Can the printing industry go paperless?

All businesses are going to have to embrace digital transformation, regardless of their sector, if they want to survive in an increasingly technology-driven environment.

Johannesburg, 08 Oct 2019
Read time 4min 10sec
Werner Engelbrecht, General Manager, Kyocera Document Solutions SA
Werner Engelbrecht, General Manager, Kyocera Document Solutions SA

Most companies have been on their digital transformation journey for some years now, and that implies less demand for the printed document. While there will always be a requirement for print, it is probable that the majority of documents will be digital in the future, and if businesses that make a living from selling printers don’t change their business model, they might find themselves out of business.

It may seem counterintuitive for a company that sells printers to be an advocate of a process that reduces the need to print, but that’s just what Werner Engelbrecht, General Manager at Kyocera Document Solutions SA, and his team are doing, by implementing changes within their own business.

“You can’t deliver effectively if you don’t use your own solutions,” says Engelbrecht. “Customers want to see proof of value and they like it best when it comes from your own operations.

“When it comes to digital transformation, most businesses are eager to start their journey, but few of them really have an understanding of what it actually entails, or where to begin. We advise that businesses should identify some pain points in their business, and put a strategy in place to resolve these. In our own case, the decision was taken to move the organisation towards a paperless office, via the implementation of an enterprise content management (ECM) system.”

However, it’s important to realise that there’s no single solution that will digitally transform your business; instead it’s an ongoing process with technology enabling that change.

In the IT sector in general, this approach has seen businesses move from primarily providing the latest technology to consulting on solutions to businesses that require better management of their operations.

Trialling their own solutions

What this means is that a company’s internal staff should be using the same products and services that it sells to customers. It’s a revolutionary principle that led technology away from box sales and laid the foundations for the partner-centric relationships today’s market expects.

Engelbrecht says: “We’ve embarked on a journey to take our own business paperless and to embrace future technologies that can develop our business offering.”

Ian Dury, Business Support Manager at Kyocera Document Solutions SA
Ian Dury, Business Support Manager at Kyocera Document Solutions SA

“When we introduced enterprise content management (ECM) at Kyocera SA, it was to solve certain problems,” says Ian Dury, Business Support Manager at Kyocera Document Solutions SA. “But we got a lot more. Once staff saw the potential of the system and used it every day, they became more proactive about improving processes, they understood the product and its value better, and they have access to metrics that constantly inform them about their success.”

The origin of the business’s own ECM project started quite normally. It wanted to reduce the expenses of its invoicing, which cost R12.04 per invoice to administer. At several thousand invoices per month, that is a considerable amount. So it introduced ECM services to automate several of the processes; this brought down the costs to R0.88 per invoice. There were also tangible improvements with importing goods, with time-saving benefits for international suppliers, sometimes cutting delivery turnaround by half.

Offering it to customers

Having seen the potential of ECM, Kyocera expanded its functions to start involving other operations. Staff became more engaged, interested and effective. With this momentum behind it, Kyocera started offering the same ECM services and strategies to its customers.

“The more we work with the solutions, the more we expand what it can do,” Dury explains. “For example, we have developed strategies for more machine-to-machine transactions and systems integration, which again saves costs and time through automation.”

This is the crux of the ‘be your own customer’ philosophy: you don’t know what you don’t know about your product, so you need to make it a practical reality for your own business. Modern technology demands good integration, a proper grasp of affected processes and buy-in from staff. Those summarise the expectations of customers, so it carries that today’s solution providers need to use their own systems as if they were the customer. It realises much better and more effective client engagement when tackling modernisation, says Engelbrecht.

Solution providers that implement their own solutions understand their services, they grasp the challenges in delivering it to customers and, above all, they can appreciate requirements as their customers do.

The last word comes from Engelbrecht, who cautions that in order for a digital transformation initiative to be successful, it has to be driven from the C-suite and not just the IT department.

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