Although 3D printing industry is developing dynamically, some operating principles stay the same – I mean a way of selling 3D printers. From the really beginning – so from the time when selling of professional 3D printers was only incidental – it looked always the same – a producer offered his devices directly – he sold on his own, organised transport and installation of a device and provided a guarantee service.
In case od huge and expensive systems for 3D print in form of machines printing from light hardened rinses or SLS and DMLS it’s rather obvious – they’re specialistic and demanding devices which are sold in small amounts in scale of the month, so the third party is out of the question. Machines from Stratasys, 3D Systems, EOS, Arcam, VoxelJeta or similar, which aren’t machines, which you can install in your office on your own – it requires a group of specialists from each company or its authorised distributor.
Nonetheless, in the moment when low-budget 3D printers, which are much easier in use, appeared on the market, the problem of installation of devices disappeared. Devices are becoming more user-friendly and you often need only a manual to start them. Sale is increasing gradually and their producers start to find alternative methods of selling or distributing them.
One of the first companies specialised in distribution of electronic devices on a wide-scale interested in 3D printing industry, was ABC Data. It’s one of the biggest IT distributors in Europe which offers countless number of products – from PCs, through professional printers and copiers, to computer fames or cheap electronic accesories of a daily use.
ABC Data started distribution of 3D printers and filaments in March 2015 but activities related to put these products into its offer started in the autumn 2014. Now, after one year, I decided to talk to person who was responsible for this project – Robert Jaskłóka -Image Processing and Entertainment Department Director, about his opinion and thoughts about 3D printing industry. I was interested in that, which differences can he see between it and the other, more developed industries which help ABC Data to generate an enormous turnover every month? Are low-budget 3D printers the same product as ink printers or laptops?
And a key question with which I began ou talk: Was it worth to start it?
Paweł Ślusarczyk: Robert, soon it will be one year since ABC Data decided to come into 3D printing industry and putting 3D printers an materials into your wide distributive offer. At the beginning I want to ask what did induce you to make this decision and do you find it positive after one year?
Robert Jaskółka: ABC Data, as one ot the biggest IT distributors in Europe and it has tried to get through to the widest circle of clients thanks to our offer. Currently we offer over 100 000 products devided into almost 20 categories. I don’t really try to count their subcategories. The department, which I manage, is concentrated on 2D printers and copiers, so coming into 3D printing industry seemed to be a next, natural step for us. These two indusries are not identical – these are two indepentend environments, which have a few common points, but totally another characteristics.
Was it worth to come into 3D printing industry? Of course! Firstly, this year we became familiar with the technology which gives us amazing possibilities and it’s obvoius that in the future it will be one of the strongest branches of industry. Secondly, when you introduce into 3D print and use a lot of 3D printers, which come to us for tests, we had to face with problems, solving them taught us a lot and developed our skills. Thirdly, pecularity of 3D printing industry is that unique, that it’s not always possible to transfer ready schemes from another industries. It forced us to a completely new attitude to negotiations with our suppliers and resellers. Every experience of this kind is valuable for us and thank to them we can develop ourselves.
PŚ: So it wasn’t typical – easy and pleasant coming into new branch on the market? It wasn’t only bringing out 3D printers into offer and than you started to sale them?
RJ: Firstly, it’s not possible to come into new business, as you described. Even a sale of products which are easy to distribute like f.e.: computer games or LEGO building blocks, requires people engaged into process of sale and logistics, proper knowledge about the product and its receiver. From the outside it can look like you throw some packages in the magazine from one place to another, but in reality it’s a complex process.
PŚ: Coming back to my question – how did the bringing out of 3D printers into your offer look like?
RJ: At the beginning we had to learn how to use 3D print. At the end of last year we appointed a team responsible for bringing out 3D printers and working materials into offer of ABC Data, consisted on a Product Manager responsible gor contact between: delivers – ABC Data – resellers; a manager responsible for implementation of 3D printers to technical and service extent and a manager responsible for development of net of resellers interested in implementinf of 3D printers into their offer. After several training courses about 3D printing technology, we started to analyse producers, test devices and process of choosing devices for sale. Now we carry out trainings for our resellers on our own.
PŚ: You started to talk to Zortrax but you still don’t have their 3D printers in your offer?
RJ: Yes, Zortrax was one of the first producers. The first 3D printer we wanted to focus on was Zortrax M200. We ‘re still negotiating and adapting condition of our cooperation. We came into contact with all of respected producers and resellers of 3D printers in Poland and we established cooperation with everybody with who we wanted to do it. At the beginning our team concentrated itself on drawing up an offer and collecting competences in 3D printing – we concentrated ourselves on better learning how to use the devices which turned up in portfolio of ABC Data and building a distributive channel.
PŚ: Don’t you regret that you don’t have Zortrax in offer of ABC Data?
RJ: The word “regret” is not suitable. I appreciate the class of Zotrtax’s 3D printers and I think that devices which we present in our offer meets the demands of users of 3D printers in Poland. Our offer is very diversified and intended to receivers of different types. We have 3D printers which are bought by home users – hobbyists, fanatics, we despose of 3D printers aimed at educations, and industrial and productive companies. Creating our offer we took a lot of details into consideration – a quality of device, guarantee and service in Poland and abroad and availability and delivery time. The companies were precisely checked and verified accoring to their business credibility and if they have a chances and perspectives for development in the future.
We were looking for the best 3D printers on the market and the best companies which can deliver us products in a high quality and which will fulfil distributive requirements of ABC Data and our business partners. The worst, what we could have done is to cooperate with company which could deliver us a good product but it would go bankrupt in six months. It doesn’t concern Zortrax, of course – during selection of our potential delievers of 3D printers or filaments we had a few meetings with companies which seemed to be interesting but finally they didn’t meet our demands. And time told us that they were good decisions.
PŚ: Any example?
RJ: I don’t want to talk about details but there was a company from Kraków with which we signed a distributive contract but it didn’t realise the first deliveries. This company doesn’t exist anymore. Thanks to good inverview on the market we didn’t expose our reseller to risk. Conversly, our situation with 3DGence is developing superbly. At the beginning of this year no one supposed that they could develop so quickly.
PŚ: Do you mean Michał Sołowow who joined the company?
RJ: These are internal affairs of the company, but joining of such a big inverstor like Mr. Sołowow is a good sign of potential of the company and its possibilities.
PŚ: Which 3D printers do you have currently in your offer?
RJ: 3DGence, Hbot, Monkeyfab PRIME i Robo3D. We still negotiate with new companies from Poland and abroad. Frankly, we’re in communication with every respected producer on the European market.
PŚ: What about MakerBot?
RJ: As I mentioned, we talket to everyone who can guarantee a high quality of a product and proper business level which enables comin into wide distributive channel for ABC Data.
PŚ: Robercie, it’s been heard recently that a big player from IT industry is coming into 3D printing industry. Last year HP announced its plans, Canon joined them lately. Lenovo carries out a test sale of 3D printers daVinci produced in China. What’s more, Microsoft carries out advanced works on introduction of files of new type, proper to 3D print with the framework of 3MF Consortium. Would you like to have above-mentioned products in ABC Data’s offer?
RJ: With each of the mentioned companies ABC Data has a very rich and fruitful history of cooperation and commercial distribution. Currently we’re preparing selling channels and we’re training resellers companies. We’re ready to broaden our portfolio of 3D devices, if it’s possible to sell them. I don’t want to make any declatations, however I have several years of experience with working with them and I can claim, that their products will have a high quality. Bringing them out to our offer should be relatively easier than companies which work on the market of 3D printers which aren’t known. We have to carry out a huge educational work now – Musimy tutaj wykonywać bardzo dużą pracę edukacyjną- not only technology, but products themselves. In this case we’re innovators on a European scale – or maybe even worldwide? I don’t know any another distributor working in the same branch who makes every endeavour to educate how to bring out new products and solutions into the market.
PŚ: Was it easier with Verbatim?
RJ: In this case, it was just a formality. We’ve known Verbatim for ages and we’ve worked together, so to bring out their filaments into our offer came down to set up new records in our system.
PŚ: What do you think about Verbatim’s filaments?
RJ: Verbatim is a brand in a class of its own. We’ve offered offer Verbatim’s filamenst for several months and they’ve a perfect quality.
PŚ: How does a real sale of these materials look like? One of my good friends, who also has Verbatim in his offer, has announced recently a big promotion for filaments, but the interest of clients was average…
RJ: I can not comment on the effectiveness of the activities carried out by your friend, but I can assure you that our business partners appreciate the brand Verbatim and you don’t need to encourage them to purchase their materials. Certainly no one expects from us to conduct any promotion.
PŚ: It leads us to the next question about filaments – which filaments do you have in your offer?
RJ: Verbatim, Orbi-Tech, Devil Design, 3DGence i Spectrum Filaments. We’ve just finished negiotations with a well-known producer of filaments from Europe. due to the fact that the contract is international, legal formalities lasted a bit longer. In addition – as in the case of 3D printers – we negotiate with several companies and we tested enrmous number of materials. All things considered, we try to cooperate only with big deliverers which guarantee a proper quality of their products and who are ready to come into a huge distribution network.
PŚ: What’s easier to sell – 3D printers or filaments?
RJ: I don’t see any significant difference between that. Selling of them increases gradually, but there’s a fluctuation. Sometimes we can see a bigger interest in 3D printer, sometimes we have more orders for filaments. The end effect seem to be similar.
PŚ: You don’t need to introduce ABC Data to people who are oriented in business, especially in business connected with IT. Nonetheless, what does it mean for a so-called “ordinary person”? ABC Data does not sell direct – its customers are countless retailers, integrators and computer stores with electronics in Poland and in Europe. Could you briefly introduce to readers of CD3D what do you do and how can they buy a 3D printer from your company?
RJ: First of all, you’ve to understand how does a selling channel in IT work. It runs as followed: a producer sells his products to distributors who offer them to their reseller. A final client buys a product from reseller. It’s not common that a client buys directly from producer – it’s usually held in official points of sale which have representative and marketing functions, than commercial ones. A real sale happens between a reseller and a final client. In addition, more and more producers – I mean the biggest players on the market – concentrate themselves on distributive sale because it’s much more effective and rentable.
You have to remember that mass sale is above all logistics. Products have to be stored and sent to defined places in defined time, and you have to manage contracts with resellers and motivate them to sales activities. A producent has to focus on production and development of his product – so R&D and marketing. He has to park his truck with his products and send it to distributor, who’ll do the rest. The effectiveness of a distributor and contacts depends on a rapid, efficient and effective distribution of products to resellers, who sell the product to final customers.
Here’s the biggest barrier connected with distribution and sale of 3D printers. 3D printing industry is young and it has to learn the rules. Most of the producers of 3D printers sell directly – it’s caused by the scale of sale and the market. When someone sells 10 3D printers per month, storing, packing and sending them to final clients it’s not a problem. Problems arise, when your sale increases five-ten times. Operating of this kind of sale can be to complicated and sooner or later cost-intensive. When you add service and repairing of devices to that, you realise, that you need several new people to do it.
PŚ: What can finish rapidly a theoretically well-prospering business…
RJ: Exactly! Therefore ABC Data goes forward to the situations of this kind. When we talked to potential deliverers of 3D printers we tried to make them aware of it. Unfortunatelly, some of them weren’t prepared for it… Some companies imagined it all in a very simplified manner – ABC Data will buy 3D printers and sell them somehow. But it doesn’t work like that – a producer has to create a proper commercial atmosphere around his products and a distributor starts the whole process.
The next thing we realized this year is the problem of companies producing 3D printers to come on consument level from specialist level. Big machines or systems of production can be sold directly to the final client. They’re complex and complicated – and othen created stricte according to the order and engaging of a whole distrbutive channel doesn’t make any sense. Big producers of 3D printers have sold their advanced devices for ages – they met with a client, talked about his demands, selected a proper 3D printer for him, sold and repaired it. And it’s worked for this day. Unfortunatelly, selling of 3D printers for 1000 $ doesn’t work like selling these for 1 mln $. Or, what if someone is going to sell several dozen 3D printers per month? If he wants to jump on a higher level, he has to change his policy of sale and distribution.
PŚ: And how do you deal with it?
RJ: We talk. We make aware. We educate. That’s why our negotiations with deliverers lasts that long in some cases. Some of them want to sell us transport services of devices and wait for our call or e-mail with the next order. They treat us like their client, but not their distributor. However, cooperation with ABC Data – and any big distributor in Poland or in the world has to base on partnership. We try to get to the biggest number of clients and work together for the biggest turnover. Deliverers, who work with us, have just understood it.
PŚ: Does this problem concern only Poland or the whole world?
RJ: I don’t hide, at the beginning we focused on deliverers from Poland. Nonetheless, when we negotiated with foreign distributors of devices, it looked pretty the same, but I don’t want to generalize it. Finaly, everything depends on it, who is on the other side. A model example is the cooperation with Robo3D Europe – this company fully understands a pecularity of channel sale and both of sides work together on development of sale and promotion of Robo3D among resellers of ABC Data.
PŚ: Well – and how your resellers approach to 3D printers? Is there a lot of interest in 3D printing?
RJ: Of course! Our resellers bowed us to interest in 3D printing industry. In 2014 they asked us several times about 3D printers and filaments and we started to explore the market and we decided to bring these products in our offer. In March during the Days of 3D Print in Kielce we carried out two big trainings for a group of more than 100 resellers and from this time we organize at least one time per month a training of this type for small groups in seat of your company.
Thanks to our trainings we prepare users to use 3D printing technology, not only FDM, which is in our offer, but also all available on the market. We want to make them aware of it, that products, which they’ll sell, are only an element of a bigger entirety. Thanks to that our resellers are competent enough to talk to clients and advise them, which 3D printer is the best for them. In addition, they also receive a product training and technical support in the field of devices and software, which are in our offer.
A person who finishes this training knows what’s important, hen he want to sell 3D printers and has a background about the whole 3D printing industry. We also carry out workshop about operating of 3D printers.
PŚ: Who takes part in these trainings – representatives of small shops with electronics or big sales networks?
RJ: Everybody. We carried out trainings for owners and retailers from smaller and bigger companies and managers of large-format stores selling electronics.
PŚ: When 3D printers will turn up in supermarkets?
RJ: I think that soon. It’s a quite complicated process. Ordinary people can assume that it’s a decision of one or two people, but in reality every side which takes part in this process, has to be ready, starting with a producer and finishing on a customer advisor in each supermarket. We’ve been working on it for some time and it’ll surely happen. Inspate of appearances the price of the device doesn’t play a major role in it – clients can spend their money on particular products – I don’t mean here TVs or fridges, but more specialistic devices. A 3D printer suits perfectly typical assortment of a large-format store. To make it possible, you have to be prepaired for it.
PŚ: Which plans do you have for your future?
RJ: We’ve got a lot of plans. The most important point for the time being is to negotiate with our deliverers to make possible that our resellers could use more products – 3D printers and filaments. For a long time we’ve been negotiating with producers and distributors of 3D scanners. I don’t mean expensive and professional solutions – but some of them can be added to our offer, but we want to focus on tlow-budget and consumer products. In some way or another, our aim is to have a wide range of products in our offer, and thanks to that our resellers will have a wide choice.
The next case is education of our business partners. From January we’re starting with a new intensive trainings based on old rules but the number of the trainings will increase decidedly. They will concern Poland and freign branches of ABC Data, where people are also interested in it. We’ll also carry out road shows for resellers in every country, where ABC Data has its branches.
We’re going to start a new attractive partnership program for our resellers, which will have a positive influence on development of distributive network and increase of sale. Our program is starting soon and I hope that the readers of your website will hear about it.
Besides, we’re going to take part in different events connected with 3D printing – part of them will be organized or co-organized by us, in one part we will be a partner.
Our aim is still the same – stay a leader among distributors of IT and to develope our network of solutions for 3D printing in Poland and in Europe.
PŚ: Thank you for your time.
RJ: Thank you.