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Are Print-Rite Reman's Better than OEM Manufacturered Toners?
Better than OEM? The Market Tells Us a Different Story for Color and Monochrome.
After nearly 30 years of continuous improvement, it's time for the aftermarket industry to become more aggressive with our messaging. Can we really say we are better than OEMs? In many respects we can. Our ability to communicate a "better than OEM" message is critical for the aftermarket as it enters a new phase in our relationship with OEMs.
One of my favorite comparisons to the aftermarket imaging industry is the automotive industry. In simple terms, we may compare a toner cartridge to a car. Would you rather have a new car, or a used car? New cars are more expensive and, for the most part, are more reliable than used cars. However, used cars can represent a much better "value". For 30% less cost you can enjoy nearly the same performance as a new vehicle. There is a market for both new and used cars and some people swear by the merits of one over the other. This comparison does not do our market justice.
We have spent almost 30 years perfecting OEM cartridges. Let's first look at what criteria we would use to claim that one product is better than the other. Image quality and yield would be two important measures. Defect rates should also be taken into account. Should we also divide the evaluation between monochrome and color? It seems obvious that we have two very different market perceptions in monochrome and color.
Image quality: Among reputable aftermarket vendors, it seems that we have image quality in line with OEM vendors. For example, using testing developed by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), an independent body that has been used to test printers and supplies, image density and grey scaling are measured against OEM benchmarks. Most tests I have seen show aftermarket supplies meet or exceed OEM benchmarks. This should not be a surprise to anyone. Our industry has spent years perfecting drum, toner, PCR and other components to match OEM performance. While there are changes from time to time in cartridge design, the primary components have been perfected over the years. I think the aftermarket industry is actually better than OEM when it comes to image quality because we take our engineering one step further than OEMs. We design components to be reused. In doing so there is a higher degree of redundancy built into the product to last longer than an OEM.
Cartridge yield: Here is where the car analogy falls apart. After image quality, cartridge yield is the next most important measurement. OEMs purposely design cartridges to match a target yield. Those yields have much more to do with market considerations and not engineering limitations. The case in point would be the jumbo versions of the popular HP 38 family of cartridges. HP designs an “A” version of the cartridge for 10,000 pages, and a jumbo “X” version for 20,000 pages. Why? Not because of any technical concern. This is simply economic justification. The aftermarket is able to re-engineer these products to achieve 30,000+ page yields. Higher yields are not simply a function of adding more toner. The drum must handle 50% more revolutions. The toner must be formulated with minimal waste; otherwise the waste toner hopper would overflow causing image quality problems. The chip must relay toner level information accurately for MPS monitoring systems to track supply levels. Clearly, the aftermarket deserves full marks for their achievements here.
Defect rates are somewhat harder to track. Most reputable ISO manufacturers track defect statistics. They are typically below 1%. OEMs do not release these statistics for obvious reasons, so comparisons are difficult. The best sources for comparisons in this area are office product dealers that sell both OEM and compatible supplies. OEM and aftermarket products are comparable with each other, resulting in defect ratings of under 1%. OEM defect rates are somewhat lower but the difference is almost insignificant, perhaps one or two more defects per 1,000 cartridges.
Overall I feel confident stating that, depending on your criteria, aftermarket supplies are better than OEM. Certainly aftermarket supplies represent a far better value.
The story for color is different altogether. Market share data varies, but it is generally accepted that aftermarket supplies are close to 30% on monochrome but around 7-8% for color. We can say all we want, but end users are clearly not seeing the value in aftermarket color. That said, color page volumes are less than 10% of monochrome. It is crazy to think that printing is still so dominated by monochrome. It speaks to the value proposition: OEM or aftermarket, end users are simply not prepared to pay 15-20 cents per page to see it in color.
While monochrome continues to be dominated by HP, color A4 printers have many different OEMs fighting for business. Xerox, Samsung, Kyocera, and others fight for laser, while inkjet is starting to make real progress in business printing. My sense is that a customer that actually does the math will discover how expensive the HP color laser model is and become wide open to alternatives. If the aftermarket continues to view HP as the only manufacturer in color, market penetration will be low. When you go beyond HP, most color supplies are compatible, not remanufactured.
As an example, take a look at Xerox ColorQube printers. OEM per page supply costs average between three and four cents. Aftermarket supplies can bring that cost down to between two and three cents! That is a fraction of any HP color on the market. Those prices may even be low enough to switch customers away from monochrome and with it, help increase your revenue. HP color laser has had the better part of a decade to shift volumes away from monochrome and it has failed. Perhaps it is time for the aftermarket industry to flex its muscle, and help influence hardware selection at our customer sites. Do your research and find printer hardware you are confident in selling and servicing, and has a reliable aftermarket supply.
Author2014-04-02 at 10:42:58 am
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