Worldwide the company is about the same size as Zebra. But, the majority of its revenue is home grown in Japan where Sato has become the word for printer. To breakout of Japan and make more of international markets the company opened its Singapore offices about three years ago and this has brought it success in the broader Asian market. Since then the company opened up its European HQ in Brussels where a staff of 45 focus on sales, marketing, technical support and administration. Elsewhere its German subsidiary employs 20 people, Poland has 15 staff and the UK has 250 people.
The company has undergone management changes to enable it achieve growth of 40 to 50 per cent and Frimat says that it is very close to this target.
Channel is loyal
Frimat stresses the importance of the channel. Sato traditionally has enjoyed a loyal channel and now it is giving something back by increasing support; and, efforts to make the brand more visible are underway. With this level of support and increased brand awareness he sees the partners being able to break new ground in markets where Sato has not trod before or made little headway.
A big step has been for the manufacturer to consider European needs for its printers. The companys products reportedly are viewed as the engineers choice, which is a plus factor and it will continue its focus on excellence. But by considering its channel more it will be able to market the brand better and win new customers in logistics, shipping, postal and retail environments.
Frimat says that the channel is excited about this and it is what they have been waiting for. And many of its partners have been waiting for a long time.
RFID will help trigger growth in Europe says Frimat. No one would disagree with his view that this is not going to be a big money winner immediately, but the market has to be ready to implement the required technologies. He says that Sato is investing heavily in preparing technology and educating the channel. The company is in no doubt that it is ready for action with a European frequency compliant product. Its business partners are placing orders for equipment now and the company has 15 live pilots running in the US and by the time this story will have gone to press its first live pilot in France should be in place.
It is clear that Sato is going to push home the message that not only can it do bar code it can also provide RFID capability too. This is very important in an auto ID market where the value add of bar code is fizzling out. Frimat has no doubt that RFID will bring back the value add to the auto ID world. The signs are here with various vendors claiming that the technology is now cheap enough and with the mandates from Walmart, Metro and Tesco not resulting in a no from their suppliers it looks like Frimats words will come true.
Frimat confirms that the challenges are huge, but we will see winners in the RFID race this time next year. For Sato (and any other manufacturer) it will be important to have successful pilots with big players in retail supplies. These will set the benchmarks for the smaller suppliers to follow.
To help prepare the way, Sato has embarked on a channel programme that kicked off with an RFID symposium that attracted 120 delegates and there will be regular gatherings every three to four months. Development kits are being shipped by request to partners and a retail symposium has been tabled for September.