AML Blog - The Scan

And then there were 5…4…3…

A commentary on consolidation in the AIDC industry

One of the driving factors behind any free market economy is competition. More competition in any given market means more choices for the consumer, keeps pressure on prices, and forces suppliers to constantly innovate, looking for ways to stay a step ahead of the competition. Even suppliers recognize that healthy competition serves as the catalyst behind moving their companies and their products forward. Without it, companies and their products stagnate. Our industry, the Automatic Identification and Data Collection (AIDC) industry has seen a staggering amount of consolidation over the past several years.

Trying to “white board” all the acquisitions and mergers can be a dizzying experience. Is it a good thing? For the end users that purchase AIDC products and the resellers that sell them, I think not. With each successive acquisition or merger, numerous products, and in some cases entire product lines, simply went away because they were redundant. Choices for the buyer are narrowing… and quickly.

Resellers, especially true value-added resellers, will need to re-visit their “value-add”.

The industry is already suffering from over-distribution, compounded by the ingress of consumer-grade devices into what have traditionally been applications served by rugged devices. Commoditization of AIDC products is already screaming down the tracks and once the dust settles from the latest mega-merger, resellers in our industry will be faced with even fewer ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Everyone will be selling the same products to the same customers. Oh sure, the logos on the devices will be different and the products may not look identical, but rest assured they are identical in the eyes of the customer. Selling on price will be more of a slippery slope than ever before.

Resellers, especially true value-added resellers, will need to re-visit their “value-add”. Solution sales are great if you can handle them… software and professional services wrapped around a hardware sale is still a winner in any book. But not all resellers have those kinds of resources, and those that do still need to grow their business as well.

It requires a higher degree of association with your customer… it requires taking the blinders off.

The answer might lie in built-for-purpose products designed for niche markets. These are the markets and applications that the post-merger mega powers won’t address. They can’t. Niche markets simply don’t warrant their time and resources. But just because these mega powers don’t address the niche market, doesn’t mean there isn’t potential; it just means that there isn’t enough potential for a multi-billion dollar manufacturer.

How do you find niche markets and applications? How do you combat consolidation in the AIDC industry? Granted it’s more difficult than simply responding to RFQs and “dialing for dollars”. It requires a higher degree of association with your customer, but more importantly, it requires taking the blinders off. It requires asking probing questions to find out where the customer’s pain is, what keeps them up at night, and then go in search of a solution. But look for the perfect solution… the built-for-purpose product that does exactly what they need it to do, with no additional baggage or costs that makes the return-on-investment longer than it should be. Win a customer by bringing them the ideal solution, and you’ll be their “go to” reseller from then on.

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