EDITED – It’s come to my attention that the original piece had some incorrect information as it pertains to KM US policy in paying for their dealers to attend their dealer conferences. This piece has been adjusted. Apologies for my error! Andy
By Andy Slawetsky, Industry Analysts Inc. – Konica Minolta (KM) held their European Leadership Campus (ELC) in Copenhagen Denmark Oct. 18 and I was there to find out What’s Happenin’!
With over 1,200 people visiting from over 50 countries, this was the biggest KM Europe dealer conference since 2017 when they held their event in Berlin.
As was the case last time, I had already been to KM’s US dealer meeting earlier in the year. I had also just come from their smaller dealer summit in Carlsbad the week before ELC, so I already had a good idea what KM was up to from a technology standpoint. Still, it’s always interesting to see the different things they highlight in Europe when compared to the US.
This year, I think I was the only US person at the ELC except for a single analyst from Gartner. With their Carlsbad dealer meeting just ending and Printing United on the way, KM US didn’t send anyone this time, leaving me alone and unsupervised in Copenhagen!
Although the similarities between the two KM subsidiaries are obvious (technology, people that have served in both organizations, etc.), the differences are also striking. For example, the ELC is typically a single full day with a party in the evening. That’s it. They get it all done in one day! Compare that with US dealer meetings, which are generally 2-3 nights. [edited]
While it seems a shame to bring all these people in for only one day, KM Europe fills that day like nobody, cramming an incredible barrage of technology, seminars and one-on-one meeting time into what seems like only a few short hours. To grab a phrase from my Euro colleagues, by the end of the day, I was knackered.
We started out as many print industry shows begin, with a bus ride to the show. It was amazing to see how incredibly coordinated everything was with this event, especially considering its size and how many hotels people were scattered across. They really thought of everything and were ready for the challenge.
Previously a locomotive workshop, the event hall itself was a fascinating place. As it used to house engines and train cars that needed maintenance, this facility was obviously massive. On that day, it was beautifully outfitted for the conference, as you will no doubt see in my photos.
Once inside I noticed the first difference between the US and EU events; there were tables spread out in the keynote area and we would all be standing for the opening session whereas in the US, we are always seated. Fortunately, the initial session was much shorter than the 2 hours we usually start with in the states.
As we walked in, KM had their own interviewer followed by a camera. She would be chatting with dealers and KM execs throughout the ELC and her content would be used immediately following the interviews, broadcast during the day in the background while we made our way around the product fair. It added a great background element and added a constant buzz to the show.
Once inside, it wasn’t long before they kicked things off with local celebrity Annette Heick MCing the event as she had done last time. For someone not from our industry, you’d never know it as Annette proved to be an excellent interviewer on topics I’m guessing she may not know much about, other than perhaps from a quick tutorial she probably received before the event.
After welcoming us to Copenhagen, Annette greeted this year’s speaker, “Futurist” author Nicklas Bergman, who chatted briefly with Annette. Nicklas would give an interesting presentation later that day during lunch if I remember correctly.
After Nicklas, KM Inc. President and CEO Shoei Yamana joined the two on stage and spoke briefly, followed by KM Europe’s President Keiji Okamoto.
Each of the speakers kept their discussions very brief as the KM execs set the stage for an exciting day. And then, just like the last event, the curtain dropped and the show really took off.
This time the curtain was behind us and when it came down we saw the entire back of this massive building laid out with KM gear, partners, presentation areas (on the ends) and refreshment stations mixed throughout. The “wow-factor” was through the roof.
While I had seen much of this technology earlier in the year, I didn’t see it on this scale. KM Europe brought the house at this event, showcasing everything from their new i-Series MFP line to Accurio presses to MGi finishing machines, label presses and more. The dealers mobbed around the technology, many seeing a great amount of it for the first time.
On one end of the floor, attendees were trying out the Virtual Reality (VR) demonstrations. Watching these people try the VR goggles was very entertaining, you can see a quick sample in the video below.
While the technology area was on one side of the building, the other side had tables, food and refreshments set up so that attendees could walk around, see some demos and take a break, either at the lunch tables or on couches and seating areas spread throughout the building.
The session areas book-ended the product fair and presentations were given throughout the day on topics like Future Office, production printing, etc.
There were a great number of Konica Minolta Europe partners on the floor, many of whom I had met at earlier conferences or during my own visits to their headquarters.
Y Soft, who I had just visited in the Czech Republic the month before, had a strong presence at the event, showcasing their print management software solutions.
Across from them were their friends (and competitors) from PaperCut, offering a different take on print management. I had seen them last November at their HQ in Melbourne.
Both of these print management areas were constantly packed as dealers wanted to know more about the two powerful yet different solutions. It’s interesting to chat with dealers about which of the two solutions they prefer to sell. You can generally tell the type of customer they work with by which solution they prefer.
The Smart Office area, one of the major pillars of the Konica Minolta strategy going forward was constantly crowded as people wanted to know more about the program and especially the Workplace Hub, KM’s Edge Server technology that can be sold as a stand-alone server or integrated directly into an MFP, as I have seen in the US at dealer events, such as the DOCtoberfest event at CopierFax in Buffalo last year.
Missing from this event was the blade server option that KM had initially included as part of this product line. KM has opted to discontinue that product and is now focused on the two solutions mentioned above. To date, about 70% of the Workplace Hubs sold have been in the MFP form, something that somewhat surprised KM executive Indy Nakagawa (more on him shortly), who had initially thought maybe half of the Workplace Hubs sold would be MFP versions and other half servers.
The Workplace Hub program fascinates me. This server can do pretty much anything from collaboration to phone services to general networking and much more. One of these days maybe KM Europe or US will run their entire show off of this technology to really showcase its power, but that day has not yet come. What a demo that would be, no?
I was fortunate to be able to spend time with some senior KM executives in small interview groups with my peers during the event. First up was KM Europe’s previous president, Ikuo “Indy” Nakagawa. My US readers will definitely remember Indy from his time in the states!
Indy told us that KM is aiming to be the leader in the connected workplace area. He went on to say that they are now doing a whopping $800 million a year in services (globally) and they are moving into data driven businesses, something which will face them off squarely against companies such as IBM and Accenture.
Indeed, the day before that meeting KM Europe acquired a data company right there in Copenhagen! While it was not intentional, the timing and location of that acquisition could not have been better.
We chatted quite a bit about the Workplace Hub program and Indy told us that it’s now being sold in 20 countries. France and Germany are leading the way in Europe, according to Indy.
My next interview was with Olaf Lorenz, GM International Marketing for KM Europe. Olaf told us that Europe now has about 3,500 dealers who account for around 50% of unit sales and 25% of revenue.
Olaf broke it down further for us, explaining that 65% of their revenue is currently derived from the office, 10% from production (“professional”) print and the remaining from IT services. It was such a busy show and as Olaf’s responsibilities have increased, I didn’t get to spend as much time with him at this year’s event. A bit of a bummer!
During the show (and before/after the interview sessions) speakers kept taking the center stage for presentations. The food area was also always open with small plates available for grazing and of course, coffee, juices and waters available throughout the building. I liked this format quite a bit.
You would think with 1,200 people there, feeding them would be a big process, but it was the opposite. When you were hungry or thirsty, you walked over to the refreshments area, recharged a bit and got on your way. There were no massive lunch lines like I’m used to seeing at US events and with such a small timeframe to work with, KM didn’t want us sitting in a lunch area for 90 minutes.
One of the things I always enjoy about the KM Europe events is seeing technology I haven’t come across yet. In fact, the US group hadn’t seen some of it either last time, as was the case with their voice recognition technology that I wrote about after the Berlin ELC. This time, I saw KM’s digital glasses (probably called something different, but you’ll understand from the photos). These glasses provide wearers with a tiny screen in front of them that can be useful in training environments among other things.
Imagine a new technician at a customer site who runs into a problem that he/she can’t remember how to fix. The glasses provide the ability to give the tech step-by-step instructions right in front of his eyes, walking him through the repair process. There are tons of applications for this technology. Just a little something else I didn’t know KM did, although I’m sure the US subsidiary is well-aware of it and won’t be learning about it from me this time.
After an exhausting day on the floor, we were returned to our respective hotels to freshen up for the party. Here’s another major difference between the US and European groups. While our parties, or “awards dinners” end at 10 PM, the European party was scheduled to go until 3 AM, complete with buses running back to the hotels the entire evening. Let that sink in. 3 AM!!!!
We were brought back to the event hall, which had been completely reconfigured for the night’s festivities. KM’s 1,200 guests were seated by country. I was placed with the English, which was nice as I got to sit with some of my colleagues whom I’ve become friendly with over the years from Quocirca and IDC Europe.
After a warm welcome from Mr. Okamoto and a few toasts, dinner was served. Once it was over, it was party time and the first of three bands (yes…3 bands!!!) came out to kick things into gear.
As soon as they finished, my favorite band of the evening took the main stage and began their 70s show, with amazing lights and incredible energy. They had this crowd hopping.
Or maybe it was the Jägermeister shots that the waiters were handing out. Perhaps it was both. I’m told they weren’t shots…they were a “proper digestive.” Yeah, you keep telling yourselves that! I know what they are!
After the 70s band, the night’s main entertainment came on. While I had no idea who Mando Diao was, the people on that dance floor sure did and I can tell you from my Instagram post, they’re pretty big in Scandinavia. People were VERY excited this band was here.
I lasted until about 1:30 AM, but when I left, there were still a lot of people there and they were having FUN. Fortunately, after the last show, I learned not to book my flight out first thing the next morning. I now understand why this event is on a Friday. Nobody would be able to work the next day if it wasn’t.
As events go, this one was fantastic. The Europeans do things a bit differently and it’s fascinating to me to see how they run their shows. The level of efficiency, the attention to detail and the overall creativeness of their events make them a lot of fun. It’s amazing to see them able to do a conference like this for people speaking so many different languages.
I greatly appreciate the invitation to come cover this event and I hope to come back to the next one, wherever it may be. Great job KM. I could go on about this event, but really, just browse through my pictures and you’ll get a strong feeling and understanding for what I saw. Or, you can always email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.