Toshiba to Help Dealers Fast Forward to the Future

 

By Carl Schell, Associate Editor, June 3, 2011

By emphasizing the “cloud,” security, and managed print services at its dealer meeting late last month, it was clear that the main interest of Toshiba America Business Solutions lies less with hardware these days, and more on software. A fourth theme, though not stressed as much as the others but still highlighted at several points, was the environment. Overall, the segments of the general session tied together nicely and delivered a message that Toshiba dealers need to embrace the concept of being managed document service providers.

As part of his opening statements, Mark Mathews, president and COO of TABS, said, “The economic downturn had a distinct upside for us. Because companies were forced to do more with less, less employees and less resources, we had to find innovative ways to save money and operate more efficiently. This is the bread and butter of our managed print services. The changes are driving new customer needs—and these are not temporary. They reflect broad, long-term trends in the way companies do business. It’s the new normal, and that suits us just fine.”

It was encouraging to hear that the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March hasn’t affected the availability of Toshiba devices and supplies, and that its supply chain is intact. Of the manufacturer’s 23 sites that suffered some degree of damage, all are now fully operational. Matt Yamada, chairman and CEO of TABS, added that Toshiba donated $5 million to Japan’s recovery efforts.

Welcome to the Cloud

“As offices become increasingly decentralized and more wireless,” began Joe Contreras, director of Product and Solution Marketing for TABS, “and with employees working collaboratively in many different locations, mobile printing will become an essential service. This expands the number of pages your customers will print.”

Through partnerships with Drivve and HP (ePrint Enterprise), as well as by joining the Cortado Cloud Printing Alliance, Toshiba aims to deliver a variety of ways for users to output files from smartphones and tablets. What’s more, the manufacturer is now offering scan integration with Google Docs, and Contreras mentioned that integration with Evernote and Dropbox is in the works (see “Turn Document Scanners into Scan-to-Cloud Workstations”). Of note, scanning to Google Docs is made easy by a screen on the display that resembles an iPhone or iPad, and users can scroll through the preview of the file’s pages as they’ve become accustomed to with smartphones.

Mathews added that printing from mobile devices will continue to become increasingly prevalent, as will storing documents in the cloud. He even went so far as to say he believes companies might not have a dedicated IT infrastructure in the future, and this potential shift will impact Toshiba’s strategy on capturing pages.

“Keep Your Business, Your Business”

Bill Melo, vice president of Marketing, Services, and Solutions for TABS, shared some interesting statistics concerning security: attacks from inside an organization account for 21 percent of security breaches of networks, and these attacks are becoming more sophisticated. And according to a poll conducted by Toshiba, 33 percent of respondents viewed insider attacks as more costly and damaging than those stemming from outside the business. “No single solution will work—there has to be a tailored plan for each client,” he said.

To this point, Melo provided details about the Encompass Security Vulnerability Report, which is part of Toshiba’s MPS program. In short, dealers can assign different levels (none, basic, enhanced, or optimal) to four layers of security (devices, access, practices on erasing data at the end of life, and the documents themselves). This could prove to be a simple yet powerful component of a dealer’s toolset in gaining and retaining customers.

The manufacturer’s new self-encrypting hard-disk drive, which utilizes 256-bit AES encryption, is, as Contreras revealed, an industry first. Engineered to invalidate the drive and render data indecipherable if the drive is removed, it’s another example of Toshiba stressing security as a major cog in its overarching strategy. Other measures highlighted by Contreras include “strong” passwords, job logs, private printing, hard drive encryption and overwrite, access limitation, and role-based access, all of which are standard.

With Toshiba securesend, another new introduction, users can choose encryption, an expiration date, password and assign read-only rights if they want, before scanning a document; sending the file is done through the cloud. This application, according to the manufacturer, should see success in the education, financial, government, healthcare, and legal verticals, and will be available for a monthly subscription rate or as a one-time fee.

MPS

Without a doubt, the biggest topic presented during the show was MPS, not surprising given Toshiba’s initiative to be a complete, “services-led organization,” as Melo put it.

And the lynchpin to transforming dealers from copier salespeople to managed document services providers lies in the manufacturer’s Encompass program. Begun in August 2003 to locate the hidden costs of printing, Encompass has provided dealers and Toshiba subsidiaries with a tool to assess a client’s document output volume to help it streamline operations and save money.

As an MPS application, the program enables meter read collection and diagnostic updates, as well as the ability to integrate with ERP systems on the backend. “Encompass is now a customer lifecycle management tool, it’s more visual, more comprehensive, and will assist you, our dealers, save your customers money, reduce their environmental footprint, secure documents better, and help them print smarter,” Melo said. “In Q4, Encompass will be offered as a mobile application, providing anytime, anywhere access.”

There were two other items under the MPS banner that were discussed during the event. As part of Toshiba eXCHANGE, the company’s social network site, “Service eXCHANGE provides information right at the point of need, whenever your technicians need it,” Melo stated. “You’re able to access tech bulletins, error codes, you can comment on threads, and, basically, access what you need to help get the issue resolved on the first trip.”

The second thing concerned the Toshiba Academy, an online destination for on-going training and skill certification. Representatives seemed optimistic that dealers will use the site—a relatively new endeavor for the manufacturer—to educate themselves on the technical aspects of solutions and, more importantly, the benefits of selling them, especially when it comes to managed print services.

The “Green” Factor

During his short presentation, Yamada pointed out that Toshiba is making a strong play to be environmentally friendly not just with its devices, but in its processes, too. The manufacturer’s new ECO style branding certainly puts a name to this initiative, while Contreras declared that the new devices (see next section) being introduced reduce CO2 emissions by 21 percent from the previous generation, due in part to a design that’s made up of 30 percent recycled plastics. He also said these devices reduce power consumption by as much as 40 percent. Mathews furthered the green conversation by saying Toshiba’s partnership with Close the Loop is an integral part of its MPS strategy, and that, since the beginning of 2008, it has recycled about 90K tons of waste.

Hardware

Though Toshiba is clearly pushing the mantra of “selling business outcomes rather than MFP features,” it fully realizes that it would have no MPS program without devices to capture pages, and Mathews stressed that color sales are still vital for success.

The manufacturer’s next-generation controller is the heart of its new hardware. Contreras said that eBRIDGE-X enables better multitasking and device management, as well as scan-to-cloud applications and Web print capability, and users will now be able to order supplies and place a service call via the control panel; live chat functionality with a Toshiba support representative and streaming video to help users are planned. During the event, Toshiba launched 11 color devices (stay tuned for First Look Reports) and announced nine monochrome MFPs that will hit the market in November.

e-STUDIO4540c series: Five devices with rated speeds ranging from 20 to 45 ppm in color/black. Toshiba says these are geared toward environments that print up to 30 percent of documents in color.

e-STUDIO6550c series: Six devices (three base models, with tandem “T” versions—higher standard and maximum paper capacities—of each) with rated speeds ranging from 55 to 65 ppm in color and up to 75 ppm in black. Contreras stated that these are designed for offices that require high-speed color, along with graphics-intensive environments.

e-STUDIO456 series: Five devices with rated speeds ranging from 20 to 45 ppm. These will replace the e-STUDIO455SE family.

e-STUDIO856 series: Four devices with rated speeds ranging from 55 to 85 ppm. These devices, which will include color scanning, replace the e-STUDIO855SE family.

Contreras also announced the Toshiba Universal Print Driver, which allows for easier driver deployment on the network and is compatible with the new devices and older, eBRIDGE-enabled hardware.

Sales and Figures

By stressing its partnerships with dealers, as well as with HP and Lexmark, Yamada said that profits have returned to pre-downturn levels, while Mathews then backed that up by saying volumes have returned to normal and leasing approval rates are hovering around 75 percent. He also announced that Toshiba’s relationships with its major corporate accounts is healthy, and spans verticals such as air transportation (American Airlines, US Airways), banking (M&T Bank, SunTrust Bank), education, and healthcare, among others. “We’ve won these accounts or retained them because of our willingness to change the mindset from leasing equipment to selling document workflow and meeting business objectives,” Mathews said.

Toshiba sold approximately 12,000 A4 devices in 2010, thanks to the aforementioned alliances with HP and Lexmark, the latter of which allows Toshiba to sell the entire line under its GSA contract. In fact, nearly a third of the devices placed in the field by the manufacturer’s sales channel are A4, most of which are in the 20+ ppm range. Color sales, regardless of A3 or A4, account for 53 percent of Toshiba’s revenue. Mathews also reported that this past March saw the highest revenue month for the manufacturer in four years. Meanwhile, Yamada said that Toshiba sells direct in 23 countries, and that it’s now been the market share leader in China for 11 consecutive years.

This article was originally posted on Buyer’s Laboratory.