Efficiency is Key for the Modern Australian Business

What are some of the key ingredients that modern Australian businesses would consider critical to their success? Efficiency, agility and scale all come into mind.

Business owners are aware of these factors, but how would they go about achieving them? At the heart of it, modern businesses are all about driving efficiency. This single factor leads to both the ability for a company to become more adaptable and agile, and with that, the ability to grow and scale . The OKI SME Business Efficiency Report conducted in 2016, surveyed 1,600 of its local Australian customer base, and found that over 75 per cent of business owners and managers had identified the implementation of a new technology being central to helping them gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The research reported that “Australian businesses have shown themselves to be adaptable and resilient - readily embracing new ideas, technologies, and ways of working, with the majority of our respondents having invested in technology over the past year, and feeling that their businesses are currently running cost-efficiently.”

This is good news, as it presents opportunities for partners who will have an increasing breed of customers that are open to the idea of new and innovative technology as they are looking to find ways to improve the operation of the business.

But recommending the right solution is what is crucial for partners and their customers, as the report also found that IT, the implementation and smooth running of this department was more over the primary source of headaches for businesses, with 31.5 per cent of businesses struggling to realise returns on the investments that they make into technology.

This reality is as true for large businesses as it is for SMEs. Businesses that have boards to answer to, or that need to operate to large scale, have no room to be inefficient in today’s constrained economic climate. Larger businesses struggle when small inefficiencies around the cost of production and equipment maintenance, for example, can trickle down to becoming large drains on revenue when scaled.

Engine to our economy

OKI Data sales manager oceanic region, Greg Mikaelian, described the SMB and SME markets as both substantial and diverse.

“In many respects, they are the engine room of our economy,” he added.

The OKI study is not only designed to help small business gain a better understanding of the market in which it operates, but also to help channel partners better serve their customers through an increased understanding of the landscape.

The research found that while it would seem that while Australia’s SMEs do understand the need to drive efficiencies within their business, the market, as a whole, has a fair way to go on that particular journey.

According to the findings, most Australian SMEs – especially the smallest of businesses – believe that they are currently running lean, efficient businesses. Many reported they had recently undertaken efficiency initiatives and the impact that these initiatives have had has been mixed, but generally quite positive. In excess of one quarter of organisations that have undertaken an efficiency initiative having reported savings of at least 15 per cent on previous expenditure.

That money that has been saved has been largely filtered back into the organisation’s savings, improving their liquidity and bank balances. However, others are seeing it as an opportunity to reinvest into the business.

Mikaelian said that as a result of the study and other market analysis the company had conducted, OKI has identified the real estate, legal, construction, and graphic arts industries as key areas for partners to attack.

“Our products are designed, engineered and aimed for use in environments where output quality, performance and reliability are paramount,” he said.

“Further, we have products in our range that are suited for specialist verticals, complemented by software solutions to aid productivity and workflow.

He went on to explain that the partner community was vital to the wider success of the Australian SMB and SME sectors as a whole due to the community’s unique position and thus understanding of the needs of these businesses.

“The sophistication of a total solution that includes service and repair capabilities, is best offered by a B2B channel.”

One of the most significant findings in the report was evidence of a drive to push revenue back into innovation, so that the businesses can achieve greater competitive differentiation within their industries.

In spite of this, gains some businesses have enjoyed in driving efficiency through their operation, many Australian SMEs remain inefficient.

For some organisations there are regulatory hurdles and limited capital to invest that is inhibiting opportunity to undertake an efficiency initiative, but in other cases there is a lack of awareness with what opportunities there are to drive efficiencies through the business.

Mikaelian believes partners who can demonstrate the value of this type of reinvestment will add quantitative value to their customer’s businesses and as a result, their own.

Many organisations have just started their efficiency journey. Around three quarters of organisations who believe that they are already efficiently run see opportunities to drive greater efficiencies through the business yet.

Technology remains the greatest opportunity to find savings within the business. Both in terms of IT procurement and management, many of Australia’s small businesses continue to struggle to keep costs down with their expenditure into technology. Unlike other areas of their business, such as the supply chain or marketing, technology is a pure cost to the organisation, with no direct value returned to it.

“OKI offers a unique value proposition and brand promise thanks to standard three year warranty and LED technology for user peace of mind,” Mikaelian said.

“This, coupled with products that offer specialised application capabilities, and the non-existence of similar or equivalent retail products, that are more susceptible to price severe discounting, will increase channel partner profitability.”

Local support essential to driving efficiency

Having identified the need for Australian businesses to achieve greater efficiencies, OKI has now broadened the range of products supported directly by its Australian subsidiary. One example now being managed by the local OKI team is the ColorPainter E-64; a printer designed to be used at an industrial scale, while also remaining within the price range suitable for a medium business. This is a versatile wide-format printer designed for low- to mid-volume sign and graphics print shops, and it is as affordable as it is reliable.

“While other printers lose density as they perform faster due to small drop sizes and low viscosity inks, the new ColorPainter E-64s uses high viscosity inks and an ultra modern piezo-inkjet head to deliver outstanding image quality and no colour density loss,” OKI product marketing manager, Jeremy de Silva said.

In other words, materials printed by the ColorPainter E-64 are more durable in whatever conditions that they are exposed to. This cuts down on the need to continuously re-print material, therefore allowing businesses to run more efficiently.

Additionally, OKI is now able to better support these products; another key ingredient in the recipe to efficiency. The accessibility and immediacy of local, trustworthy support on products, allows for less downtime, and gives businesses the opportunity to instead focus on innovation and creativity. They become highly reliable businesses to their own customers then, and real business growth is not far behind.

“The needs of the professional print market are not dissimilar to the office print environment,” de Silva commented. “Printers need to operate in a mission critical environment at a low operating cost, and printer service and supplies need to be instantly available.”

“OKI recognises that support is of vital importance and we work closely with channel partners to provide this support, backed up by training and ready supply of spare parts.

In the IT environment OKI offers a three year warranty on its Office Print products and is the only vendor in this space to do so which makes it a key differentiator.

In the Industry Print market we offer a two year, parts only warranty for the ColorPainter E-64, and a three year, parts only warranty for the two models above this.”

Partnering for success

Organisations want the lowest cost of ownership of technology they can find; this means they are willing to invest in extended warranties and top-tier technology, especially when also supported by industry-leading maintenance support. This applies to businesses of all sizes.

OKI Data sales manager oceanic region, Greg Mikaelian, said that for the OKI product range, channel structure and the company’s 'peace of mind' brand promise was being brought to all levels of industry as companies invest in technology.

“Our partners have contributed significantly to our growth by helping us deploy more mid and high end products across various verticals. With a consultative and holistic approach when offering our products, our channel partners are able to secure opportunities that are more lucrative and longer term,” Mikaelian remarked.

“The benefits of our program which have supported our channel, will continue to fuel their success. Our training programs are ongoing and frequent, catering for new channel partners and staff, as well as ensuring both new and existing partners are always up to date.

He explained there were separate tiers in the program for both hardware and consumables as well as rebates paid on a quarterly basis.

“We support our partners with store, building and vehicle signage,” Mikaelian added. “For lead generation, we offer free trial program which is backed by a national awareness campaign across digital, out of home, social and broadcast media. Authorised partners will also be listed on our 'where to buy' online dealer locator.”

For Australia’s IT industry in the SME space, value and technological superiority will be the key discussion point and opportunity in the years ahead, as the broader economy continues to pile financial pressure on our small businesses.

Mikaelian said opportunities are wide open for the partner community to grow existing business models and add new revenue streams through offering technology that customers could use in a variety of different ways that go beyond the traditional function of such devices.

Case Study: The Benefits of Local Support

The printing industry highlights the razor-sharp focus on efficiency that Australian business have developed better than any other. Prior to the GFC, printers would typically specialise in a singular type of printing; for example, one would be a specialist in offset printing, and customers looking for signage would be sent on to a different specialist.

This all changed with the GFC. Customers, themselves looking to take greater control over their businesses and slash costs, started demanding a single resource for all their printing needs, and printers in response, needed to diversify their capabilities beyond their speciality. The companies that supplied the printers, in turn, started to find that rounded, efficient equipment was in high demand.

Tom Leggatt, Product Manager at Starleaton

This shift in demand needed to match what they are able to provide their customers. What Starleaton discovered was that durability became a key differentiator for technology; it wasn’t just important that the printers themselves were robust and a dependable workhorse, but that the printed materials needed to be long-lasting too. The climate of Australia requires that ink be highly fade-resistant, and businesses looking to keep costs down wanted signage and other printed materials that would last the distance, whether used indoors or out.

“One of the biggest benefits with OKI solvent printers, based on what our customers have come to us for, is the ink type that they use,” product manager, Tom Leggatt, said. “In the current machines, OKI uses the SX Ink, and in a comparison with all other solvent and latex printers, the SX ink has the greatest outdoor durability.”

It is no wonder, as the Australian sun is strong and most printed materials tend to fade when exposed to extreme weather conditions. “We’ve put a lot of machines in Queensland explicitly because the businesses up there consider the durability of the ink under harsh UV conditions to be so critical.” Leggatt added.

The benefits of local support

Starleaton itself also needs to operate efficiently, and OKI’s decision to expand its Australian operations to cover the industrial product range was significant in helping Starleaton’s achieve its own business objectives.

“OKI has been able to take away the pain of having to order in containers of stock, and we now have fixed pricing in Australian dollars, so we don’t worry about the fluctuation with the yen,” Leggatt said.

“We also now have a second tier of support in Australia. We’d previously had to hold a lot of stock in spare parts, we don’t need to tie up so much money with that now that OKI’s holding stock itself.”

Being able to deal directly with OKI Australia to solve customer problems has also meant that Starleaton is able to resolve customer issues more quickly and efficiently. “With warranty being such a critical battleground in the printer space, the additional support has been a significant boost to both Starleaton and its customers,” Leggatt added.

“Now that there’s a local model here in OKI Australia supporting the products, the strength of the warranty is also improved”

“Now our own business with OKI is running more efficiently for all of our customers, of all sizes, and the customers themselves are appreciating the benefits that brings to their businesses as much as we are.”

Are Australian SMEs Running Efficiently?

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