Copier Market Shrinking an Inevitable Reality

Some things are apparent to me as a thirty plus year veteran of the copier industry.   Sadly, but certainly I feel the decades old copier industry is facing an impending demise.   Sure, the plain old digital copier market shrinking is old news. However, I’m referring to the industry of MFP models, laser printers, and printer copier scanner combo models.  If it prints,  I am grouping it into my “copier market shrinking” premise.

The manufacturers and dealers are going to continue to push the big copier printers as long as they can, even as profits are being reduced to unseen low levels.  I wouldn’t expect any less, as the long established dealerships and rest of the copier industry gasp for air.    ENX Magazine, a well known supporter of the industry, published this article reporting dismal 2015 performance for the industry.   I don’t blame ENX magazine for keeping a positive front.  They are in a tough position, as I am to call for an end to their industry and mine too.

4 Reasons for Future Downsizing in the Copier Industry as I See it:

  1. Smaller, less expensive equipment is increasingly more capable of meeting business needs for copying and printing
  2. The growth of digital document acceptance throughout the document lifecycle means less need to ever print it.
  3. Copying has become a minor feature of the copier, now referred to as an MFP (multi-functional printer).
  4. Scanning has replaced copying for most companies. However,  the need for scanning in general will decrease over time. As hard copy documents become needed less, the reason to scan also goes away.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the four reasons given above for copier market shrinking.

I’ve witnessed first hand, the improvement of the lower end all-in-one MFP models.  In particular, the increased offerings of color copier printer scanners sold through the likes of Amazon , has replaced the need for dealer offered equipment.

While not all of that discount equipment is up to the task, some of the offerings from  say, Lexmark and Hewlett Packard that fall between $300.00 and $1000.00 are surprisingly capable.  The truth is that there is so little profit made on the intial sale of these products, brick and mortar copier dealers are only needed when they break.  That in itself won’t support  very many copier dealerships.   It isn’t just small businesses that have these lower level machines as a viable option.  Departments of bigger businesses along with smaller workgroups, can and are making use of these machines.  That allows them to use fewer of the copier dealers’ more costly machines.

If we consider the higher cost per page printed, it still does not justify the more expensive leased or purchased machine in an increasing number of cases.  With a lower printed volume, its the acquisition cost, not the operational cost that takes priority when selecting alternate choices.

In the immediate future, Scanning will Continue to be a Large part of a Copiers’ Use

While companies continue to digitize hard copies, the higher end copy machine will still earn its keep as a high speed document scanner.  Since the majority of digital copiers can also be used as a central network printer, this dual need of print and scan is the only reason the copier industry will survive in the near term.   The copy need has already been widely replaced  by the capabilities of scanning to a pdf file and then printing an “original”.  Printing can itself be performed quite adequately for any size organization by using laser printers.

As I pointed out above, the scanning need will dry up as printing is supplanted by more advanced digital document management and fulfillment. Free document management programs offered by industry giants, such as Google, Yahoo and others allow document editing, e-signing, downloading, emailing and storage.  These types of programs make it convenient to do away with printed pages.  Even firms with the most sophisticated document needs can find subscription cloud based resources to perform their document collaboration needs for reasonable, if not inexpensive costs.  The net effect is a huge reduction in the need to print documents.

What is going to happen is scanning of new documents will decline steadily as online document handling services become more popular and people become used to not printing.  Eventually the majority of documents to be scanned will be those documents presently stored in boxes or filing cabinets.   I believe the businesses that chose not to scan those documents thus far, will simply continue to store those documents.  Once they are no longer needed, those unscanned documents will be shredded like they always would have been.

The Copier Market Shrinking is being anticipated by the Largest Industry Players

Morningstar had an interesting article  reflecting Xerox corporations own copier products market downsizing. It’s all telling really.   I’ve heard the buzz about the industry’s demise for years.  The companies who can embrace the change and move into related (in some ways) markets that are coming of age, will survive.  Smaller copier dealers and business owners affected who don’t, won’t or can’t make the change will either shrink to very small service firms or go out of business altogether.

How long does the copier industry have until ground zero? 

For some, the copier market shrinking will be the end of the industry for them.  My outlook is 4-7 years for copier dealers to survive who don’t aggressively get involved in managed provider services.   Channel Partners offered up this rather telling article supporting my own thoughts on this subject.  Call it an evolution of the document imaging industry, or call it the death knell of the copier printer industry.  Since I started in the copier industry as a sales representative in 1984, and then spent most of the next 30 plus years as an independent dealer owner, I’ve seen nothing like this.   The paperless document industry is right around the corner.

How to plan for the paperless document industry as a customer

The copier market shrinking is of little consequence to customers.  The reason is that the customers’ move to alternatives to printing is what is bringing about the evolution.   You will continue to have access to what you need. So long as there is a need, there will be an industry providing for that need.  The only recommendation I would make to a customer would be to consider if you too anticipate your need changing in the foreseeable future.  The reason is that perhaps you should not lease a copier for five years.  Maybe you should shorten any lease commitments you make to 3 years or less.  Another alternative would be to rent equipment on a month by month basis.  Then you’ll be ready to make a quick change without it costing you money to bail out.  If you want to learn more about leasing, consider the new educational site that supports the equipment leasing customer.   It’s the Lessee’s Advocate, my latest foray into helping customers in an industry with so many secrets.


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