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Thursday, Mar 30, 2023

No Paper, No Problem For Toshiba’s OC Ops

Toshiba America Business Solutions Inc.’s headquarters in Lake Forest is ready to help businesses make the long-awaited transition to offices more focused on digital and less on paper.

“There’s such a large global population that has grown up with screens,” Toshiba America CEO Scott Maccabe told the Business Journal.

“That’s how they live their entire life. That will propagate, I believe, a faster transition into the paperless environment.”

While less paper use may at first glance look like a big loss for printer- and copier-oriented Toshiba, Maccabe said less paper will in fact create an “opportunity” for the company.

“We provide solutions across our multiple businesses in information sharing, information efficiencies,” Maccabe said. “And it comes in a digital format or it comes in a paper format. That’s not a concern for us. It’s just a different application.”

320 Workers in OC

Maccabe leads almost 2,500 employees companywide in the unit that has taken on growing importance within the Japan-based parent company, Toshiba Tec Corp. More than 320 of them work in Orange County.

The debate over the “paperless office” has been raging for decades with few signs of slowing down.

Chief Marketing Executive Bill Melo said the trend actually may be toward “the less paper office, not the paperless office.”

“The market share of information that is printed is probably less, but there’s just so much more information out in the world that even with people printing less of it, there’s still a lot of paper that is happening and it’s not going to go away,” according to Melo.

“All of our devices have individual meters for scanning and printing and copying. So, you’ll see much greater usage of the device as a scanner than anything else,” the marketing chief said.

“Part of our service offering to customers is to teach them how to print less,” the marketing executive adds. “There’s a lot of waste that happens.”

Keeping TABS

Toshiba America Business Solutions—often referred to by the acronym TABS—also provides thermal barcode printers, digital sign displays (see story, this page) and other products throughout the United States, Mexico, and Central and South America. 

Toshiba is adding more security tools for its office printers. For example, users may need to key in a code to start the printing of documents from a centralized printer.

“So you’re not wasting anything and you’re not letting confidential documents just sit, able to be picked up by somebody else,” Melo said.

There are also security functions built into the printers’ hard drives, while an ID card may be required for access to prevent sensitive documents from being sent to competitors.

Some of the printers are made in China, a development that has raised questions regarding President Donald Trump’s tariffs on products made in that country.

The tariffs are “greatly impacting many technology providers, including virtually every multifunction printer manufacturer,” Toshiba said in a statement.

“As a result, we’re starting to see price increases from many companies in our space,” the company said. “Similarly, Toshiba is working to offset the impact of the tariffs through all means possible and is looking at implementing a small pricing increase this quarter.”  

Thermal, POS Offerings

Toshiba is also turning out a line of sophisticated thermal barcode printers—a business area that Maccabe said has “taken off” as more goods are shipped directly from warehouses and distribution centers.

“Toshiba was more of a niche player, and we have just made a concerted effort to grow across the different market opportunities for us and be competitive in that that space,” Maccabe said of the barcode printers.

Zebra Technologies Corp. of Lincolnshire, Ill., has about 89% of the market share for the thermal barcode printers, he said.

The company is also rolling out a whole line of point-of-sale printers—the place where customers can step up to the counter, pay, and ask for a paper receipt.

The business is worth more than $1 billion a year in the Americas alone, Maccabe said.

Maccabe is also the CEO of a separate company, Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions (TGCS), a North Carolina-based firm that focuses on retail store technology and in-store products with about 1,140 employees in the U.S.

Profit Center

Toshiba Tec has about $4.3 billion in revenue, according to the dual-role CEO.

“Between our two U.S.-based companies—TABS and TGCS—we represent about 48% of that revenue and a much greater amount of the profitability of the corporation,” Maccabe said.

“We have been the leading profit contributor to our parent company for a long time now,” he said. “We moved from being the tail on the dog to now further up,” he said. “We have been the most significant profit generation vehicle and cash generation vehicle.”

Several Toshiba-branded units have operational bases in OC; other business lines include medical-focused divisions that are near the University of California-Irvine.

Much of the company’s area operations were previously consolidated at a larger facility in Irvine; those groups moved elsewhere following the building’s sale a few years ago, with TABS moving a few miles away to an office park off Bake Parkway in Lake Forest.

TABS remains an emphasis for the parent company, Maccabe said.

“One of the most significant changes has been Toshiba corporate—Toshiba Tec, our parent company—really becoming so much for dependent on this business unit, this business entity,” Maccabe said.

That includes helping to train employees from Japan, where Marketing Chief Melo says the focus is more on manufacturing.

“We have a number of Japanese staff that are resident here for about a three-year tenure, and they turn over,” Mccabe said. “We have become the training, grooming mechanism for headquarters in Japan.

“They’ll bring over their best and brightest and ask us to immerse them in the culture, in our business acumen, our business strategies.”

Toshiba’s one of several printer manufacturers with large operations in Orange County that’s looking to reinvent operations in light of the paperless office movement.

Local Hub

Rival Ricoh USA Inc. is headquartered in Pennsylvania, but retains a collection of large facilities along the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway, including several buildings in Tustin.

Epson America Inc., meanwhile will move its headquarters from Long Beach to a just-refurbished campus in Los Alamitos next year.

“We’re proud to be an Orange County company,” said Toshiba’s Maccabe, who grew up in Southern California. “We’re very proud of that.”

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Kevin Costelloe
Kevin Costelloe
Tech reporter at Orange County Business Journal

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