Managed print services
If a printer fleet is going to have features in place to monitor costs, the buyers also want to use them for planning purposes, and the vendors will often offer to help their efforts through an arrangement called managed print services. Laing says HP commits to reducing costs by 30 percent when it undertakes such a project.
"Many larger firms are doing it, and now even small- to medium-sized businesses are paying more attention," Jamieson says. "The vendors are telling them to replace under-used machines with shared devices to remove unnecessary costs."
Such services have been a leading reason for the adoption of MFPs, says Barbara Richards, a consultant at Infotrends, a market research firm in Weymouth, Mass., because they let users cut down the number of devices they own, providing cost savings if only by cutting power consumption.
"You don't see stand-alone copiers anymore, you see printers with scanning, faxing and document management," she says. "It's a double-edged sword for the vendors, since they don't want to lose business up front. They have been very savvy about that, and have been offering workflow solutions. The MFP is the on-ramp to all that."
Getting the most from your printer
These features are widely available among different printer manufacturers.
Use shared printers: Sources agree that workgroup printers can often replace four or five desktop printers. These can be acquired with a service agreement that has a negotiated per-page cost that should be lower than that of any of the replaced units.
Right-size your printers: Laing at HP notes that printers that can handle 11x17-inch sheets cost about 30 percent more than ones that only handle standard letter-sized 8.5x11-inch sheets. In addition, only about 3 percent of the office paper sold in the US is 11x17-inch, making it unlikely that an organization needs many printers that can handle that size.
Replace fax machines: Sources agree that faxing sheets of paper is expensive and should be replaced with electronic alternatives, such as electronic faxing or e-mail. Dedicated fax machines need dedicated phone lines, which must be installed and then generate extra costs. Also, fax machines with thermal ribbons typically have a per-page cost equivalent to that of a color laser page.
Adopt pull-printing: The use of pull-printing can cut the number of pages being printed by 20 percent to 30 percent, says HP's Laing, since the users tend to plan their work more and not discard printouts. The user prints to the network instead of to a specific printer, and then goes to a print server, logs in and selects from his or her available print jobs, which are then generated at the attached printer. As an additional benefit, output does not sit unattended on the printer until the user gets there, posing a security risk.
Go duplex: Duplex or two-sided printing is widely available on office printers, reducing paper costs. True duplex printing means that users do not need to turn over the page; if that step is needed, then it is not really a duplex printer.
Lamont Wood is a freelance writer in San Antonio.
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