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Printing costs can soar for many reasons, but there is a simple way to solve this.

By Ronnie Oeschger, divisional director: Xerox indirect channels at Bytes Document Solutions

Considering that on average, some 15% of the overall IT budget of a typical small and medium business (SMB) goes towards printing, with 12% of IT resources spent simply on supporting print issues, it is clear that print tends to cost more than it should.

There are many areas within printing where wastage occurs, so what is required are ways to identify where this waste happens and to take steps to reduce it.

The first key area where expenditure occurs is with printing supplies. Obviously, no one wants to run out of toner in the middle of an important print job, so having stock on hand is important. However, since ordering is generally done on an ad-hoc basis, there is little control or oversight, meaning costs can spiral out of control.

Worse still, if your business has a variety of printer vendors, you can end up with incompatible toner cartridges scattered across the company.

The second challenge amounts to being an even more costly version of the printing supplies problem. It starts when a department or an individual decides that they need an extra printer, and opt for an inexpensive one. The trouble is that cheap can often end up being very costly in the long run, and the constant issues a cheap printer suffers from can tie up support resources extensively.

The solution to both of these challenges is simple: centralise and standardise your printers and supplies. Doing this will also reduce the number of print support calls your IT team will have to deal with, improving their productivity as well.

Another costly problem is people printing in colour, even when they don’t need to, and is something that occurs most often in uncontrolled and unmonitored environments. The best way to resolve this challenge is to put policies and permissions in place, to ensure that only those who need to print in colour can do so.

It’s amazing to think that something as simple as having your printers in the wrong place can cost you money, but unless they are positioned optimally, it could mean your users have to walk further than they should to pick up their print jobs, or having to wait in line at a printer that’s constantly busy.

This leads directly to unhappy users, lower productivity levels and unnecessary costs you can’t even see, let alone control.

It is at times like these that having a managed print services (MPS) partner is extremely beneficial, as they can assist you to understand exactly what printers you have, how they’re being used and how they can be repositioned for optimal benefits.

For more unnecessary costs, look no further than the fact that it is estimated that 25% of print jobs are never collected. This means wasted toner, wasted paper, and wasted effort, as somebody has to clear and dispose of the unwanted document. And this doesn’t even take into account the security implications of having commercially sensitive material lying around.

Again, there is a simple solution: ask your MPS provider to introduce secure document release via PIN or swipe card.

One of the biggest hidden expenses is the soft costs incurred by having frustrated users whose productivity level is reduced by the nature of the print environment. It has been estimated that in companies with over 250 people, some 3 250 man hours a year are wasted waiting for print jobs. Getting an MPS provider in to simplify and optimise your print environment and processes will overcome this.

In addition, a good MPS provider will educate your employees around the ability of modern multifunction printers to handle sophisticated document workflows and simplify complicated tasks. By effectively harnessing the power of technology, you can make massive gains in respect of efficiencies and productivity.

Finally, a brief word of warning: you may consider attempting to manage your print environment yourself instead. This, however, can prove to be a false economy, with massive hidden costs down the line, not to mention the impact it will have on your time, effort and resources.

On the other hand, seeking out a good MPS provider and outsourcing your print management to them could enable you to cut your costs by up to 30%. Furthermore, it will mean you get a single point of contact that will manage vendors, handle supplies, have a detailed understanding of your print environment and be able to provide comprehensive support, built on industry-standard best practices.