Have you ever bought a product, and then been disappointed?
The failure of a product to satisfy expectations can trouble individual shoppers, large corporations, and even the world’s largest consumer - the US Federal Government.
Therefore, we wanted to identify some of the hurdles that plague the Imaging Supply Industry.
These can include the intentional or unintentional misrepresentation of non-OEM laser toner and inkjet supplies, and a misunderstanding of collection options, production methods, performance testing, and quality standards.
As a sub-set of the Office Products universe, the imaging supply category can represent between 20%, and up to 36% of total volume (i.e. on GSA FSSI OS2). This is a category of consequence.
Our community is haunted by ancient references. Previously released bids can get recycled from one Purchasing Manager to the next without the benefit of an update. Clover can help clarify certain vernacular language nuances that can menace the acquisition process.
Responding to an RFI, entertaining an RFQ, or a bid posted on the GSA eBuy portal, begins with validating the terminology employed by the host Agency. Product standards and appropriate terms should guide the selection process and the attendant calculation of “Fair and Reasonable” pricing. Questions can arise due to ambiguous language. Please invite Clover to get involved. Sometimes, a simple phone conversation or written request for clarification can provide direction. Certain engagements can escalate to a formal protest. The probability of a successful outcome is enhanced if: a Clover solution is specified before the bid is released, or a pre-solicitation protest strategy is pursued. It’s not impossible, but it can be complicated to reverse a decision after the award.
Key concerns that could compel a pause for clarity, or trigger a protest, include:
- A suspicious price delta between options – Quantify if a broad spectrum exists between the OEM, a Remanufactured green option, and non-TAA and Section 889 compliant counterfeit clone compatibles.
- Does the product comply with the rules for Environmental Sustainability to support the circular economy? What is the mechanism for collecting empty cores? Can the recovery results quantify the reduction of the carbon footprint, and pounds of plastic removed from landfills so they can be reported and celebrated?
- Exposure to risky liability for the wholesaler, dealer, and consumer during ongoing litigation. If an OEM IP issue is in the process of adjudication, ask: Does the dealer or manufacturer indemnify everyone in the supply chain? What is the dollar ceiling of the policy? Who pays the balance if the settlement terms are greater than the coverage? In what country does the indemnification documentation originate? Has the policy ever been exercised? Has the respondent ever been involved in litigation? What was the outcome? Is the respondent currently named in any litigation?
- What are the sources and methods the host Agency has employed to issue the bid? What was the date that the bid was written? Did the author provide an appendix of sources that authenticate the terms and standards that have been referenced?
- To learn more about Environmental, Health, and Safety (EH&S) issues – specifically toxic Deca BDE emissions, and Volatile Organic Compounds (voc), liability, product performance, and hardware threats, please watch https://info.cloverimaging.com/welcome-to-my-parlor hosted by Tricia Judge, Executive Director of the www.I-ITC.org. FYI - The introduction of her new, dynamic website is on the short-term horizon.
For best results, educated Shoppers consider the search terms for imaging supplies based on support and adoption from: Industry, Associations, Academia, and the Federal Government.
An understanding of appropriate semantics, nomenclature, and lexicon can help set consumer expectations. A best practice is to educate your customers and specify a Clover solution by referencing the codification of Product Specifications and Quality Standards. For example:
- These 16 “yes” or “no” questions from the Enforcement Guidelines for Remanufactured Imaging Supplies 6-10-20 confirm GSA standards to validate consumer expectations. They help set guard rails, and explain what to avoid. https://bit.ly/3rUKBSE
- These 25 “yes” or “no” questions from the Clover Experience Specification help identify features and benefits that should be prioritized. These standards serve as a benchmark for selecting the “best in class” remanufactured imaging supplies. https://bit.ly/3us5w0W
Respected leaders with the support of industry and the broader market, have agreed upon these building blocks to reconcile the difference between “putting marks on paper” compared to a best value, green, OEM-like experience. A collective precedent has been established by:
1. Industry – The Standardized Testing and Certifications from the International Imaging Technology Council www.I-ITC.org, for example https://www.i-itc.org/stmc-guide.html is a point of reference.
- The Standard Test Methods Committee, (STMC) logo is the recognized international quality specification for the: Global Imaging Industry, Contract / Commercial market, The Federal Government, Many States, Cities, Counties, K-12, Colleges and Universities.
- Accepted terminology is supported by the OEM Imaging Supplies Coalition, www.ISC-INC.org. For example, this site provides insight on Counterfeit Detection Detection (isc-inc.org) and What is counterfeit? (isc-inc.org).
2. Association – The membership of the www.BusinessSolutionsAssociation.org established the Print Cartridge Definition BSA Standard Update - 01-2020.pdf (businesssolutionsassociation.com).
- This BSA Standard is supported by wholesalers, buying groups, and independent dealers through the www.IOPFDA.org. The BSA Taxonomy of Terms has been written into the GSA Schedule. It recognizes that it takes an empty cartridge to remanufacture a finished product. Therefore, the Office Products industry has adopted the term “remanufactured” as the primary search term. The product is defined by the process. The term “compatible” is not a search term, but rather can be inserted in the description section to help explain that the cartridge fits into the printer’s supply compartment.
3. Academia – Supported by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Golisano Institute for Sustainability, www.rit.edu/sustainabilityinstitute, the Remanufactured Industries Council (RIC) approved this standard in 2016, https://bit.ly/31t5xVZ. This document recognizes the process to collect, inspect, remanufacture, and test. This standard has been approved by the American National Standards Institute, www.ANSI.org.
- The Remanufactured Industries Council, www.RemanCouncil.org created the RIC’s Standards Development Procedures
- I served on the first Consensus Body that helped create the 2016 standard. I am now serving on the 2021 Board that is involved in the revision.
C. Because of the process, this group intentionally designated their Council’s name as the Remanufactured Industries Council (RIC) – as opposed to the compatible, refurbished, replacement, renewable, etc. Industries Council.
4. General Services Administration, www.GSA.gov for the US Federal Government
- Clover applauds and congratulates the hard-working team at GSA for their orthodox application of vocabulary, NAIC Codes, and Product & Service Codes. These terms are supported when contracts are investigated on beta.SAM.gov using Boolean syntax searches.
- Repeated shopper/user surveys confirm that Federal Consumers prefer the Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) www.GSAadvantage.gov because it is considered a trusted marketplace. Approved terms contribute to Search Engine Optimization and enforcement on the MAS.
- The Authorized Imaging Supply Manufacturers program, recognizes Manufacturers that host an Authorized Dealer Program
- The Letter of Supply (LoS) for the MAS: https://www.gsa.gov/cdnstatic/Letter_of_Supply_October_2019.docx recognizes TAA compliancy, the EPA Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG), and the Authorization Program
In the “Critical Information” tabs of the Dealer Application for the Multiple Award Schedule (MAS): https://beta.sam.gov/opp/9c6569ce85314504b780b8778abde405/view references the I-ITC STMC Standards, and includes the BSA Taxonomy of Terms which govern how a product shall be represented on the MAS with these exclusively approved naming conventions:
1. OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturer, for example: Brother, Canon, EPSON, Hewlett Packard, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, XEROX, etc.
2. Remanufactured - for example: Clover Imaging Group, AbilityOne, Skilcraft, Innovera, Elite Image, V7, TRIUMPH/Source America
3. Non-OEM New Build - A high percentage of these cartridges are from China. They are neither TAA or Section 889 compliant, nor are they a green, environmentally sustainable option. They may have unresolved OEM IP issues and EH&S toxicity concerns.
4. Refilled – This is a legacy term. These cartridges will not satisfy I-ITC STMC quality guidelines
- Language in the GSA eLibrary supports the circular economy. Any Schedule holder that sells imaging supplies is required to provide an environmentally sustainable collection solution to recover empties.
- In order for dealers to be eligible to sell Imaging Supplies to the Federal Government under SIN 339940 OS4 and 339940, “Toner cartridge offerors must provide arrangements for empty toner cartridges to be returned from customers. This may include prepaid shipping labels in the products packaging and/or rebates.”
This is a helpful resource from the State of California that also validates appropriate terminology: https://www.dgs.ca.gov/PD/Resources/Find-EPP-Goods-and-Services/Office-Supplies/Ink-and-Toner-Cartridges
In summary, we consumers can benefit from the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin, ““The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
As we prepare for the fiscal Q4 GSA busy season, and the return of the Federal workforce, below are some helpful resources:
- Advanced Notice for MAS Refresh 6 and Upcoming Mass Modification | Interact (gsa.gov)
- Region 6 Industry Day- Catalog Management Brief- March 2021.pdf (gsa.gov)
- Download your Acquisition Planning Package guidance and documents
- Save the Date for the FAST Virtual Conference | GSA, Federal Acquisition Service training 2021: June 15 – 17, 2021
- June 24, 2021 – Clover will host a webinar to discuss busy season opportunities and introduce our new Federal Government passcode protected microsite of resources
About the cover: On April 5, 2021, Clover posted this picture and content on Social Media.
Clover extends our congratulations to the 2021 recipients of the IOPFDA Outstanding Leader Award - David Guernsey, Mark Leazer, Charles Foreman, and our own Steve Noyes, SVP of Clover. The awards were presented by Mike Tucker - Executive Director of the IOPFDA, and Paul Miller - IOPFDA Advocate and Lobbyist, during the March 30-31, 20th Annual Workplace Solutions Summit. We thank Independent Office Products and Furniture Dealers Association for hosting our industry community – that now includes a partnership w/ www.ISSA.com. We are grateful to the generous sponsors of the event: SP Richards, Essendant, and ISG. If you missed 2021, make plans to attend this exciting event next year in Washington DC scheduled for March 2022. For Dealer and Affiliate/Manufacturer membership information visit: https://www.iopfda.org/jointoday.
We are thankful to our current family of Clover Authorized Federal Dealers that deliver a TAA and 889 compliant, Best Value, Environmentally Sustainable, and AbilityOne option to help consumers convert from the OEM.
If you are not a Clover Authorized Federal Dealer, then contact your Clover Account Manager, or email, FederalTeam@CloverImaging.com, or visit https://www.cloverimaging.com/federal-dealer-program to request our April 2021 SIP file, and learn more about our Award-Winning B2G – GSA, AbilityOne, and Public Sector program. Our team welcomes the opportunity to mutually design a playbook to maximize sales of Remanufactured Imaging supplies, Parts and Kits, Printers, ITAD, CSP, Bar Code labels, Cleanitize wipes, and Responsible Hand Sanitizer in the growing Fed-SLED, tax-supported verticals.