What’s Happenin’ at Konica Minolta US Dealer Conference 2019

By Andy Slawetsky – Konica Minolta (KM) held their dealer conference in Newport Beach, CA March 4 – 6. Once again, KM opted for a different style venue instead of the traditional Las Vegas/Orlando conferences we usually attend for events like this. Rather than having everything under one roof as has become the norm over the years (product fair, key note stage, giant screen, dealers), KM opted to have the opening key note off site at an amazing location; the Segerstrom Center for the Arts located in nearby Costa Mesa.

The opening session looked awesome on what has to be one of the coolest stages I’ve seen while attending one of these shows. Seriously, look at that place pictured above

President and CEO of Konica Minolta Business Solutions (KMBS) Rick Taylor kicked things off, welcoming the crowd and launching right into some numbers comparing KM to the competition since 2010. I think he said they grew a zillion percent.

Rick Taylor, Konica Minolta

From April through December, KMI revenue was up 4% and operating profit was up a whopping 74%. Business print volume also showed 7.2% growth in the US.

Other positive news included dealer solutions revenue up 10% and production print units were up 36%, which is impressive considering the trouble some competitors are having in this arguably declining market.

Rick Taylor, Konica Minolta

Rick then went on to discuss major investments Konica Minolta made last year (MacProfessionals, MWA, VeBridge and ThoughtTrace), adding more ECM, ERP and IT power to their portfolio.

At this point, Rick handed off conversations to other senior execs including Kay Fernandez who discussed how Konica Minolta is changing how we work through their strategies and product offerings.

Rick Taylor and Kay Fernandez, Konica Minolta

Sam Errigo was next and like Kay, rather than on the stage, Sam was up in the balcony area as he updated the crowd.

After Sam came Laura Blackmer and then Kevin Kern who announced Konica Minolta’s new A3 and A4 i-Series line that will effectively replace the current KM products over the next several months. The new MFPs will raise the bar in security and will include KM’s Bitdefender branded solution. “This is the most powerful machine we have ever built,” Kern told the crowd.

After Kevin, Dino Pagliarello told listeners that besides the i-Series, KM will be launching a new 140 PPM device. KM is clearly focused on expanding their industrial print and label printing footprint.

Next, Todd Croteau, head of All Covered (and massive Harry Potter fan) came up to fill us in on What’s Happenin’ with the KM IT division. Todd let dealer Heather Brown of CPI tell her story about how she engaged with All Covered and is now pulling in 1-2 deals/month. All Covered is an amazing ace in the hole for KM dealers that are able to use their turnkey IT services.

Todd Croteau All Covered

Laura came back on stage with Todd and the two of them then announced KM’s new Managed Services Enablement Program, which helps dealers with everything including compensation, planning, deployment, marketing and much more.

Kaura Blackmer Konica Minolta and Todd Croteau All Covered

Shortly after, Mary Ellen Franz from Imagine Technology Group stood up and told her story about her experience with the SAP FORZA ERP solution offered through recently acquired MWA. The interesting thing about this is, that while there were plenty of KM FORZA customers in that room, they chose to bring in Mary Ellen, a Sharp dealer, as a reference.

FORZA is a huge opportunity for both KM and non KM dealers. While some outside the KM family may not like the fact that FORZA is no longer brand agnostic and may not want to go with a solution owned by a competitor, there are very few alternative choices outside of KM. Dealers using them do seem to love them; I spoke to one dealer at the show who uses them and he told me that the FORZA dashboard is the first thing he looks at each morning. It’s real time data and and he knows exactly what’s going on with his company in seconds.

Mike Stramaglio, All Covered

The FORZA acquisition has opportunity in other markets too. Don’t think that Rick hasn’t been considering applications for FORZA outside of this industry. He has. Many industries could benefit from what FORZA offers, including automotive as well as anyone who has a reseller community that stocks hardware and aftermarket products and has a sales force.

Nick Pegley then talked to us about the WorkPlace Hub, explaining that it’s now in 8 countries on two continents. WorkPlace Hub is KM’s everything in a box solution. There are three configurations; a standalone server, a blade server for a rack and a server embedded into the bottom of an MFP. This solution has had a slow roll-out since we first saw it in Germany a couple of years ago and the first few dealers have finally started showing it to customers. We saw it at a Copier Fax Business Technologies “DOCtoberfest” event last year.

Konica Minolta WorkPlace Hub

WorkPlace Hub is an intriguing product and it’s challenging to describe as it can do so much. It will probably never be used the same way by two different customers. There is serious horsepower under the hood and customers could use if for things such as managing and hosting their networks, collaboration tools, telephony and more. I thought it would have been a nice touch to run the entire show on a WorkPlace Hub as a working example of what it can do, but nobody seems to have thought of that. Maybe next conference!

After a short break, we came back in to see all the KM senior executives up on stage in chairs where they took pre-recorded video questions from the audience. These were all nice easy questions that allowed Rick and his team to showcase KM’s strategies, especially as they pertain to helping dealers diversify their product offerings. The last of the questions wasn’t as much as a softball as it was a statement where Rick told the crowd that he spoke to Dex prior to the dealer meeting and told them that he wasn’t going to authorize Dex with KM products coast to coast, a move that some think Dex may eventually request/require of their vendors in the wake of the Staples acquisition. The crowd seemed to like that.

Rick Taylor, Konica Minolta

The opening session had a nice flow to it and the entertainer who kept popping in as the villain was pretty funny, especially when they tied it together at the end with a great super hero video with their own execs superimposed into some classic Hollywood scenes. Picture Batman (Kevin Kern) gut-punching the Joker. Great stuff.

The evening finished with a nice awards dinner (click here to see list of winners) outside, followed by many of us heading back to a hotel with two completely overwhelmed bartenders. The Marriott never saw it coming! They’re probably still in shock.

We started the next morning with a nice press breakfast where we were able to casually chat with key KM execs before heading into the product fair for a private tour.

Kay Fernandez, Konica Minolta

There were lots of What’s Happenin’ Hat sightings at this breakfast as I was FINALLY able to give these guys their lids.

Kevin Kern, Konica Minolta

Click here to see all What’s Happenin’ hat sightings!

Plenty of hardware was on the floor this year as KM brought out the big guns with their MGi foil finishing products as well as some newly introduced bright blue label makers, the same blue as the KM logo. Nice touch!

Dave Clearman, Konica Minolta and the PLS-475i label press

There was also a massive large format printer being shown that is the first KM has sold using KM’s own inkjet technology. This thing was a behemoth and certainly takes KM’s wide format printing to a new level.

KM brings far fewer partners to their events than others, but I suppose it allows KM to control what their dealers are exposed to a bit more.  This year I think there were maybe 7 (ACDI/PaperCut, BEI, ESP, EFI and some others).

Just past the big iron were a large group of solutions. On one side, the FORZA team was out in force and it’s a good thing because their booth seemed to be pretty mobbed most of the time. Not far from there was the EFI booth where they were promoting their print and copy station, the M600 Station, a great solution for universities and other self-serve self-pay environments.

Next to EFI was BEI Services. Fresh off their acquisition of BSC, BEI is the data king of the industry. How good is their data? So good that KM is using BEI to help dealers roll out their own single billing rate. KM’s One Rate (it’s not called that, but that’s what it is) allows dealers to charge a single monthly fee to customers and not worry about how many pages they’re actually printing. The gamble is, if your customer turns around and increase their page volume during their contract, you’re screwed. Let’s be realistic; print volume is falling and BEI’s data not only supports that, it also helps dealers understand how to better position themselves to be more profitable with the clicks they still have. They’re definitely worth taking a look at. They offer a lot more than just page volume data.

Not far from there was another All Covered solution that drew a large crowd. I can’t remember if they named it yet, but it was essentially an ALICE receptionist (KM’s unmanned receptionist check-in technology) on steroids.

Designed to securely sit in the reception area of a school, the big red kiosk takes a photograph of a registrant, provides them with an identification badge and alerts someone on the other end that they’re  there. It can also be tied to a criminal database to do on the spot background checks before admitting anyone. There were several other options customers could add to this solution making it great for schools and anywhere there’s a need for a secure check-in area.

Not far from BEI was ESP/AMETEK, the industry leader in power protection. Check out Dean Blachowski as he tells us What’s Happenin’ with their predictive maintenance program.

Around the corner were ACDI and PaperCut in a combined booth. PaperCut has become one of Konica Minolta US’ main print management solutions and you can hear a little bit about what they were showing by watching the video of Mark Hart (ACDI) below as he spoke with the analysts on our tour.

The room was set up as a path and you winded through the different areas until coming to the end near the exit. This was where KM had placed some staff from KM Europe, brought in to show US dealers some interesting things they have been working on.

One such example was shown by the crew from Rome who were demonstrating work they’re doing with robots. This technology would surely be useful in healthcare environments as their demonstration showed.

Later, we sat down for the press conference. The KM executive team has always been extremely gracious with respect to providing us with access to each of them and their press conferences are really more of a Q/A than a typical press conference.

Several of us asked about the WorkPlace Hub and where that’s going. KM is a big believer in this product and while it does seem difficult to market something that is different to every customer, Rick is sure they’ll sell a lot of other products because of it. “We’ll sell a ton of other stuff because we sell the WorkPlace Hub,” he said. The WP Hub is currently in two dealerships to my knowledge as well as in a few branch locations. By the next meeting, this product should have been out for a bit and I’m sure they’ll have more to tell us about it.

When asked for an update on Muratec, Rick was again very enthusiastic as he talked about the opportunity he has to grow those hundreds of dealers into KM product. Muratec is generally a second (or third) brand for many dealers, but they’re fiercely loyal and the Konica Minolta portfolio could become an attractive alternative to many dealers who are already carrying it, particularly if Muratec dealers eventually get access to the full KM line. I’m not sure where that stands at the moment. In the past, Muratec dealers sold the lower to mid level KM products rebadged under the Muratec label.

Click here to see all photos from the conference!

The afternoon shifted gears and it was broken down into time slots where attendees were able to sit in a variety of sessions on topics such as ERP, AI, Security and more. Each of these sessions were a deeper dive of something being shown at the product fair, a great way to extend the message and provide a better understanding of what they were showing the dealers and why.

The day finished with dinner at the Newport Beach Country Club followed by an outstanding 80’s band back at the hotel. I learned long ago not to schedule the first flight out after one of these “final nights” and I’m glad I gave myself a few extra hours to recover.

Just before the 80s concert began, Golfer John Daly was on hand to sign some autographs, followed by the announcement from Kay and Laura of the 2018 Best Demo Award. The award winner was determined after sifting through hours and hours of video demos sent in from KM reps across the country and the winner was voted on by the conference attendees.

John Daly and Rick Taylor, Konica Minolta

Congratulations to Kate from Copier Fax in Buffalo on winning this year’s contest!

Konica Minolta events are special. They’re typically over the top and they’re always looking to try something different or new. Having things spread out at 3 hotels was challenging and I felt like I didn’t get to see everyone I was hoping to run into, but they really made excellent use of our time and the facilities were outstanding.

I’m easily impressed as you know, so I spoke to quite a few dealers to find out what they thought of the meeting. They were about as upbeat a group as I’ve seen in my many years of covering these events.

What did they like? They liked the telephony. Several of them told me they’re buying the All Covered phone systems for their own offices so they can properly learn them. From what I saw during the demonstration I received, they’re very cool and do way more than the phones most customers currently use. The integration with mobile phones and desktop computers puts them over the top and dealers I spoke to could see customers buying these from them.

Even though it’s been a slow roll-out, dealers are excited for the WorkPlace Hub. In fact, the only complaint I heard about it (a couple of times actually) was that most dealers can’t get it yet.

FORZA was another product that really got people’s attention at the product fair and there was consistently a group around that area listening to what seemed like never ending presentations.

Dealers I spoke with really liked the production equipment, especially the new wide format printer and the label presses. These are new markets for most of the dealers and even those who area already strong in production and commercial print don’t have products like these in their portfolio. These were big time presses and printers.

You have to hand it to them, this KM train keeps rolling. Their dealers seem very happy and KM showed them that they’re not standing still. Big pushes in IT, security, production print and ECM are providing dealers with life after copiers. They had a freaking race care there for goodness sake (along with new car sponsor ESP)!

I took a ton of videos at the product fair and I plan to release them over time, rather than all at once as I normally do after a show. Sorry, you’ll have to wait for a lot of them!

I appreciate the invitation to cover this event. Nice job to Konica Minolta!