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Is It Time To Rethink Automatic Toner Replenishment?

10 October 2018 | Norm McConkey



Are you struggling with managing ink and toner for your customers? Every day, machines all across your fleet run out of toner. It's a simple problem.

On the first day, man invented the copier. On the second day, the customer needed to reorder toner. Ever since day two, dealers have been struggling with the best way to manage the problem. With the advent of remote monitoring in 2005, dealers have had a visibility of toner levels, and with usage statistics and coverage data, it became possible to manage this on behalf of your customers. In other words, dealers have built a complicated process to solve a simple problem. Don’t take your business there. Stop. Here’s a better solution.

Running out of a supply is not unique to office equipment. Offices run out of paper, pens, staples, coffee, cleaning supplies, and a host of other products every day. In a broader sense, customers need things every day: software, new hardware, cables, chairs, desks, and the like. What is unique about supplies is that you are often obliged to supply them as part of a contract—usually MPS or an A3 lease. So, why does that mean you need to automate it? Change your perspective.

The rise of e-commerce has changed customer behavior. In 2018, during Amazon Prime Day, over 6,000 orders per second where being processed. That’s over 21 million orders per hour. Staggering. What does this prove?

Customers are comfortable going online and ordering product. Is it really an improvement to automate a process that customers are entirely comfortable with?

Would it not make more sense to embrace this workflow instead of designing a way around it? ATR is complicated, there are so many points of failure. The setup alone of mapping out asset locations, deciding between new and aftermarket supplies, managing alerts, serial numbers, shipping instructions, lost supplies, and then the math involved in calculating the optimum time to send supplies.

Are you really better than your customers in deciding when toner should be ordered?

Suppose you have figured all of this out, there are still important reasons why ATR is an issue. The first is that it does not work for all customers. Every dealer has devices that are transactional and not under contract. If you are going to get the business for these devices, you cannot use ATR.


The most significant reason you want to avoid an ATR program is that it diverts traffic away from your website. Imaging dealers spend millions of dollars, collectively, trying to drive traffic to their websites. When customers come to your website, if it's built correctly, they will be exposed to your other lines of business. Once they are confident buying imaging supplies, they should see that you also sell transactional printers, laptops, managed services...whatever you have.

 Website Traffic


If you don’t have an e-commerce workflow for your customers to manage their supplies, you are betting against the greatest disruptor in business workflow in your lifetime.


Take a look at how easy this is!





About the Author

Norm McConkey

Norm McConkey has been involved in the print, imaging, and software/tech business since 1993. Holding executive level positions in a number of emerging technology firms, he founded PrintFleet in 2003, and Tangent MTW in 2009. A founding member of the MPSA, an award winning author and presenter, Norm has spoken at various industry events around the world including the Lyra Imaging Symposium, Photizo confernece, ITEX Tradeshow, Regional BTA conferences, Remax Europe, and World Expo. He has been contracted to consult and build go to market and sales training programs with several OEM manufacturers such as Canon USA, and HP, and distributors such as Parts Now and Supplies Network, as well Resellers including Office Depot. Norm’s current project, MPSToolbox (, is a software platform which helps technology dealers develop and maintain e-commerce websites.


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