Friday, March 6, 2009

OCE is in the A/E/C FM (On-Site) business in Europe but apparently not in the U.S.

I’ve had the opportunity, during the past few months, to spend a good deal of my time in Europe. Since I’ve been in and around the reprographics industry in the U.S. for many years, I’ve had the opportunity, over the years, to meet quite a lot of guys (and gals) who own reprographics companies in the U.S. But, my “European experience” has allowed me to meet owners of reprographics companies in Europe. Quite interesting. In October, I attended a conference sponsored by GlobalGrafixNet (which is wholly-owned by Service Point Solutions), and there were a number of European reprographics companies at that conference.

There are a number of differences between the reprographics business in the U.S. and the reprographics business in Europe. I’m not going to get into all of that at this moment; perhaps in a future post I’ll cover some of that (if I remember to do that, and that, at my age, is never a given!)

There is one difference I am going to mention in this particular post; I consider this one to be a “major” difference between the U.S. and Europe.

Before I get into this, I do want to say that one of the vendors I’m going to mention, OCE, is, to me, one of the finest manufacturers of large-format imaging equipment out there. When I was in the reprographics business in the U.S., we were an OCE dealer (and we were dealers for KIP, HP and Canon as well); we had a significant quantity of OCE equipment at our Production Centers and at the many FM’s (On-Site’s) we operated, and “my take” on OCE is that its equipment is extremely reliable and dependable. (Please also note that I’m also a fan of KIP, HP and Canon wide-format equipment.)

For those of you who are in the reprographics business, whether in the U.S., the U.K. or in Europe, I think you might find this interesting:

Most of you, if not all, are aware that OCE in the U.S. got into the FM (On-Site Services) business when it bought Archer Management Services (actually, the guy that owned Archer, Stan Katz, was an acquaintance of mine, so I was very aware of the scope of Archer's business, "pre-OCE.") Archer's FM business was limited to small-format and its primary customers were legal, accounting and corporate customers. After buying Archer, OCE changed the name of that business to OCE Business Services (OBS.) I am not aware that OCE Business Services (in the U.S.) has changed the Archer-business-model all that much, except maybe for the government-sector business OBS has been, and is now, pursuing in the U.S. In other words, I am not aware of any OBS FM's in the U.S. that are for A/E/C firms ….. OBS’ business in the U.S. appears to target legal, accounting, corporate and government agency business. [An example of OBS’ government sector business – in Florida, OBS was providing an FM service (a staffed FM) for the District 7 office of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), but that deal ended, and OBS was replaced by Canon Business Solutions, in September 2007. Mostly a “small-format” FM (only one piece of large-format imaging equipment), but FDOT is an agency that contracts with engineering firms for public infrastructure project design/engineering. OBS was also the FM provider for FDOT District 5, but Canon Business Solutions took that deal away from OBS a few years ago. That particular deal was for “small-format” only.]

As to OCE’s OBS business segment ……. in Europe, things are, apparently, very different !!!

OCE's OBS business in Europe is quite significant and EXTENDS into the A/E/C industry. For example, OBS provides a staffed FM (On-Site Service) for Skanska in one major European city. And, OCE uses that site [which is in the corner of an office building, on the first (the retail) floor] to provide reprographics services to other A/E/C firms in that city, in other words, that site does not just service Skanska. That site, or I guess I should say “store,” has a sign on the outside that says “OCE ReproCentrum” (meaning “reprocenter” for those of you I have to translate for!) I had the opportunity to meet the guy who runs OCE’s business (all OCE business segments) in the country where that city is located, and, when I asked him about OCE’s OBS (FM) business in the A/E/C community in Europe, he said that OCE's FM business in the A/E/C community is quite significant throughout Europe. When I said to him that OCE does not compete with its customers in the U.S. for the A/E/C FM business, he so much as said, “well, this is Europe, not the U.S.”

My guess is that OCE doesn't compete for FM business in the A/E/C community in the U.S. and doesn't operate A/E/C reprographics centers in the U.S. because OCE does not want to piss-off its U.S. reprographer customer base. I can only imagine the look on your faces (those of you who are in the reprographics business in the U.S.) if OCE began going after A/E/C FM customers in the U.S. Please also note that I did ask Patrick Chapuis (of OCE USA) about this issue and Patrick (one of the nicest, smartest guys you would ever meet) did reply that OCE has no plans to compete in the A/E/C FM business in the U.S. and no plans to open “reprocentrums” in the U.S. Well, that was good news, I think, for reprographers in the U.S.

But, I still wonder about European reprographers; in particular, does it not piss them off that OCE’s OBS unit is in the A/E/C FM business in Europe - - OCE is competing directly with European reprographers for that FM business - - but does not do that in the U.S. (and, apparently, the UK situation is the same as the U.S. situation.)

I think one of the reasons for this is OCE’s very commanding market-share position in wide-format equipment placements in Europe. KIP, which I believe is a strong #2 in the U.S., is pretty much a “non-factor” in Europe. I did have the opportunity to meet the President of KIP Europe at the GGN conference I attended (he reports to Japan, not to the U.S.) At the time I met him, he had been with KIP for only about six months - - he came to KIP from one of the small-format copier/printer manufacturers, so, to me, he is still a “newbie” to the large-format industry, and I suspect it will take him a while to figure out why KIP is a non-factor in Europe, where that’s not the case in the U.S., and how it might be possible to use to KIP’s advantage (vis a vis, sales to reprographics companies in Europe) - - my opinion here is that KIP should have at least some competitive advantage because of the fact that OCE’s OBS unit competes with OCE’s reprographers customers in Europe. However, that does not mean that KIP will figure out that things are different, U.S. vs. Europe, nor figure out how to take advantage of that difference.

I'd love to have your insight on this. If OCE went into the A/E/C FM business in the U.S., and, further, began using its A/E/C FM sites to provide services for non-FM A/E/C customers - in other words, if OCE went into direct competition with the core business segments of U.S. reprographers - do you think the U.S. reprographer community would push more of its equipment business to KIP and Xerox ...and away from OCE?

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