The Office Scanner Industry Responds to the COVID-19 Outbreak

Lee Davis
Mar 23, 2020

Demand Is Steady, Supply Chains Are Mostly Intact, and Everybody Is Working from Home

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I remember learning about the Bubonic Plague and the Spanish Influenza when I was in school. I was terrified, but also relieved: “At least with modern medicine and medical technology, I’ll never have to worry about dealing with that stuff.”

Boy was I wrong.

The COVID-19 outbreak is wreaking havoc in every measurable way that havoc can be wreaked. Everything is closed. I am running out of toilet paper. My cat is confused why I haven’t left the house in a week. And I haven’t been able to watch a hockey game in 10 days.

The virus is impacting everyone. Even the office scanner market isn’t immune to the chaos.

Manufacturers are telling me they’re following the guidelines from the CDC plus state and federal governments, and that anyone who can work from home should. Employees who cannot telecommute due to the nature of job are still being asked to come in to work, which means warehouse, distribution, and service operations will not slow down significantly due to a labor shortage. Most businesses plan on having their entire staff return to the office in the first week of April. But with experts predicting that the outbreak can last into the summer, we can expect businesses to keep their workers at home until May or June.

One bit of good news: Customer demand doesn’t seem to be slowing down. One executive at a major manufacturer said, “We’ve been responding to very strong year-on-year bid/deal requests.” While most of the folks I spoke to would agree that demand is largely unaffected, most are saying that customers are making decisions and submitting purchase orders much more slowly than normal—a result of the increase of decision makers working remotely. One C-level executive expects up to one third of revenue to be deferred for this quarter, but that the long-term impact won’t be too daunting.

Some OEMs are concerned about their supply chains. One representative said, “Production capabilities in China may make it difficult for us to source all the components we need to manufacture our products.” The company fears that they may run into problems producing devices as early as May or June. However, a representative from another OEM said that they have already encountered and dealt with supply chain problems about a month a half ago—but are now back at full capacity.

To overcome potential shortages as a result of slowdowns in manufacturing abroad, one OEM is front-ending manufacturing and bringing in much more short-term inventory than they initially planned. “We have been doing a lot of vendor juggling and adjusting our incoming freight management as necessary,” said one executive.

I have also seen some OEMs seizing the opportunity to help customers work through the outbreak. One OEM told customers they can purchase scanning equipment for remote workers at a discount, and that the equipment can be distributed via drop-shipping.

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We’re still early in the game, so it’s difficult to predict just how much of an impact the virus will have on the industry. But based on my conversations with folks in the office scanning marketplace, I feel confident in saying that the COVID-19 outbreak is going to be a painful, costly ordeal.

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