If you’ve never met Bill Hall, I’m sorry. From our first conversation, which was likely about an A4 project we were attached to a decade or longer ago, it was clear that this North Jerseyan was knowledgeable and personable—in short, a pleasure to collaborate with. He worked in product planning at Brother prior to joining Minolta and has been at the combined Konica Minolta ever since. For the past couple of years, not to mention throughout the pandemic, Hall has served as product manager for the company’s entire line of bizhub A3 and A4 hardware. And while I would’ve loved to hear more about his days as a weekend/fill-in on-air personality at WDHA right here in The Garden State, or of his love of hockey and sailing, it’s still always nice to talk shop.
Carl Schell: You’ve been in the product management game for many moons. With longer device refresh cycles resulting in fewer launches, to name just one thing, how has the role evolved?
Bill Hall: Yes, many moons! While it’s true that we aren’t seeing major hardware changes as frequently as we did in the past, we are continually looking for ways to improve our products—and some of that still involves hardware. For instance, our engineers are always finding ways to reduce energy consumption, which puts us in a good position to meet the stricter standards that are inevitable in the future. We also look for innovative ways to add value from a hardware perspective. Our intelligent media sensor is an example of this: It determines what type of media is loaded in the machine and auto-adjusts settings accordingly, it helps avoid jams, and it gives our customers better, more consistent image quality.
So, in that respect, my role hasn't changed all that much. But, of course, we are also adding value through our software, whether it's working with third-party vendors or our own solutions, including Konica Minolta Marketplace and i-Option licenses. And we have become more focused on cloud-based document sharing and collaboration solutions and services. Another obvious area is security, which has been a major focus of ours for a number of years and will only continue to grow in importance. An example of how we’ve addressed this is our LK-116 AntiVirus Scan i-Option, an embedded solution that protects MFPs from the potential risk of virus-infected files.
CS: “Transforming business while maintaining the core” is a ubiquitous statement nowadays. When it comes to A3 bizhub MFPs and your role relative to that message, where do you land?
BH: Konica Minolta’s overall view of the office has certainly changed. We are intently focused on digital transformation, and we see the bizhub MFP as a component that is central to the intelligent, connected workplace. For my part, that means working more closely than ever with our software solutions teams, which include the product managers who handle our software offerings, and our in-house software development team.
|Bill Hall, Product Manager at Konica Minolta|
CS: Okay, let’s turn the mic to A4. Has there been an uptick with printers and printer MFPs since COVID hit?
BH: Absolutely. A4 has been a critical part of our product mix for a long time, especially in markets like healthcare. And its importance has certainly grown since the onset of the pandemic. The needs met by A4 products are probably more varied than those served by the traditional A3 products. Many needs of home office users can be met by the simplest A4 units—either single-function printers or basic all-in-one units that can print, scan, and maybe fax, but don't have advanced software capabilities. And we have a number of printers and all-in-ones that address that market.
We also see many corporate customers that might not need to print 11" x 17" very often, but they still have a need for the same solutions, output quality, and reliability that they’ve relied on in their A3 bizhubs. For those customers, we have tried to make the transition seamless. Our A4 MFP models have the same 10" control panel, the same user interface, and support for all the same software as their A3 counterparts.
CS: Let’s tie this all together by bringing the company as whole into the picture, along with ramifications of the pandemic. What do you see for Konica Minolta down the road?
BH: The pandemic has led everyone to rethink so many things in the last year and a half, but at this point I don’t think anyone really has a clear picture of what the “new workplace” will look like. We see some customers switching portions of their fleets to A4, while others are taking more of a wait-and-see approach—this will continue to gradually play out as leases expire. Many of our customers are looking to programs like Konica Minolta OneRate to keep their costs predictable in an unpredictable world. And, with the variety of services we offer, including those provided by our IT Services Division All Covered, we strive to develop closer, long-lasting relationships with our customers, essentially becoming a partner in their business and facing challenges together.
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