United make MPS investment



United makes MPS investment


United Stationers looks to boost its Managed Print Services offering by taking a stake in NER Data Corp.


Just a few weeks after acquiring technology solutions company MBS Dev, United Stationers has once again invested in its services offering by taking a minority stake in managed print services (MPS) company NER Data Corporation.


However, while the MBS Dev acquisition was intended to act as a lever for United to help its dealers with their own back-office and e-commerce systems, this latest investment is aimed squarely at boosting dealers’ capabilities to provide their own customers with an MPS solution.


Over the past year, NER and United have been working together to develop and launch United’s HQueue managed print programme, a turnkey MPS programme sold through resellers primarily to SMB end-user businesses.


HQueue is an HP-based programme that is designed for small businesses that have five or more networked HP print devices, and complements NER’s own MPS strategy which targets larger corporations and more complex print environments.


Now United has made a minority investment in its partner, which has recently been reorganised to focus 100 percent on MPS and data centre solutions after selling its imaging supplies and printer parts distribution to Clover Technologies at the end of last year.


"Deepening our relationship with NER Data Corporation was a logical next step considering the synergies of our two companies," said Doug Nash, VP and General Manager, United Stationers Technology Solutions and Services.


"We have a best-in-class logistical supply chain platform for printer imaging supplies, strong vendor relationships and a diverse customer base of loyal resellers. NER Data Corporation’s MPS software, service network and parts platform for small and medium businesses, along with its infrastructure optimisation for larger data centres, is a great complement to United Stationers’ core strengths," added Nash, who is to serve on NER Data’s board of directors.


The ability of dealers to be "solutions providers" to their customers continues to grow in importance and MPS is one area that looks set to grow. MPS research firm Photizo estimates that the MPS market is currently worth over $25 billion globally and projects it will be a $60 billion market by 2013. It says the market in the US is currently growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 27 percent.


Research has indicated that many companies spend up to 3 percent of their sales on document output costs and United says that HQueue can lead to as much as a 30 percent reduction in these costs.


MPS is also changing the way that companies purchase toner supplies, locking them in to equipment, service and supplies contracts. Dealers risk being squeezed out of the market altogether unless they are able to provide an overall MPS package.


United’s latest announcement confirms its strategy of financially investing in service providers to develop its own services offering, coming just weeks after it acquired technology solutions company MBS Dev.


Rival SP Richards has not been sitting on its hands as far as MPS is concerned, and has just announced the launch of its own MPS offering, printsmart.


With distributors and wholesalers such as Supplies Network, Parts Now! and SYNNEX, as well as aftermarket manufacturers like West Point Products all offering their own MPS programmes, it looks like dealers are now going to be spoilt for choice.