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spike bullet March 2008 - Print Management - A "Goldmine of Opportunity"

Overview of Print Management
Times, they are a' changing
Case study example
What does this mean for a small business, corporation or a government agency?
How to start looking at better Print Management
Print Assessment steps
Print Management steps
Resources (links, books, articles, the lighter side)

color bulletFinding Hidden Costs


When businesses look at areas for improving profit, productivity and efficiency, they have not looked at the cost of printing until recently.  The Gartner Group (*) caused a bit of a sensation a few years ago when they said this area is an untapped "goldmine of opportunity" for business.

A few questions to get you thinking:

  • Do your know how much your company spends on "printing" or "print devices"?
  • Do you know if you have too many printers, too many copiers or not enough and whether they are placed in the right places?
  • Do you know how many fax machines you have and whether you have the right number of them?
  • Do you know how much money you are spending on toner supplies and ink cartridges?
  • Do you know the cost per page of color printers vs. black only (mono) printers? 
  • Do you know the effective life of the print devices you have?
  • Do you have commercial printers designed to operate efficiently or "retail" printers designed for people who use them infrequently at home?
  • Do you know what it costs to keep all of your printers running?

Times, they are a’ changing!

Remember that old prediction about the "paperless office"?  Is your office paperless or have you given up trying to keep track of the blizzard of paper and print costs because it is totally out of control?  If the later, you are the norm!  Most businesses just haven’t known what to do or even considered that there might be cost savings available to them.

These are some trends that we’ve seen over recent years:

  1. More and more documents are being created and shared electronically and never printed.
  2. Electronic documents are being e-mailed much more frequently in general than just 10 years ago. Especially inside large companies, meeting agendas and support documents are often sent by e-mail and never printed.  Review by interested persons and revisions are also done electronically.  Then, the final documents are stored on network drives for easy access by others.
  3. Faxing has become much popular as the e-mailing of documents has become more popular.
  4. Copiers are much less used than they were in the past.  Do you remember when you would go into a meeting and there would be 10-15 minutes of passing out paper documents for everyone’s review?  It still happens, though much less frequently than 10 years ago.  Today, the documents are more often shared in advance, people come prepared to discuss the issues instead of coming to read the paper documents, then having to schedule another meeting to discuss the issues.
  5. The growth of the PDF format is exploding as small free programs become more available to create documents in PDF format, in addition to the traditional Adobe Acrobat-created documents.  This makes document sharing even easier since everything is converted to a common format.  Output from different software programs can be combined into a single PDF document to make reading easier. 
  6. Small desktop scanners offer document scanning capabilities to the home user, and high-speed multi-function devices can be used by small to medium sized businesses and in large corporations.
  7. Document management and imaging systems to manage the myriad forms of electronic communications are becoming more and more necessary for larger organizations.
  8. As these new technologies become available, people’s working habits change.

Case study example:

For the past 6 or 7 years, whenever I purchase something online, I save the order information into PDF format on my hard drive.  I also save information about the product with the order information.  I  rarely print an order onto paper.  I save articles and lots of other interesting information the same way and never print it or have to store a paper version of it.

I purchased a flat bed scanner quite a while ago for family photos.  A few years ago, I got a small multi-function device with an automatic document feeder and built in scanner.  As a volunteer for my homeowner’s association, I was able to scan 25 years worth of old meeting minutes into electronic files so that now everyone on the board of directors has a CD with the electronic versions for easy reference. Imagine the challenge if each of us had to keep a full file cabinet full of paper copies of old records.  That is so 1980!

I find that I scan more and more documents then throw away the paper and save only the electronic copy.  And, yes I do have multiple back up processes for the electronic files to protect them against loss.  

Since I bought a digital camera, I have not printed a single photograph professionally.  I either share them electronically or occasionally, print a few off on paper for special memory books or family events.  Many of friends say they do the same.

The way I work with documents and images has changed for me without even consciously recognizing it until fairly recently.  

These are just a few examples demonstrate how the world of documents and images is changing through the use of new technologies.  Probably, many people reading this article will be nodding their heads also.

What does this mean for a small business, corporation or a government agency?

  • It means that people who have technology at home expect a similar level of technology at work.  They expect to be able to capture and save documents electronically.
  • It means they expect to be able to print in color if they want.
  • It means they do not make as many paper copies of documents as they used to.
  • It means they want to save the  electronic version of documents not necessarily the paper versions
  • It means they want to share documents easily via e-mail.
  • It means they expect their technology support people to be able to help them deal with the dizzying array of documents they are responsible for.
  • It also means that the court systems and attorneys have realized that electronic documents are often more valuable than paper documents.

Federal Court Rules changed in December 2006 to make electronic document retention mandatory with consistent procedures for their use in court cases.  Companies and government agencies are being faced with lawsuits asking for electronic files and e-mails more and more often.  How many news articles have you seen in the last 6 months about someone being asked for old e-mails or being sued to produce them?

As people share more and more documents electronically, the need for copiers and fax machines is going down significantly.  Has your copier vendor suggested lately that you no longer need those three copy machines sitting in a room by themselves anymore?  Probably not, as they want to keep the revenue stream going for their company.  In fact, the sales person probably suggests that you should renew all of them when the lease is up with copiers with even more features than those you are already not using very much. 

Most employees simply renew their copier leases when its time for renewal with even thinking how much they use the machines.  Most organizations have far more copiers than they actually need, leading to wasted resources that could be better used elsewhere.

You probably have more fax machines now than you need, and probably fewer scanners than you need.

A simple exercise: If you still have copy rooms, take 15-20 minutes sometime and visit one.  See just how many people are making copies and how often the machines are used.  If your organization is average, you will see that a few people come in and make a copy or two in that amount of time.  Then, think about the cost of keeping that room available and keeping all the copy machine(s) operating.  

The newer combined network printers with built-in capabilities for printing, copying, faxing and scanning are showing up more and more to replace a plethora of other devices that were not being effectively used.  These new devices are called networked "multi-function devices" (MFDs) or "multi-function printers" (MFPs).  The newer devices usually do not need to be kept in a separate rooms as copiers do, so companies are finding better ways of using space resources in being able to have MFDs on the floor, closer to employees who need them in place of network printers that only print.  Some of the newer technologies also have a lower "cost per page" or "total cost of ownership" as compared to older machines.    

Old copier rooms are being turned into offices or conference rooms and relieving space issues that many face.

In addition, some companies are starting to look hard at the cost of everyone have a separate printer on their desk.  The newer networked MFDs have secured printing capability so that confidential documents can be placed into a secure holding mailbox on the MFD until the person walks up to the device and enters a password to print their documents.  Many managers are finding they can store many documents and go to the printer a few times a day.  The short walk is also a healthy thing to do instead of just sitting in their office or stretching in awkward positions to reach a printer that may not be well located.  And, by removing an individual printer, the person regains more desk space.

The larger MFDs are also very fast compared with individual desktop printers and offer features such as double-sided printing, hole punching, stapling, etc.

With the US economy in the doldrums, companies are looking toward more efficient use of resources as a way of lowering their expenses.  

Gartner predicted that 1 to 5% of a small company’s costs might be tied up in "print" related costs, which include the cost of printing devices, copiers, ink cartridges, toner cartridges, electricity for multiple devices running all the time, IT support, paper usage and waste, and the maintenance costs of repairing older less efficient printing devices.  They estimate 1 to 3% of corporate costs are spent on print related costs.  

If you could save that much, what would that be for your company?  For larger organizations, it could be millions of dollars in savings or cost avoidance.

How to start looking at better Print Management

The first step is called a "Print Assessment," which identifies your situation.  This can be done by your own internal staff, by an outside consultant /vendor or a combination of both.  

Print Assessment

Some of the things that need to be done:

  1. Designate someone to be responsible for your Print Assessment project.
  2. Recruit an executive sponsor who is enthusiastic about the project.
  3. Gather a team of people from the IT department and business areas together to be part of the project team.  Make sure that you have good representation from multiple areas and that the team members recruited are really interested in being part of the project.
  4. Create an inventory of all your "print devices," which includes all printers (network, desktop, inkjet, laser, special purpose, etc.), fax machines, copiers, scanners and other scanning devices.   You will need to keep track of a lot of information about each device and be able to update it as new information is obtained.  
  5. Gather usage information:
  • How many pages are printed on each of the printers? (per year with per month average)
  • What types of documents are printed to each printer (word documents, excel documents, large format, created to PDF, etc.) and how many pages of each? (per year with per month average)
  • What special forms or unique printing needs must be considered?
  • How many pages are copied on each of the copiers? (per year with per month average)
  • How many pages are sent out and how many received in each fax machine? (per year with per month average)
  • How many pages are scanned? (per year with per month average)

    6.   Gather cost information:

  • What are you paying to purchase printers, copiers, fax machines, scanners?
  • What are you paying in monthly rental costs for leased devices?  When are your leases due to expire?  
  • What are you paying for regular maintenance plans?
  • What are your costs for repair and maintenance for out-of-warranty devices?
  • How many service calls do you have for each of your devices? (per year with per month average)
  • When did you buy each device and what is their useful life?
  • What is the total operating cost of each device?  This is usually expressed in "cost per page" or "total cost of ownership." 
  • Do you know who purchases printers in your organization?  Is it centralized or can anyone buy one?  Often the people who purchase printers are not the same people who purchase copiers and fax machines or printer toner and supplies.  .

    7. Look at your physical environment.

  • How are your offices organized – are people grouped together in shared cubicles or "pods" that are natural for shared printers?
  • Do you have large network printers spaced around the office floor now that could be converted to multi-function devices?
  • Do you have separate copy rooms? How much space are they taking up?
  • Determine the optimal walking distance from someone’s desk to a shared printer.

    8. Determine your staff to printer ratio.

  • How many people on average use each printer?
  • If you have a 1 to 1 ratio, you have 1 printer for each employee, which means you have much higher costs than you need to have and you have a great opportunity for significant savings.  Some of the companies doing print management may have 1 printer for every 7 to 9 employees.  In other organizations, a ratio of 1 printer for every 3 to 4 employees might make the most sense.  In isolated areas or small regional offices, you might need a higher ratio of printers.

    9. Decide what to do with the information you have gathered and whether you have savings potential worth pursuing.

    10.  Determine how much you can do yourself.

  • You may want your own team to try gathering as much information as possible so they know what is happening and gain knowledge from the experience.
  • You may decide to hire a consultant or specialized vendor to help with some of the more detailed tasks.  Consultants or vendors can help with monitoring the amount of printing done within the organization via the use of automated software systems that can capture how much and what types of printing is being done, analyzing the data gathered and creating an effective re-distribution plan based on "best practices" in the industry.
  • You may want some help in planning what to do with what you have learned and developing a plan for the future.
  • You may decide on a blended approach using all of the above.

Print Management

1.  Once you have the basic information and some idea where you want to go in the future:

  • Create a "pilot" group of people who are interested in trying out some of the new ways of doing printing or a particular business area that is interested. 
  • Set goals about what you think you can accomplish.
  • Make sure you have good management and executive support for your project. 
  • Create a communication plan and start letting people in the organization know what you are doing with your pilot group.
  • Treat your project as a culture change project not as a technology project.  People can be very attached to their perceived need for their own printer or for having a separate copy room or for doing things the way they have always done them, so move slowly and adjust as necessary for your organization.
  • Monitor your progress and measure any savings / cost avoidance.  This can be a daunting task as most organizations don’t capture their costs for printing and related expenses in an easy to analyze manner.
  • You may need to set up new systems or processes.
  • Treat all printers as assets and keep track of them in a central asset management or inventory control system.  Many organizations don’t inventory printers or only keep track of very large expensive commercial printers as capital assets.  Many organizations have no idea of the total number of print devices they own or lease without taking a complete manual inventory.

2.  Set guidelines, policies and procedures about how you plan to manage your print devices in the future.

  • Consider an oversight process before anyone can purchase a MFD, printer, copier or related device.  Perhaps, require justification and the elimination of multiple old devices before acquiring a new device.
  • Standardize on manufacturers and models of printing devices that you will have in your organization.  For example, if you have 100 different types of printers and 20 types of copiers, you might have 100 different types of printer toner supplies and 20 different copier toner supplies that you have to store and keep track of.  If one of the printers or copiers dies, you may be stuck with inventory that cannot be used elsewhere.  You have to keep track of many different repair contracts and vendor terms.  
  • Perhaps, create a standing committee that will maintain the standards and help make sure that cost-efficient models are chosen.
  • Consider centralizing purchasing and oversight of printers, copiers, scanners and fax machines in some way that helps to see what is being spent and what resources are being used.  
  • In many organizations, network printers might be purchased by the IT department, desktop printers by each business area, copiers by administrative support staff, printer supplies by the purchasing department and specialized printing by the marketing department.  It’s no wonder that the overall costs are never looked at together.
  • One approach is to let old printers die and not replace them until you reach the level of printing devices you want.  You will probably want to replace your copiers with networked MFDs so that people get to know the newer devices and their benefits.  That way, employees will be less likely to be disturbed when their regular printer dies if they are already familiar with a MFD down the hall they have been using for a while.
  • Another approach is to develop a "hit list" of printers that are high-maintenance or high-cost to support. If it breaks again, it’s gone.  You can stop purchasing supplies for those devices on the hit list and when the supplies run out, remove that printer by donating it to charity or a recycle center.  If people know that is the plan in advance, they are less likely to feel threatened when the printer is removed.  And, they may take better care of it while it is still there.

3.  Decide how you will manage your print devices for the future.

  • Some organizations have brought in a vendor to completely manage all their printers, copiers, MFDs etc., providing all machines as needs change and doing all maintenance including repairs, changing toner and paper.  This is the most radical approach offering significant cost savings.  It does require good culture change work to avoid a backlash or rebellion from employees.  This method has proved very successful in the long-run for some organizations.
  • Less radical change is to do a better job of managing your print devices and resources yourself, with a slower change management process by educating your staff to your plans and gaining buy-in with small groups adopting new procedures in stages.  This method works well for many organizations as it allows for people to adapt without sudden changes.  The savings will be generated over a longer period of time, with less organizational disruption and little backlash when done well.

4.  Maintain good communication with management and staff about your plans.

  • No matter which way you decide to go, be sure to let people know that you are looking at better print management and your project goals.  
  • Provide periodic updates on your progress and what groups are having success.
  • Over time, as staff see that some printers have been removed, that money has been saved and that the newer devices really provide features worth having, they are less likely to resist the changes of evolution.
We’ve noticed that managing projects as suggested in this article addresses the three most common groups we’ve seen:
  1. Those who like to be in out in front of any new project (often known as the "bleeding edge")
  2. Those who will hang back and wait to see how the first group takes the change.  Then, they will go along.  This is usually the bulk of the people.
  3. Those who will wait until the very last possible moment to make any change.  They want to hang on to anything that they are used to for the longest possible time.  They are the ones where you will have to pry their clutched fingers off their dying printer that they swear they can’t live without.

When done well, managing print devices can be a fun project, offering many benefits for cost savings, better resource management, freeing up under-used office space, providing regular exercise benefits for employees, reducing the maintenance costs of printers, reducing electricity costs and reducing emissions.

Note: (*) The Gartner Group is a consulting company that provides services, research and trends in the Information Technology industry.  Many of the links provided reference the "goldmine" comment by Gartner.

  Internet Resources

book graphic  Books

We could not find any books specifically referencing this subject.  For books about managing projects, see the articles listed below.  

world wide web - articles  Articles

Related newsletter articles:
     December 2000 - Sponsoring Successful Projects
     June 2001 - Successful Project Management
     November 2006 - Project Management - Early Warning Signs
     August, 1996 - Managing Change
     March 2004 - Risks and Rewards of Initiative and Innovation
     December 2003 - Changing corporate culture — one person at a time

smiley graphic  The Lighter Side  


About our resource links:  We do not endorse or agree with all the beliefs in these links.   We do keep an open mind about different viewpoints and respect the ability of our readers to decide for themselves what is useful.

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The 10th Need: Mischief    :)

| Home Page | Top of Page |

| Barbara Taylor | Books | Clients | FAQ | Feedback | Interesting Links | Mailing List |
| Michael Anthony | Michael Teachings | Newsletter | Personality Game |
| Products | Services | Speakers | Spirituality | Training | Travel | Translations

| Contact Us | Search the site | Site Map |

The 10th Need: Mischief    :)

© Copyright 1980  -  2015,  Barbara Taylor               Copyright Notice and Student Research Requests                 Privacy Policy and Legal Notice