Tech Update: Printing in the Enterprise
Printing becomes more relevant
With the advent of the Internet in the early 1990s came the
concept of a ‘paperless’ office. But, as organizations all over the world realized
soon enough, the Internet has only increased printing needs in the enterprise.
When it comes to the Indian enterprise, printing now plays a very important
role with increased focus on cost savings, efficiency, and high availability.
by Anil Patrick R
|"A discipline needs to be inculcated for collecting
printouts from the network printer as soon as they are fired. This helps
in maintaining confidentiality/privacy as well as keep the printer desks
clean and reduce paper wastage" — Nilesh Sangoi, Manager (IT), Star India.
Nobody talks about the paperless office anymore. In
fact, the need for print-outs or hard copy has increased due to widespread electronic
communication (email) and increased digitization of documents. Email is now
the official means of communication and most enterprises use it for intra-office
memos or business correspondence. Printing of email itself brings into the picture
a big need for Printers. Add to this the need to print Web pages, presentations,
documentation, official letters, account statements, charts, etc.
It can be clearly seen that the requirement
for hard copies of documents is very high in an enterprise's interdisciplinary
activities. For instance, printing plays an important part in the collaborative
work environment at Kvaerner Powergas India.
"Need for quality printing of drawings
and documents is an ever-increasing need in the entire project lifecycle. This
is also the requirement in the case of collaborative work for virtual office
environments," says Ashok Adhikary, General Manager IT/CIE, Kvaerner Powergas
Fast and reliable delivery of output is
essential for success in today's digital environment. This is where printing
still plays an important role, as an interface between a 'soft copy' and a 'hard
copy.' With increased requirements, management, and maintenance issues have
Yes, printers have come a long way in terms
of cost effectiveness, capability, features, and maintenance over the years.
But, the reality remains that printing is still not the trouble free affair
that vendor advertisements portray it to be. There is much more to the picture
when it comes to printing in the enterprise. So what do you need to be aware
of when it comes to printing?
Printing is not as simple as sprinkling
a couple of printers across your network. Nor does it mean dotting your organization
with stand-alone printers for all and sundry. It is crucial to have a printing
policy in place, which uses accurate processes and methodology. This can save
a lot of valuable money and time (In terms of lesser maintenance/management
issues). Let us see how this can be achieved.
First on the anvil is to have a precise
idea of your printing requirements. Many organizations end up buying either
too less or too much. Defining user access rights to a printer is crucial when
doing the evaluation process. This is similar to how different users are assigned
different levels of network access. It will help in clearly defining what you
need and what you don't.
"Top officials like managers and executives
may not prefer running around for printouts. Stand-alone printers can be assigned
to them. Network printers can be provided for other users in sales, marketing,
accounts etc," says Meheriar Patel, Senior Manager (IT), Jetair. For example,
in the case of a logistics team, it makes more sense to have one or two shared
high-capacity network printers than several low capacity stand-alone printers.
Another example to emphasize the need for
clear evaluation is that printers crash too often as they cannot handle the
heavy workload. If printing requirements had been accurately calculated, a higher
capacity printer would have satisfied the needs perfectly. Although the initial
cost would have been slightly higher, the printer would have given lower maintenance
costs (and lesser headaches!) over the years. Having properly documented need
evaluation mechanisms for this will help prevent such problems.
Next on the agenda is to ensure privacy
of printed documents. In fact, there is a corporate joke on the Internet that
says, 'Hang around near the printer and you'll soon know what the company is
Many organizations do not comprehend the
seriousness of how much vital company information can be lost by unwanted people
seeing critical printouts. This is where education of users plays a major part.
"A discipline needs to be inculcated for
collecting printouts from the network printer as soon as they are fired. This
helps in maintaining confidentiality/privacy as well as keep the printer desks
clean and reduce paper wastage," says Nilesh Sangoi, Manager (IT), Star India.
Inclusion of proper printer usage education along with this will also help save
the support team from many a headache.
Another way of securing confidential documents
is to have standalone printers or use a print room. "Sensitive and confidential
document printing is carried out in a stand-alone printer in a specific secured
area of operation," says Ashok Adhikary. These days, organizations prefer using
stand-alones due to their higher security levels for this purpose.
Lastly, it is necessary to define a policy
that states what is right and what isn't. It is necessary to be clear that usage
of printers only for official use occurs. For example, using the printer for
personal print-outs should not be encouraged.
Maintenance, the right way
For most organizations, printer management
and maintenance usually represents a very sunny scenario. In fact, most enterprises
follow the 'buy it, install it, forget it' policy in terms of printers. After
all, why tinker with it as long as it works?
Once printers are in place, they are usually
neglected till they fail. The problem can be as simple as an empty toner cartridge
or as complex as printer replacement. Periodic checks and maintenance can go
a long way in avoiding such situations. As mentioned earlier, user education
can also help especially for the correct usage of printers.
Outsourcing of printer maintenance is a
good idea. Especially if you don't have a helpdesk, or don't want them to spare
a dedicated support person for this purpose. Standardization of printers across
the network is also a good way of reducing maintenance costs.
"Outsourcing of maintenance contracts and
usage of similar type of printers across the organization are ways used for
reducing inventory of consumable and spare parts," says Ashok Adhikary.
Let us start with the most important parameter
today—cost. The question is how exactly do you monitor and measure the costs
Vendors give you TCO and ROI figures that
look good only on paper. The scene is a bit different when it comes to practice.
Make sure you consider the following factors. Doing this will also help you
get a fix on the ideal printer(s) for your organization's needs. (See Box: Time
for returns for more details on ROI).
There are two parts to the equation when
measuring and evaluating TCO involved in printing. TCO is a sum of the acquisition
cost and running costs of the printer over a certain period.
"There are two components which are key
in determining TCO of a printer. They are cost of purchasing the equipment and
running costs calculated over a certain time period," says Meheriar Patel.
Usually, acquisition cost of a printer
is the only factor considered by most organizations while evaluating before
buying. Operational costs (mainly cost of consumables) is the next crucial parameter.
Often operational costs can exceed the cost of the printer during its life.
'Wear parts' are not added in the list of consumables or the warranty. These
are parts like transfer drums, rollers, etc. It is necessary that the calculation
includes such costs.
Next in line comes support costs. This
will include AMCs. If support and maintenance is being done in-house, that cost
has to be factored in. Intangibles involved in calculating TCO also include
how much loss occurs due to downtime. This should include both monetary losses
and those such as level of criticality of the printer. Ratio of printers to
users is the next important factor to be considered.
The more the printers, higher will be
It should also consider losses such as
lack of productivity. This is a very organization-specific parameter. (See
Box below: Savings make a difference for some of the common cost savings on
ROI is usually a neglected factor in the case of printers. One of the
major reasons behind this being that TCO makes more sense for a printer
than actual ROI. While vendors do use ROI figures and measurement tools,
these are more promotional in nature than of actual use.
Printers are an essential part of today's networks. So is it necessary
to calculate ROI? Organizations differ on this. One school of thought
is in favor of calculation of actual ROI, while the other insists that
it's not necessary. The argument against ROI calculations is that they
are an absolute must. ROI calculations tend to be very organization specific.
"The ROI and payback period is calculated against in-house ownership
and leased systems. The depreciation, direct and indirect cost, consumables,
maintenance, etc are taken into account," says Ashok Adhikary. Many
organizations use their own methods of calculating print ROI.
Some of the most common users of print ROI are organizations such as
telecom and banking. These organizations make use of very large-scale
printing and need to have proper ROI methods in place. One of the standard
methods used to calculate print ROI is the Net Present Value (NPV) method.
By minimizing the number of printer configurations, an organization can
drive down many of the hidden costs associated with printing. Consider
consolidating all paper-related functions: printing, copying, and faxing,
with multifunctional devices.
All efforts should be made to save recurring costs by saving toner/ink,
paper and power, since running costs are often higher than purchase cost.
Using high-yield toner cartridges goes a long way in this direction. Toner
can be saved by configuring PCs for default print in economy mode (lower
resolution), advising users not to print presentations with dark backgrounds,
etc. Power can be saved by configuring printers to go into power save
mode after 15 minutes of inactivity. Make sure that the printer is switched
off when the last person leaves the office at night.
Encourage duplexing and multi-up printing to save on toner and paper
costs, as well as savings on printer wear and tear. If users make it a
habit to do a print preview for excel sheets before shooting a print (and
also confirm paper size), it can save a lot of paper wastage.
Anil Patrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org