Future business model

As the new product development manager for Brother in Europe (in a previous incarnation), I strived to adhere to Brother’s responsible global ideals on sustainable product design, manufacture and disposal. However, despite huge progress by Brother and other leading OP manufacturers, it has been clear for many years that the business model that encourages the proliferation of OPs is not a sustainable one.
We have seen power ratings for a PC’s PSU rise from 130 Watts in the mid 1990s to as much as 1kW! I have estimated that the Western Europe OP standby power use equates to today’s total installed wind turbine generation in the UK.
While new technologies such as multi-core processors and inkjet and duplex printing have helped, it’s not enough to sustain the business model.
At OPI‘s eurOPe 2007 conference in the Netherlands, I highlighted the enormous pressures the OP business now faces. EC directives such as WEEE have already changed the mindset of customers. Manufacturers are now responding to tougher energy efficiency targets in the EC Energy Star rating. The European Building Performance Directives (EPBD) will drive a reduction in CO2 emissions from buildings and their use. For example, heat losses from IT equipment, when combined with heat from the sunshine, creates huge demands on air conditioning or causes poor office productivity.
The future for IT product design has to be more holistic in approach by considering the wider impacts on the office environment and staff productivity. It is no longer just about faster and cheaper products. As the aerospace industry knows, it is the human pilot and the availability of power that limits performance, not the speed of the computers. And the office products industry is now facing the same limitation.
The holistic approach is one where appliances are purchased with CO2 emissions, the buildings performance and the indoor environment conditions in mind. Organisations striving for ISO14001 certification and a strengthened CSR message will accelerate this approach.
In the future we can expect a carbon footprint rating to become legislation for commercial buildings and organisations. Organisations that don’t reduce energy consumption from their office products take the risk that they will depreciate the value of their buildings, have a socially damaged brand and have poor staff productivity. I expect the successful OP business model of the future to be one that is holistic throughout the product life cycle, not one that relies on proliferation of the peripherals and its consumables.

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