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 user 2003-10-28 at 11:06:00 am Views: 118
  • #8198

    Headline: R&D excellence

    Strong investment in R&D and engineering helps keep aftermarket imaging supplies specialist Nu-kote ahead of the pack. What will it do to maintain its advantage?

    While it is a competitive world out there, Nu-kote International is making giant strides to ensure its customers retain a competitive advantage.

    Nu-kote accomplishes this in multiple ways by understanding how they add value to its customers’ business. “Nu-kote is a consumer products company, not just a supplier,” says Phil Theodore, SVP of operations. “To help ensure our customers’ success, Nu-kote combines our industry expertise with extensive investments in Research and Development (R&D), supply chain management initiatives, consumer research and effective merchandising.”


    Supporting Nu-kote’s position as a total value supplier, Theodore adds: “The products we supply to our customers must meet three criteria. First, timing – the right product on the shelf at the right time. Second, quality – manufactured to the highest standards, and third, positioning- combining the right mix of merchandising and support to ensure higher sell-through.”

    Getting the right product on the shelf at the right time requires a commitment to extensive R&D and supply chain excellence. Formerly a part of the supplies division of Burroughs (now Unisys), Theodore points to Nu-kote’s roots as an OEM to explain the company’s outlook on R&D and new product development. He says: “Nu-kote excels in this arena because we are willing to make extensive investments in R&D and engineering in order to keep pace with the technological curve. This means that we’ll have the products the market is demanding – when they demand it, and that’s a clear advantage for our customers.”

    Ian Elliott, Nu-kote’s SVP of business development notes that Nu-kote’s extensive investments in research are vital to the company’s long-term success. “Ten years ago, it was primarily a ribbon industry with a little bit of toner. Now, technology is advancing so rapidly that product life cycles are shorter and shorter.” Pointing to smart chips and chemical toners as examples, Elliott comments: “Companies must invest heavily in technology advancements, as well as product advancements, in order to gain market share.”


    Don Snyder, VP of engineering for Nu-kote, points out another area of differentiation for the company. “Intellectual property is a topic Nu-kote takes very seriously,” he says. “OEMs rightfully protect their investments and Nu-kote spends a considerable amount of resources to ensure we avoid conflicts with their patents.”

    Snyder continues: “Our legal experts are involved with every step of our development process and the knowledge we’ve gained regarding the OEM’s intellectual property is invaluable as we develop our products and technologies.”

    To achieve these technological advances, Nu-kote invests increasing amounts of time and money in R&D and engineering facilities, which are located in Rochester, New York and Chatsworth, California. VP of manufacturing Dale Campbell says: “Over the last several years there has been a 20% year-on-year increase in R&D spending, and it’s reaping clear results.”

    Last year more than 100 new products were released and new products account for more than 35% of the company’s top line revenues. “This equates to higher margins for our customers because we’re able to supply the products the market is demanding,” he adds.

    Premium quality is another area where Nu-kote excels due to its investments. Campbell says: “Basically when a market opportunity arises, we work hand-in-hand with the R&D group to ensure the impact from manufacturing in terms of process variation and quality criteria are immediately addressed. The design is then developed to product requirements from a longevity standpoint. We also ensure that the design can be manufactured to the highest quality levels, at the lowest cost. This provides measurable value for our customers, and their customers, in terms of being able to offer the highest quality at the best value.”

    This attention to detail helps Nu-kote stand out among its competitors. Campbell adds: “Very few competitors have our R&D and engineering experience to ensure customer expectations are met from a product reliability standpoint. We have worked hard to ensure complete adherence to a 100% quality guideline, which is executed from the beginning of product development through all phases of our manufacturing process and after-sales customer support.”

    total value

    While private label is something of a hot issue in OP circles today, Nu-kote has been partnering with its customers to successfully build private label brands for many years.

    Almost coinciding with the rise of private label is the rise of less expensive imports from outside the United States. Nu-kote’s SVP of sales and marketing, Jerry Gigliotti reiterates Nu-kote’s position as a total value partner and says: “When our customers put their brand on a product, they want to know that they have the right product on the shelf and that it will meet consumer expectations for quality.”

    Theodore comments: “Although the lure of less expensive imported product might appear to offer savings, there are opportunity costs that should be considered.” Theodore illustrates the importance that category management can have in this sector. He highlights the benefits a true partnership with Nu-kote can have in areas such as product quality, supply chain management, sales and marketing.

    “Many of our customers allow the manufacturers to help manage the space their products occupy. As a result, we can react and advise our channel partners to help drive their sales.”

    “As a consumer products company,” says Gigliotti, “Nu-kote’s position is to provide overall value to the consumer and reseller. In order to achieve this, we put considerable resources into understanding consumer needs and delivering products and promotions that meet those needs.”

    Nu-kote supports its private label brands with comprehensive sales and marketing programmes including packaging, promotions, sales incentives, field support and customer support. Gigliotti adds: “The depth that Nu-kote provides in its support programmes is unique and differentiates our brands from many of the less successful programmes.”

    The overriding message from Nu-kote is clear. Flexibility, quality, peace of mind all driven by a partnership mentality. As Gigliotti tells present and future customers: “We treat your brand as if it is our brand.”