Let's face it, paper is passe. Gone are the days where a simple sales report required reams of printed material, or a working day consisted of migrating faxes and letters from an inbox to an outbox or filing cabinet. Since email hit the scene there's no need to print up correspondence, and everything from stock market prospectuses to data entry forms can be provided in a digital form.
So why are Australian businesses wasting more money than ever before on largely unnecessary printing? Quite simply because most people don't know any better, they simply haven't considered the alternatives to unnecessary printing. But this lack of knowledge, as it turns out, is a tremendous starting place for savvy resellers with an interest in service.
"At the moment most people still want to have something in their hands, and it usually comes down to the way they work," country manager for Rioch and IBM joint venture InfoPrint Solutions, Rene Kisselbach, said. "People feel they need to print things out to read them properly, or to make them more official."
However, Kisselbach also noted that the increase in printing was largely obscuring a decrease in copying, which would indicate at least some of this growth is due to transfer rather than sheer growth. At the same time, Kisselbach sees increasing demand for technologies that could potentially lead to real reductions in superfluous printing.
"The number of printed pages is going up year by year and at the same time there is more and more demand for document management technology," he said. "Government legislation will be the key to changing these work practices."
At this stage however, corporate requirements rather than government legislation are the main drivers behind more efficient printing practices in Australia.
Accounting for the three Ps
Managing director of printing systems integrator Cornerstone TSS, Rod Hogrefe, said there was a slight but growing pressure on companies to consider the triple bottom line of planet, people and profit when making buying decisions [see breakout box].
"Implementing printing solutions which reduce rather than increase reliance on printing requires a good understanding of the company's processes, and how they can be modified," he said. "But these days many companies are coming to us with triple bottom line reporting requirements, so they are looking for ways to improve their environmental sustainability at the same time as they make profit."
That doesn't mean change is occurring all that quickly, or without significant challenges in the corporate space. The key to green marketing for print resellers still lies in solutions aimed at driving operational efficiencies. "The cheapest and greenest page that you print, is the one that you don't print," Hogrefe said. "In most organisations almost a third of all printed documents don't get used, they just get printed and thrown out because of poor management practices."
If Hogrefe is right, a smart printing reseller could save its customers a third of print operating costs, by selling a print management service, rather than selling a printer in a box.
"We're not talking about immediately migrating people over to a paperless office, there are lots of low-cost practical solutions companies can make that will provide immediate benefit," Hogrefe said. "And because we are selling a service that saves people money, it's something they are willing to pay for. We're a systems integrator for printing solutions, but we make our money whether or not our customers print."
And Hogrefe isn't alone. Printing vendors are also throwing their weight behind a number of print management approaches which lead to reductions rather than increases in printing overall.
"We really try to deliver technologies that minimize print waste, like electronic forms for business cards and letterheads, so that customers don't waste reams of paper every time there's a minor change to their company's contacts," managing director of Lexmark, Eddie Noel, said. "We are also looking at integrating into electronic document flow solutions, and multi-function devices, so that rather than printing up multiple copies, a single copy can be scanned and electronically distributed."
In a similar vein, Oki general manager, Graham Harman, places particular interest in print-on-demand and template technology, as well as providing centralized administration software to allow for the management of company-wide print reduction targets.