By Andy Slawetsky – Toshiba held their dealer conference in Las Vegas NV Sept. 4 – 7 at the Bellagio Hotel where 1,700 employees, dealers, partners and end-user customers came to find out What’s Happenin’ with Toshiba.

The team held a small goodbye party on the first night for Sue Wilson, VP of Operations, who retired towards the end of 2017. It was great that Sue had one last farewell tour where she could celebrate her retirement with so many of her friends from her many years at Toshiba. Apparently Sue doesn’t “get” retirement as she’s been working (part time) with Toshiba as a consultant since she left, which seems to have been a very popular way for her to wind down her time at the California MFP and technology company.

The next day began with an opening session where CEO Scott Maccabe provided the pre end-user crowd (customers would be coming the next day) with an update on the company’s health, where they’re going and how they’re going to get there.

As Scott said, “what a difference a year makes,” as he lamented on the positive position that Toshiba Tec (copiers, printers, etc.) AND their parent company Toshiba Corp are now in. After what Scott called some difficult decisions, Toshiba Corp has shed some weight through selling off some assets and they’re now in very good shape. He also reminded the crowd that although they share the same name, Toshiba, they are in fact, separate companies, traded on different stock exchanges. Toshiba Corp is a major investor in Toshiba Tec and Scott told me at lunch later that day that one of the first things Toshiba Corp did when they became more financially sound was they invested more into Toshiba Tec, buying an even great percentage of their stock. His point was, Toshiba Tec, which includes the copier group, is doing so well, their parent company is investing in them as a way to dig out of their fading financial difficulties.

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As is the case with virtually all of the OEMs, Toshiba picked and chose the financial highlights they wanted to share at their meeting and they painted a very rosy picture for the crowd as Scott told listeners how MFP unit sales are up 8% with e-STUDIO color sales up 6% and A4 up 70%. This wasn’t broken down by market, so it’s unclear as to whether this was US or Global or North America (and I can’t remember the answer when they told us during the analyst lunch). Still, great numbers, but I’d like to see a bit more depth as to which groups are really performing and which one’s aren’t. The bottom line is they seem to be doing very well.

Scott went on to discuss some of the big Toshiba wins over the past year and a half since their last LEAD conference. It was a great list including the likes of FEDEX, Home Depot (which they just won back after briefly losing), The Staples Center, The Buffalo Bills (maybe they can print them a defense), The StubHub Center…the list went on and on and was full of great companies and organizations that you all recognize.

After Scott’s session, Chief Revenue Office Larry White and VP International Sales Adrian Fuentes-Sanabria took the stage to announce the winners of Toshiba’s awards. I won’t go through the list as there were several dealers, but you can see all the winners by going through the photos. Congrats to you all!!!

Next, VP Joe Contreras spoke to attendees about Toshiba’s 26 newly announced copiers and printers. There was big news for Toshiba around A3 and A4 as Toshiba is not only refreshing their A3 products, but they’re also introducing new Toshiba branded A4 models as well.

Joe went on to talk to us about the Elevate user interface (US) platform and it’s evolution as it’s grown since their show in Spring 2017 when it was first announced. Elevate allows for customization of the UI so customers can do everything from run ads on the screen to set up apps that run with specific vertical and horizontal workflows, making the MFP an intricate part of critical customer processes. While a lot of vendors are moving in this direction, the Toshiba UI seems very easy to use and the customization should be very popular with customers. Check out ACDI’s “ads app” example below.

Next CMO Bill Melo came out and talked more about Elevate, the event and what we would be seeing. He also made what was may be the biggest announcement out of the event, at least for those following the print side of Toshiba. Trust me, the new partnership between Toshiba and Brother is a big deal. A4 has been identified as a huge area of opportunity by Toshiba and adding Brother to the portfolio should be a great asset to those who pick up the line.

Over the last few years, Brother has quietly positioned themselves as the entry level and low-cost provider for A4 hardware in this channel and while they have made decent progress, they have not stuck any deals that have the potential of this one. Toshiba has hundreds of dealers and branches that sell tons of A4 and they’re going to be even more focused on it going forward from what their executives said during this show.

While they do have Lexmark and HP, Brother offers them something at a lower price point, which will be great for bids, MPS engagements or for those times where they run into a competitor who is also selling HP and/or Lexmark.

This new arrangement may be concerning to Lexmark, who was positioned right across the aisle from the Brother booth during the product fair, but there really does seem to be enough room in this account for both brands. They compliment each other to an extent.

After the morning session, we hit the product fair. While I did have a press walk-through the day before, I like to hit them once the doors open and the people take the floor so I can see what they’re gravitating to. I have to say, I love how Toshiba organizes their product fairs. This is the second show in a row where Toshiba has placed the booths directly in front of the breakfast/lunch area, which means attendees must physically walk through the product fair to get to their meal. You can’t help but stop along the way to see What’s Happenin’.

What’s the biggest complaint from vendors who pay to be at these shows? There isn’t enough foot traffic. Guess what…when you put the meals right behind the booths, you will never hear anyone say there isn’t enough traffic. I don’t know why everyone isn’t doing this.

Toshiba was also smart to combine the retail and print/digital signage reseller shows as it allowed them to not only get two shows for the price of one, but it also allowed them to maybe spend a little extra on the aesthetics of their floor. It was very nicely laid out and the retail products provided a pop with technology our group doesn’t normally get exposed to. There was some very cool stuff on that floor.

Add to this about 500 customers who showed up the second day and now you have a really packed house as people were being walked around by their reps. I’m told they sign a lot of business from customers that attend these shows and Toshiba seems to increase the number they bring every year. Coincidence?

There were tons of great partners up and down the aisles. ACDI was right at the entrance showcasing apps as I mentioned earlier as well as their new relationship with PSIGEN (also in attendance at their booth) as well as PaperCut (also in attendance) and PrinterOn. They had a very crowded booth to say the least!

Elatec was there showing their RFID technology, some of which is embedded in Toshiba’s eSTUDIO MFPs to help facilitate NFC print.

GreatAmerica was there talking leasing and programs with dealers, ESP was talking power protection for not just copiers and printers but for the digital displays as well.

Clover had a booth, reminding dealers of the products and services they offer to help back MPS efforts. As mentioned earlier, both Brother and Lexmark had booths.

DocuWare had a crowded booth too, showing their ECM and Document Capture products.

The team from BEI was there talking service metrics and more. There were dozens of other partners at the event as well.

Entertainment and food at the event was great as it always seems to be at Toshiba events. They really do a very nice job and their dealers seemed to have had a blast hitting the exclusive roof top club on the first night and then on the second night, partying late at the 80s party held on the roof of the Cosmo before hitting the afterparty at the Bellagio.

The one part of the meeting I didn’t care for was the way they handled their second morning session. Since the customers hadn’t seen the first day, many of the presentations the second morning were identical to the ones shown the previous day. This seemed like a huge waste of time to everyone in the room except for the 500 customers. I understand they want to make some of these points to the end users, but maybe there’s a better way to do it than to simply run the entire crowd through the same presentations. Just a minor quibble, it really didn’t cast a shadow on what was otherwise a fantastic show.

It was an exhausting but highly entertaining few days. The dealers loved the breakout sessions held between the meals and key note sessions. Thinking back to what was going on last year with the rumors of an impending Toshiba sale, Scott was right, what a difference a year makes.

I appreciate Toshiba including me in their event and as one high level partner so perfectly put it to me during the show, “Toshiba really has their <expletive> together.”