Research: how to bring printing and copying costs under control

By Computing Staff
13 Nov 2012 View Comments

Rather than relying on such tools, useful though they are, a more sensible approach would be to grasp the nettle and specify machines that are appropriate to their users from the word go. Those requiring high-quality colour printing (for production or creative professionals) would be provided with high-end laser printers or MFPs, while those for whom rapid throughput and high availability are of greater importance than photo-quality colour (such as direct marketing or finance departments) could be routed to inkjet printers, which are less wasteful in terms of energy and resources and also more reliable.

However, for many this would require a change in the way that firms purchase or rent printers, consumable and services.

Small print

The install-and-forget nature of office printing means that there is little impetus for firms to change contracts, and every opportunity for incumbent suppliers to maintain this situation.

There are various service models available, ranging from a total MSP arrangement in which the supplier provides machines and consumables and charges a relatively high per-page rate, to self-service in which machines, maintenance and consumables are all purchased separately. In most organisations printing and copying is covered by a mixture of such models.

In some firms it may be that this mixed model has come about as the result of a well thought out plan to optimise print and copying services and their associated costs. However, it is far more likely that it is the result of years of inertia and inaction.

Whenever the structure of an organisation changes, for example after a merger or office move, IT systems always take some time to catch up. Like other IT systems, printing solutions need to be constantly adapted and re-assessed to meet dynamic changes in the organisation. But, because printing is considered such a lowly part of the infrastructure, it is likely to be the last service to be rationalised in this way.

Two out of three of the survey respondents said their organisations had gone through structural changes in the past two years (see figure 2).


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Contrast that figure with the survey finding that only 10 per cent of organisations that have undergone recent changes have renegotiated their printing contract, the majority just leaving existing arrangements in place (see figure 3).


[Click to enlarge]

Like other IT systems, office printing and copying need to move with the times, to take advantage of technological advances as they become available to increase performance and efficiency. The figures above suggest that most organisations are failing to do this.

Contractual obligations

As touched on above, incumbent suppliers are often very comfortable with the status quo, and build structures into their contracts that make it inconvenient for customers to change the terms. However, there may be real benefits in doing so.

“In an environment where many companies are looking to save money and improve processes, businesses would do well to consider more fully the often overlooked area of printing - whether that be understanding better their total costs of printing, users’ everyday requirements or how their contracts stand up versus their current needs,” said a spokesman for printer vendor Riso.

In renegotiating print contracts, there are certain pitfalls that need to be watched out for. Here are three common ones.

1. Printing contacts last longer than the life expectancy of the hardware. Hardware with a life expectancy of three years is supplied under a five-year contract. When the hardware is renewed, so is the contract - for a further five years. Essentially the contract never ends.

2. Upgrade lock-down. The hardware and the contract are inextricably linked, so when a single machine is upgraded, the contract for all is extended.

3. Punitive cancellation charges. Some printing contracts have built-in charges to prevent customers from withdrawing.

This research was sponsored by Riso


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