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Looking Back to Look Forward

// By Steve Weedon //

 

Maybe it’s a humanism trait that we somehow naturally stop and reflect at the end of the year, gather our thoughts, energy and determination to rush towards the new year with renewed optimism for what it may deliver, only to be somewhat disappointed at the outcome in twelve months time. In truth, one year is such a short span of time that repercussions of single events in our industry, that have now happened during the year, have probably not reverberated long enough to cause any significant effect yet. Looking back at twelve months of history is no real sweat since the internet reveals all but seeing what it means for the year to come still requires a crystal ball and lots of assumptions that typically wind up being way off the mark because we are either too optimistic or too pessimistic.

Of course, by all accounts, we should not be here at all. Nostradamus (1503-1566) predicted the end of the world would come on 21/12/2012. Or at least that is how some historians and followers interpreted his book, Les Prophesies, published in 1555 and which incidentally has never been out of print. Such is the importance we place on someone who says, I know what the future holds. Nostradamus got the end of the world date wrong or was it his followers who just got it wrong? He did, however, predict the great fire of London in 1666 that destroyed 75% of the city and uncannily, he also predicted the gruesome death of Henry II of France in 1559 in a jousting competition, when he was impaled through his helmet visor by large splitter fragments from his opponent, Count De Montgomery’s broken joust. The splinters penetrated his eye and brain causing an agonizing death 10 days later. Apparently, Nostradamus tried to warn the King of impending death but the King wouldn’t listen. I wonder whether the baker in Pudding Lane, London, had ever heard of the Great Fire of London prophecy made more than 100 years earlier and if he had been warned like the King, would he have taken the day off and save 75% of London, or maybe just have been a little more careful that day? Of course, he may have heard about it and decided that it’s all baloney, as most of us did on the 21st of December 2012. Until events prove otherwise, the skeptics are always right.


2013 brought about some meaningful events, such as the General Exclusion Order in the US issued by the ITC in favor of Canon, over the twisted gear patents. The knock on events following the GEO should have been significant, as we all assumed that the GEO would have been enforced. However, recent feedback suggests that not much has changed and products are still entering the US unhindered. Many also believed that following Canon’s success in the US , the company would seek similar action in Europe but as yet, nothing much has happened in that regard.

HP’s presentation to the industry at the Remax Asia pre-show event was also significant in that it was the first time HP addressed the remanufacturing industry directly. HP used the presentation to urge chipmakers to stop making chips with misleading messages that cause end users to believe a genuine HP cartridge is installed when in fact, it is an aftermarket cartridge. Every chipmaker I know was ready and willing to comply once HP opened the portal and allowed change. But I feel the real target was to stop chipmakers from creating chips with the HP message, so that they would not find their way to counterfeit cartridges. In reality, it probably just pushed the making of such chips underground, but at least genuine remanufacturers will not be selling cartridges with misleading messages in 2014. A step in the right direction, I think. This followed Lexmark who talked directly to the remanufacturing industry earlier this year at Focus on Europe, although they did not use the event to convey any specific message to the remanufacturing industry.

So, is this a new trend and is there some ulterior motive for OEM’s to engage with the aftermarket?

I really don’t think so as I cannot see any newfound collusion or cooperation between OEM’s and the aftermarket, and we are fierce competitors after all, aren’t we?

I am sure they will maintain a keen interest to see that we are not infringing any copyright or patents moving forward as diligently as they have done over recent years. But, maybe some OEM’s are looking for good relationships with quality remanufacturers to support their MPS programs for their non-branded products. Now that is a fairly new trend and will no doubt continue and increase in 2014.

We asked Luke Goldberg, Vice President of MSE, to sum up 2013.

“It’s been an interesting year and I see it as encouraging that HP engaged in constructive dialogue with the aftermarket in Zhuhai China. It’s a positive signal of acknowledgement for the genuine aftermarket industry.”

Luke is right. We have much to be optimistic about as HP could have taken other actions but decided to treat us like grown ups and have a discussion about the problems.

Ian Elliot, President of Print-Rite North America, said of 2013:

“All will agree that 2013 posed a challenge involving infringements of OEM’s patents; first the OPC twisted gear that led to the GEO (General Exclusion Order) in the USA and then the misleading messages enabled by aftermarket chips that caused confusion among end users and seriously discredit legitimate aftermarket products. In addition, overall printing volume declined, so it’s been a difficult year all around.”

Everyone has been incredibly busy this year, doing his or her own thing. It’s a bit like watching worker bees who rush around looking busy, going first in one direction then in another with boundless energy, all trying to get “the job” done. And a lot does get done in the ensuing organized chaos throughout the year. At year-end, the “bean counters” tally the numbers and declare the results. It is at this point that it makes no difference if you are an OEM, or a remanufacturer, a parts distributor or a retailer, a cartridge broker or a chipmaker. Every business is measured the same way. The bosses decide if all the effort was worth it or a new direction is warranted for 2014. The OEM’s are all publicy quoted companies, answer to the shareholders and have nowhere to hide. Most in the aftermarket are made up of private companies who can lick their wounds behind closed doors or party through the night to celebrate. But come January 1st, 2014, it all kicks off again.

Sadly, in 2013, we lost two irreplaceable individuals in Ed Swartz of Static Control and Peter White of Print Chip. Both were dedicated professionals who made significant contributions to our industry over many years. We shall be eternally grateful for their innovations and legacies left behind.

MPS became the dominant buzzword of the year. Managed Print Services or Management Document services are mere titles to an unbeatable business strategy now followed by OEM’s, Retailers, Independents, Dealers, some Remanufacturers and Resellers.

MPS has been around in some companies for a long time but since 2008, it has reached the walls of boardrooms around the world. The financial banking collapse of 2008, whose effects we are still dealing with today, changed board meeting agendas and saving money became as important as making it. MPS is not just for Fortune 500 companies with big print fleets. MPS is morphing and any printed page is worth controlling. Almost every OEM claims to be a leader in MPS. Many are spending big time to take control of as many printing devices as possible. Some remanufacturers are way ahead of others and are chasing MPS providers for business which is a good strategy for those that can be successful.

2014 will be another strong year for MPS as OEM’s win more contracts and hopefully others will also. MPS is changing our landscape; it’s a clear paradigm shift away from convention by changing who has the decision on what supplies are to be used in the printing device.

“In the MPS space, 70% is driven by the consumables. If you stick to your goals in providing high quality OEM alternatives, there will be assured opportunities,” Luke Goldberg commented in a recent discussion about the MPS growth in the market place.

In 2013, HP trimmed their wholesale suppliers list by about 13,000 to take more direct control of who sells their original cartridges and who buys them. It’s just one more step in the process of controlling the page. 2014 will show how the strategy has played out and what those 13,000 wholesalers will do to satisfy their customers. Buy remanufactured cartridges or find some other way to get OEM originals. It could be a great opportunity for the aftermarket. Other OEM’s will no doubt follow a similar path.

According to Meg Whitman, CEO of HP, 2014 will be the year in which they will add 3D printers to their product line. Will this become another aftermarket opportunity for the future? We will have to wait and see. 3D is a bit like color, always about to take off. Canon has also jumped on the 3D bandwagon and has partnered up with the biggest name in 3D printing 3D Systems, to market their high end printers in Japan.

Scott Dunham of The Photizo Group says, “3D printing has been in the commercial market place for the past 25 years. However, in recent times, we have seen rapid growth of the emerging 3D personal printer market. The most important question is: who is ready to serve tomorrow’s 3D printing market?”

2014 will be interesting with HP and Canon taking a position in the 3D world.

Now, color laser printing has come a long way as the market is now well established. The problem is that the aftermarket has only garnered 6-8% market share. Will 2014 be the year where we start to grow market share in color? Maybe. There are many new color products now available to make better performing cartridges and new toners that produce far better images, which should allow the industry to grow market share significantly, providing it is not apathetic.

2013 has not been a easy year, but then again who said it was going to be easy? Every year is a challenge and 2014 will be no different. But the optimists can see opportunity. Growth in color cartridges, MPS opportunities, and maybe 3D printing opportunities. Even if print demand is decreasing , 3 trillion printed pages is still alot of pages. Lets face 2014 with renewed invigorated optimism. Let’s learn from 2013’s mistakes and see what the year brings.

Business life is never a 100 meter dash. It’s a marathon, a long journey and we don’t want to see the end. It take enormous effort and determination, persistence and endurance to make it and patience is always a virtue. Technology is moving fast and forcing us to change our ways but remember, our opportunities are what we make of them.

Lets us know of your success stories of 2013 . Do you see a place for the aftermarket in 3D printing? Is it significant that HP and Canon are entering the 3D printing arena? Email us at talkback@rechargeasia.com. Your comments are always appreciated.

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