Printing the future
Choosing the right print technology to fit a hybrid world of work.
What role does an office printer play in a world where remote work has accelerated the shift to digital technology? Is paperless the future of work? According to data out of Gartner, the impact of global remote work saw printing rates shrink by 40%, with the demand for home printers expectedly increasing by 3.3%. That said, Gartner also predicts that by 2022, 80% of printing activities will return to pre-pandemic levels.
Going paperless in a digital world may sound idyllic, but it's impractical. Print is not dead but we’re definitely printing less. While a dispersed workforce may no longer have access to office printers and are leveraging digital processes to get work done, many industries still require physical documentation.
“One of the factors driving the lower page print is that there's a distinction to be made between how many pages are being printed versus how many devices are being sold,” says Bernice Hynard, Tarsus Technology Group’s general manager for print solutions. “We are printing less pages and we are moving into a hybrid environment, which means that people will still want to print at home.”
The print industry is adapting to this ‘new normal’. While sales of less expensive retail printers are declining, midrange printers are seeing substantial growth. Those who do not have a printer at home are looking towards devices that offer more functionality. “What’s happening now is that you’re not just printing for your children, you’re printing for your office. A hybrid work-home environment requires a machine with more functionality, usually a 4-in-1, and we’re seeing this change from a business perspective.”
Hynard says this surprising shift in home printing (where better is best) is quite different to what was happening in the market five years ago. “And what this indicates is the rise of a self-sufficient ‘prosumer’. We always assume everyone is looking for the cheapest unit they can get and, while this is often true for notebooks and printers, we are now seeing a move to better technology with more functionality,” she adds.
The IDC predicts that end-users will print 2.3 trillion pages in 2025 – that’s around 4.4 million pages a minute. According to Hynard, it’s not that people aren’t printing, but rather that our usage of print technology is changing. “One area we’ve seen large declines in terms of units is the very large copier machines that used to sit in offices, schools, universities and large corporate governments. From a business perspective, we’re seeing a move to a slower technology or engine speeds, but because people have realised you don’t necessarily need to print 120 pages a minute,” says Hynard. “Businesses are moving from one big printer to a smaller, distributed print solution.”
In South Africa, manufacturing is one sector that is seeing substantial growth in the printing space. From product labelling to packaging, small businesses are opting to print locally instead of looking towards importing packaging materials. “It’s an incredibly high growth area,” adds Hynard. “A lot of the things you see in the shops are now starting to be manufactured here again and they will all need packaging. Packaging comes from a printer.”
When considering the future of work, sustainability within the print industry is a top priority. While many of the big printer brands such as HP and Lexmark have a carbon neutral managed print service (MSP) offering, Hyland explains that something as simple as using original manufacturer toner can make printing more eco-friendly as the ink is manufactured to the highest environmental standards.
“Print is actually one of the greenest technologies in the industry. Printing technology has come a long way and MPS allows us to manage our environment completely in terms of unnecessary expenditure, total cost of ownership and wastage. When you’re able to control your environment better from a technology perspective, it gives you better control over the costs,” she explains. “Buying original equipment manufactured toner guarantees you that from source, it's being sustainably and responsibly manufactured. There is so much R&D that this toner works seamlessly with your printer so there’s less breakage and wastage.”
In a post-pandemic world, where everything is online, the future of printing is still bright. While print technology and device requirements are certainly shifting, the hybrid work world dictates that in a modern, managed print environment, devices in both the home and office will give the user sustainability, longevity and total cost of ownership.
* Article first published on brainstorm.itweb.co.za