Innovating for the digital office of tomorrow – the new bizhub i-Series smart MFP range
80 years ago, an entirely new product was invented that would revolutionise the way businesses handled documents. The photocopier transformed the way work was done in the paper age – making processes faster and less labour-intensive. Yet eight decades on, the successor to the photocopier, the MFP, is still indispensable and has evolved into a true multifunctional device able to meet the challenges of the digital age. Konica Minolta has a bold vision of the future evolution of the smart MFP as the cornerstone of the digital office – becoming an ever-more intelligent hub for capturing, processing and distributing information. For this vision and the demonstration of strength in both its strategy as well as technological capabilities Konica Minolta was recognised as a leading smart MFP provider by IDC in its “Western Europe Smart Multifunction Peripheral 2018 Vendor Assessment (doc #EMEA44808019, February 2019)”.
In nature, fierce competition and uncertain environments mean that evolution is no guarantee of success – and the same is true of product innovation. To succeed, a new product has to best anticipate and meet the needs not only of today’s customers but also of tomorrow’s. This is why insight is so important in product development and was at the heart of the creation of the bizhub i-Series smart MFP range, a completely new range of intelligent MFPs and the biggest launch in Konica Minolta’s recent history.
To develop this new generation, the company drew on its close customer relationships and strong position in IT services in order to address the true needs of businesses and create powerful, secure and yet simple MFPs able to empower the digital office and drive value.
Understanding the customer’s digital office needs
So what do customers really require – and how do you anticipate how these needs may change? Konica Minolta’s long experience in the industry reveals the answer: for customers, the smartest MFP is not the one that provides the longest list of features, but rather the device that most seamlessly integrates into business workflows with minimal demands on IT resources.
Innovation alone is not the answer. Research has shown that the print industry recognises innovation as the key to future success, with 64% of executives in the industry seeing this as a key requirement for adapting to the business environment of 2025. However, without close alignment with customer needs, innovation for innovation’s sake will not create solutions that add value to businesses.
This is why customer-centricity is deeply rooted in Konica Minolta’s overall development philosophy and why understanding evolving customer needs is step one in the product development approach. Konica Minolta undertook a comprehensive customer research phase for the new bizhub i-Series of smart MFPs. With two million customers worldwide, this research process benefited from the close and long-term relationship of trust that the company has built with the customers: it was possible to aggregate a significant depth of insight from diverse customers from around the globe. Further deep insight was gained by quite literally going the extra mile, as the Japan-based development team flew out to visit customers around the world to see their businesses in action, understand their working practices and discuss their future needs in detail.
Following product development, it was also vital to conduct extensive user testing to ensure the new generation of MFPs will not only provide the features that customers want but also operate in such a way as to exceed expectations.
Every customer is unique, so flexibility is key in driving value
One of the most important insights gained from the dialogue with customers is that beyond basic tasks such as printing and scanning – and particularly when addressing digital workflows – each organisation is different and has specific requirements.
Konica Minolta addresses this diversity in two ways – through the right products and also through a powerful set of flexible and customisable IT services that extend the capabilities of the MFP to support business processes. Understanding how these fit in with each customer’s unique needs is determined through Konica Minolta’s standard practice of engaging with each customer individually to discuss their exact needs in order to determine the right products and services to best meet their requirements.
Pre-installed on the new smart MFPs is access to an extensive IT services and solutions portfolio via the Konica Minolta MarketPlace. It is available in 133 countries and offers on-demand access to a vast number of high-quality applications that provide enormous scope for customising the solution built around the smart MFP with powerful tools that tailor it to the individual business.
Maria Kharlampidi, Product Manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe, describes the advantage of this approach: “With Konica Minolta MarketPlace built in, the new range of bizhub i-Series MFPs serve as a gateway to powerful IT services and solutions that help simplify work and bring the digital office to life.”
Another good example is Dispatcher Phoenix, a unique workflow tool designed to create and streamline document workflows in the organisation from document collection and processing to distribution. This powerful application brings together multiple capturing methods: it can be operated directly from the bizhub MFP panel or receive data via watch folder, e-mail or direct print stream. It is fully integrated with the MFP, so users can scan documents directly into their chosen workflow. They can also index their documents, browse through their PC folder structure to select a folder to store them in, use a search field to quickly filter the list of displayed folders and even create new ones. These features significantly simplify workflows. The tool also helps to increase efficiency: time-consuming tasks can be easily automated, eliminating the need for manual intervention. Finally, Dispatcher Phoenix also provides greater process visibility to identify potential bottlenecks.
Easing the burden on IT while improving the user experience
The new bizhub i-Series successfully offers customer-centric innovation thanks to a close focus on both the IT department and end users.
With the new smart MFPs from Konica Minolta, remote service that includes easy self-diagnosis helps to ensure faster troubleshooting and access to assistance when needed. The new range has also been designed to enable predictive maintenance, with a large number of sensors to monitor devices and proactively trigger the replenishment of consumables such as toner on a just-in-time basis. They are also able to automatically call a technician to perform more sophisticated maintenance when needed. These capabilities can take tasks like stock maintenance and day-to-day issue management out of the hands of IT departments.
With regard to the end-user experience, the smart MFPs feature completely overhauled, enhanced and intuitive user interfaces (UI) developed following extensive user testing. “Here, practical testing was key,” commented Maria Kharlampidi. “We assessed the experience of a representative set of users with different backgrounds and job profiles using ‘blind’ tests of device interfaces with a wide range of existing devices and prototypes. Development and optimisation continued until tests showed a clear preference for the new UI.”
The result of this is a more immediate and intuitive user experience: the most frequently used functions are always available at the highest menu levels and are easy to control via a familiar, tablet-like panel. Similarly, the physical ergonomics have been carefully considered, with hardware designed to optimise accessibility and comfort. For example, the tiltable display offers a 90º range of movement for easier viewing and to facilitate access for wheelchair users.
Meeting a universal need for data security with an expert partner
While all customers are different, the constant escalation of cyber security threats means that maintaining data security is a common requirement for all businesses today. According to Quocirca’s Global Print 2025 Report, 84% of vendors in the print space see this as the most important area of investment for end-user organisations between now and 2025, even exceeding investments in cloud computing.
An organisation’s data security must encompass all networked devices, which is why ever-more intelligent MFPs have to be just as secure as any other end point – particularly in light of increasingly complex risks. For example, Cisco’s Annual Cyber Security Report showed that most frequent malicious files are in fact file types that are commonly also handled by MFPs such as Office files (38%) and PDFs (14%).
Data security was a fundamental requirement in the development of the bizhub i-Series range. In order to deliver the highest possible level of protection, Konica Minolta took the innovative step of collaborating with leading security partner Bitdefender. Bitdefender’s leading edge anti-virus solution has been embedded in the MFP’s firmware and provides real-time protection by scanning all data entering and leaving the system. The solution’s virus scan engine monitors all scanned files and documents transferred to and from it in real time. It also enables automatic virus scanning on hard drives as well as manual scans.
Innovation that serves you
“Innovation that creates value cannot be generated in a sealed room – particularly when driving digital transformation,” concludes Olaf Lorenz. “By developing products in close collaboration with our customers, we know that value is created by identifying what is needed in their real working environments. The digital office is not about endless possibilities – it is about all the possibilities that customers specifically need. This is also why partnering with other best-of-breed experts and application developers is so important, particularly in the field of security. By taking a long-term development approach while working closely with customers and partners, Konica Minolta is continuing to develop solutions to meet changing needs and maintain our leading position.”
 Cisco Annual Cybersecurity Report, Cisco, 2018, https://www.cisco.com/c/de_de/products/security/security-reports.html