now?
BM: Well, you mentioned commoditization at the beginning of this interview, and that is a real issue, because when we first started we were educating customers and for a long time were almost alone in that, at least in terms of the offshore manufacturers in the SMB and mid-tier space. Now everybody is offering managed print services. If your prospect is not very knowledgeable, all the offerings can look the same even if they are intrinsically very, very different.
It is very difficult to show how you are different in a simple-to-understand fashion that captures the prospect’s attention. This is where you have to demonstrate your experience, and the toolset, and the knowledge of your salespeople, analysts and implementation folks. It’s tough. It is no longer a blue ocean – it is a very crowded pool.
Is there anything you're excited about right now? Something new coming up, new opportunities or new technologies?
BM: At LEAD, our dealer and end user educational program in May, we'll be demonstrating what I believe is an industry leading technology product customization and integration. Our new Elevate platform is designed to make it easy to deliver a fully customized user experience from front panel design to workflow integration. For our dealers, we've also developed a set of educational tools and sell-through programs tailored to seven different industries. It's very exciting and I know that our dealers and end users will love it.