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Kyocera goes paperless

Kyocera Document Solutions tells BRYAN TURNER what it takes to steer a business in a vastly different direction.

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Printing is big. Research shows that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper a year. But what about printing in five years time?

It is clear that businesses need to get on the automation train before it leaves the station. As one of the leaders in this trend discovered, the full benefits only become clear once the journey has begun.

“We’ve been involved with this digital transformation journey for the past four and a half years,” says Werner Engelbrecht, general manager of Kyocera Document Solutions South Africa (KDZA).

“It started as a project from Europe, and it was one of those initiatives that we were asked to participate in. To be honest, there wasn’t an initial buy-in because we didn’t understand what it entailed. It wasn’t until we moved down this journey that we realised the impact this would have on our business.

“Four and a half years later, we’ve done a lot and we’re not yet finished. On the Fourth Industrial Revolution, our experience is everybody has these terms that they throw around, but not everyone knows where to start. In our experience, we advise that businesses should identify some pains in their business, pick a pain point, and start there.”

KDZA recently redefined its brand identity, shifting from primarily providing the latest printing device technology to consulting on technologies businesses should use to manage their operations.

“We have the experience across many industries,” says Engelbrecht. “We’ve gained initial experience on taking our own business paperless. It’s quite bold for a traditional printing company to say ‘we’re going paperless’, but we believe this to be the future of our business. It doesn’t help to remain constant. Although we’re great as a printing company, we’ve ticked that box so we’re embracing future technologies that can develop our business offering.

“Our first process for going paperless was implementing electronic invoicing. We used to have someone who would capture and print our invoices, which cost us roughly R12 an invoice. After we implemented the solution, that dropped to below R1 per invoice. At around 3,500 invoices per month, we’ve saved quite a bit.”

But what happens to jobs when something like an electronic invoicing system is implemented?

“Kyocera’s philosophy is ‘Do the right thing as a human being’,” says Engelbrecht. “Following our philosophy, we upskilled that person to work in our Accounts Receivable department. We don’t see these new technologies as a threat because we believe businesses are obligated to reskill employees to more meaningful work.

“We have a culture of process improvement. We’re always asking ourselves ‘If you do something, is it the best way you can do it?’.”

Jaen-Pierre Lourens, software product manager at KDZA, says this new way of working has rapidly changed how Kyocera operates, from many aspects of the business.

“We follow Kaizen philosophy,” says Lourens. “This is the process of constant small improvements in the entire organisation with the aim of driving a culture of working smarter, keeping motivated, and cost reduction. This approach applies to every department; if they see something they can do better, they better it. We believe these small incremental changes will lead businesses towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” 

There are many ways for businesses to get started on this journey, but there is one fundamental rule.

“It’s vital to have buy-in from the top,” says Engelbrecht. “It’s not something that should be put on the desk of the IT administrator, it needs to be driven from the top where executives lead their company. This involves a lot of change management and uncertainty because it’s something new. We’re on this journey ourselves, so we can advise on solutions to implement based on how our client’s businesses operate.”

To find out more about KDZA, click here

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