Sunday, May 6, 2012

MFP Wars & The Plain Paper Copier Industry

Most evenings I'll do a little bit of cruising around the web searching for copier information.  I ran across a white paper written by William R. Bolton in 1995 titled "The Plain Paper Copier Industry". 

Basically the paper was an outline of the plain paper copier industry up until 1994 or 95.  I used this paper to research a blog "Top 19 Old Copier Manufacturers That Faded Away".

Just the other day  I had an Anon (Anonymous) response to the blog I wrote for the "final five", it seems I ticked someone off because I projected that Sharp would not be one of the final five left in the industry.  ANON pointed out that although the blog was a nice read, they thought that my projection of Sharp was not correct because Sharp had just started operations of a 2nd manufacturing plant in China that was capable of producing 250,000 MFP's per year.  I responded with the fact that I saw the press release that Sharp is gearing up for the anticipated of more demand, but I think it's more for the Chinese Market Place. Here's the press release.  I'm also taking a guess that since the Great Flood in Thailand and the fact that one of Sharps copier manufacturing plants is located in the area of the Great Flood.  The Sharp factory was not damaged however Sharp had problems with securing parts from other suppliers that were affected.
Which brings me to back to a certain paragraph in the white paper.  History repeats its self right.  The white paper predicted that only 7 to 8 copier manufacturers would be left in the global market place by 1997.  Let's see if we can get this right: 
Xerox, Ricoh, Sharp, Canon, Toshiba, Oce, Mita, Konica, Panasonic and Minolta.  This would be 11 copier manufacturers that were players in 1994.  I did not include Kodak due to the fact that their plain paper copier line was OEM'd by Canon.  I can't remember when but Konica & Minolta merged thus leaving 8 manufacturers somewhere in 2002. 

History, at least in the copier industry will repeat it self again, due to the fact that the same set of conditions that brought of us to 8 manufacturers will bring us to five.  So, what are those conditions?
In the white paper they were outlined as this "Because of economic recession and resulting delays in new purchases, users were keeping their existing copiers longer, instead of upgrading and replacing them. Higher exchange rates, corporate downsizing and tight equipment budgets affected all segments of the market, causing new copier placements to slack as used copiers sales reached 200,000 units in 1993, approaching 15% of the new copier market".

This really caught my attention and yeah, this is what's been going on in the US market for the last 4 years! But now we have to add the technology factor, plus what I'm calling a generation factor. The technology factor is the proliferation of tablets,  and smart phones. The generation factor is the younger workforce that has been weaned on pc's, and smart phones. This generation factor does not want a piece of paper, they are accustomed to reading from the pc monitor, the tablet monitor and or the smart phone.  I'm thinking placements of hardware and pages printed will decline in the major economic markets, and paper will remain as a communication tool for evolving markets.
Keep in mind that this white paper was published right before the digital boom for multifunctional systems.  There was a matured market for analog systems as their is a matured market now for the multifunctional systems. 
I may be wrong, but I'm standing by my "Final Five"!

-=Good Selling=-

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