Brother International Europe – Leading the Way with Innovations

Brother, the global business solutions provider, helps businesses future-proof themselves, while increasing efficiency, boosting productivity and encouraging collaboration in the workplace.

Originally founded over 100 years ago in Nagoya, Japan, Brother’s first European base was established in Ireland in 1958. At that time, the company made a wide range of products, including typewriters, knitting machines, washing machines, electric fans and even a motorcycle.

In 1968, the company took over the Jones sewing machine factory to make Manchester the new home of Brother UK, and also the home of the company’s European headquarters. To this day Brother till produces the sewing machines that made the business famous, as well as a range of industry-leading office technologies and business solutions – from a versatile range of printers, scanners, and label printers, to business solutions that help companies personalise their technology to suit specific business needs.

Innovation has always been part of Brother’s DNA: the company launched the world’s first high-speed dot matrix printer in 1971, the world’s thinnest self-contained mobile printer in 2004, and the first desktop scanner with built-in wireless connectivity.

Today, Brother International operates globally, with a presence in over 40 countries, and employs nearly 40,000 people worldwide.

Wide offering

“In Europe, most people would associate us with our electronic office equipment, the area in which the company has been trading in Europe for 64 years,” says Ian Metcalfe, Executive Director Strategic and Business Planning. “Less familiar is our industrial machinery – a business that evolved from our own production experience and is heading towards robotics and automation at the factory level.”

He points out that apart from its two key business lines, Brother is also active in the crafting market that has been experiencing sky-high demand as a result of the pandemic, and surprisingly continues to grow substantially. Moreover, the company is also a brand leader in the karaoke business in Japan.

“While our offering is wide and varied, 60-70% of our business is printing solutions, labelling and mobile printing devices. The segment that we expect to grow most progressively in the future is, without doubt, the industrial segment, offering opportunities in automation systems that help to increase efficiency in manufacturing.”

Mr Metcalfe explains that the company’s diverse portfolio of offerings for small office and home office has allowed Brother to take advantage of the expansion of demand during the Covid-19 pandemic. The market now offers good opportunities for further expansion.

Hybrid solutions

Today, in response to changing market requirements, the company’s portfolio includes new solutions that are ‘hybrid working ready’. These include an all-around print-and-scan solution that works at home, in the office and on the move, to ensure employees can operate efficiently, safely and securely across multiple locations. The aim is to boost productivity by ensuring documents and information get to the right people at the right time through automated workflows and processes, wherever they are.

“We are well placed to meet customers’ future needs. What differentiates us from competitors is the sheer breadth of what we offer, as well as our agility and fast response. We are one of the very few companies that offer laser technology, inkjet technology and also thermal technology. With the acquisition of Domino Printing Sciences six years ago, we have developed the scope and coverage of the digital printing sector. This means that we are able to provide a solution for any type of business,” affirms Mr Metcalfe.

“Another differentiator is our firm belief that the customer always comes first. That is one of the reasons why we pursue a local approach – every country is served by a local Brother office to provide a highly personalised and customised offering. We understand the country, the culture and the local requirements.”

Utmost customer focus is one of the factors behind the many awards that Brother has received over the years, including the Best Brand for 2020 in Home and Business printing, the Good Design Award 2019 in five categories, as well as the Best Printer Manufacturer as voted by PC Pro readers for eight consecutive years.

Efficient and sustainable

The company is now in the process of launching a new vision that has sustainability at its heart. “We are looking at all our business models, the use of materials, the creation of new products. We want to be a leader in the approach to sustainability, not just a follower of new regulations. To this end, the company is making a huge investment in recycling and promotion of the circular economy, i.e., in products that last longer and can be refurbished and reused, and ultimately recycled.”

In line with this strategy, Brother has launched a small pilot project – EcoPro, a printing subscription service for the home office user. For a very low fee, Brother provides hardware that is eventually sent back to the company to be refurbished. Then it can be used by the next customer, promoting the notion that “new” is not always the right answer. Currently, EcoPro is piloting in the UK and the plan is to roll the concept out to Europe in 2022.

“In the coming years, we will continue to invest in sustainability and are looking at bringing in some new business domains around the hybrid working area. At the same time, we will continue the transformational operations that we have been doing with a focus on automation and more value-added activities from our staff.”

In concluding, Mr Metcalfe admits that Covid-19 has been a major shakeup but on the plus side, demand for Brother’s products has increased. “We have managed to survive the pandemic with the strong support of our partners who have helped Brother continue to thrive and succeed despite the pandemic, ensuring that we could meet our customer demands as much as possible. With the help of our partners, we have been quick to adapt to the new situation, and are set to offer new solutions to match the evolving market requirements.”

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