Brother Imprints on History
Writers Matt Bone
Project Manager James Mitchell
Founded in Japan over a century ago by two brothers Masayoshi and Jitsuichi Yasui, today, Brother is a globally recognised innovative technology brand. The company now has operations in more than 40 countries and its products are sold in more than 100 countries worldwide.
The story began with sewing machines, as Brother's first major manufacturing and exporting success and from this strong start the organisation has continually developed and expanded its offering.
Today, Brother has a much broader product portfolio including printers, multifunction devices, fax machines and labelling machines alongside its key heritage product, sewing machines. New products for an increasingly digital and smart technology era include mobile print solutions, through to omniJoin, an HD web conferencing solution. Brother is proud of its history and excited about where it is going to.
A Strong presence in Europe
Brother International Europe (BIE) is the European head office for Brother in Europe, based in Manchester, UK, and part of the global Brother group. The role of BIE is to provide strategic centralised support to each of these European operations. Since the 1950s Brother has built a strong presence in Europe. BIE has sales offices in over 20 European countries, a central sewing machine HQ for Europe based in Germany, plus production and recycling facilities in the UK and Slovakia, with a workforce of over 1,265 people.
Ian Metcalfe, executive Director, Services & Solutions at BIE, believes the growth seen over the last 50 years in Europe stems from two reasons: strategic diversification and local presence.
"When you look at what Brother has achieved in Europe in the last few decades, it is truly impressive. From beginnings in sewing machines and typewriters, multifunctional printing equipment, through to responding to today's increasing need for mobility, it is clear that ability to evolve has underpinned success. Brother has been driven by a need to help customers get the best out of their daily lives. This has been achieved through carefully approached diversification of a product portfolio and country specific insight, gained through the network of offices that span Europe, each listening and responding to customer requirements in their country of operation.
"Percentage growth in the EU has been double digit or just below over the last 10 years. We've been growing steadily. Since 2004, BIE has worked closely with sales and official partner networks to identify areas of the market that were ripe for new and innovative products. Our Japanese headquarters drove growth and pushed for the business to really make a footprint in the European market.
"In 2013, the EU turnover for Brother was €1.2 billion, and when you consider this was on the back of a double dip recession for the majority of Europe, this is significant," says Metcalfe.
Supporting SOHOS and SMBS
Brother has positioned itself as one of the market leaders in the Small Office Home Office ( SOHO) print arena, with compact, reliable print and multifunction device ranges, aimed at businesses with 1-10 employees.
With floor space at a premium for a SOHO business, Brother looked at new ways to allow print and multifunction devices to become even smaller and more convenient for the user. Standalone printers, copiers, fax machines and scanners took up valuable space in a SOHO working environment, signalling a scenario that was logistically and financially unviable for the savvy smaller operator.
With this market increasing to make up a sizeable proportion of the customer base, Brother implemented a range of cost effective, reliable, print and all-in one or 'multifunction devices', solely marketed for the SOHO including inkjet and laser technology to complement a customer's print volume requirement.
"Brother listened to the needs of the SOHO and created stylish, feature-rich, print solutions that would offer the same level of high end printing options, and support scanning and copying requirements, without taking up the same amount of space in the office as an assortment of ad hoc products," explains Metcalfe, adding: "more than two thirds of Brother's products are being sold in the SOHO market which makes up 70% of our customer base."
With firm roots established in the SOHO market, Brother is currently focussing on supporting the Small and medium Business (SMB), meeting print requirement where 50-100 employees are in operation, and a segment that accounts for c. 30% of Brother's current customer base.
"While the SOHO customer might only print what is absolutely necessary in order to keep printing costs down, SMBS have begun to print more materials, yes to a lesser degree than corporate companies, but SMBS have become equally mindful of the bottom line and the business of efficient print," states Metcalfe. "At Brother, we see that the SMB, like larger corporates, wants user specific printing and high speed print capabilities alongside key features such as cloud-connectivity and the ability to control and manage print intelligently."
Brother's Business Inkjet Range, currently launching across Europe, supports the SOHO and answers the requirement of the SMB. The six-model, cloud-connected inkjet range is compact, stylish and ready to support businesses during growth.
The range includes three compact models that offer versatility for the SOHO with everyday A4 and occasional A3 print need and three Business Smart models offering reliability for the SMB with everyday A4 and everyday A3 requirement.
The three Business Smart models can be customised with tailored screens, menus and workflows and can take high yield colour cartridges and super high yield black ink cartridges for low cost printing.
The route to market for Brother Products is not direct, the business utilises a far reaching network of partners that cascade products into the customer domain. that partner network includes broad line distributors that physically 'lift and shift' products into the domestic market but it also includes a range of system houses or dealers, who are the real face of Brother to the customer, explains Metcalfe. "They will sit down with a client, talk about their needs, challenges and requirements and then put together a package of services and print solutions that will add real value to the customer's business.
"The Channel helps provide the right solutions for our customers and in turn Brother provides partners with a strong support network with specific training and technological support, so that when they speak with a customer, they have all the information necessary, ready to convey the best solutions. That customer might be an emergency service, for example, and the requirement, printing speeding tickets at the roadside.
"Reflecting Brother's evolution, today, Brother is not just a hardware manufacturer, we are providing customers with solutions to their problems," added Metcalfe.
An Office On-the-Go
With the advent of mobile technology at our fingertips, Brother has been quick to add mobility based innovation into their portfolio. with clients no longer tethered to their offices, Brother developed a line of solutions that cater for printing needs on the- go, including physical printers to carry, a portable range, which Metcalfe expands on: "with more clients looking to work outside of the conventional office space, a need for mobile printers was apparent. the early a5 printers would allow you to print out a document for a client while on-the-go albeit a more draft quality version. Since then we have made significant advances in mobile printers and can now offer high quality solutions offering outputs from sizes A4 - A6.
"The PJ range is a fast, compact solution, ideal for professionals and field workers who need to print on the move at a4. The series uses direct thermal print technology, giving added convenience with no need for ink, toner or ribbons. The latest model, the PJ-673 is Brother's first mobile printer to feature iOS® compatibility, facilitating wireless printing from an Apple® iPad® and iPhone®.
In turn, the RJ series is robust, tough and versatile. With a maximum print output of 4 inches in width, the series is ideal for a wide range of receipt, small document and label printing applications in field sales, emergency services, logistics and warehousing.
Reflecting on the changes in print technology since the dot matrix printer and how businesses are evolving from centralised office structures, Metcalfe states: "Times have changed, there's appetite for the ability to disconnect from the typical office based solution. Brother's aim is to help businesses derive value for money from making a smart move towards mobility and through the adoption of new technologies."
Brother products, services and solutions that respond to this requirement, facilitating mobile working and employee efficiency, have been aligned under two 'intelligent' banners:
• WorkSmart, with a focus around communication and collaboration and;
• PrintSmart, underpinned by cost efficiency and security
Focussing on two WorkSmart headline solutions: BR-Docs a cloud-based document storage and retrieval solution, gives employees access to corporate documents on the road. The service allows micro to medium-sized businesses to digitise their workflows and store, file, manage and share documents of all types in one secure place - accessible from laptops, workstations or mobile devices.
Brother's OmniJoin web conferencing solution allows employees on-the-go to join meetings with office-based staff and customers around the world. Launched in 2012, the service can be accessed using existing equipment (MAC, PC, laptop, iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) and delivers high-quality, highly secure voice, video and collaboration tools. OmniJoin has been used in education, where lecturers in Scandinavia have been utilising the platform to hold seminars with over 100 students in remote locations. School children in Japan communicated in real time with an astronaut on the International Space Station via OmniJoin, joining the conversation from seven different locations across Japan.
When it comes to being PrintSmart, it's about the difference Brother Solutions can make for businesses and their bottom line. Managed Print Services (MPS) allows businesses to either lease or pay for the latest Brother printers or supplies, so customers can choose the type of service that is right for them, personalising their print set up to be able to better control printing costs and free up time to concentrate on the more important aspects of their operation.
Improving print security and reducing the amount of 'forgotten print', those documents that are never claimed from the tray by the side of the printer, are business issues addressed by Brother's B-guard print management solution, explains Metcalfe.
"B-Guard is a cost saving measure that any size business can implement, with its standout feature pull print, which allows the user to 'release' their print job from any chosen device in their organisation by either entering a PLN code at the control panel or swiping an ID card through an attached reader. The solution significantly reduces paper wastage and improves document security. B-guard gives the ability to restrict access to certain functions, which means black and white print and 2-sided print can be prescribed. The bottom line, our studies have shown that B-guard reduces print output by 10%."
The next step in the evolution under Brother's PrintSmart banner lies in its Balanced Deployment solution, which looks to optimise employee productivity in businesses where there are larger centralised printers. "The location of these printers may cause employees to waste time walking to and waiting at those devices, resulting in expensive downtime. Balanced Deployment takes a considered approach to maximising productivity and minimising costs. Workflows and business processes can be improved, costs can be reduced by consolidating devices in printer fleets with ink/toner, maintenance and It support costs all covered," said Metcalfe.
The Public Zone
Brother is launching two new cloud-based solutions in Europe this September, to further support businesses to PrintSmart from mobile devices. PrintSmart mobile is a cloud based printing solution that provides easy print access from a business' employees and guests. Users can print easily from their mobile devices to a Brother printer without returning to their desks to connect to networks or download printer drivers.
PrintSmart mobile Zone goes one step further, explains Metcalfe. "This solution provides simple printing on-the- go, users will be able to print from their mobile device at a host of public access sites such as libraries, airports, hotels and business centres. There is a clear appetite from businesses for quick, simple and secure mobile printing. These solutions show that Brother is in the same zone."
Brother has seen a rising appetite for the ability to print from mobile devices in the last four years, through usage of its own iprint&Scan app, which allows users to print and scan from their smartphone and tablet technology.
"The figures for the number of pages printed since 2011 have not just soared, they have skyrocketed," explained Metcalfe.
At Your Side
'At Your Side' is Brother's motto and an ethos that runs throughout the business. "The company actively encourages employees to come up with new and innovative ways to help customers. That's focussed back into our R&D in Japan, in turn. We are always looking not just for a piece of hardware but a solution, something that will add value for the customer, make things easier for the customer. That focus has been on the SOHO but our focus is expanding with growing businesses as our solution suite supports them to reap the benefits of mobility too. It's changing times, it's expanding times, it's an exciting new era for Brother," Metcalfe concluded.