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 user 2004-02-19 at 10:03:00 am Views: 89
  • #6098

    Sharp on a Roll Out

    At Sharp’s Innovation Expo in January, Sharp Document Solutions Company Launched a new color copier along with two monochrome Digital Imagers. The launches, aimed at getting its dealers up to speed with its new products, took place at various sites around the country, including Secaucus, NJ, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Kansas City, and was described by Sharp President Ed McLaughlin as “an unprecedented product launch” with the new products being “the best products Sharp Ever made.”

    Those words underscored the opening remarks of Sharp’s Walter McCowat, general manager for the Northeast Zone who said, “The products introduced today will reposition Sharp at the top of the industry.”

    End of an Era
    All hype aside, the products do represent a significant new direction for Sharp particularly with the AR-M550 and AR-M620 Digital Imagers, which output at 55 and 62-ppm, respectively with the AR-M620 the first Sharp-made Segment 4 copier in the company’s product mix since the 3062. Most importantly, these introductions signify the end of an era at Sharp with McLaughlin noting that from here on out, Sharp will only introduce devices that offer both monochrome and color copying and printing.

    The new Imagers incorporate Sharp’s Scan² technology that scans both sides of a two-sided document in a single pass. According to Steven Feldstein, senior product marketing manager for Sharp, Scan² is designed to maximize productivity of copying as well as scanning to e-mail and scanning to document management applications, such as Sharp’s SharpDesk product. Sharp claims that the scanning speeds of the new units are on average 115% faster than on competitive models.

    The new Imagers have a 150-sheet duplex single-pass feeder that scans both sides at 65 images per minute in simplex and 76 in duplex modes. Resolution is 600 dpi. Two different versions of each model are available, including N Series models pre-configured with network scanning and printing as well as data security. When linked with another N Series Imager, the two units offer tandem printing over the network. U Series models offer walk-up digital copying.

    Color Coded
    Sharp’s AR-C260 Series color copier produces color copies at 26 ppm (32 ppm in black & white) and was described by McLaughlin as “the most serviceable color copier in the market today” and “the future of color copying.” The P-Series model is a full-finishing 11 x 17-inch printer while the M-Series model offers color network scanning and saddle-stitch, V-fold or three-position stapled sets. Other features include a 100-sheet document feeder, 110 lb. Index capability, a large bypass with media flexibility and a reliable paper path. The MSRP of the AR-C260 is $11,595.

    Sharp is asking dealers to target existing AR-335, AR-275 and AR-287 installations, 25-35-ppm monochrome installations and organizations where color is the primary focus with the new color products as well as targeting competitor’s color page printers.

    Punctuating the new emphasis on color in Sharp’s product offerings, McLaughlin predicts that “color will be as common as duplexing” as a copier feature. In addition, McLaughlin reports that Sharp’s goal is to offer a complete line of affordable color-enabled MFPs for virtually every segment of the market.

    Making a Point
    While the products were the primary focus of the day, Sharp executives delivered some pointed comments at some of the challenges they’ve been facing during the past few years in reestablishing themselves as a viable force in the office equipment marketplace. Some of those challenges were issues and directions inherited from previous Sharp administrations as well as changes within the industry beyond the company’s control. In his opening remarks, McCowat discussed the disruption to Sharp’s distribution channel in 1997 when certain mega dealers opted to go with another vendor, resulting in a significant loss of revenue for Sharp. As a result, the company was forced to conduct what McCowat called “an extreme makeover” adding 300 independents during the next 1 ½ years. “We’re very proud of this,” remarked McCowat. “The key word is ‘independent’ and we feel we’re the champion of the independent dealer. Our success will be in investing in the success through the people in this room.”

    McCowat also cited the product challenge in that the company has not been able to offer any Sharp manufactured Segment 4 or 5 products for some time now. He described that earlier decision by a previous Sharp administration as “devastating.” In addition, he revealed that previous management, who had joined the company from Xerox, believed there was no need for Sharp to offer a high-end digital product and that the workgroup was the way to go. McCowat also noted that those former executives also viewed Sharp dealers as employees of Sharp rather than as customers. “This went over like a lead balloon” said McCowat. With the new AR-M620 and other products in the pipeline, it’s expected that Sharp will eventually offer its dealer channel a wide breadth of product encompassing all copier segments through Segment 5.

    Ongoing Initiatives
    McCowat also outlined a number of the initiatives currently underway, which are aimed at enhancing Sharp’s relationship with its independent dealer channel. Those include a reorganization of the field sales force to better support the dealer, free freight on products ordered within a specific time period, enhancements to its Major Account Program (MAP) and consistent pricing as well as a return to quotas. Of the latter, McCowant explained that the quotas are in place to ensure that Sharp and its dealers grow together. “If you don’t grow, we don’t grow,” he said.

    Looking to the future, McLaughlin told dealers that in the coming months the company would be announcing more initiatives aimed at simplifying the way Sharp does business