Ask any Financial Director the value to the business of its fleet of company vehicles or the per square footage for office space and the answer will be given almost immediately. There are hidden expenses, however, which silently drain the business – one of these is the cost of printing. Yet with a few strategic adjustments and the introduction of the latest office technology, costs can be reduced while at the same time boosting the efficiency of the business.
The real cost of printing
While the cost of purchasing new products such as copiers, printers or faxes is transparent, the day-to-day running costs are harder to see. It can be all too easy to replace an obsolete copier or printer without adopting a more strategic view. Instead equipment should be selected which has the flexibility to match the predicted growth of the business.
As the price per copy is usually known, since it will be quoted in the lease agreement, it is possible to calculate the overall cost since the auditing functions within the copier will provide information on the number of copies produced. The printing equivalent, however, is harder to quantify, since standalone desktop printers tend to use cartridges which are replaced when empty, without ‘counting’ the number of pages printed per consumable. To compound the problems, re-ordering cartridges is frequently decentralized with each individual department using its own stationery budget, which again can make usage difficult to quantify.
The dramatic growth in the volume of printing, as users of network PCs increasingly choose to print electronic documents, has made this issue significant, particularly as e-mail and the internet continue to gather momentum.
The growing preference for printing in color has added further costs. Color documents can be printed via a small inkjet, a desktop laser or a large networked color copier, yet the cost of installing and running each are vastly different.
The five steps outlined below offer a guide to help any business achieve true print management:
1. Acknowledge the existing situation within the organization and decide the level of commitment necessary to maximize print efficiency.
2. Undertake a print/copy audit. These are available via good office equipment resellers and provide an analysis of how documents are used within a company, whether copied, printed or stored. An audit will also give a clear indication of monthly or annual print volumes. The data will allow the cost of print to be predicted accurately and give a real indication of where savings can be made. For example, where documents are copied for circulation it may be possible to scan and email them direct from a multifunctional device.
3. Use the audit to examine document production across the whole company. New equipment is often installed on an ad-hoc basis according to perceived need. By taking a more global approach businesses can benefit by streamlining, which leads to point 4.
4. Consolidate equipment. One example is to install a centralized networked copier printer within each office, which can typically support work groups of between 25 and 50 people, allowing the equivalent number of one-per-workstation desktop printers to be removed. Multifunctional products (MFPs, but also known as MFDs) often have a lower purchase price than the equivalent standalone products and can include copying, scanning, printing and even faxing. Modular MFPs, offer even greater flexibility since each function is specified at the time of purchase – it may also be possible to add further functions months later, should the need arise.
Standardizing printing across the company will decrease the number of printer drivers required when major IT enhancements are undertaken, and the IT help desk will appreciate a reduction in the number and type of printers to manage. By taking a strategic approach it is possible to maintain the same level of service yet reduce the number of products purchased. As with most areas of business, it is best to take advantage of the latest developments in technology such as electronic archiving which can be used to store and index information efficiently – without further duplication or printing.
5. Consolidate hardware and consumables suppliers. Streamlining the number of print related suppliers reduces the level of administration required for ordering and invoicing. By building a closer relationship with the remaining suppliers it should become possible to take advantage of services such as remote management of all the company’s copiers, printers and faxes freeing office staff for more vital tasks. A unified running cost for all office equipment will enable the close monitoring and effective management of print.
In conclusion, at least be aware of the cost of printing, even if monitoring goes no further at present. A print audit will identify levels of usage and areas where savings may be made. Make the most of the purchasing power of the company, by consolidating suppliers this becomes more effective. Finally, continue to monitor usage to ensure all savings are maintained and include print costs within the overall costs of running the office.