HP: 3D printing is a channel play

HP's PPS leader for the Americas tells Varnex that HP considers the 3D printing opportunity a commercial play, and one where partners will be key.

Christoph Schell, senior vice president and managing director of HP’s Printing and Personal Systems business in North America

Christoph Schell, senior vice president and managing director of HP’s Printing and Personal Systems business in North America

LAS VEGAS – When HP introduced what will be two of the biggest pieces of innovation for the part of the business that will be HP Inc. post-split last month, its pitch for its Sprout scanner-enabled PCs and MultiJet Fusion 3D printing technology had a decidedly consumer feel for it.
But in one of the first channel-facing presentations from HP since that launch, Christoph Schell, senior vice president and managing director of HP’s Printing and Personal Systems business sin North America, told Varnex Fall 2014 attendees here Monday morning that 3D printing will be a commercial play, and specifically it will be a channel play.
“We need partners to cover the market, to do the maintenance and service support, to make sure we have the “ink” installed,” Schell said. “3D printing will be a commercial go-to-market. We want to sell big devices, and this is something for all of us to discuss.”
Bringing home the point, Schell said one of the first calls he fielded after the announcement of MultiJet Fusion was from U.S.-based auto parts retailer Pep Boy, which wanted to understand more about the technology because it sees an opportunity to change its entire supply chain model based on 3D printing.
“They want to print bumpers,” Schell told Varnex attendees. “They want to get out of the game of manufacturing in Asia and shipping, they want to simplify their supply chain, and they want to reduce the working capital they have invested in it.”
Just as the move to digital printing and MFPs led to a switch from “print and distribute” to “distribute and print,” Schell said widespread 3D printing presents an opportunity to switch from “produce and distribute” to “distribute and produce,” and move production capability in many markets out of Asia and back to North America.
“The impact that will have on how and where products are produced is staggering. It will render the supply chain in many categories obsolete, and solve many of their supply chain problems,” Schell said.
But HP will need the channel to make it happen, he said, largely because of the size of the opportunity, and the large number of customers – both large and SMB – that will be interested in it. In his example, he noted that Pep Boys doesn’t want to buy 3D printing. “They want to buy bumpers,” he said. They just want those bumpers to be produced on-demand, and local to their retail locations.
Today, they types of materials that can be produced using 3D printing is limited, but over time and with innovation, as 3D printing gets access to more materials, it will open more opportunities, Schell said. For example, he’s already taken calls from vendors specializing in the dental industry who are interested in the possibility of scanning extracted teeth and 3D printing replacement teeth.
While the exact models for the channel in the 3D printing space have yet to be determined, Schell did mention that the company continues its drive, both through its managed print services partners and internally, to change print from a transactional decision to a contractual one, suggesting that momentum may continue into from the printed page into the printed object.
Briefly addressing the Sprout PC introduced at the same time as MultiJet Fusion, Schell said that post split, HP Inc. will focus on “a profitable” consumer business, and not producing every possible device for every possible market.
“We will be choosy in how big we ant that business to be,” he said “It’s simple too difficult to make margin on the low end of the consumer side of the Personal Systems business.”
Schell also addressed the impending split of HP Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, quipping that as a sales guy, it will make communicating the HP value proposition much easier – in many cases “the elevator ride just isn’t long enough” to deliver the combined PPS and Enterprise Group value proposition.
As many HP executives have in the weeks since the split was announced, Schell described the process as “moving from a one-car garage to a two-car garage,” harkening back to the company’s vaunted origins. But he stressed that at the end of the day, “both cars come back to the garage, side by side,” suggesting that post-split, there will still be strong ties between the two companies.
Specific to his own side of the business, Schell said the printing business generates a great deal of profit, while the PC business generates a lot of revenue, making the combination of the two “a really interesting business” for investors, customers, and partners alike.

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