The paperless office is still a distant dream, as businesses juggle the users' desire to print more pages against intensifying pressure to get ecologically sustainable. However, vendors are stepping up to the plate to optimize printing in the digital age with new solutions that not only steer users away from printing additional, unnecessary pages, but help the channel add revenue streams and boost margins.
Oki Printing Solutions general manager, Graham Harman, said consumers and business users increasingly wanted to print from the Web, but many Web pages just don't "fi t" well on a printed page - that's if they ever print at all. The vendor has devised Web Print to help speed up the process, he said.
"Web Print can also scale things, so even if it's landscape on the screen, you can bring it down to A4," Harman said.
He added that, to make the best, most efficient use of printers, people often needed design skills. Without a basic understanding of how something should look on a page, and how a design on the computer screen or Web page might look when printed out or converted to a different format, users often printed out reams of unusable documents.
Oki's Template Manager, bundled in gratis with its printers, lets users print business cards, letterheads and banners up to 1.2m long.
Harman said it could be especially handy in verticals that did a lot of small marketing campaigns.
"Often, when real estate agents have an open house, they only need to print out 20 or 40 copies of some advertising - not 5000," he said, referring to the high minimum rates often stipulated by printing companies. "What we try to do is educate our resellers to ask: 'do you want good colour or just basic colour?'. If you're typing a business letter and want to print just one line in red, almost any printer will do a good job. But if you want quality short runs, you can go to 320gsm in our machines."
Workflow and document management solutions can help companies adopt better printing practices. Oki partners with Invu to provide its management solutions to customers. These let businesses manage documents arriving by mail or email, digitise hardcopy and forward it to the right person.
Harman said it eliminated the need for myriad document copies to circulate while tracking who has seen a document already and what action has been taken. According to Harman, memory and hard drives are now a lot cheaper, and users are establishing greater redundancy in their backup solutions, making document management and workflow solutions more feasible. Document management is partly about the software and partly about sitting down and working out what customers need, and Harman sees big opportunities for the channel.
"It's a matter of customising and setting up workflow in that particular organisation. Industries operate differently. In Oki, for example, all our invoices are scanned, unless they specifically request they not be," he said. Oki's Global Print Management lets resellers monitor printers on a network and manage client toner and drum usage.
"You can look after clients and all machines and consumables, and do a desktop delivery," he said.
Fuji Xerox is also delivering multifunction printers (MFPs) with workflow software. Xerox-branded gear ships with Nuance PaperPrint, while Fuji Xerox DocuPrint machines are bundled with the vendor's own proprietary software, DocuWorks, national marketing manager, Tom Lewis, said.
"DocuWorks compresses data well, which makes it easier to manage network traffic for sending large files. With its security protocols, you can limit who has access to edit, print, forward or even save," Lewis said. "And if you send a document to someone without DocuWorks, there is a freely available view."
Nuance offered scanning to various applications, OCR and full PDF functionality as well as document retrieval and tagging plus metadata searching. Users used to scan to PC, but today could often scan to an application or a shared file. Fuji Xerox network printers also have SecurePrint, where a print job can be pincode protected when it is scanned to a device, so only the person who scanned the job can actually release it, he said.
"If you're retrieving massive payroll, or similar, that's massive," Lewis said. "All our products ship with management software that can identify what has been printed where, so users can optimise and reduce the output. Soft costs - how much time people are spending on archiving and retrieving documents - can also be reduced."
Fuji Xerox also offers ways to restrict users to printing in monochrome. It also has an offering called PagePack, which facilitates a managed print service with automatic meter readings of usage and the like, so resellers can invoice customers and make consumables deliveries in a timely manner, Lewis said.
Fuji Xerox' Solid Ink printers offer further savings by working with recycled paper and using solid ink made of a soy-based wax that means ink production incorporates carbon sequestration. Solid Ink printers only create 2kg of waste for every 60kg of laser waste which goes to landfill. And solid ink blocks don't require additional packaging, so are compact to transport. Laser printers also produce ozone - Solid Ink printers none.
"There is no cartridge, so we've saving on all the plastics in that. The ink comes in a solid wax and each colour of ink is a different shape that fits a different hole, so it's easy to use," Lewis said. He said total cost of ownership for Solid Ink printers was around $0.12 a colour page, less than a comparable laser, which comes in at around $0.16-$0.20 a page. The actual Solid Ink hardware costs more up front, though - meaning Solid Ink sales are only about 10 per cent of all Fuji Xerox colour printer sales.