At Inspire Expo, a two-day event held in Malta in October, Sharp unveiled a new converged strategy for its business
Opening the event, Ted Kawamura, President Sharp Europe, outlined the company’s focus on the B2B market and decision to restructure its current business portfolio, reduce fixed costs and reorganise its corporate system to support future growth.
Kawamura stated that 90 per cent of Sharp’s European finished goods business is now B2B. He said that the B2B market is “significantly important to Sharp” and “will continue to provide great opportunities for future growth.”
Jeff Ashida, President of Sharp Information Systems Europe, added: “we are transforming our Business Solutions company to be an essential partner for our customers to support their business growth and productivity enhancement through Sharp's unique technology and services.”
In a keynote address, Alexander Hermann, Vice President, Sharp Information Systems Europe, announced that Sharp is combining the sales and support structure for its document and visual solutions businesses across Europe. The integration of both businesses is part of the company’s continuing restructuring across Europe to strengthen its profitable B2B business.
Sid Stanley, General Manager Visual Solutions Europe explained: “We are making it easier for our customers to access all Sharp products by presenting a single face to market.”
Hermann pointed out that Sharp is known as a manufacturer of a range of technology products, delivered by different business divisions and presented the firm’s new vision “to transform the way that organisations engage with information through connected technologies.” “We didn’t connect all our strengths until now,” he said. “We are working on bringing together our document and visual solutions businesses into one customer-orientated organisation.”
“Our aim is to offer a vision to businesses beyond products and services, one which directly addresses their aspirations. Our customers focus on information, about sharing knowledge to create inspiring ideas. Our vision must be to concentrate on how information is transformed and how we can improve this process,” Hermann added.
According to Jason Cort, European Director of Product Planning and Marketing, Sharp is shifting from being a supplier to a partner “that provides the things customers want, need and value.”
He spoke about IDC’s 3rd Platform's Cloud, Mobile, Social and Big Data and Analytics foundation, which they say is the new core of IT market growth. IDC predicts that virtually all of enterprises' new strategic IT investments through 2020 will be built on 3rd Platform technologies and solutions. Cort said: “We can do all of these things at Sharp.”
The event also provided the platform for a number of new product launches. The first and most exciting was the preview of its next generation A3 colour multifunctional product (MFP) range.
The new MX series which will include thirteen products with outputs of 30, 35, 40, 50 and 60 pages per minute, will be introduced in phases throughout 2016. The new devices have been designed with the end-user in mind and are also set to radically simplify Sharp’s print portfolio, replacing three different A3 ranges.
With one common unit design and user interface, Sharp said that this new range is easier to use, sell and service. The new MX Series will be available in two variants: Essential models are a cost-centric option meeting all standard print and scan needs, while the Advanced models include a set of value-added features and solutions for customers with a more sophisticated print set-up.
Key FABs include an innovative solution to knowing when it’s time to change the toner cartridge, the new devices include an auto-eject function that only kicks in when the cartridge is completely empty, a feature that will deliver maximum yield for end-users, reducing waste and cost.
Improvements in the device design have resulted in a simplified user interface, consistent across all devices, it takes just two touches on the 10-inch touchscreen to process common print, copy and high speed scan (up to 200 images per minute) functions. Plus printing from USB is much less complicated, users simply insert the flash drive into the front of the device and a menu pops up, enabling print, copy and scan in two simple steps.
Other productivity-boosting features accessible from the device touchscreen include an easy mode with the option to drag and drop favourite icons, a quick-help manual, direct print from MS files, single sign-on cloud connectivity, the ability to print/scan to/from a mobile device via Wi-Fi and OCR for scan to searchable PDF and scan to MS Office.
A brand new in-built motion sensor automatically detects when a user approaches and lights up the device, shutting it down after five seconds if there’s no activity. The engine only starts when a button is pressed or a document placed on the device.
Out of the box
The MX series is packed with business benefits including increased security, customisability and a pull printing solution out of the box. The built-in server enables users to share between devices (up to five) enabling jobs to be released at any networked device without the need to invest additional capital in purchasing and maintaining a separate print server.
Cort said: “We are launching a bold new series, with innovative features which improve workflows and demonstrate Sharp’s vision to provide the technology that businesses require.”
Sharp also unveiled its first combined complementary software offering, designed to provide customers with a turnkey option for all print and document management needs. The new optimised solutions portfolio includes software for output management, capture (scan) workflow and mobile. Cort said that new launches in the coming months will include workflow, device and content management solutions. “This demonstrates Sharp’s commitment to delivering holistic and harmonised service to customers, broadening our portfolio of integrated solutions and enabling customers to realise greater value,” he added.
In the cloud
Cloud Portal Office has also had an upgrade - Sharp’s proprietary SaaS solution that allows users to access, upload, download, share, manage and print files, from any PC, mobile device, Sharp MFP or BIG PAD interactive whiteboard.
Cloud Portal Office v2.0 now includes entry-level document management features to make data easier to structure, find and use information, improving office efficiency and reducing costs. Security of information is also high - Cloud Portal Office uses best of breed partners for storage, with all data stored in Frankfurt, Germany and importantly ownership of the data remains with the business, not individual employees.
“We know that many SMBs are worried about using free collaboration platforms and would also like to benefit from document management tools, but can’t afford to do so,” said Cort. “Cloud Portal Office already offers a more secure, compliant, auditable cloud and with v2.0 we’re moving towards offering easy document management too, tailored specifically for smaller businesses or workgroups.”