Ricoh Showcases ICE Solutions at Convergence 2013

11/18/2013

Ricoh’s national dealer meeting this year, Convergence 2013, was the largest to-date, with over 1,200 people in attendance. The aptly themed meeting—Fast Forward—demonstrated the company’s progress since Convergence 2012, when it announced its new “services-led” business model, Ricoh Americas Corporation reorganization, and goals for growing dealer sales volume.

Jim Coriddi, vice president of Ricoh USA’s Dealer Division, led the general session with some updates on the dealer channel:  Equipment sales through the dealer channel were up 10 percent year over year; color production growth doubled since last year; and the results of a dealer survey were favorable in areas such as dealer pride and brand quality, but weak in support, communication and strategic partnership management.

Coriddi also announced that the dealer channel now makes up 35.3 percent of unit sales in the United States, which is closer to the 40 percent goal Ricoh set last year when dealer sales volume made up 32 percent—a goal that was restated this year. While working toward that figure, the company’s focus will not be on adding dealers but on developing dedicated dealers, said Dave Greene, Ricoh USA’s senior vice president of sales. Later, Coriddi closed the general session by asking multi-line dealers to evaluate what it would take for them become single-line dealers. (According to Corridi, nearly half of Ricoh’s dealers are single-line dealers.)

Additionally, Ricoh announced five direct to dealer MIF (machines in field) transfers in markets where Ricoh felt it would be beneficial to both businesses. These dealers are Ray Morgan Company, Metro Sales, Applied Imaging, MT Business Technologies and RJ Young Company. Greene added that all MIF transfers were and will be treated on a market-by-market, branch-by-branch basis.

In order to help provide support for dealers’ transitions to the services-led approach, Ricoh freed up resources for dealers, so that they have equal access to the same services and ChaMPS (the company’s managed document services program) resources as the direct sales channel does. And, with the input from Ricoh’s National Dealer Council, the company developed the ChaMPS playbook to aid dealers with designing and providing solutions to customers. 

Like most manufacturers, Ricoh emphasized the growth of the mobile workforce and the importance of information mobility, calling it “the new world of work.” In fact, attendees could even download a very convenient Convergence 2013 app for mobile devices that provided detailed information for the event, including the agenda, attendee list, technology expo floor plan and exhibitors, and area attractions. And, ever-present in the technology expo were ways to print and scan to mobile devices, including an MFP from which attendees could print their boarding passes.

Other plans to develop new business include forming strategic alliances with third-party partners such as Nuance, NSi, Kofax and many of the others that were stationed around the expo. And, the company has put a significant amount of effort in developing and strengthening its services portfolio. One of Ricoh’s strategies in this area is to “stay close to the document” and provide services in areas of the company’s strength. So far, the company has had a lot of success with production services and commercial imaging services because services are already closely tied to those product types.

Solutions Forecast: Very “Cloud”y with ICE Likely
Ricoh’s ICE, which was unofficially introduced at last year’s Convergence, was officially launched at Convergence 2013 and attendees were able to demo the full service at the technology expo.

The entire ICE platform works in the cloud, not locally at the MFP, and therefore is supported only by Ricoh MFPs configured with an optional web browser. Users can access ICE by paying an annual service fee of $240 per device. The ICE marketplace currently includes 18 apps that connect MFPs to third-party and Ricoh-developed services, such as Box, Google Drive and Document Mall; while some of these services have additional costs, the marketplace apps for them are free. Administrators can drag and drop apps from the ICE marketplace to their organization’s ICE interface, which is shared by all registered MFPs. Presently, ICE supports only scanning to cloud services, with the exception of Ricoh PrintCloud and FlexRelease CX, which must be purchased separately. One advantage of ICE’s scanning feature is its ability to perform OCR—powered by ABBYY—in the cloud to create searchable PDF files and editable Microsoft Office documents.

PrintCloud  and FlexRelease CX both allow users to print from the cloud. PrintCloud allows users to send files to the cloud using a PC or mobile device. Users receive a release code for each file, and can then retrieve their file at any device configured with ICE. FlexRelease CX lets registered users print to the cloud via a print driver, email forwarding, web browser or iOS app and securely release at a device via user authentication.

In the “Solutions Hub” area of the expo, booths were set up to help dealers understand how to sell solutions to customers as a way to solve a business challenge, such as accounts payable, digital document management, and real estate challenges. Solutions on display inside the hub included Personal Paperless Document Manager, Device NX Accounting, GlobalScan NX, and mobile printing solutions, such as HotSpot printing and Ricoh SmartDevicePrint. Other Ricoh solutions at the expo were Streamline NX, Device Manager NX Pro and Enterprise, TotalFlow Production Solutions, and DocumentMall, among others.

Other technology vendors at the show included CIMA Software, ECI, Kofax, NSi, Nuance, Westbrook Technologies, Objectif Lune, Omtool, Print Audit, ITC Systems, FabSoft, Digital Gateway, OpenText, Print Control Software, Inc., Kodak alaris, EFI, and Fujitsu.

Ricoh Showcases New A3 and A4 Products
Although dealers were encouraged to move away from selling “just the box,” there was an impressive range of recently launched and upcoming devices on display at the Technology Expo showroom, from a 16-ppm printer up to a 135-ppm digital imaging system. Among the new models were Ricoh-manufactured devices in the mid- to low-volume A4 space, which previously had been filled with products from other OEMs. Some are designed to be sold strictly through the dealer and direct sales channels to help eliminate the competition from online resellers’ slashed prices. The upcoming products also include revamped monochrome A3 devices, as well as lower-speed, entry-level models similar to the MP C3003 series, which launched earlier this year. (Unfortunately, Ricoh did not provide details for publication.)

A general theme among most of the products was support for mobile printing. Some of the newest models will support optional web browsing, which in turn enables support for ICE (Integrated Cloud Environment), Ricoh’s new portal to the cloud (more on that later), as well as support for Ricoh’s optional 10.1" Smart Operation Panel.

Other enhancements to some lines are the addition of a standard USB port/SD slot, upgrades to the latest embedded platform, LED engines, WiFi and optional searchable PDF.

Ricoh’s Smart Operation Panel is similar to a smartphone or tablet with few buttons, an intuitive interface and operation with tap/flick/swipe/pinch controls. Video playback, full web browsing, folder creation and animated backgrounds are among the new features. At the moment, the Smart Operation Panel is supported only by certain MFPs. In a few months, Ricoh will release the software development kit for developers and eventually introduce enhanced features and applications.

Jessica Schiffenhaus
Senior Product Manager