Tech Watch: Before you print it off

Tech Watch: Before you print it off

ARN asks printing vendors what they are doing to inform customers of good printing practices.

Eco-consciousness and cost cutting has meant that business that traditionally rely on large printing volumes, such as the financial sector, are looking at ways to cut down. ARN tracked down several printing vendors to see what they are doing to inform customers of good printing practices.

The printer has been the staple of the office for many decades, none more so than in the financial sector where statements and spreadsheets are typically put into hard copy. The leaps in technical innovation of printers and decreasing costs of ownership have also contributed to more and more business investing in the technology of various levels to meet their printing needs.

Over the past three years, Kyocera Mita senior product manager, George Kharoufeh, has personally seen the growth of consumable sales for printers and copiers. “As a general rule of thumb, growth in consumable sales indicates growth in printed material, so overall the nation’s print volumes have grown across both the public and private sector,” he said.

However, the large amount of printing that is taking place has meant that energy, time and money are being in some cases wasted. Fortunately, Kharoufeh now sees that the public sector is taking “significant steps” to address this problem.

“The latest report from the Australian National Audit Office shows that each government employee uses an average of 9,300 sheets of office paper every year,” he said. “Yet encouragingly we can expect this to decline in coming years with the Australian government’s ICT Sustainability plan, which sets a target reduction in internal paper usage per employee to 4,500 sheets per annum by July 2015.”

In the private sector, there is also an increasing pressure on organisations to reduce their costs and their environmental footprint. “Many organisations are doing some exciting and innovative things to reduce their paper usage,” Kharoufeh said. He also adds that some of the larger organisations are even making the bolder move of aiming for a “paperless office.”

While Canon Australia business marketing group manager, Luke Maddison, does not expect the paperless home and office to ever “completely prevail,” as many users still like “the feel and the convenience” of paper, he admits that the “less-paper” home and office are emerging as the new reality. “Gartner’s Market Trends 2011 report, entitled Demand for Printed Pages Worldwide, said that per-user office page volume has decreased from 900 to 1,100 pages per month in 2005, to 550 to 700 per month in 2011,” he said.

Maddison attributed this change in volumes to technological advancements in printing technology changing user behaviour, as well as how they communicate and interact with content. “We are seeing a trend of businesses implementing multifunction devices to consolidate print fleets, and we are encouraging low-volume users to use cloud printing service or occasional print requirements,” he said.

Cutting Down on Paper

Organisations that have grown used to printing in large volumes, whether due to the nature of their work or for convenience, the shift towards becoming more environmentally friendly and printing in lower volumes can be difficult in some cases. One way that OKI Data Australia national sales manager, Greg Mikaelian, has seen companies adopt more mindful printing practices is through the increasingly user friendly scanning features and functionality being included with printers, which has the knock-on effect of facilitating significant changes to workflow processes within larger organisations.

“In conjunction with a wider managed IT approach, documents can now be scanned and based on certain characteristics within the file itself, and then can be sent to specific folder and storage locations,” he said. However, Mikaelian admits that it is still common for critical and important documents to be retained as hard copy original.

According to Ricoh Australia general manager of business solutions and production, Kathy Wilson, the key to good printing practices, particularly in large organisations, comes down to device consolidation, fleet monitoring and output management. The more a company knows about its fleet, the easier it will be for them to see where and how costs can be reduced.

“Using solutions such as remote fleet monitoring software, devices that are being under- or over-utilised can be identified and the business can see how and where they should be consolidating their fleet,” she said.

In particular, Wilson highlights that by conducting audits of all printing practices, efficiency opportunities, such as which applications are being used for printing, can be clearly identified. “For example, many people print emails in colour when only one line, such as a URL, is in colour,” she said. “These types of jobs are more cost effective when done in black and white.”

She adds that large print jobs are more cost effective when printed on devices that might be found in an in-house print room or a local quick print store.

Managing waste and controlling outputs are also simple ways for large organisations to reduce costs, and companies such as Ricoh are always looking at ways to incorporate software solutions to assist. Stopping prints from being released until verification is made at the device is one method, and ensuring unprinted jobs are deleted from the system after a set amount of time is another.

“What is also useful is control colour printing to select users or appropriate applications, and creating charge-back accounts for individuals or departments,” Wilson said.

Let’s Talk About Good Printing Practices

While printers may be available with the latest features to help save paper and electricity, the biggest savings can always be done through simply having good printing practices. As such, vendors often take it upon themselves of informing their customers of how to save. Konica Minolta is one of those vendors proactively promoting the importance of embracing good printing practices among its clients, and it keeps them informed through the various communication initiatives that it carries out over its website, in newsletters, and white papers.

“We also have our consultants, who are experienced in analysing document-dependent business processes, diagnosing opportunities for time and cost savings and then sharing them with our clients,” Konica Minolta national marketing manager, Stevan Caldwell, said.

Vendors such as Fuji Xerox actively engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) that has been defined by their office, which also comes into play with what Fuji Xerox marketing and channel operations manager, Anthony Toope, refers to as “product stewardship.”

“It means that vendors are responsible for the product, whether it’s from the creation of the device to minimise various aspects and environmental consideration, to the actual sale of the product to then the disposal of it,” he said. “So that total product stewardship, or total life of the product, becomes quite an important consideration for many businesses who want to invest in a printer solution for their office.”

Improve printing practices may seem daunting at first to many businesses, especially traditionally print reliant verticals such as finance, Lexmark A/NZ marketing Manager, Stephen Bell, does not feel it needs to be.

“There are many more ways to improve than most customers realise,” he said. “A very important step when implementing better printing practices is to ensure you continuously measure what is occurring.”

Bell sees this as enabling the benefits to be quantified for customers, and in turn, allows for the identification of further improvements along the way.

“Many organisations sign a contract intending to achieve best practices, but often don’t realise the full scope of savings, or in some cases, find that over time they resort back to their initial position,” he said.

Implementing the right MPS

Implementing the right managed print service (MPS) can also come into play, as businesses will want to work with a vendor or partner who is accountable for making ongoing improvements, especially those that turn into tangible savings and productivity enhancements over the duration of the contract. “Partners with an effective MPS capability can play a very key role assisting organisations in reaching their business KPIs,” Bell said. “This is a role that extends far beyond just providing printing, copying, scanning and faxing capabilities.”

Through the provision of MPS tools to partners and customers that contain detailed, real time information on their printing environment, positive change can happen from the printing perspective. “With this information, partners can work routinely with customer to implement better printing practices and demonstrate to customers a commitment to continuous improvement,” Bell said.

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