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How to choose a business printer

It probably seems a simple and, frankly, dull task. But if you think about how reliant your business is on printed documents and how lost you’d be without a printer, it’s a different story….

Most people take the printer for granted. Until it runs out of paper or toner, or stops working as a result of some obscure error. It’s at these times that you realise how important the printer is and, of course, Murphy’s Law states that the likelihood of there being an issue increases with the urgency that you need to print. So, spending time getting the right printing set-up is worth doing, not least because it can be hugely confusing.

Every year, hundreds of new models flood the marketplace, with hugely varying price tags. But what is often overlooked is the more important consideration of ongoing running cost.

So what should you consider? Firstly, you need to think about what your printing needs are and get a company that works in the managed print space to conduct an audit. Audits typically cover a span of time and will help you understand not only print volumes, but also metrics like the optimal ratio of devices to users and current total cost of output (including service and consumables). The audit should consider:

Printer volume

Are some employees printing more than others? Are there peaks and troughs to printer demand?  Is the printer being used for internal or external documents? It’s important to select a printer that can handle the loads put upon it – especially at peak times.

Privacy and security

While a communal networked printer will be more cost effective than separate individual printers, there may be times where the privacy of documents necessitates a small amount of ‘private’ printers. This is typically someone like the HR manager who regularly prints sensitive or private information not suitable for prying eyes. An alternative that can save the cost of purchasing these private printing is to employ swipe and release technology that means documents that are sent to the communal printer don’t get printed until the owner is standing next to it and uses a personal ID card or enters a code to release the document.

[Next: What type of documents do you print?]

Document type

What is being printed? Does it need to be in colour or is black and white fine? In most cases, black and white printers will be the default choice. Colour printers cost more per page of output, but if there is a need for one, then consider a black and white and colour printer together. As a rule, internal documents largely require black and white only. Customer-facing documents benefit from colour, and departments like marketing and sales often need quality colour output so the audit becomes an important first step.

Processes

These days, businesses often consider the information flow within a business at a software level, without really considering what happens when information gets printed out. But often the process doesn’t stop there. Invoices, delivery dockets and the like can be crucial to a business process, so consider the printing requirements here. Do you need printers set up to print forms, do you need to print barcodes? Integrated printers and scanners can even allow you to scan in invoices and read barcodes, streamlining the information process even further.

All these points will help dictate what sort of printer environment is right for you business. For many, a mix of printers is usually required, but over time there is often a large sprawl of devices and an audit can be a useful start point. Our own research shows that following an audit, businesses can consolidate their printer fleet, on average, by a third, with the associated costs falling by almost a quarter.

The second, very important point to consider is cost; by which we mean the total cost of ownership not just the upfront cost. IDC recently found that up to three percent of a company’s annual expenditure goes on printing. Their figures, which show an average of 1,100 pages printed per employee each year, estimate a cost of between $500 and $1,500 per employee, per user. To put it another way, a 20-person organisation can expect to spend almost $30,000 per year on servicing, toner and paper.

[Next: What about managed print companies?]

Clearly putting a focus on the operational cost is paramount, but you should also think about the process that surrounds this. It’s not uncommon for organisations to have cupboards full of toner, which is completely the wrong type for the company’s printer fleet. It’s usually the result of a well-meaning office manager or receptionist, following a flawed process.

In many cases, outsourcing the entire printer dilemma to a managed print company is a cost-effective alternative that can not only save money but eliminate the toner and servicing issues. When thinking about cost in an outsourced model, you’ll be looking at the cost per page and paying a monthly fee that incorporates the rental of machines, servicing and maintenance contracts, toner replenishment and a regular audit of your printing environment to ensure you always have the right set-up to meet the business need.

The final point to make on printer selection is an environmental issue, something that is an increasingly important part of any purchasing decision. The most obvious way to be more environmentally conscious when looking at printing is to reduce waste by printing less. Our research suggests that as many as two out of every five pages printed gets thrown in the bin. That’s a huge waste that can be avoided thanks to some of the functionality in modern printers.

Obviously double-sided or duplex printing can reduce your print volume enormously, saving paper. Again, swipe and release technology can play a role here, only releasing documents when the owner is at the machine. This can eliminate the ‘print and forget’ issue which causes so many of the wasted documents.

–Bill Papas is Executive General Manager for Upstream, Australia’s largest independent print solutions company.

Bill Papas

Bill Papas

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