Companies go to great lengths to replace office printed materials with digital files. Still, most enterprises rely on printed documents as a fail-safe alternative to digital archives, even though printing takes up to 3% of a company’s revenue. The solution is to give printing the same level of importance as the IT department, and to develop strategies that will increase employees’ productivity, protect sensitive data and support environmental efforts. One of those strategies includes outsourcing.
In reality, not many managers give thought to these questions. The majority of companies are completely unaware how much their printing operation costs them. Details regarding the number of printers, number of pages printed daily, the operating costs of printing devices as well as total printing costs in the whole company remain unfulfilled. Printing is considered as something boring but necessary, that a business cannot do without, and yet no one asks questions about it. However, if you are a manager or financial officer who is on the lookout for easy cost savings, you should pay attention to printing.
The non-existent printing department is the main reason why financial officers have so little insight in printing costs. Printing environment is usually divided among IT, procurement, separate departments, managers and often individual users. It is normal that these groups operate independently, working on many different devices that have incompatible spare parts or software, as well as consumables. According to HP estimates, an average company spends about $683 for printing per an employee a year.
Uncoordinated procurement not only leads to complicated service control and reduced purchasing power, but is also time consuming. Mismanaged printing operations lead to low productivity and support problems for help desk staff. Stocking and re-ordering supplies is also a big problem. Another shortcoming of unmanaged printing is that it may run out of control, leading to data leakage and multiplication of sensitive documents across the individual hard disk storages.
When equipping their offices, most companies are chiefly interested in the cost of the hardware, and base their decisions on that. Still, it is relatively unknown that the printer figures with only 5% in the overall cost of ownership. If you combine that information with the torrent of cheap printers on the market, businesses have never owned more printers, copiers and fax machines than today. As a result, not many companies managed to establish printing standards for the devices they use, unless the devices are connected in a sort of a network.
The true, operational costs of printers take up to 45% of the total ownership cost. The consumables like toner cartridges, drums, inks and paper may cost a business 10 times the printer cost in its lifetime. If a company uses unstandardized printers, the costs amount to even more. This is because consumables are manufactured to fit specific devices within the brand. There is no way that an HP cartridge will fit into a Lexmark. Maintaining a supply of consumables for each and every printer in company is a headache for purchasing departments.
And of course, environmental policies require enterprises to dispose of printer cartridges in a safe and regulated way, which then adds to operational costs. A number of businesses make a nice profit by selling recycled, or refilled toner cartridges. However, main cartridge manufacturers fight back to protect their proprietary technology and business interest by launching new lines of cartridges that are impossible or difficult to recycle. This policy has caused much controversy.
To answer the rising cost of printing operations, leading printer manufacturers like Hewlett Packard came up with an idea to offer printing services to companies, such as Ford Motor Company. This company is the largest user of HP’s Total Print Management service. It covers hardware, software and services. Customers are charged only for use, while the devices are shared via the network. One of benefits of printing outsourcing is that companies can adjust their printing costs to their business growth.
The success of document outsourcing lies in understanding how employees actually use the company’s devices. In some cases, removing a desktop printer from a shared office can lead to staff waiting in 30 minute queues for the network printer to become available to their individual tasks. In this case it is clear than a portion of users will have difficulties adapting to the new environment which may affect their productivity. Before deciding to outsource its printing operation, a company needs to assess following issues:
The best way to introduce outsourced printing management is to implement it in phases. Some companies use outsourcing services on a business-by-business basis. Despite the huge financial advantages, they want to retain the full control and adaptability of their printing environment.