ProPrint Q&A: Yohei Konaka, Konica Minolta

This Q&A with Konica Minolta Australia’s new managing director, Yohei Konaka, was first published in the February 2021 edition of ProPrint magazine. To read the full magazine, click here.

Q: It’s been a challenging year to start a new role, how have you found the transition in these unusual times so far?

A: I officially started my role of managing director of Konica Minolta Australia on October 1, 2020. Before that I remotely worked for almost six months with the senior executive team and utilised this time to understand the Australian market, which gave me a valuable head start on creating a vision for the next 12 months and beyond.
I am very proud of the way our team managed during the pandemic, particularly the support we were able to offer to our customers during these difficult times. Konica Minolta is positive about the future for Australian printers and there are some very promising signs in the market already.

Q: What is your assessment for business requirements in 2021? What do you think the priorities of Australian print businesses will be?

A: The print industry has gone through a very challenging time. I am confident from what I have seen so far, and the people I have met, that most businesses will see their way through. I have spoken with some entrepreneurial printers who are working on innovative ideas to ensure their businesses are sustainable as we come out the other side of this pandemic. They are looking to find new revenue streams and are focusing on value. It is evident that printers are seeking solutions that can improve productivity and ultimately their bottom line through automation.

Q: How will Konica Minolta help deliver on these needs?

A: Konica Minolta sees a clear opportunity to continue to expand its portfolio in growth areas. Some of these include digital label printing, digital embellishment, B2+ UV inkjet, wide format, and packaging. Adding these capabilities to our already strong portfolio of toner production print systems means Konica Minolta is ideally positioned to help customers grow into new areas. As a trusted partner in the industry, we build long-term relationships with our customers and create differentiation through our innovative products and services.

Q: In your view what are the biggest areas of growth for Konica Minolta – where do the main opportunities lie for the business to better serve customers?

A: The struggle to stay profitable and survive is driving commercial printers to look at ways to streamline costs. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through automation. At Konica Minolta we offer an array of unique technologies that automate manual print processes, including our IQ-501 for automated colour control and registration accuracy and world first inline trimming unit TU-510, which can trim, crease and perforate inline. We see the TU-510 as a real game changer for the industry. It means printers can produce a variety of finished print products inline and at the same time save valuable operator time and ultimately reduce manual labour costs.

We also expect that printers will be looking to diversify and expand the value they can offer their clients, profitably. Our industrial print portfolio can certainly help with this with our KM-1 for B2+UV inkjet, our AccurioLabel 230 for digital label printing and MGI digital embellishment solutions.

Q: COVID-19 has impacted how companies communicate with customers. What strategies will the company focus on to ensure its message gets across to the broader print community?

A: Since COVID-19 hit, we have been rethinking the way we communicate with customers and this has resulted in a hybrid approach to the way we communicate. In the early stages of the COVID-19 lockdown, we launched the new C14000 series and attracted 200 attendees to our online event, which was a great result. Since then, we have continued on this path with a number of virtual events, including webinars as we now know how great the customer response is to these types of opportunities.
In the future we will continue with this hybrid approach ¬ virtual and physical events ¬ as we understand the value of face-to-face interactions when it comes to building strong relationships.

Q: What is the key research and development focus for Konica Minolta for the next five years?

A: Konica Minolta is always looking at ways to ignite new print opportunities. This means focusing on areas that will help our customers grow. Even though it’s a challenging time for the print industry, we are continuing to invest in the market and, as a global company, this remains our mandate. Globally, Konica Minolta invests continually in research and development (R&D) to deliver leading solutions to help printers build for now and in the future. Konica Minolta has also now expanded into New Zealand with a direct operation. This is another key indicator of Konica Minolta’s commitment to investing in this region. We will also continue to partner with other organisations to bring new technologies to market such as robotics, remote services monitoring, and more.

Q: You have spent significant amounts of time working in the US and Canada. How do you see Australia as different to those markets?

A: Having been in the role for a short time I am still discovering new things about the Australian market. However, I have noted there are a lot of similarities between the Australian and Canadian markets. They are alike in terms of population, geography, market size and business challenges. The sales models for Australia and Canada are also alike, with most solutions sold direct. Having spent time in US and Canada I am keen to encourage better collaboration between Konica Minolta’s subsidiaries. I am sure we can certainly learn a lot from some of the successes of our global counterparts, and vice versa.

Q: Have you ever worked in Australia before or spent much time here?

A: No, I have not, but I am very much looking forward to getting out to meet our customers across Australia. I am also looking forward to exploring some of the beautiful sites with my family. I have already taken a quick trip to Adelaide and met some customers and wow, what a beautiful city.

Q: Konica Minolta Australia is well known for its successful corporate social responsibility practices. How are you planning to continue this great work?

A: Konica Minolta is a global leader when it comes to corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and other important causes. This commitment is in our DNA. I will always endeavour to combine business and sustainability management strategies, so the sustainable growth of the company’s operations creates meaningful value for customers and society. We work closely with a number of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and have done a lot of great work in the areas of modern slavery, ethical sourcing and reconciliation.

We recently revealed the artwork and the artist selected for the design of our first ever Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). We are committed to contributing to the reconciliation journey between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and all other people in the community to help improve life outcomes and opportunities and to create a better future for society at large. Konica Minolta has also submitted its first Modern Slavery Statement, which represents another significant milestone in our advocacy and leadership in this area.

I am looking forward to continuing this work with our team as I feel this is a key contributor towards Konica Minolta Australia creating value for society.

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