When a printer purchase turns into a printer project

Is it too much to ask to think through a plan and consult the right people before moving forward? For one manager, apparently so

When a printer purchase turns into a printer project
Credit: Thinkstock

At the company where I work, we have a manager who is clueless in terms of technology and tends to make pennywise, pound-foolish decisions. Even worse, he’s not aware of the ramifications of those decisions, leaving the rest of us to deal with the details. Case in point: A printer purchase that dragged on for a year.

Our company has a few locations, one of which is a warehouse. Due to our business, the manager decided we should have one of those very large printers that can print on nearly any type of media. The need was real, but before such a purchase, it’s a good idea to make sure the idea can be implemented successfully -- which this manager did not do.

The IT department was blindsided by the manager’s decision. Where did you see putting this printer, we asked the manager. In the warehouse, he replied. The user of said printer, a graphic designer, didn’t work inside the warehouse and certainly didn't like the manager’s idea -- it felt like getting exiled to Siberia.

Identify the problems

Our work began. As we checked the printer requirements, we immediately noticed several problems. First, the printer was so big that it would need a lot of space. It would also require a 220V power circuit, a network connection to its dedicated print rasterizer, and a specific operating temperature.

I did the initial assessment and soon concluded the proposed location was dumb. First, the warehouse as a whole isn’t temperature-controlled, and the few areas that are controlled are too cold for people -- and the printer in question. Thus, the first requirement was to address the ambient temperature.

Like many large warehouses, it has tall ceilings; to efficiently control the temperature for the printer (and the user of the printer), we would need to build some type of enclosure -- adding at least a few thousand dollars to the cost of the project. Yes, the “purchase” had turned into a “project.”

For the intended printer location, there was neither power nor network in the area. For the power requirements, the breaker panel wasn’t far away, so it would require a couple hours of an electrician’s time. The networking was a different matter. I measured the distance to the nearest wiring closet, and it would definitely need a fiber run, which costs another few thousand dollars.

The other issue: procuring a high-end computer for the printer server. The printer ran dedicated printer rasterizer software, and given our large and very high-resolution prints, it made sense to go with the vendor recommendation and get a new high-end workstation or server.

The designer’s computer was not up to the task -- it’d be like running a Ferrari with all four Brembo brakes dragging. Ironically, one reason we got the large printer was due to the designer originally printing on smaller (albeit large-format) printers, then putting several large prints together to construct the large print. The new printer was, among other goals, supposed to save the user time.

However, putting the rasterizer software on the designer’s old computer would not only bring the printing to crawl, but also slow down regular tasks -- putting us back at square one. Thus, we'd need to spend another $4,000 for the vendor-recommended system.

A solution of sorts

In light of all these “unforeseen” costs with placing the printer in the warehouse, the manager didn’t want to go so far over budget -- and the designer was saved from a trip to Siberia. We were able to clean out two large rooms in the corporate office for the designer (a major undertaking, but I’ll leave it at that). One room was used for the printer, the other for the designer and additional equipment.

In this scenario, the temperature was already controlled. We also had networking, though not quite enough ports, so we pulled in and terminated a few Ethernet cables. We installed one 220V circuit as well. Though we still had to spend $4,000 for the printer software, the overall project cost was still much cheaper than having the printer in the warehouse.

In essence, a project that should've taken no more than a month to implement consumed nearly a year from printer purchase to production. So much for efficiency!