COVID-19 has turned the world of work upside down – forever. For ACCO Brands, global consumer products business with well-known end-user brands, it’s not a question of office, hybrid or work from home. Instead, it’s quite simply addressing the reality of working from anywhere, with an evolving portfolio of brands that caters to all customer needs.
OPI speaks to ACCO Brands Senior Product Manager Brian Klein about GBC – a 75-year-old brand which epitomises the company’s ‘work anywhere’ focus.
OPI: Employees – and employers – around the world have had to adapt to multiple new ways of working. How can ACCO Brands help them do this successfully, efficiently and stress-free?
Brian Klein: We have always been well positioned in terms of helping professionals generate their best work and perform regardless of where they are working. ACCO Brands’ brands and products are dynamic to serve organisations in both an office or work-from-home environment. It’s about having the right products in place to produce professional results.
It’s undoubtedly been a learning curve conveying to our customers that they can have access to the same level of high-quality products in a decentralised environment – such as the home office – as they have in the historically typical office setting.
OPI: Can you give specific examples?
BK: Sure. Let’s take our GBC portfolio of business machines. Employees who are using laminators or binding machines for customer presentations, for instance, need to fully understand they can also create top-quality, professional results with smaller units that are available to them for a home office environment.
It’s similar for document shredders – they may have a smaller footprint in the home setting, but they absolutely need to offer the same level of document security as larger departmental office shredders. And this security depends on what type of document needs to be destroyed, of course – it’s a vital consideration in any operation’s data compliance discussion irrespective of where employees work.
It’s about having the right products available to produce professional results regardless of where you work
OPI: Does the changing workplace environment mean there’s been a fundamental development in the type of products you sell, perhaps particularly as regards size and scale?
BK: No, not necessarily. It’s about having the right products available to produce professional results regardless of where you work.
We’ve actually seen a shift towards high-end, commercially oriented products, as well as smaller footprint items. But the former are being used in different environments now and more outside the large corporate office.
The print services industry, for instance, has been growing at an accelerated pace throughout the coronavirus pandemic. You often have a situation where people are decentralised from the office equipment they typically use. But there’s still demand for large-scale presentation products and the print finishing sector has picked up on this by fulfilling that need.
What it means is that home-based staff may go to their local print fulfilment facility and have those documents created there rather than in their own home or office. As a result, there’s been a strong uptick in GBC’s more commercially oriented products as print finishing businesses have picked up some of the slack in presentation services which pre-pandemic were commonly being handled at an office level.
The healthcare, hospitality and education segments are other verticals which have seen renewed growth in business products such as laminating machines, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
OPI: So the products are essentially the same, but your customer base is more varied and dispersed?
BK: Correct. You have the home office environment, often with smaller devices. Then you have office-centric products where you have narrow format lamination, electric binding, departmental shredding and so on. And finally, you have the large commercial print services segment with production print equipment I’ve just mentioned. GBC’s portfolio is curated to offer professional results regardless of application.
All that being said about the ‘same’ products, ACCO Brands has a very robust R&D pipeline and many of our brands have a market leadership position – it’s strategic to what we do and what we strive for. We don’t just want to participate in a category, we want to lead and influence it.
One of our most recent innovations is the GBC Foton 30 Automated Laminator. As the name suggests, it’s completely automated, meaning you can just put documents in it – like a printer – push one button and it will laminate, trim and cut them for you. It’s pouch-free too, so saves an incredible amount of time.
Again, healthcare, hospitality and education are great examples of uptake for this product. The added factor of high hygiene standards in these settings makes washable, laminated documents appealing. And because of its footprint, the Foton 30 is ideal for small and home office use too.
OPI: What about the servicing and support perspective – has there been a marked difference? I’m thinking particularly in the home environment.
BK: Not fundamentally. We’ve always provided comprehensive customer service and technical support – offering access to consumables for our machines is a core component of this, of course.
One thing to bear in mind in this context is that products which are geared toward the smaller home office are inherently simpler to operate than their commercial counterparts.
OPI: You mention the typically smaller footprint of business machines for the home environment. Is overall design a big factor, as in adapting to different customer preferences?
BK: It’s definitely important – everybody loves to have a sleek and sophisticated piece of equipment which blends into their environment. But first and foremost, it has to be intuitive and simple to use from an operational perspective.
However, unlike the commonly black or grey machines for the office setting, we have some small office and home office machines in white and grey finishes which address style and aesthetic preferences.
But GBC is unique within ACCO Brands’ portfolio in that it is focused beyond the mass consumer market. Instead, our target audience is the professional user – it’s just that the work location of these professional users is evolving and we are evolving with it.
OPI: The future of the workplace is a much-debated topic. What’s your view?
BK: We believe hybrid work is here to stay. As such, we have to make sure we are able to support our customer base in the best way possible, whether they’re working in the office or at home, creating individual presentation products or producing large-scale projects in a commercial setting.
Customers need to have the tools at their disposal to produce the highest quality of output, all the while feeling comfortable and secure in what they’re doing.
Our mission is to make products for professionals – we want to enable businesses to excel, however and wherever they operate.