When the Buyers Laboratory Inc. (BLI) awarded its highest Platinum rating to Samsung Printing Solutions’ Smart UX Center and Printing App Center, it was more than just a sign of how far the company’s printers had come. For Kasey Kim, Vice President of the R&D Team at Printing Solutions, after 32 years working in R&D at Samsung Electronics, the Platinum rating was recognition of the company’s vision for the future.
Since Samsung introduced the Smart UX Center for its range of multi-function printers (MFPs) in 2014, the company has worked to show how its unique ecosystem—app center, software development kit (SDK), and a 10.1-inch touchscreen panel, all using Android—could be a more efficient, secure and effective approach to printing and document management.
“It means that our new attempt and strategy is finally getting accepted by the industry,” says Kim. “It’s a very good foundation that we can use to make some disruptive noises in the very conservative MFP market.”
BLI Platinum Rating Shows ‘This Approach Is Working’
In early June, BLI announced the Platinum rating for the Smart UX Center and the Printing App Center, with top marks awarded to usability, IT admin & security, support & training and value. BLI called the two centers “best in class,” adding that “Samsung has just scratched the surface of the platform’s possibilities.”
“BLI is, as everyone knows, a B2B evaluation lab. They know B2B,” Kim explains. “Our fresh idea, of bringing Android to our MFP platform, including the Smart UX, had met with some skepticism at first. But, now, what we’ve done shows that this approach is working.”
Even that stellar review was not perfect, though. BLI felt that Samsung needed to create more document processing apps and give customers greater room to customize. “We’re taking an organic approach,” Kim says. “These early applications we developed were mostly for a sample purpose, to show what we can do with this platform. Our next step is to work with our partners so they can develop the platform further. Our partners have the expertise and they know exactly what the customers want. That’s why we’re working with Nuance, the number one solutions company, and with dealers who have enough development capacities. We attended the Samsung Developer Conference in April and held a workshop to show what we can do.”
That shift Kim describes is about moving away from the technical challenges of the printers themselves, to focus instead on implementing solutions that can help businesses.
“I would say it’s a transition from ‘software engineering’ to ‘requirement engineering’,” says Kim. “The engineers tend to focus more on the implementing aspects. But we’ve established our own platform now, and it’s time to concentrate on making practical software that satisfies customers’ needs.”
32 Years at Samsung in R&D
Kim says he still remembers his first day at Samsung. “December 26, 1984,” he recalls. “I’m one of three people left who started on that day.”
Samsung was a much different company at the time. It didn’t have a printer division, although there was one for typewriters. “We were much smaller back then,” he says understatedly. Today, of course, Samsung Electronics is a global leader, with about 319,000 employees all around the world.
As the company grew over the years, company culture changed tremendously as well. “Before, when we had to do a new firmware build, everyone would stay in the office coding until the final build was done,” he says. “But these days, I can go home and work from home when I’m needed.”
“So it’s getting globalized. Now we have eight different labs worldwide, and we have to respect the engineers’ time, give them flexibility.”
Kim notes that Samsung Electronics has taken three big steps since he joined—in semiconductors, in televisions and in smartphones, becoming a worldwide leader in each category. “Now, we’re trying to make that same kind of leap in the printing industry,” he says. “There’s a change coming with mobility and the cloud, which we think we can leverage to change the game.”
In Printing for the Long Haul
For Kim, the Platinum rating from BLI is a sign of how Samsung’s approach is bearing fruit. “Developing these very robust printers was really challenging and it was really costly, in terms of technology and people,” he says.
With the technology in place, Kim says the company’s focus is shifting to market outreach. “The copier market is very much relationship-based,” he says, noting that the only ways to break into existing relationships are by “buying your way in” (something he doesn’t rule out), or “by giving people enough reason to believe.”
Which is why Samsung is so focused on building relationships with dealers and partners these days. “Just in the last month, we’ve had visitors from the U.S., Australia and Italy. One way to build relationships is to have them come here, to Digital City, Samsung’s headquarters in Suwon, near Seoul. Until they see the massive location here, they don’t really believe how much Samsung has to offer. But once they come here to see it for themselves, they change their minds.”
Kim also affirms that the company remains committed to its goal of becoming a “top tier” printing company by 2020. “It’s defined by the number of machines in the field,” he says. “To become second-tier, you need at least 1.5 million machines worldwide and we are nearly there. Once we become second-tier, it’s just a matter of time until we become first tier. We just need to work hard and be ‘disruptive’, to give people a reason to believe in our solutions.”
Trailblazing for Samsung’s B2B Future
Moving into B2B is a major part of Samsung Electronics’ vision for the future, and Kim says that printing is leading the way. “It’s a future growth engine,” he says. “It’s a trailblazer for the B2B business at Samsung.”
After 32 years of relentless development, Kim understands that the future never rests. The BLI Platinum rating was a great shot-in-the-arm, but the company will not stop innovating until it reaches the “top tier” by 2020. Samsung Printing Solutions, with its Smart UX Center, is now ready to become a leader in the smart printing industry.
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