By Claire West
Reinforcing the findings of the cebr Report* in 2009, the latest survey of business usage across Europe and the Middle East undertaken on behalf of OKI Printing Solutions confirms that business users throughout Europe and the Middle East are still failing to take advantage of major savings in print costs as a result of improvements in technology and printing solutions.
In the latest study of commercial users in 16 countries across manufacturing and service industries, “So what exactly do you print?”, a majority of respondents continue to purchase materials such as business cards (69%), brochures (54%) and posters/banners (54%) from specialist third-party print houses.
For most users, the reasons for this are not that their in-house printers lack the capability to print these and other materials, but that the print quality is not satisfactory, for example, or they lack the time to work out how to produce such business collateral (both cited by 11%).
“The cebr Report identified that by bringing currently-outsourced printing functions in-house, firms could save $5,400 million per year,” confirms Graham Lowes, marketing director, OKI Printing Solutions, “with even greater savings in time, paper and other consumables possible through the implementation of best practice internal print management techniques.
“And, by adopting the best of today’s highly intuitive and easy-to-use print and copying technologies, businesses can make these savings with no loss of professional print quality.”
Lack of visibility
In another series of findings, the OKI Printing Solutions’ survey highlighted that, despite the existence of company-wide print policies in many businesses, these were often ignored or poorly publicised within the organisation. Only 24% of respondents were certain that they had a corporate policy relating to duplex or colour printing, for example, with 8% unsure whether they had a policy or not. As a result:
62% of companies have printers offering a duplex capability, with the potential of delivering a considerable reduction in paper consumption. Yet only 15% of staff always use it: by contrast, 31% rarely use the ability to print on both sides of the paper.
Similarly, 89% of those in workgroups have access to a colour printer, with 60% ‘always’ or ‘often’ using the colour facility. “In most office environments, by far the greater volume of standard print needs can be accommodated in mono,” says Lowes. “As with a failure to use two-sided printing, unnecessary use of colour is both costly to the business and environmentally unfriendly”
Think before you print?/b]
Another issue with environmental implications concerns the printing of documents. “In managing this, it is important for organisations to balance the need to avoid unnecessary waste of paper and toner, say, with maximising staff productivity,” Lowes believes.
“At OKI therefore, we recommend that companies provide clear advice regarding different types of on-screen information. In the case of short emails, for example, these should ideally be handled electronically. However, for longer or more detailed documents such as number-heavy spreadsheets, individual employees may find it easier and more effective to deal with these in paper format.”
“By putting in place such a pragmatic and enforceable print policy, each individual user will be able to operate in a way which remains convenient to them yet which also takes account of the cost to the broader business and to the environment.”
However, the survey results indicate that organisations have some way to go to achieve this. Only 32% of respondents confirmed that their company issue staff with a ‘think before you print’ email disclaimer: in addition, though 82% followed such policies when in place with specific regard to emails, this was not generally carried through to other documents.
•When undertaking a major print task, only 50% of companies ensure their staff check which is the more cost-effective option
•Most respondents have two or more printers in their office, with the nearest device frequently within two metres of their desk. When asked how they decided which printer to use, 58% confirmed they used the most appropriate to the task. “However, this may not always be true in reality,” points out [name] “as, in another finding, 67% said they used the nearest printer for the majority of their needs
•And, when asked what change they would most like to make to their print-related process, the convenience of placing a printer closer to their desk was cited as an important priority. The most frequently-cited priority (by 24%) was a printer capable of taking varying paper stocks
•Another commonly-requested improvement was the addition of a multi-function (print/copy/scan/fax) capability
[b]Greener at home
Finally, the OKI Printing Solutions survey looked at how ‘green’ staff were in the office compared to their home environment. In every case, respondents confirmed that they recycled a higher proportion of materials such as glass, metal, paper and plastics at home than at work.
“One of the principal reasons for this may be the lack of suitable facilities close at hand in the workplace,” says Lowes, “as only 37% of respondents have recycling bins in their office. The good news here therefore is that, with the increasing awareness of the importance of recycling at home, this may encourage greater environmental efforts at work, especially if the employer makes it easier for staff to act in a more environmentally positive way.
Overall however, both the business and its workforce have some way to go in improving their print performance. “Despite the availability of easy-to-use solutions which can deliver consistent high quality print output in-house, the day when ‘smarter printing’ is the norm rather than the exception is still some way off,” says Lowes.
“However, as the earlier cebr Report showed, those businesses that seize the opportunity to adopt better printing techniques are likely to see significant benefits both in improved productivity and competitive edge.”
*The Centre for Economics and Business Research Ltd (cebr) study, published in March 2009, assessed the printing markets in 23 countries, including Russia, Dubai, the UK and 20 countries in mainland Europe.