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Reducing your business’ printing costs

Reducing your business’ printing costsPrinting is estimated to account for between one and three percent of a business’ revenue. The potential savings in this area of your business should be seriously considered especially when the focus on business process and cost efficiency has gained added significance in the current economic climate. Business owners and managers are looking to cut costs and print savings can be simple with immediate results.

Companies need to find immediate-term solutions that have a measurable and significant impact on the bottom line this year, because next year may be too late. While decisions need to be made quickly, they also must be based on a solid strategy. The goal for businesses today is to stay competitive with fewer resources and costs, and ensure that the company is prepared for growth when the economy starts to pick up again.

The following business priorities ranked as the top three most important in a survey of SMEs conducted by AMI in December 2008:

  1. Local competition
  2. Growing revenue
  3. Improving employee productivity

The survey covered businesses in China, India, Korea and Australia with up to 200 employees.

Cost savings can come from many different parts of a business.  One of the most overlooked business functions is printing. At first glance, this is a minor expense for the average business but on closer inspection it’s clear that printing has the potential to deliver substantial cost savings, in excess of what one would expect.

Analyst group IDC conducted a study last year that showed that average annual hardcopy-related spending is about five percent of corporate revenue while Gartner estimates that organisations spend between one and three percent of their revenue on print. And yet how many companies are tracking and managing their printing costs today?

Business owners need to ask themselves the following questions:

  1. How do I get more efficiency out of my imaging and printing investments?
  2. How can I manage the behaviour of printing within my business?
  3. What strategic investments should I make in imaging and printing to drive longer-term growth when the market recovers?

Capital expenditure to operating expenditure
With many companies today looking to reduce their capital expenditure and move to an OPEX model, businesses are looking for utility-based contracts. In a printing environment, this is offered through Managed Print Services. HP has been rolling out Managed Print Services successfully to its customers over the last two-to-three years. In fact, according to Gartner, actively managing office printing can lead to a reduction of 10-to-30 percent in recurring spending on document output.

SMEs can look into contractual engagements that are tailored to their end of the market. This engagement covers maintenance and consumables and will provide similar savings and can be obtained through a reseller partner. They should also consider taking advantage of software solutions bundled with the printer which help optimise their printing fleet and reduce waste. For example, some printers include software that allows remote management of devices and set defaults such as duplex printing. They also include software solutions that allow control over which employees can have access to colour, with the option to limit this access to the people within the business who really need it.

It’s the simple things that count
It seems so simple but there are still so many companies out there that don‘t do the basics, like duplex (or double-sided) printing. Not only does this help the environment, studies by Gartner have shown that organisations can potentially reduce annual paper costs by at least 30 percent just by selecting duplex printing as the default setting across their output fleet. While a lot of the new printing devices out there offer a duplex printing feature option, companies can set up default duplex printing in their current office environment by obtaining a duplexer. Alternatively they can set up default duplex printing via their network using print management software solutions.

Through features that require user authentication, business can save at least 10 percent on printing by avoiding uncollected documents being printed. With pull printing, the printer stores the job and releases it only when the user approaches the printer with a magnetic card or user code. This technology can be retrofit into an existing printing fleet. The additional bonus with pull printing is that sensitive documents never get left on the printer to fall into the wrong hands. Gartner states that one in 10 documents sent to the printer are uncollected, which means that businesses can reduce ad hoc print costs by up to 10 percent.

Switching off
While most of us probably switch off our computers before leaving work, so many businesses don’t realise that energy savings and therefore cost savings can be made with printing technology as well. Businesses should aim to utilise energy efficient products and factor in energy costs when evaluating their total cost of technology ownership. Some printers use cutting-edge fuser technology to produce the first page faster when a printer is coming out of power save mode so the print job is done sooner. Organisations can save up to 50 percent in energy consumption over traditional fusing by using this feature. The total energy consumption saved since 1993 from use of this technology represents 4.1 million tons of CO2, equivalent to removing 870,000 cars from the road for one year.

Technology that enables power save mode can reduce printing power consumption at the network level, by allowing users to set printer sleep and wake modes to reduce their entire printing fleet’s energy use.

Don’t print?
This may sound strange coming from a printing vendor, but digitising paper-based documents can help automate workflows and change the way business owners run their organisations. Scan-to-workflow solutions provide the primary method of converting information from paper into a pure digital workflow, gaining significant efficiencies and cost savings. In some workflows, all further paper touches can be removed. Gartner believes it is reasonable to expect a reduction of 50-to-70 percent in paper volumes by using digital document sending tools.

Right devices, right capabilities
Often a company’s printing fleet grows organically, with printers being added as needed. There is a tendency to replace an old printer with a multi-function unit which copies, faxes and scans just in case this functionality comes in handy. In reality, most multi-function devices may only be used for printing and often just in black and white. Businesses should assess their printing requirements (either internally or with the help of a reseller partner) and gain better control over their fleet while making considerable long-term savings. A balanced mix of ink, laser, mono, colour, single function and multi-function devices throughout the office can give employees the functionality they need to perform their jobs productively while keeping the outlay and maintenance and consumables costs down.

Do-it-yourself marketing
When it comes time to tighten the belt, companies look for the best return on investment in terms of the marketing spend. With the right colour office printer, high quality paper and in-house marketing software to provide tools and templates, there is an opportunity for organisations to print professional business materials in-house such as brochures, invitations, proposals and reports, negating the expense of outsourcing production and printing. Marketing software that includes tools and templates comes free with many printers suitable for small businesses. These businesses can save time and money by doing a lot of their creative marketing collateral development and printing in-house and marketing their offering against their competition.

HP provides tools which allow users to calculate their approximate print costs so they can compare the costs from printing externally to in-house. Users can also get help with the fiddly tasks like two-sided printing, previewing document folds, and avoiding wasting ink and paper on test prints.

In Summary
Users tend to take printing for granted; it is viewed as an essential business function and as a commodity. The reams of uncollected printing that nearly always appear alongside a printer is testimony to this fact. Very few users consider the cost impact of their printing decisions.

It’s common for users, IT departments and managers to overlook printing when assessing opportunities to reduce cost or they fail to assess them accurately.

Businesses of all sizes have access to a wide range of tools and services that can deliver considerable cost reduction, reduce environmental impact and improve efficiency.  The benefits provided by these tools and services are more significant today than ever before. Is it time that you re-examined your printing environment?

—Richard Bailey is Vice President, Imaging and Printing Group, HP South Pacific (www.hp.com)

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Richard Bailey

Richard Bailey

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