The managed print sector did nothing to preserve its own reputation in the early days of printers, copiers and scanning devices. There was a short-term attitude which only looked as far as the next deal. The Xerox sales course was widely admired and berated in equal measure for the pressure cooker environment it created amongst sales teams and clients! They were however, extremely successful.
But as years have gone by and technology has become more widely used and therefore cheaper, the opportunity has arisen to save money and replace inefficient devices and end punitive print cost contracts. We often compare print to the mobile phone business as there are many similarities. Back then you paid for the device separately and then a huge amount per minute and text of usage. Today, you rarely pay for a phone, they have become commoditised and are rolled into the monthly contract cost and the price of calls, even international, have tumbled. Printers, document management systems and devices are much the same.
Thinking has changed and changed again where the concept of centralised print is concerned as more flexible working arrangements become commonplace and the traditional office set up almost ceases to exist.
Collectively these factors have resulted in major cost savings for clients that have failed to check their contracts or simply held on to faithful old machines for many years.
It may seem an excessive step to many, but the idea of a print and document management audit genuinely does throw up some great opportunities to not only save money but support flexible and remote working, making print more accessible. It’s a service we regularly deliver for our existing and prospective clients and by experiencing lots of different working practices and sectors, we tend to pick up lots of great ideas along the way that we can share with others. So a print audit is not just about reviewing print volumes, per copy costs etc it is also about spending time considering how the print and document management infrastructure can be adapted to help the business (and save money).
But the big question is, if we can save money, what sort of benefit can we expect to see? Over the last year, its not been unheard of for us to save clients 40%, whilst giving them new devices and reducing lease and ongoing costs for colour and mono print. On average the figure is normally 20-30% but as noted above, it does depend heavily on the elapsed time since your last major overhaul/review. Clients regularly surprise themselves when they sit and think about the last time they took a serious look at their devices and contracts. They are normally even more surprised by the number of additional machines that have snuck onto desks in the meantime!
As independent consultants with over 30 years’ experience we have witnessed huge change in the industry and have adapted to meet the needs of our varied clients. So, if your last managed print invoice lead you to draw a sharp intake of breath or your machines are starting to groan, it may be the right time to stop and look at your infrastructure and see how much you could save.
Centralised Print: To Centralise or Not to Centralise, that is the question
Of all the cyclical debates (jam or cream first on scones, chicken or egg etc.) the question of whether to centralise or decentralise your print infrastructure seems to come and go with the tides. We are regularly asked what is best and it must be said that industry thinking is that the pendulum has swung back towards decentralisation.
There are undoubtedly pros and cons for both options but the major driver, cost, is starting to pale into insignificance as the price of devices and cost per print, continues to come down.
Old school thinking said that centralised print was the only way forward. The idea being that by reducing the number of devices you save the capital cost and then the ongoing costs associated with running multiple devices. At that same time, this was an industry renowned for bad contracts with high penalties and punitive per print/copy charges and so many manufacturers did nothing to help change direction for this train of thought. Centralised print was also used by some suppliers as a clever way of creating lucrative contracts which included substantial hidden margins.
On top of the cost debate, the technology simply did not exist to connect devices easily or provide intelligent printing and so offices followed a more traditional format – everyone with their own desk, sat in departments etc. - and so there was limited demand for anything different.
Nowadays, many of these arguments have been shelved or overcome and the print industry has had to keep pace with the demand for more flexible working, hot desking, work from home and multi office environments. ‘Follow me’ print and cloud server based print technology now allows users to pick up their print from wherever they are working at that point in time, not always going back to a centralised hub.
Companies have also realised that there must be a balance because an over rationalised environment can have a serious impact on productivity of staff. Users are away from their desks for longer periods of time creating situations whereby phones ring longer, go unanswered and the response to customer demands is slower.
Costs continue to fall and, if you choose your partner carefully, managed print contracts are not as painful as those of the 80s and early 90s. Historically, cheap to buy devices typically had excessive toner and ink consumable costs, with a colour print costing as much as 20p. Recently though, similar desktop devices which are cheap to buy, or rent, have seen the full colour consumable running costs and service support contracts get as low as 2.85ppp, depending on volumes. If you are lucky you may be paying something similar to this already on a per print basis with a mid-high volume centralised device, but you will most likely be paying an expensive quarterly lease rental charge in addition for the device itself.
More importantly these low-cost devices print at speeds of 40-50-60 pages per minute and handle volumes of up to 20,000 prints per month making them great for busy offices. Latest service offerings ensure that if there are any issues with the device not functioning properly, at any point in the contract, it can be swapped out for a direct replacement at no additional cost. So, if a mid-high volume machine does fail there is limited or no impact of productivity for the business.
Like everything in life, we say exercise some moderation and aim for a happy medium, somewhere between plurality and centralised print. An audit of current structure set against a background of desired outcomes can normally find the right balance. Why not contact us today to organise an audit?
As we visit prospective education sector clients, we regularly come across various iterations of ‘old school’ print contracts. The reference to old school is a pun; what we refer to are the old fashioned, expensive, punitive print contracts that were common place in the 90’s and early 2000’s.
If there is one sector that ‘got hit’ hardest by these sales techniques it is the education sector. It is not unusual to find schools saddled with ongoing finance on devices, alongside stinging (minimum volume) pence-per-page consumable and service contracts. To put this into perspective, these contracts could be based on estimates of 50,000+ prints per quarter, a figure you have to pay whether you hit that volume or not and can include the capital cost of the equipment, if not then there is usually a separate rental contract running alongside.
The reason that schools are paying such high charges is because they may have been mis-sold into the centralised Managed Print Service (MPS) proposition for supposed cost reduction purposes. The concept of centralised print, at that point in time, was not necessarily incorrect – as smaller desktop devices were expensive to run - however this is definitely not the case today. The issue is that many of these contracts, whilst designed to save the client money, actually only helped suppliers hide copious amounts of margin in the hardware and print charges. Furthermore, no one seems to have gone back to the schools and told them that things have changed and that the only people benefiting from the old approach were the device providers and support companies.
Not only has technology changed, but the demands in school have also changed significantly since then. Most schools now use smart boards, computers and iPads in classes which reduces the amount of paper required for lesson planning and delivery alone. Newsletters and parental communications also rely more on email than paper resulting in a further reduction in demand.
Technology costs now mean that it is much more time and cost efficient to have a device per classroom, even more so than centralisation ever offered. Recent examples that we have delivered for our clients provide an all-inclusive price (hardware, consumables and support) for significantly less than their current service and consumable spend – and with no hidden extras! On top of the cost benefits of ‘in class’ printing, the idea of decentralising also has many practical benefits. Nurseries and Key Stage 1 classes tend to use photos and pictures to show child development and so access to immediate printing allows teachers to keep records up to date.
The explosion in wireless and mobile devices also means pupils and teachers alike need ready access to printers as more and more content is produced not in books, but on tablets, phones and laptops – in short the idea of leaving the classroom and walking to a centralised print area like the staff room or office is no longer a practical expectation.
With mounting pressure on schools to balance the books whilst achieving outstanding outcomes, the cost of print is once again becoming a major issue. And it’s time that things changed to ensure that schools can use their squeezed budgets to be cost effective, efficient and modern when it comes to print.