Phil Jones at Brother says many resellers think fax is a dying market, but it has simply moved to a different platform
The humble fax machine is alive and well, that’s according to Brother UK’s Phil Jones who says the wider Multi-Function Printer and Copier (MFC) market is enjoying strong growth despite fierce competition in today’s digital and online world.
Managing Director Jones has witnessed many market changes after working his way up through the ranks, over a 20-year period with the renowned manufacturing giant. He is an ideal candidate to assess the current market landscape.
“In terms of standalone fax machines there’s probably around 50,000 units purchased in the UK each year across all brands and we supply about one in every two of those,” he explains. “People buying these tend to be ‘generational players’, they have been brought up on fax machines and their businesses are still predominantly paper driven. This could be engineering and the legal sector for example…anywhere hard copy documents are still prevalent.
“The MFC arena continues to grow and the fax element tends to be a back-up function rather than a primary component such as scanning and more often print. Often there’s a with fax version and a without fax version to save on costs. But the most popular MFC’s provide an all-in-one solution so whatever is needed is available.
“Let’s not be unrealistic, the use of fax is deteriorating, as other messaging technologies such as e-mail have overtaken it. But ask anyone if they can completely do without it and most say they don’t want to discard faxes altogether; it’s still there and nice to have when they need it. With an MFC they are still buying a printer and copier that can be digitised but there are moments when they also need that fax capability.
“There’s still a little bit of fear of getting hacked; the internet goes down and the network goes down, so if their digital life falls over, it’s good to have the ability to communicate in some sort of written form when that day happens. People like reassurance; they trust it’s reliable, secure and safe.
“Here at Brother we’re realistic. The standalone fax market is going backwards by around 20 per cent each year and I’d say probably only one in a 1,000 messages sent now is faxed based, when it used to be 99 out of every 100.
In its hey-day fax was the first mainstream way of sending a document without using the post, but times have moved on dramatically and there’s a generation that hardly use them if even at all.
“Market data doesn’t separate fax from non fax, it just refers to all-in-one devices. Market indications show that sales of all-in-one devices are up 24 per cent, with the colour laser all-in-one market showing 48 per cent year on year growth.”
Jones is keen to alert resellers to the continued sales potential of MFC, despite a perception that the fax element is ‘yesterday’s technology’.
“I’m sure there are a lot of resellers out there who have been thinking fax is dying so they best move on but all that’s happened is that it has moved onto a slightly different platform. There’s still healthy demand to buy ‘boxes’… in the past that would have been a fax machine but now it’s an MFC that includes fax functionality if it’s needed. Times have moved on and comms resellers in particular can adapt their mindset. They can just as easily sell MFC as they once sold fax machines.”
Jones concludes: “Obviously the majority of messages are sent in a digital way but there are some areas where fax still maintains the upper hand, particularly if it involves confidential information that needs to retain message integrity. It’s a very good way to exchange information in a secure way that minimises risk.
“All the market data indicates standalone technology is declining and all in one technology is growing. That’s the simple message. I can remember when I joined the company in 1994 and we launched one of the first all-in-one products in the market, the MFC-6000. All the talk was that it’s a jack of all trades and master of none and there was the fear of God that if the printer broke then your fax and copy functions would be lost too.
“But the bottom line is that after 20 odd years everyone now has the confidence that if they buy an all-one-one device it’s not the end of the earth. They are very reliable and the technology does a lot more. People today do a lot more with their time and are more optimised in the way they work. An all-one device allows them to do lots of different things and work very efficiently. A compact footprint also helps to minimise desk space.
“Technology today is truly magnificent. There’s Near Field Communication (NFC) now so you can print and communicate with an app from your phone. We are starting to really integrate into people’s mobile lives and home office environments. This entire integration lends itself very well to our working on the move lifestyles, from the self-employed to busy executives. People understand that one device can perform multiple tasks and help them work more effectively.”
His comments are endorsed by distributor Nimans who has been operating in the comms industry for over 30 years and supplies many Brother products including MFC’s.
Purchasing Director Andy Winfield says: “Many people think the days of the fax machine are long gone and to a certain degree that’s true but fax machines are by no means completely dead. In various business sectors demand remains very strong. Insurance, banks and the shipping industry are some to name a few.”
Winfield says security is one of the biggest factors where fax machines have the edge over more modern communication methods.
“Despite the digital age where e-mail is king, there are lots of niche industries where the fax machine remains an inherent part of a comms operation. We tend to see demand rise during the close season as that’s when football clubs conduct all their transfer dealings and signed contracts are always sent over by fax.”
He adds: “Emails can easily be forwarded and altered and then you lose control. It’s far
easier to sneak documents out of a building on a USB stick rather than a paper document. There’s a psychological side to it as well as the older generation prefer to deal with paper in their hand when viewing and handling important documents.
“It may come as a surprise but there’s still relatively healthy demand for fax machines, whilst MFC sales continue to accelerate so resellers shouldn’t ignore them. They need to target key sectors to find customers who are very loyal to fax transmissions and use them on a daily basis. The fax isn’t completely dead, long live the fax and MFC’s!”