PRINT OUT TO the future

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."

Rationalising information

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.

New technology

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.

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Fuji Xerox lasers comply with the ISO14001 manufacturing standard, and the company has recycling facilities in Sydney and Thailand and does trade-ins. Lewis points to Kyocera-Mita's ceramic drum technology as another environmentally friendly solution because it doesn't need to be replaced.

"And if you can get close to your customer and manage their output and print for them, there will be environmental benefits. We'd like to see some of our resellers taking it a step further and getting into carbon offsets," Lewis said.

Oki's printers also complied with international standards, including Energy Star, Harman said. The vendor has a recycling program overseas - but he couldn't say when one might start here.

Oki is also working to make printers with fewer parts. Smaller, better designed printers can be easier and cheaper to make, transport, store and recycle, he said.

Samsung IT solutions marketing manager, Anthony Toope, agreed protecting the environment was becoming important across all industries and IT sectors. The vendor is delivering RoHS compliant products, meaning six hazardous chemicals had been removed. "We have an environmental management committee. Our products conform to ISO14001, Energy Star and Blue Angel and we are a signatory to the National Packaging Covenant," he said.

Better workflow

Samsung is providing workflow solutions, mobile printing solutions and card-reading solutions to the channel to take advantage of growth in print sales, particularly at the high end. The vendor also offers demo product, applications and channel support and is planning a B2B program.

Toope sees print management solutions as an opportunity for resellers to offer different levels of service. So far, about 1000 customers' machines have been loaded with Samsung print management solutions. "Certainly the market is moving towards that now and is expecting a higher level of service," he said. "We introduced print management in August and probably have 60 active customers with resellers working with them on print management solutions now."

Office National managing director, Chris Wilcock, uses Samsung-provided print management solution, PrintSolv, in the reseller's 1000 printers. "We load this software patch on our customers' networking environment and it gives us total manageability of all print devices on that network," he said.

Wilcock claimed PrintSolv saves Offi ce National about 3-4 weeks of labour. "It streamlines the whole process. The readings drop into our ERP and automate ordering, invoicing and archiving," he said. "You can go to customers and report on their equipment; hopefully, improving margins and gaining sales."

Next generation

HP's program of innovation for print solutions revolves around a concept called Print 2.0. Market development manager, Max Kaye, said printing must change the way photography has since the emergence of digital photography.

"Previously, we probably went out and bought albums. You needed to share the same experience with everybody. When we started to adopt digital photography, we could just share individual parts, the relevant parts, with people," Kaye said. "We use MySpace and FaceBook now, where people are maintaining a single repository then choosing to share different parts of that with different people. Print 2.0 is about doing that."

Kaye said print vendors wanted to make it easier to sift through all the information out there and separate out relevant content for specific users. HP's Smart Web lets users highlight Web information ready for printing, such as a graphic, a piece of text form, or a photo and just print that. The tool ships with some consumer printers and should roll out across its business portfolio within the year.

"CTRL+P isn't really the most reliable way of doing that [online]," Kaye said. "With this, you get a little message, 'it looks like you're trying to print from the Web', and it then gives you a number of options." HP plans a deployment toolkit this year as well, aimed at easing deployment of print solutions in the enterprise.

The vendor is also working with Web developers to give them access to code that, embedded in websites, will offer smart printing capability without the need for the user to install an additional application, Kaye said. "For enterprises and corporations, if you can help them extract information from the Internet and things more easily, we think it will encourage people to use more SharePoint, portals and intranets and so on," he said.

Environmental matters

Like other vendors, HP's print management solution has close ties to its environmental friendliness. Its 1992 Design for Environment (DFE) program helped it get rid of many hazardous materials in its devices and packaging, Kaye said.

HP has also developed a new spherical monotone toner that takes up less room. Across Asia-Pacific, it has already saved about 1.7 million kg on freight, and 80,000 litres on petrol. HP had just announced its own carbon offset program at the time of writing, he said.

"We have started to make sure that all the metals are collected up after to be dismantled," Kaye said. "Our printers comply with the RoHS directive, BlueAngel, EnergyStar and others."

Kaye flagged "endless" opportunities for additional consulting work for the channel, not only in rollouts and deployments.

"It's about reviewing people's print environments and making different offerings. Not even saying, 'replace all your old ones to get it five per cent faster and two per cent cheaper', but actually providing ways for them to work better with what they have," he said.