Check the fine print

Is your printing worth the paper it's on?

By Ilva Pieterse, ITWeb contributor
Johannesburg, 20 Aug 2015

Today's business environment is far more complex and fast-paced than a few years ago - and many companies are just trying to keep up, let alone get ahead. Unfortunately, this means the parts of the business not considered critical - such as its printing environment - are usually disregarded.

You're not simply changing a system or process, you're changing the organisation.

Robert Janssen, director of direct channel operations, Ricoh SA

Mismanaged printing output, however, can cost a business up to 3% of annual revenue, Gartner says. Through consolidating and optimising its print environment, a company stands to gain financial and time-saving benefits, along with peace of mind when partnering with a managed print service provider. Not to mention the positive environmental implications to paper and power reduction that will result as well.

According to Drive Control Corporation's retail manager, Robbie Johnson, there's more involved to the cost of printing than most realise. Tangible costs, such as the physical costs of printers, ink cartridges, paper, is just one side of the coin. The intangible costs can be just as hefty, although much more difficult to quantify. This is where cost management software becomes essential.

Riso Africa's product manager Marvin Minnaar says print management software is the only way for a business to accurately determine how much is being spent on printing. "The software produces detailed reports on the individual usage of each printer, copier or MFP by the user, department or business unit," he says. It also works to eliminate errors in use, which significantly reduces waste.

Johnson says printing software technology has become so sophisticated it can anticipate when a cartridge is running low on ink, in which case it will send a message to the vendor, requesting a new one be ordered and delivered before the cartridge even needs replacing.

An important consideration, according to Minnaar, is that the software has to be compatible with any printer, and not a specific brand. "Many vendors will only sell software that fits their equipment. Make sure you invest in software that is vendor-neutral."

He also believes the software should be scalable, to allow for an increase in printers and users. "Your software should not be restrictive," he says. "Invest with a reputable vendor that offers sufficient after-sales support."


In order to gain maximum cost-saving potential, however, Johnson recommends partnering with a managed print service (MPS) provider. "After all, print management is their core business and they take the risk," he says. "It's advisable to partner with a reputable provider, however, and not just the cheapest option." He warns businesses to be wary of over-complicated rental agreements that are potentially laden with hidden costs. "The industry standard is to charge cost-per-copy," he says. "So avoid deals that offer a bulk amount of copies for a lump sum, because they're likely to charge an exorbitant amount for every copy that exceeds the initial agreed-upon amount."

Ricoh SA's director of direct channel operations, Robert Janssen, believes a thorough and in-depth assessment of a print environment is crucial before implementing an MPS or any other solution. "Many rush through this step in the belief that the quicker the solution is implemented, the sooner there will be return on investment (ROI). Sadly, the opposite is usually true. Not properly understanding the task at hand means there will be errors - errors that will cost the company both time and money.

Desktop printers are simply too expensive to maintain and difficult to control.

Robbie Johnson, retail manager, DCC

Janssen believes change management is an important aspect to any kind of organisational change. "You're not simply changing a system or process, you're changing the organisation," he says. He adds that all employees should be included from the beginning, so that they feel as if they're contributing and participating in the change from the onset. "Then when you report back to them on the success of the project, they will embrace the change."

Printing trends

A notable trend in the printing industry is the move away from desktop printers back to a more centralised printing environment. "Desktop printers are simply too expensive to maintain and difficult to control," says Johnson. However, due to issues of privacy and security, centralised printing has started making use of 'pull printing', which requires a password to input or a card to swipe before the printer will release a user's specific print job. "Because of mobility, printers are now being fitted with near-field communication technology, which allows a user to simply tap or touch their device to the printer to activate their print job."

Minnaar says colour printing has become more accessible and widely used, since its cost has come down in recent years.

"It took a long time for paper use to start decreasing in South Africa," says Janssen. "This was largely due to upper management's resistance to change, as well as the government's."

"South Africa has challenges such as load shedding and post office strikes, which means we can't rely on either printing or distributing paper documents," says Janssen. "This has made us more innovative in our approach to printing."

Stepping up

Xerox advocates a three-stage approach to bridge paper and digital in the next-generation managed print services (MPS).

Increased mobility, data and security requirements are the main drivers behind this approach, says Bytes Document Solutions' sales director Warren Mande: "These drivers are considered positive challenges for the printing industry as they decrease the reliance on paper, which has been a focus of the printing industry for several years."

Stage 1 - Assess and optimise

The initial stage defines and assesses an organisation's existing printing portfolio. Tools are used to accurately analyse the current printing output environment and the total costs involved. The output environment includes power consumption, paper and ink usage, and possible waste occurring during the printing process. Once this information has been gathered, solutions for improvement can be devised. A management policy and usage policy regarding the output environment are also established.

Stage 2 - Secure and integrate

During this stage, security is enhanced and output usage controlled in all areas, including office print, centralised print, mobile devices and the cloud. An organisation's output environment is optimised by effectively connecting output devices to the existing IT environment in a secure manner and in accordance with regulations. Authentication, tracking, integration, access management, reporting, and rerouting are some of the methods used to increase security and reduce waste within the output environment.

Stage 3 - Automate and simplify

In the final stage, quantitative and qualitative data collected from the integrated management of the output environment is analysed. Based on the analysis, document-related work processes are improved, and working styles reformed.

Wasteful and redundant work processes are identified using unique analysis methods, and paper digitisation for workflow automation is implemented for a more productive business process. A new work style is established by providing an environment where digital documents generated from various sources, such as Web, desktops, tablets, smartphones, and output devices can be easily retrieved, saved, shared, and converted.

Ultimately, this three-step approach reduces time and cost spent on processing paper documents, improves accuracy and reproducibility of business processes, and enhances compliance and security throughout the document life cycle.

"With specialist knowledge and skills, and access to the latest printing technology, an MPS provider is invaluable to the management of an organisation's output environment," says Mande.