Xerox: How Research Can Make Services Green

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Xerox Research gets to work on efficiency for its growing services business, says Tom Blodgett

Xerox is still known as a printer company but, since the acquisition of ACS, at least half of its revenue comes from services.

The other thing Xerox is known for is its research, which, back in the day, produced many major advances at the Palo Alto Research Centre. At an Open Day in its European Research Centre in Grenoble, France, Xerox argued that this long-term research is a surprisingly good fit for a services business which might previously have seemed to be very short-term oriented,  raising its game and increasing its profile.

Research is a differentiator

“ACS was a public company with a $7 billion turnover before it was acquired by Xerox, but it was little known in Europe,” said Tom Blodgett (pictured), Xerox Services’ chief operating officer for Europe, at an Open Day on the grounds of the company’s European Research Centre. “Our strategy was very tactical. We were good at solving problems but it was the problem of the day rather than taking a long term and more strategic view.”

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Joining up with Xerox has been a big change for ACS, he said, which added something like 80,000 employees, many of whom work in call centres, to a company which was previously focused on shipping hardware. “A few years ago, Xerox made a decision to change from being a company focused on technology to one focused on services,”  Blodgett told TechWeekEurope. “The leadership recognised there is a change going on. Today, 50 percent of the business is services, and over the next few years, that will continue to grow.”

At the same time, the ACS people get a chance to tap into resources which can solve longer term problems, and deliver higher level services. “Innovation is a differentiator for us,” said Blodgett.

Services customers now get a chance to visit the Research Centres for what the company calls “dreaming sessions” where they can talk about business problems and look for more fundamental solutions.

Focus on green?

Among the issues examined at the Grenoble centre, many fall into the category of Green IT – managing smart grids, enabling people to print less, and reducing the amount of time people drive around looking for parking spaces.  The focus is not a coincidence, from what Blodgett tells us – it is part of the culture.

“We have a target of 10-20 percent power reduction for printers,” he said. “We are taking a leadership role in technology that allows people to work at home, which offers benefits all round.”

Moves to handle documents in digital form also reduce environmental impact by cutting printing.  Xerox has no hesitation in admitting that printed output is falling, and welcomes the change. “Printed output is falling at something like five percent every year round the world,” said Blodgett. “The workspace environment is changing. Digitisation is occurring and there are different ways of doing things now.”

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