We’ve mentioned it in the past -The print environment… Heck, we dedicated an entire post to it, yet here we are revisiting it again. As we wrapped that post up (linked above), we did mention we’d be back with more, so here we are – doing just that.
In that earlier post, we discussed document management and to go deeper in assessing that,this post aims to walk you through assessing print fleets.
We’re going to start by telling you who this information is not going to help. Those with a small office, a handful of employees and not too much in the way of printing. That’s because optimising the print environment for small operations is simple. One MFP will usually suffice. Connect it to a shared network and one tech guy/girl or your copier supplier can remotely monitor that unit for tech problems, and get useful data reports from the unit to help cut print costs. All with one device!
The business environments this information will help…
SMBs (up to 250 employees) and those with more, and especially for those with more than the one office. The reason for this is that the more employees you have, the more likely it is you have more than one printer, and quite possibly more than the one multifunctional printer. (From here on referred to as MFP)
The only way to enhance your business’s printing process is to optimise the print fleet. Ideally, you want a high employee to device ratio. For example, one printer for every ten employees in an office of 250 employees gives you a print to user ratio of 25/1. Now imagine the ability to increase that tenfold to a ratio of 250/1 and that’s what you can do with a MFP that meets the needs of each end-user.
To reach the stage where you can optimise your print fleet for maximum efficiency, there are four areas to focus your efforts to get a good grounding of what you have, need, and use.
4 Steps to Prepare a Baseline Inventory of Print Devices, Costs, and Identify Areas of Savings
- Take an inventory of your existing fleet
We’ll assume you’ve been smart enough to implement network printing. Any tech person would advise that because it is the simplest way to reduce operational costs and minimize downtime. Connect the printers to a network and permit shared access with the tech department controlling permissions.
As your business grows though, there’s often a problem with the first solution and that’s the fact that the networks aren’t always adapted to suit the growing amount of devices shared across the intranet.
Fortunately, that’s a simple problem to fix by using discovery tools to automate the process. A free open source tool that works for Windows, Linux, and FreeBSD is NMAP.
Chances are though; your IT department will already have some sort of network mapping process in place already, because it’s used for more than inventory purposes. The right tools help improve network security by identifying weak spots. On the off chance these tools aren’t implemented, TechRepublic.com lists five others here. It may not be of interest to you, but it will (or should be) an interesting read for your tech support. Send them the link below to bring your network up to speed on technology
Don’t rely on software alone though because as with all others, they rely on other components for them to work. One of those being the printer having “network discovery enabled.” In offices with a number of printers, it is possible for a printer to be down and not discoverable due to this setting, so a physical walk around to account for the devices should be included too. If that’s too much for one person to cover, ask each department to supply an inventory of the printers they have operational and down. You may be surprised by the amount of old printers that simply get replaced and the old ones put into storage. Account for them all!
For the most part, network mapping will be sufficient to give you a good inventory baseline, but back up your findings with a physical walk around to make sure none are missed.
- Assess the requirements of the fleet of print devices you have
There are two terms handy to know at this stage. 1) Under capacity and 2) over capacity. They are a real issue in many businesses and often in multiple departments. This refers to the features on the printers that may or may not be needed.
At your reception, the MFP could be capable of printing duplex, colour and monochrome options, ADF, and yet have no lockable paper tray. The requirements for each device should be assessed to ensure the devices you currently have can do what you need them to do. Both for operational purposes and to cover your bases with security as well.
To help you decide what your business really needs, you can refer to our print tech information here.
Assess the costs for each device
This part needs to account for multiple costs and it may involve collating information from different departments. Your IT department can tell you the maintenance costs for units, while your supplies and facilities management department can tell you the cost of procurement.
The areas you are concerned with for cost analysis are:
- Purchase price
- Lease price/depreciation expenses
- Cost of consumables (paper, ink/toner, maintenance kits)
- Cost of replacement parts (IT)
- The cost of any repairs carried out inc. labour
Two of the largest amounts will be for replacement drums and toner cartridges. In fact, some MFP models (colour) have as many as eight components that need replacing periodically.
- Toner cartridges (x4)
- Fusing oil
- Waste toner collector
- The OPC drum
- The transfer belt
Over the life cycle of multiple MFPs, those costs can be significant.
Assess the TCO (total cost of ownership) for each print device you have across your business.
- Ask your staff what they need
Quite often, management become embroiled in how investing in new technology will cut costs and expand how far their budgets can go. It’s all great having the latest cost-efficient, and environmentally friendly print devices in your business, but if they don’t satisfy the needs of the end-user, or they don’t know how to work them, the technology is rendered useless.
It’s all about data gathering!
The more staff you have, the more intelligent data you can collect. Network mapping will give you an inventory of all devices on your network managing document workflow. MFPs can give you reports on how efficient or not that’s working across all departments.
What no MFP, or any device can do is give you user input. You need to ask your staff what problems they experience, what features they use versus what isn’t currently available. Every team member in all departments will need to print or copy documents at some point. You’ll know the efficiency of each team member when you ask them.
Consult your staff on how they use printers and find out what they need and what they can do without. The more information you can gather from employees, the deeper knowledge you’ll gain on your print environment.
For offices with singular devices on the network, such as standalone copiers, scanners etc. you’ll be able to find out how many copies go through each device on a monthly basis. That’s essential information to have because when you decommission singular devices on a network to be replaced by a multifunctional, the monthly duty cycle will need to account for all copies across numerous devices.
As for the functions your business needs on an MFP, your employees are the best people to tell you what they would use and what’s insignificant for their needs. Those are the people using the equipment, so when you do a print environment audit, don’t forget to ask your staff about how they use the printers, what problems they experience, and what they need from the machines, versus what they can’t do or have difficulty doing at the moment.
There’s likely a few things that employees would feel beneficial but they aren’t as forthcoming with their ideas as you’d like to think they are. Give them the opportunity to be heard and include their opinions in your print environment assessment.
You may be surprised by the amount of things you can cut out the equation and save on print costs. If your administration department are constantly printing in black and white, yet have to select that option for each print job, a simple default configuration could save on printing time and cost nothing but the network admin’s time to implement.
You may even find that many devices are mainly used for monochrome printing, in which case, colour copiers may not even be required. That’s not to say to eliminate them from your fleet completely. Just invest in the MFP with a higher duty cycle to cater to all departments sharing the one colour printer, and downgrade the other colour MFPs to monochrome. Since each colour copier has four toner cartridges to replace, you could save quite a bit by optimising your print fleet to match the needs of your end-users.
Find out what they really need, weigh that against the data you see they use, and factor security into the equation.
The above four steps will give you a baseline inventory of all your print devices, let you know whether they meet your business requirements, and let you see how much each is costing you. Add to that your end-user input and you will have all the data you need to optimise your print environment for real needs and lower the associated print costs from operating overcapacity.
Having your print environment operating overcapacity is a sure fire way to be paying over the odds. That’s why at Copylogic.co.uk, we do not consider our role as solely copier suppliers. We are business partners. We work with our clients, assess print fleets, optimise them, and go further by supporting and managing them. You can use the above four steps to optimise your print environment, or you can call on us to help you with all aspects of print.