Following a lengthy interlude since their launch last year, Epson has finally started to sell its Workforce Pro RIPS inkjet devices through a network of 26 dealers, including ASL, Bytek Ltd, Contrac, Sapphire Print Solutions
and Scan DB.
Replaceable Ink Pack System (RIPS) devices have been specially designed for managed print services (MPS) and come with extra large ink sacks containing three years worth of ink. The black ink pack has a capacity of 75,000 pages and each of the three colour ones contains enough ink for 50,000 pages.
There are four colour models in the RIPS range, an A4 printer and A4 MFP, and an A3 printer and A3 MFP.
Mark Allen, reseller product manager, Business Imaging at Epson UK, told PrintIT Resellerthat the first 26 dealers had been chosen for their ability to deliver managed print services and for their expertise in key verticals.
“We are looking for dealers that understand key verticals. For instance, we took on Scan DB because it has a relationship with White Consulting Limited, which won a tender to supply broadband and cashless catering into schools via the E2BN framework. ScanDB supplies all of the reprographics for that framework. We haven’t even started a mailshot or campaign on that yet and we have already got something in the region of eight schools proposed for Epson RIPS,” he said.
Allen believes the attractions of low running costs, energy efficiency and a small environmental footprint make RIPS particularly compelling for education customers, pointing out that the products were very well received at BETT. He adds that RIPS is also generating a good deal of interest among commercial and healthcare organisations, including the NHS, PCTs and doctors surgeries – a key focus for Sapphire.
In the last 6-8 weeks, Epson has sold 200 RIPS devices in the UK, with only Germany shipping more units.
To help drive further sales, Epson is planning to extend its existing network, especially in Scotland and Wales – the Irish market is already covered by Bytek Ltd. However, Allen argues that dealer recruitment is not a priority.
“Potentially we are going to take on more dealers, but we probably don’t need to at the moment, as we are doing the numbers we want to be hitting. But if the right dealer comes on board and they can service the product, then, yes, we will talk to them,” he said.
While Epson could broaden the distribution of RIPS to resellers that don’t have their own servicing, with Epson providing maintenance on their behalf, Allen says that for the time being Epson remains committed to the servicing dealer channel.
“RIPS has always been a servicing dealer product,” he said. “It just fits that market. They have the expertise; they understand those markets; and the product has been designed around them. We do have non-RIPS
products, the PDL devices, which we try to push through the IT reseller channel. But RIPS boxes are designed for the servicing dealer channel.”
As an alternative to laser products, RIPS has a number of benefits for dealers, including low running costs, the opportunity to increase margin and minimal need for servicing.
“That’s one of the big benefits,” said Allen. “There are not many replaceable parts – no imaging unit and no developer unit. RIPS is a low servicing product that could happily run for the lifetime of a contract without needing a change of ink pack.”
He adds that there are also opportunities for dealers to expand their product offering by taking on other Epson products.
“I’ll give you an example. ScanDB has been asked by E2BN whether there’s an opportunity for wide format products to compete with HP. Our SureColor TS range is not only well priced, it’s a modular box,
so a school could have it just as a printer for around £2,000 to £3,000, which is a very competitive price. I think dealers are absolutely gobsmacked about what we can bring to table,” he said.
“It’s quite heartening when a dealer comes in and has a look at our wide format range and the different types of printing we do – our receipt printing for instance. They are quite taken aback at the extent to which we are at the forefront of print.”
RIPS is currently limited – there are only certain segments that the workgroup devices fit into – but Epson is already gathering feedback from the channel and feeding it into the European marketing team to influence future product development.
“We’ve had some requests to put in smaller ink bags,” Allen said. “And one of the dealers came back to us and said ‘Do you have single-function mono RIPS, as ideally we would like to look at addressing just mono fleets of printers and refreshing some HP accounts?’. The roadmap will change and RIPS will definitely adapt. But the machines we’ve focused on to start with are absolutely perfect.”