Don't Abandon Scanning Opportunities
Experts say there are still plenty of production scanning sales opportunities â€" if you know where to look.
Production scanning is mature technology. As such, many VARs may think the days of scanning market growth and innovation are in the past. While the significant growth in the distributed scanner market continues to get press, the production scanning market quietly continues to grow. The growth is accompanied by a shift from high-speed scanners to low- to midvolume scanners.
While speeds and feeds continue to play a predominant factor in production scanning innovations, ergonomics and user interface enhancements are improving usability and customer productivity. Innovations in network and device connectivity and software/hardware integration are other scanning trends that VARs can use to sell scanning solutions. To improve plug and play connectivity, FireWire and USB II connections have begun to replace SCSI (small computer system interface), the former standard connection for this market. The increase of built-in computer technology has enabled improved hardware integration. High production scanners are also beginning to integrate software and hardware to create complete scanning systems, versus stand-alone scanning hardware. Those are just a few of the innovations that continue to drive growth in this market. Where do you go from here? Let's start by getting back to the basics.
Recommend The Right Scanning Solution
If you're new to production scanning (even if you're an experienced veteran), it's always good to review the basics of how vendors classify scanning solutions. This is important to ensure that you are matching the right type of scanner with the customer's application. According to Eric J. Olsen, product marketing manager, production capture products for Kodak Document Imaging, Eastman Kodak Company, production scanners are categorized by volume capacity, segmented by low, mid, and high volume.
Marc Noviello, director of worldwide channel alliances for Imaging Business Machines, LLC, explains, "In general, 90 ppm [pages per minute] is considered a production scanner by most people. However, there is another level above this that is categorized as the very high end of the scanning market. High-end devices are scanning an 8½-by-11 [A4] document in excess of 300 ppm."Looking at it from a different perspective, Jerome R. Brown, VP, worldwide alliances for BancTec, Inc., says there are four basic categories for production scanners:
- Highest speed at lower resolution
- High speed at high resolution
- Lower speed at highest resolution
- Open track versus closed track
Masahiko (Mark) Machida, director, Image Filing Systems Division, Canon U.S.A. Inc., cites InfoTrends research that categorizes production scanners by speed and price. Scanners with speeds of 41 ppm or higher or scanners that sell at a price of $5,000 or higher are considered production-grade. Machida adds, "Durability or daily duty cycle is very critical in the production scanning segment." Although Machida's comment may seem obvious, recommending an undersized scanner in a production environment is a common VAR mistake. There is an easy way to avoid incorrectly sizing a production scanner — contact your vendor or VAD (value-added distributor) to get a recommendation.
Verticals Are Still Hot For Production Scanning
Vertical markets have always been great for production scanning sales. That hasn't changed. "Service bureaus are an obvious prospect," says Noviello. They need to be all things to all people. A production scanning operation allows those businesses to gain efficiencies, reduce costs, and meet SLAs (service level agreements). As more mergers and acquisitions occur, and businesses and institutions adopt shared services models, all vertical markets become targets for production scanning equipment for their imaging operations."
Machida agrees that service bureaus are one of the hottest opportunities for production scanning and adds, "Education, financial, healthcare, and insurance verticals continue to be great opportunities as well." He also points out that production scanners are no longer limited to the traditional verticals and the traditional centralized scanning methodology. "With the move to decentralized and distributed scanning solutions, we see the number of verticals and size of organizations implementing imaging solutions, including LVP [low-volume production] scanners, growing exponentially."
Olsen agrees that production scanning remains dominant in its traditional vertical markets. "Given the wide range of applications that are available in this market, no single market segment stands out," he explains. "Vertical market customers simply utilize the type of production scanner that will accommodate their specific needs."
Bundle Products And Services With Production Scanners
With each production scanner sale comes an opportunity for VARs to add peripheral products and services to enhance the profit margin of the sale and add value for the customer. "A VAR, as well as the manufacturer, has to understand the value chain of the total production scanning process," says BancTec's Brown. "With invoice processing, for example, the scanning of the documents may be the lowest cost component of the process. Intelligent scanning allows the delivery of OCR [optical character recognition] scanned line items. A software application that can take the OCR information, do an automatic match against purchase orders, and feed the results into the customer's ERP [enterprise resource planning] system brings very high value to the customer — and adds margin for the VAR."
There's an opportunity to grow recurring revenue by offering maintenance and support on both hardware and software products. "When it comes to SaaS [Software as a Service] and third-party storage solutions, there are very high-value and profitable service add-ons for VARs to sell," says Machida.
Training and support are also ways for VARs to earn additional revenue. "Our authorized VARs can provide professional support for operative training and integration for our scanning products," says Kodak's Olsen. "If VARs cannot offer their own solution, many vendors, including Kodak, offer support solutions for various hardware and software, as well as integration and professional services."
IBML's Noviello adds, "Disaster recovery [DR] is another service that many companies are in need of." He says that offering services such as DR further improves customer retention.
ISVs (independent software vendors) aren't left out of this opportunity either. "Customers have used various applications coupled with our hardware for processing forms and documents in the trucking industry, healthcare, and insurance," explains Olsen. With numerous applications for a variety of vertical markets, there are virtually a limitless number of potential production scanning opportunities — including high-margin services add-ons. If you still think there's not much opportunity in the production scanning market, you should take another look.