Companies of all sizes are realizing that there are excellent bottom line benefits to be gained by managing their printer infrastructures more carefully. The best results come from Managed Print Services (MPS), usually defined as a strategy to analyze and manage output devices throughout the organization with the goal of minimizing the costs associated with workgroup printing and copying. Benchmarks of a successful MPS program can include cost savings, increased productivity, better compliance performance and contributing to “green” initiatives. According to research firm Gartner, active print management initiatives can cut office print costs by 10 to 30 percent1.
MPS typically starts with a centralized design that is based on a thorough assessment of costs and volumes, and takes into account support requirements as well as the workflows of the employees. Once this assessment has been completed, companies often find that they can reduce the number of printers which can reduce support and supply costs, and help cut costs on their equipment leases and maintenance contracts.
Beyond the initial assessment and design, ongoing fleet management is essential to ensure that the environment continues to operate at peak performance and that any return on investment uncovered is, in fact, realized. Resources are not typically allocated for the management of workgroup printers and copiers, so this represents a challenge for most organizations and is important to factor into the strategy.
Using the Investment Wisely
If you are hoping to use MPS as a way to reduce printing costs and improve workflow efficiencies it is essential to establish concrete metrics and standards to use in your strategy design. Asking the following questions can help guide your success:
What kinds of machines are deployed in your environment today? Many businesses do not have a good overview of the type and number of devices they own or lease.
Are the devices connected or unconnected? Do they print in monochrome or in color? Can they print duplex? Collecting this data about each machine puts you in a much better position to design a system that will save you money and better meet the needs of your end users.
Do you know what each device is being used for? You need to have a clear picture of how your devices are being used to understand whether you have the right machine doing the right job. Many companies are challenged with simply getting a basic understanding of how many pages are printed each month, but delving deeper into usage data is essential in order to come to grips with your environment. It will tell you not only what devices you have, but also how often and to what degree they are utilized.
How often do my devices need service? After determining exactly which machines are in use and how much volume each is producing, you need to take a closer look at service. You need to understand what that service costs you in terms of downtime, parts, and service labor. Also find out which devices perform solidly and which struggle to keep up with the demand. Answering these questions provides you with important information that can lead to valuable system improvements or indicate that it is time to upgrade the systems.
What volumes of supplies (toner and other consumables) and paper is each device using, and how much of each is the organization using cumulatively? While device usage is an important benchmark, it can be difficult to gather the data without an automated tool or dedicated and independent analysis. Paper, however, can often be easily tracked through the purchasing process and by examining the habits of end user departments. Supplies can be tracked similarly, or more effectively, when purchased through an MPS agreement. You can identify under-utilized equipment by examining the rated duty cycle against the actual rate of consumption.
What type of output is each machine producing? Knowing whether a device is primarily producing black and white, color, or using complex finishing options can provide an important perspective that will help you optimize your fleet. Do you have color devices that print a majority of their output in black and white? Do you have specialty binding capabilities on some equipment that you rarely use? Take a look at whether feature-packed machines can be swapped out with another device or moved to a location more appropriate to the capabilities or uses. Once the type of output being created is clear, and the purpose of the output is understood, it can point you to adjustments that can save you money and improve the experience of end users.
What are the periods of peak demand for each device? This is a factor that is not always easily discovered when examining benchmarks like monthly volumes or paper usage. Business units often have peak periods such as end-of-month reporting, quarterly closings or special projects that can drive up printer demand and skew the overall numbers. Does a machine sit idle for weeks only to be challenged to keep up during a high-usage period? Would volume requirements during this time be better served by redirecting the output to a centralized department or device? Are the peak periods causing high-volume machines to be placed in what would normally be regarded as low-volume environments? Careful benchmarking is essential to making meaningful decisions and optimizing system design.
What do the device users have to say? Statistics are important, but so is the perspective and information gained by listening to end users. What is their experience using your devices? Are they comfortable using all the features, or would additional training be a benefit? Do things like machine warm-up time, workarounds, or service issues hinder their efficiency? Listening to those with their “boots on the ground” is essential to making meaningful adjustments and improvements.
The famous adage: “Good data equals good decisions” is a worthy one to incorporate with your MPS efforts. By asking the right questions and giving thought and examination to their answers, you will gain a better understanding and be in a better position to optimize your environment.
Putting the Right MPS Foot Forward
A critical factor to MPS success is the willingness to adjust the environment to fit the changing needs of users. Frequently, once a machine is placed in the office, organizations leave it to live a life of its own; thought is seldom given to reviewing the ongoing performance until it is time to renew the lease or replace the machine.
MPS, however, carefully monitors and examines devices’ environments, with a focus on continually adjusting devices, features and placements as needed to help ensure optimal performance and cost-effectiveness. It is important, therefore, to make the most of all the features offered by an MPS program that allow you to maximize the devices and workflow.
Dedication and a bit of expertise are required when adopting an MPS approach. Many MPS programs tend to focus on cost reduction alone, and while that is a basic feature most look for, it is not going to maximize your MPS investment. Look for a resource that can also improve workflow and efficiency, and one that will help with the adoption of new technology. Getting the maximum value out of MPS requires a great deal of attention to detail and the ability to construct a practical strategy. Make sure your systems and strategies take full advantage of an MPS approach.