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Category Analysis: Rise of the machines

Category Analysis: Rise of the machines
Issue Time:2017-09-27
Category Analysis: Rise of the machines

Traditional business machines are feeling the heat from technological shifts. Is there still a place for them in today’s workplace?



The office environment has changed beyond recognition over the past decade as technological advances have swept all before them. The rise of electronic media and consequent drop-off in print means that the emphasis on products that deal with paper is on the wane. Consequently, the best days for binders, laminators, shredders and scanners are now behind them.

Shred of evidence

Or are they? Sue Simkiss, Key Account Manager at HSM UK, begs to differ: “Until the day when the infamous ‘paperless office’ finally arrives, there will always be a need for a document shredder. The shift from paper to electronic media just means consumers are looking for a different type of shredder, one that can deal with optical discs or memory sticks, or destroy hard drives in-house to ensure data protection compliance. For the foreseeable future we just need to focus on helping our customers ensure data is destroyed in the correct manner. 

“The office shredder market for HSM is buoyant, with autofeed shredders our biggest growth area. It’s all about time management – shredding data on-site at source is always the safest option, so the new autofeeds with their lock-and-go function via USB save time, yet still ensure your documents are secure.”

Brenda Zingsheim, Director of the Office Products Category at US wholesaler Essendant, remains more sceptical: “Some of the biggest challenges in the shredder category are tied to the decline in paper and the impact of offsite shredding services. Although we still see some growth in the category, it’s strongly on the commercial side of the business, rather than the personal shredder side. We actually see an opportunity for dealers here: as devices with enhanced capabilities are launched, the opportunity to help businesses manage their shredding services in-house improves.”

Market research tends to back up Essendant’s view. Data from Gfk in the UK shows the market is relatively flat, with only autofeed shredders showing any growth year on year. Data from The NPD group in the US tells a similar tale – the shredder market is worth $152.2 million annually, but has stagnated, with zero growth over the past 12 months.

At Rexel Shredders, European Product Manager Matt Evans believes innovation is required to stand out: “Consumers are looking for anti-jam technology – models that can sense when a potential jam is about to occur and alert the user. Long term, we believe there is huge growth potential in autofeed models as people understand their benefits and switch. The ability to stack up to 750 sheets in the chamber, shut the lid and walk away saves time and increases productivity. There’s a price premium, but it’s one users are prepared to pay.”  

Scanning ahead

Tim Brosnihan, Product Manager of Document Scanning Solutions at Canon Europe, sees great opportunities in his area of expertise: “In a world of superfast downloads, online transactions and 24/7 access, instant information customers expect instant attention and efficient service. If a business has lengthy processes for simple tasks, customers are put off and can be driven elsewhere. 

“Consequently, organisations are increasingly using small desktop scanners, moving document capture processes from the back office to consumer-facing environments. High street banks, for example, that need to validate their customers’ identity would previously have taken ID to the back office to capture it. This made some individuals feel uncomfortable as they handed over confidential documents to staff to make photocopies. Now, the same process takes place at the service desk, building trust as no personal documents leave the eyes of the customer. Staff are also able to complete the data input quicker.”

Luke Jennings, Technology Product Manager at UK wholesaler VOW, has seen this upsurge in scanner usage in some other types of business: “Scanning has been a growth area for us in the past 12 months, with particular uptake in the healthcare and legal sectors.The introduction of high-speed business scanners has resulted in mass uptake across the market in general as businesses move away from a traditional paper office, allowing paper-heavy businesses to digitally archive huge amounts of information.”

But, he adds, the future is in mobile scanning: “These handheld devices can be carried by individuals on the road allowing them to instantly scan documents and have them appear on their laptops or tablets for future use. This is an area where we’ll see further growth, particularly with those that also include wireless connectivity for easy linking to other forms of portable technology.” 

Another business machine that refuses to lay down and die, despite the onslaught from new technology, is the laminator.

As Zingsheim explains: “Lamination has not been affected as much by the paper decline or the rise of electronic media. Consumers continue to use lamination in a variety of ways and it’s widely used in many different channels such as education, medical, food service and leisure, either to preserve or protect documents or for presentation and visual aid. Lamination supplies account for over 75% of the market and machines 25%. While lamination is a mature category, suppliers continue to enhance features and benefits, shortening start-up and warming times, improving anti-jamming performance, and developing better pouches.”

And the market data is pretty impressive in the US, with The NPD Group reporting a 17% increase in sales of laminating products over the first nine months in 2015.

In the UK, Nathan Dawes, Hardware Product Manager at VOW, also reports that lamination sales are performing well, with many smaller businesses and retail outlets now printing their own signage in-house.

But, says Daniel Pooley, International Marketing Manager at manufacturer Renz in Germany, a flood of budget machines coming onto the market has been causing problems. “The sector has become saturated with increasingly cheap and poorly manufactured machines and this has left customers frustrated. Thankfully, although our products sit at the very top end of the market, our customers are willing to pay extra money for a quality item.”

In a bind

Market data for binding machines also looks positive in the US, with The NPD Group showing a sales uplift of 11% by volume (8% in dollars) so far this year. However, figures in the UK look less impressive, with GfK showing a year-on-year decline in the business channel, although B2C sales remain stronger.

As Dawes says: “Binding machine sales are static as this is old presentation technology. More and more businesses are now presenting information on tablets and then sending copies electronically.”

Zingsheim agrees that the category has been impacted by the switch to electronic presentations. “Sales are flat or slightly down,” she reports. “However, there is still demand for formal presentations. The technologies have become easier to use and can generate professional-looking materials with a differentiated look, allowing production to stay in-house.”

The market is changing, no doubt, with plastic comb binders being phased out in favour of the more professional impression achieved from wire binding machines. 

However, as Pooley explains: “There will always be competing products and technologies, but there’s no reason why the tablet and a bound document cannot work in conjunction with each other. Presentation is of the upmost importance to all companies regardless of size. Professional-looking documents that are sent to a prospective client can be the difference between winning a new contract or not.” 



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