Zebra Leads Channel Into New Vertical MarketsZebra Leads Channel Into New Vertical Markets
Zebra will offer machine vision smart cameras and fixed industrial scanners that enable tracking and tracing capabilities.
May 18, 2021
As Zebra Technologies celebrates five years of extensive channel expansion, the company is leading its partners into a new market that has traditionally been the domain of direct sellers of industrial scanners and machine vision solutions.
Under the direction of Bill Cate, vice president of marketing and channels, Zebra has built a channel program that encompasses some 45,000 active worldwide partners. That’s a 60% increase since Cate took the job five years ago. During that time, Zebra has become a channel-centric organization where the bulk of its revenue comes from partners. Cate’s work stems from Zebra’s acquisition of Motorola’s solutions business in 2016. Zebra has centered on key vertical markets such as health care, manufacturing and electronics.
The data capture company announced Tuesday that it would enter the market for machine vision smart cameras and fixed industrial scanners that enable tracking and tracing capabilities, as well as quality inspection for goods produced by manufacturing companies — a market Zebra knows well.
“We are already in these customers and have been in automotive, food and beverage, pharmaceutical with mobile, printing and data capture, so we are well positioned,” said Cate, who serves as Zebra’s channel chief. “We have one suite of easy-to-set-up-and-run software. It easily integrates with plant floor IT systems. The technology is fresh and new in an older space.”
Big Partner Opportunity
Zebra’s Bill Cate
Zebra Technologies is entering a market it estimates is a $1.1 billion opportunity, growing at 6% with a specialized group of partners who will sell a suite of seven fixed-data capture products. These partners will compete not against other tech and solution providers, but against the direct sales forces of automation and data capture companies like Cognex and Datalogic. Cate is confident Zebra can gain share in this space as a relative newcomer because it is betting on a channel-led sales and marketing strategy.
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Accompanying the product launch is a new specialized track in Zebra’s PartnerConnect channel program, which counts about 15,000 partners as members. Cate said the company built this program from scratch to support partners – including distributors and systems integrators – in the industrial automation space. The Lincolnshire, Illinois-based company expects about 50 of its partners to join the program because of the specializations and investment required, but will grow that over time. Zebra will require partners to employ certified engineers, software specialists and application engineers — along with the ability to provide lab and demo equipment for proof of concept.
Partners Feeling Positive
The opportunity has some of Zebra’s partners feeling optimistic.
Strategic Systems & Technology’s David Bissonnette
“Zebra’s entry into fixed industrial scanning and machine vision is a great opportunity for partners like Strategic Systems & Technology to expand our offering in the manufacturing space by helping our clients automate their inspection and quality control processes,” said David Bissonnette, president of Strategic Systems & Technology. “The ability for us to provide these advanced solutions differentiates us as a value-added partner in our accounts,” he said.
Bissonnette said Zebra Technologies has done “an impressive job of strengthening” the program over the last five years to further reward partners who invest in growing their Zebra business.
“The fact that Zebra continues to innovate and roll out differentiated solutions like machine vision, WorkforceConnect, Fulfilment Edge and others within the PartnerConnect framework makes it even more compelling for us to increase our investment in promoting the broader Zebra offering,” he said.
Data Capture Products
So what exactly is Zebra bringing to market for companies that need to better manage their assets and employees in manufacturing, warehouse and logistics settings? The company is introducing a portfolio of seven fixed-data capture products featuring industrial scanning or machine vision capabilities. Zebra’s fixed industrial scanners and machine vision smart cameras can inspect production lines and product movement processes. The products can leverage Zebra Aurora, a software platform designed for industrial automation.
“Supported by Zebra Aurora, these new solutions will provide a performance edge to those on the front line of business,” Donato Montanari, Zebra’s VP of machine vision solutions, said in a statement that coincided with the product introduction.
The company’s move into the fixed industrial scanner and machine vision smart camera market comes as a result of Zebra’s purchase of Cortexica, which if completed in November 2019.
“We are a very channel-led company,” said Cate.
Of Zebra’s $4.4 billion in annual sales that revolve around sensing, acting on and analyzing data, partner-led revenue accounted for slightly more than 81% of the business last year.
“It is a really diverse community based on a diverse portfolio,” Cate said.
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