Canon stamps need for print usability

The Japanese imaging product maker focuses on improving usability and workflow to boost productivity among Asian businesses, says exec.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Following a regional survey it conducted aimed at finding out what office workers want from their print equipment, Canon is now focusing its product designs on helping companies improve document usability and workflow.

According to Lim Kok Hin, senior director and general manager of Canon Singapore's business imaging solutions and business solutions division, the survey revealed eight key user concerns, among which usability was the foremost issue.

Conducted via Web campaigns, the internal survey polled 800 workers in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, said Lim, who was speaking here Thursday at the launch of the digital imaging company's ImageRunner Advance multi-function printer (MFP) and document management platform.

The Canon executive highlighted a growing gap between the number of functions available in enterprise print equipment and the percentage of these features that are actually used on a daily basis. Employees typically utilize only 5 percent to 20 percent of features in a printer.

"[With this knowledge], Canon wants to bridge this gap and is moving toward user-centric MFP devices to better meet our customers' needs," said Lim.

Essentially, he said the new ImageRunner device is aimed at making it easy for users to establish business workflows such as scanning and editing documents. "[In other words], empowering staff with new technology to boost productivity," he added.

To illustrate this point, Lim described how a Canon employee used one of the company's older machines to scan and edit a document. It took 10 steps and three minutes for the entire task to be completed. Comparatively, the same employee took four steps and 30 seconds to complete a similar task using the ImageRunner MFP because of the more intuitive and user-friendly interface on its control panel.

Key to improving document workflow is the platform's "quick menu" button, which allows users to program their commonly-used workflow activities into the machine, he said. Once configured, the user only needs to select the button indicating the desired activity, thus, saving time and money for the company, he added.

"We have all heard [Singapore's] Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong calling the nation to focus on upping its productivity, and we believe our new platform is god's gift for productivity," Lim added. "If you look at the time saved from three minutes to 30 seconds, companies will experience significant benefits in productivity."

Singapore's Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam had earlier announced at the 2010 Budget that the Republic will spend its "productivity fund" of S$5.5 billion (US$3.9 billion) on tax benefits, grants and training subsidies. He also noted in his speech that the "quick gains" in productivity seen in the 1980s and 1990s are over, and raising skills and productivity is the only way the country can achieve higher wages for its people.

However, despite being one of the more technologically-advanced countries in the region, companies in Singapore remain resistant to utilizing an electronic document workflow system, according to another Canon executive at the briefing.

During the question-and-answer session, Thanakorn Thanasongtrakul, South and Southeast Asia manager of Canon Singapore's business imaging solutions division, revealed that only 30 percent of local companies make use of electronic documents and incorporate them into business workflows. He also noted that companies in Singapore still retain printed copies of their documents as backup despite using electronic documents.

"The high costs involved in investing in new software as well as employee training are some of the other barriers to change that companies in Singapore are facing," Thanasongtrakul added.

However, he predicted the adoption of electronic documents will increase to 45 percent in the near future.

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