Printing on point
Despite a recent decline in printing volumes, industry experts are optimistic about how printer brands can embrace new business models to remain relevant.
The printer market has experienced a few changes in recent years, in large part because the world of work has changed so much.
According to Coenraad van Heerden, business unit manager for managed print services at Nashua Kopano, there are four major trends driving South Africa’s printer market: compliance and ESG concerns, loadshedding, hybrid working models and cost optimisation. “We’re seeing more and more companies looking for ways to run a more efficient, future-fit printing environment as they adapt and respond to these trends.”
But adding innovative features to printers can complicate things. HP recently found itself in hot water for not telling buyers that its printers’ software disabled non-printing functions when the device was low on ink. And this isn’t the first time the brand has been taken to court over claims it improperly locked printers down – last year, it upset customers by using security chips and DRM-like software to prevent any thirdparty cartridges from functioning in its printers.
Sustainability is a big buzzword at the moment, says Anton Badenhorst, COO, Itec. In part, this is because sustainability has become an important business priority for brands across all industries but, also, businesses don’t have any other option. As we are living in tough economic times, the average customer is holding onto their existing hardware for as long as possible because they can’t afford to just buy new equipment, he says, noting that figures from Q1 2023 show that printer sales are down substantially.
“But the need remains to print and print volumes are actually doing great.” In this environment, there is a strong market for second-hand and refurbished equipment. Customers are happy to just be able to print and have some sort of hardware, he says, adding that they’re typically not too fussy about what that hardware is or where it comes from as long as it’s reliable. As such, most of the major providers have a second-hand offering and many of the tenders going out for printing solutions ask for three options, namely a new solution, a refurbished solution and a hybrid solution.
But people are still buying printers, according to Dale de Villiers, GM, sales and marketing, Brother International South Africa. A3 laser printing requirements declined due to remote working, and smaller, multifunction A4 solutions – which offer a lower total cost of ownership – gained popularity, he says. Additionally, more SMEs are buying into the low cost of printing with ink tanks instead of laser printers when laser quality is not a requirement. “We expect this technology to carry on impacting purchasing behaviour in the future. Ink technology also requires less electricity for a printout when compared to laser printing technology.”
What should the industry be doing to adapt to hybrid work?
Timothy Thomas, country manager, Epson South Africa:
There is no doubt that the hybrid work environment is here to stay. The days of only printing to one large centralised print device in an office environment have significantly reduced with hybrid working. Employees can now work unimpeded, whether at home or in the office, by having the right device available. Luckily, the industry has come up with solutions that offer employers and employees the best of both worlds so that operations can continue to run smoothly, irrespective of where you find yourself.
Anton Badenhorst, COO, Itec:
With so many teams moving between working off-site and on-site, cloud-based printing becomes important because it allows employees to print from anywhere, at any time and from any device. And because the industry understands the importance of data security, when printing remotely via the cloud, it is essential that all data is protected with end-to-end encryption.
Dean Richards, interim CEO, Ricoh South Africa:
Embracing digital within the printing environment is helpful in our new hybrid, work-from-home reality. The change requires addressing security concerns through robust data protection measures and providing education and support to business users so that they understand the advantages and the drawbacks associated with these digital solutions. By highlighting the cost savings, increased efficiency, as well as improved sustainability that can be achieved through digitalisation, remote work can actually help the printer market in Southern Africa shift towards a more digital-centric landscape.
Printers are particularly vulnerable to breaches because many IT teams fail to protect them. Has this been your experience?
Yesh Surjoodeen, Southern Africa MD, HP:
Printers are at risk of continuing to be an overlooked piece of the overall cybersecurity posture if we don’t raise awareness about the fact that printers are just as vulnerable to cyber attacks as computers are. Bad actors understand these vulnerabilities and use them as an entry point for malware attacks. Organisations must develop security policies for monitoring and defending print devices from attack, both in the office and at home. With hybrid working models growing in popularity, the need for businesses and individuals to secure their endpoints is critical if they are to safeguard sensitive data.
Coenraad van Heerden, business unit manager, managed print services, Nashua Kopano:
Now that printers are connected to the internet, they represent a new vector for external attackers. Even more significantly, they make a company vulnerable to insider threats, i.e. leakages or theft of sensitive data by employees. It’s all too common for confidential information like annual financial statements to be left lying in a printer tray for collection when someone has forgotten they’ve sent it to print. There are, however, various technologies that companies can use to secure paper documents. These include:
- “Follow-me” printing and password or PIN protection: Printer won’t release a document until the end-user authenticates themselves at the device.
- Device authentication: This printer software allows you to check that devices connected to your network printer can be trusted.
- Secure boot: These printers can launch a defence mechanism to stop malicious code from being released during startup.
- Data encryption: This includes full-disk encryption of content stored in the printer’s memory.
- Continuous monitoring: Some printers have run-time intrusion detection functions capable of detecting malware.
IS MANAGED PRINTING THE ANSWER?
The global managed print services market (MPS) was valued at $37.4 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $84.3 billion by 2031 as more and more businesses look for easier ways to secure, keep track of, maintain, automate and eliminate waste across their printing processes. By outsourcing printing infrastructure management to a third party, IT teams no longer have to waste time fixing printer-related issues and can, instead, focus their energy on projects that help the business move forward.
MPS offerings are growing as companies embark on their digital transformation journeys because they need the hardware component of their business to evolve too, says Bernice Hynard, GM for Print Solutions, Tarsus Distribution. With an MPS approach, businesses can access the best technologies – like multi-function printers (MFPs), for example, which are essentially computers because users can open, scan and send documents directly from these devices – without having to spend money purchasing or maintaining them. She adds that MPS optimises printing infrastructure and workflows, which can reduce the need for in-house IT.
For Dean Richards, interim CEO at Ricoh SA, MPS is an attractive approach for both the industry and customers. The approach can help the industry stay relevant by offering customers a more cost-effective and flexible solution to their modern printing needs. For customers, it delivers the flexibility modern businesses need to print what they need, when they need it, without having to pay massive upfront costs on expensive hardware.
In addition, subscription-based pricing is appealing for customers who have become accustomed to paying for software- and infrastructure-as-a-service, so it’s understandable that these businesses would want something similar when it comes to their printing needs, says Van Heerden. This is especially true for businesses with high printing volumes because managed print services make it easier to optimise costs, eliminate waste, track usage and better monitor who is printing what.
Say goodbye to admin with MPS
How Netstar eliminated printer management admin using Nashua Kopano’s print management solutions.
When I ask Lana Ritchie, procurement consultant for Netstar, why the company went an MPS route, her answer is simple: less admin. With 25 machines across the country, being able to consolidate all their office printing needs and outsource these to a company that specialises in providing tech support to companies makes sense.
The vehicle tracking and fleet management brand doesn’t have to worry about upfront costs, maintenance or safely discarding of their printers when they reach end of life. Ritchie believes that the reliability and serviceability that comes with print-as-a-service is a big selling point. “In terms of servicing the machines and keeping them up and running, managed printing is ideal because you don’t have to handle any of this, which frees up your IT team to focus on other things.” And you can easily access different solutions as your needs change and as the market evolves.
In terms of servicing the machines and keeping them up and running, managed printing is ideal.Lana Ritchie, Netstar
At some of Netstar’s regional offices where they don’t have generators, each of these outsourced printers has a power solution so that they can stay up and running during loadshedding, she says. When a print cartridge runs out, they don’t have to worry about whether or not they have a replacement in the cupboard; they simply log a call and the cartridge is replaced very quickly, she adds. User management is another benefit of this approach. “It’s far easier for us to track our usage with MPS. We can drill down to see what time someone printed something, what they printed and if it was colour or black and white. We can then use this data to reduce wastage by suggesting that a certain job should rather have been printed in black and white or that is could have been printed on both sides of the page, for example. This makes our printing environment more efficient.”
* Article first published on brainstorm.itweb.co.za