Printing, photocopying and managing documents is a direct cost and an area where you can make significant savings, efficiency improvements and environmental gains
18 June 2009
The cost of printing and photocopying is a growing problem for many organisations, but despite their importance to company performance, printers and copiers are rarely managed as a corporate asset. At a time when costs are being scrutinised like never before, organisations continue to squander resources around print management.
According to information technology research specialists Gartner, print spending accounts for 1 to 3 per cent of an organisation's annual revenue. Focusing on identifiable costs such as equipment, paper and consumables can return considerable savings, but this approach misses the larger opportunity. To realise the true benefits you must be able to look beyond print devices alone. The challenge is to understand your workflow and to identify key enhancements that can provide measureable productivity and financial gains.
So, here are four steps that you can take today to start delivering an effective and profitable document strategy that will bring real benefits.
The first step is simply to pay attention to your whole environment. Many companies struggle to understand just how many printers reside in their business, how many pages are printed each month, or the cost of each sheet of paper that passes through their fleet. This is because many fleets have developed on a piecemeal basis, with different departments purchasing desktop printers with little regard for networking or standardisation.
Audit your fleet with an assessment of your organisation's print activities, indentifying all devices by model, specification and location. More detailed audits can also quantify the volume and cost by each device. Don't just focus on technology look at the bigger picture - output devices are just the end product of a larger process. The challenge is to understand your workflow and to identify key enhancements that can provide measurable results.
Once you have this information, you can start to take advantage and optimise your technology. Consider a mix of functionality and performance. Organisations have traditionally relied upon a variety of printers and copiers, and their placement is driven largely by the demands of various departments. How about replacing desktop printers with shared multi-functional devices that can print, copy, scan and distribute documents? Balancing device deployment can improve performance, maximise return on investment and reduce total cost of ownership.
Matching features to user needs is also important. The requirements of your printing and copying environment will change as your business evolves, so it makes sense to periodically evaluate the needs of each workgroup as well as key employees in key functions. Often, features that once seemed important are no longer needed. You may find that you are paying for features that you don't use, or that employees are working around limitations that could be made more efficient with a few adjustments.
Ongoing control and enforcement of your printer and copier strategy is essential to ensure that it continues to operate at peak performance and you achieve maximum return on your investment. Print management tools are available to centrally monitor and control usage, allowing for assets to be more efficient. You can place restrictions on printing rights to help to manage printing costs, like removing the ability to print in colour without permission or restricting the number of copies that can be printed in a day. Secure print systems can also allow users to print to any printer within the company. This increases security and reduces waste as documents are only printed when authorised there and then by the user.
Through regular maintenance and monitoring, you can ensure printers are functional and effective at all times, reducing the chances of downtime and preventing future problems. It will also enable you to gain control of ordering associated consumables such as paper and toner.
Document management is not just for large companies, organisations of all sizes can benefit. By improving your business processes within all four phases of the document lifecycle - Input, Management, Storage and Output - you will be able to realise the benefits of lower costs, enhanced productivity and better control. This may be as simple as a multi-functional device that provides scanning capabilities for a small company or as complex as an enterprise-wide automated workflow.
By moving to a more widespread use of electronic media, you will be able to secure your company's documents, increase office floor space and improve communication through shared files. Document management will help to reduce the total cost of ownership for your fleet, as well as reduce energy consumption and environmental impact through consolidation and optimisation.
By taking a more long-term approach to your fleet you will also start to develop stronger and more strategic relationships with vendors, suppliers and service providers.
Jonathan Reader is the marketing communications manager at Ikon Office Solutions
Case studyRetail giant Sainsbury's outsources its print room services to facilities management specialist, Interserve. Working with Ikon Office Solutions, Interserve has improved the amenities it provides the retailer; deploying more efficient equipment, expanding the capacity of the print room and providing a low-cost overflow facility. Ikon's consultants mapped the location, utilisation and running cost of each device. With detailed audit data to hand, Ikon, Interserve and Sainsbury's identified where efficiencies could be achieved. This included:
wide access to cost effective multifunctional devices
reduced reliance on desktop printers
more extensive print room services
significant and sustained savings