Can Fujifilm Disrupt the European Print Market?

Can Fujifilm Disrupt the European Print Market?

May 14, 2024
Articles, Cloud print, Future of work

On 29th April 2024, Fujifilm Business Innovation Europe announced the launch of its Apeos A3 multifunction printers (MFPs). With a strong heritage as a major industry player, manufacturing products for other OEMs, and a 25% market share in the Asia-Pacific region, is the company set to disrupt the European print market with its bold ambitions?

Disrupting a shrinking market

Disrupting an established market is always a challenge, but it is even more difficult when the market is declining and dominated by mature competitors. The office print sector is characterised by hardware commoditisation, shrinking margins, and declining print volumes due to digitisation, hybrid work, and the lingering effects of the pandemic. Consequently, the competitive landscape is a battleground for market share amongst the established players, in both the A4 and A3 segments.

In the European print market, there is now a new kid on the block – Fujifilm Business Innovation. As a global company, Fujifilm has transformed itself from a photographic film manufacturer to diversifying into the pharmaceutical, healthcare, and cosmetics industries.

Its entry into the print industry was marked by the formation of a pivotal partnership with Xerox in 1962, which formed Fuji Xerox. This joint venture allowed the company to leverage Xerox’s dominance in copier technology. Through Fuji Xerox, Fujifilm gained a foothold in the office printing market, distributing and servicing Xerox machines throughout the Asia-Pacific region.  Over time, Fuji Xerox established its own R&D development capabilities, introducing xerographic machines such as the world’s smallest copier in 1973 (the FX2200). The company also played a key role in advancing colour printing technology, contributing to Xerox’s advancements in this area.

As the market landscape changed amid digitisation, Fujifilm attempted to acquire a controlling stake in Xerox in 2018 to navigate this changing market together. This deal fell through and Fujifilm acquired Xerox’s remaining stake in Fuji Xerox in 2019, becoming the sole owner. In 2020, Fujifilm announced it would not renew its technology agreement with Xerox, effectively ending their joint venture partnership.  In April 2021, Fuji Xerox rebranded as Fujifilm Business Innovation, signifying complete independence and a new chapter focused on its own print technologies and brand identity, marking the end of a 60-year relationship.

Today, its Business Innovation division, which comprises Office Solutions and Business Solutions, represents  29% of Fujifilm Holdings’ global revenue of FY2022. It accounts for the leading position in the Asia Pacific region, where the company reports a 25% market share of the A3 MFP market. In 2021 alone, it launched 22 products in its ApeosPro, Apeos C and ApeosPrint series, the company’s first product line up under the Fujifilm brand. As well as its own brand, it continues its product supply agreements with Xerox and other OEMs. The company is now set to expand into Europe, moving beyond its stronghold in Asia-Pacific, and having already moved into Mexico in 2022 and India in 2023.

The European launch followed the announcement on 15th April 2024, that Fujifilm Business Innovation and Konica Minolta have signed a memorandum of understanding to begin a feasibility study for a strategic alliance in the MFP, office printer and production printer segments. This joint venture, with a majority ownership by Fujifilm Business Innovation, will initially focus on three areas: a business alliance for the procurement of raw materials and parts; an alliance covering toner development and production; and “other business alliances” covering strategic collaborations that will be addressed separately.

Expanding into the European market

On 9th April, Fujifilm Business Innovation announced the launch of its Apeos branded office MFP series in the European market, with Italy and the UK as the first countries and a subsequent roll-out planned in France and Spain. This follows on from its launch of Fujifilm-branded production printers in 2021. The launched models include the Apeos C7070, Apeos C3060, and Apeos C4030 series. The devices are cloud enabled and based on an open architecture to integrate with third-party print management solutions.

From a hardware perspective, key features include print resolution of 1200 x 2400 dpi, Fujifilm’s iReCT (image registration control technology), which minimises colour mis-registration; and media handling capabilities with speed ranging from 20 -70 pages per minute.

Security features include certification for ISO/IEC15408 compatibility with the new WPA3 protocol for robust security of wireless LANs, and adopting the TPM (Trusted Platform Module) 2.0 security chip. Sustainability is a strong focus through the use of Induction Heating (IH) fusing technologies which reduce energy consumption, and Super EA-Eco toner  which reduces power consumption, achieved through low-temperature fusing.

The Apeos range also offers advanced scanning features including searchable OCR, automatic orientation of scanned pages to upright position, correction of skewed pages, and removal of blank pages.

Aurora as a launch partner

Fujifilm Business Innovation is taking a 100% channel approach, and over the coming months is committed to expanding its sales and marketing resources to support its channel expansion. In the UK, Fujifilm is partnering with leading MPS provider Aurora for the initial launch of the Apeos series in the UK, with further expansion planned through a partner channel business model. Aurora has established a strong presence in the market, currently partnering with brands including Canon, Lexmark, and Konica Minolta.

In a conversation with Quocirca, Andy Moffitt, CEO of Aurora described the shared cultural values of the two companies, and the opportunity to partner with an established leading global brand with a strong reputation for innovation and service quality. Aurora is one of the few independent UK MPS providers with depth and scale across MPS and IT services, as well as being a supplier on the public sector framework. Aurora has itself undergone a rebranding and reinvention over the past three years. It currently has nine sales offices throughout Europe, with plans to expand through further acquisitions planned this year.

Opportunities ahead

The print industry is undergoing consolidation, as vendors such as Ricoh and Toshiba, and Fujifilm and Konica Minolta, joining forces through joint ventures. These aim to share manufacturing and development and strengthen supply chains. This will potentially leading to faster innovation in the printing space, where Fujifilm Business Innovation is a key player.

Fujifilm Business Innovation is approaching its entry into the European print market with a well-defined channel strategy to capture market share and replicate both its success in production print and its dominant position in the Asia-Pacific region. It is already established in  production print under its own brand and through OEM partnerships, including its recent entry into the US production print market in partnership with Sharp.

Fujifilm Business Innovation has a unique opportunity to solidify its position in the competitive office print landscape. By demonstrably prioritising its strong reputation for technology innovation – particularly its toner and drum technology, environmental sustainability, and robust security – the company can gain a strong foothold alongside established players. Success relies on strong channel executions, as building broad partnerships with channel players will be vital to expanding market presence.

The company will need to evolve its European strategy to incorporate A4 devices and advanced MPS solutions and services to support the evolving hybrid workplace. To compete effectively, it must develop a comprehensive solutions ecosystem that leverages the Apeos cloud platform. Developing integrated solutions that seamlessly integrate with existing cloud platforms and automate digital workflows will be critical in supporting customers on their digital transformation journeys.

By focusing on these areas, Fujifilm Business Innovation can emerge as a trusted partner for businesses navigating the future of office printing.

However, established brands will likely leverage their existing reputation, service experience, and customer trust to emphasise their value proposition. In this price-sensitive market, such brand loyalty could be tested, especially as Fujifilm Business Innovation will undoubtedly compete on pricing to gain market share.

Despite these challenges, if it can build trust, reputation, and a deep understanding of customer needs, Fujifilm Business Innovation certainly has the potential to disrupt the European print market.

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