Ricoh Investing $300 Million in Managed-Print Services

Ricoh plans to challenge HP and Xerox in managed-print services by investing $300 million during the next three years in new technologies, IT infrastructure and salespeople.

NEW YORK - Ricoh is looking to bolster its managed-print-services division with a three-year, $300 million investment aimed at adding more employees to its U.S. operation and bolstering the company's IT infrastructure. The announcement comes as Hewlett-Packard and Xerox also look to offer more print services to their customers.

Ricoh announced its plans to invest in its MDS (Managed Document Services) business at several different gatherings, which all happened Jan. 20. In addition, the company and IDC announced new research to show how companies with annual revenues of $250 million could save about $6 million with more effective document management.

In addition to expanding its sales footprint in the United States, Ricoh plans to offer customers new cloud-based software that can manage a wide range of copiers and printers, as well as document management, said Jeffrey Hickling, the president and CEO of Ricoh U.S.

"We see ourselves as a key partner to the CIO, and we offer our guidance and support," said Hickling. "We also look at a company's people, its processes and technologies in order to optimize each element."

Ricoh, best known as a traditional supplier of printers and copying machines, is not alone in trying to expand beyond a hardware supplier. HP, which continues to dominate the printing market, is offering customers print services and document management, while making it easier to print even more material from BlackBerry devices and the Apple iPad.

Xerox is also moving in this direction and offering more IT services. In a way, the entire tech industry is moving toward a more services-first model that stems from the success of IBM Global Services. Oracle, HP, Dell and even Intel are also moving in this direction.

Between 2010 and 2014, the managed-printing-services market is expected to grow about 38 percent, according to the research IDC presented.

Ricoh has been looking to expand its own business in the past several years through a series of acquisitions. One of the largest involved buying IBM's Printing Systems Division. More recently, Ricoh bought Ikon Office Solutions, which greatly expanded the company's MDS division. The Ikon acquisition is also allowing Ricoh to offer cloud-based management of a company's printer fleet.

At the Ricoh meeting here, the IDC data showed that printed documents are still a significant source of information for most employees and even as the world goes digital, people are still printing documents.

In addition, as workers become even more mobile-and technological advancements allow them to print from their mobile devices-new challenges come up. Security issues arise as employees are allowed to take documents from businesses, thanks to the ever-expanding amount of memory that smartphones and tablets offer. It also creates an issue when printing documents to machines that may or may not be within the office.

This is one of several reasons Ricoh's Hickling made the pitch for a managed-services model that looks at the company's entire printing and document infrastructure.

"We are studying end-users' behavior and asking what they are printing and how they are filing and how they are sharing information," said Hickling.