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Back in the black

Sharp is back in operating profit for the first time in three years, that was a headline message at the OEM’s international partner event, Inspire Expo 2018, which was held in Edinburgh in January

Sharp presentation at Inspire Expo 2018
Sharp presentation at Inspire Expo 2018

Sharp Europe’s President Jeff Ashida, told over 600 dealer representatives from 40 countries that the company is uniquely positioned to help them maximise profit now and in the future, as office technology evolves and becomes smarter.

In a keynote speech, Ashida explained how Sharp is aggressively investing in new areas of technology where it has the potential to lead the world. He described the alliance with Foxconn as a ‘significant moment’ confirming that Sharp Corporation as a whole, has experienced rapid significant financial recovery since the manufacturing giant’s investment in
August 2016.

Jeff Ashida
Jeff Ashida

“Both companies are innovative and a good fit,” he said. The partnership is mutually beneficial. Foxconn can leverage the global Sharp brand and cutting-edge technology, while Foxconn’s manufacturing capability is a major advantage for Sharp, enabling it to expand its product portfolio more rapidly.

Faster to market

It was clear that Sharp is already reaping the benefits of Foxconn’s deep pockets. One of the major announcements during the partner event was the launch of a new range of A4 mono MFPs. The new MXB355W and MX-B455W Advanced Series models are a tangible evidence piece of the Sharp/Foxconn relationship. The OEM was able to bring these to market within just 18 months.

Available to the channel from March, the new A4 mono models which deliver print speeds of 35 pages per minute (ppm) and 45 ppm, offer the same powerful workflow features and ease of use as Sharp’s A3 models. In addition to meeting all basic print, scan and copy needs, the devices can be easily integrated with existing network applications and public cloud services, so information can be securely shared and accessed anywhere, anytime. The models also come equipped with Sharp’s multi-layered security suite.

Plugging a gap

Jason Cort
Jason Cort

Jason Cort, Director of Product Planning and Marketing at Sharp Europe said: “The new A4 mono range has filled a gap in our portfolio that’s been there too long,” reaffirming that it was the joint venture with Foxconn that enabled it to bring these to market faster. “We wanted to do this much sooner, but didn’t have the funding, now we have it, we’ve been able to launch quicker.”

Cort argues that the availability of A4 mono MFPs within the Sharp portfolio will enable more fleet sales for its partners. “In the past, this gap would exclude our partners in bids and tenders, even within smaller fleets. With this new range we can now offer a common user experience, whether customers are looking for colour or mono, A4 or A3, the user and IT experience is the same.”

The new mono A4 devices offer a combination of intuitive and time-saving functions such as a customisable and tiltable 7-inch colour LCD touchscreen with easy UI mode that enables intuitive navigation of all MFP functions, and an integrated print release solution as standard.

Sharp's stand at Expo 2018
Sharp’s stand at Expo 2018

“Partners will be able to close on more MPS deployments,” Cort continued. “A3 colour is the most profitable part of our industry, having A4 mono in the mix of solutions available will enable our partners to win more fleet deals with profitable A3 devices in there. We’re confident this will accelerate Sharp’s market share and revenues – it will also open new doors to new customers for our channel partners.”

Sharp will launch A4 mono Essentials models and a printer variant later this year, and according to Cort, the plan is to refresh the existing A4 colour range next year.

Strengthened mono range

Sharp further strengthened its mono range with the launch of ten new A3 models with a maximum speed of 60 ppm which come with a wide range of finishing options. The mono Essential Series models (MX-M3050, MX-M3550, MX-M4050, MX-M5050 and MX-M6050) meet all everyday office needs with the option to upgrade as required. The Advanced models (MX-M3070, MXM3570, MX-M4070, MX-M5070 and MXM6070) include additional functions such as Office Direct Print and cloud connectivity.

“We’re now offering customers a single-fleet user experience, we’ve brought the A3 mono range up to speed with the A3 colour MX-Series launched in Malta 18 months ago,” Cort said. NFC readers are in-built and pull printing is included as standard across the A3 range, which, says Cort, is the frst step on the security ladder, and a feature that worked well on the colour devices.

The new print product line-up unveiled in Edinburgh also included two light production printers – the new MX-7090N and MX-8090N. These are available with an embedded Fiery controller which can be operated directly from the colour touchscreen eliminating the need for additional workstations. The embedded controller simplifies colour management and print job programming with easy to master colour tools with no compromise on quality. Operators don’t need to be hands on, they can manage basic controls from a tablet or phone.

One major advancement on these devices is the EFI Fiery Dynamic HD Text and Graphics functionality. These exclusive features reproduce accurate ultra-thin lines, small text and fine details in the printed output. It also delivers lead/trail edge correction – a unique functionality that evens out the colour of the characters’ lead edge and trail edge by compensating for the typically darker appearance of one edge and the lighter appearance of the other edge.

Inspire Expo exhibition

Sharp’s exhibition area showed a journey through the main business functions of a typical customer, demonstrating how a new generation of Sharp hardware and Sharp optimised software solutions, applications and services, can help its dealers differentiate themselves in the market. For example, Sharp’s Accounts Payable solution automates manual invoice processing, making the process quicker and more accurate.

Sharp also recently added IT Services to its portfolio, to help businesses maintain a reliable and resilient IT infrastructure. The services include continuous remote monitoring of the network with preemptive corrective action for maximum uptime, hardware maintenance and a cloud-enabled data restoration and disaster recovery service.

Speaking of how Sharp will support its channel partners in selling more complex solutions, Cort said: “One of our strengths is in having a direct and indirect business, and part of that is in enabling our dealers to engage – that’s exactly what we have done with our direct sales, we’ve made mistakes and learnt along the way so we can package it in a way that will work well for our dealers.”

“It has been a momentous two years since our last flagship partner event,” Ashida stated. “During that time, our alliance with Foxconn has enabled us to transform our business, which can already be seen by the number of new products launched. However, Inspire Expo is not just about our transformation, but how we can support partners on the same journey.”

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