By Andrew Hall, Marketing Manager, Oki Systems UK

Few organisations can afford to disregard unnecessary expenses. Even if a business is thriving, cutting costs in one area means more budget and resources for proactive innovation and growth.

Yet when it comes to pinpointing areas where savings can be made, it’s surprising how many businesses overlook printing costs. If they do, they take into account the cost of outsourced printing and the purchase price of the hardware, supplies and maintenance, but ignore the loss of productivity, paper and consumables wastage and downtime when printing processes are not as robust, efficient and reliable as they should be.

They might make a gesture by seeking out the cheapest consumables such as ink cartridges and toner. But, in fact, this can be a false economy as these can reduce the life of the printer itself and may also invalidate its warranty.

Increasingly businesses are waking up to this and using a new method of buying called managed print services. This involves reducing capital expenditure on printers and supplies and instead, paying a regular fee as part of one, all-inclusive contract for hardware, software, consumables, maintenance and support. This arrangement has been shown to reduce overall print costs by around 30%.

However, this service shouldn’t be confused with leasing printers. A few years ago, a BBC TV Panorama programme highlighted how some schools had got involved with unscrupulous leasing companies offering grossly inflated rolling contracts. As a result, they were paying up to 15 times the going rate for equipment including photocopiers and printers. More than one hundred schools were found to be wasting thousands – in some cases, hundreds of thousands – of pounds by falling foul of this practice.

It’s true that schools are different from businesses in that some don’t have staff with the commercial antennae needed in these cases. However, their experience can act as a salutary lesson to anyone embarking on such an agreement.

So what businesses really need is a managed print services provider that goes beyond merely supplying and maintaining their print fleet. This has led to the more recent concept of managed document services – an arrangement which helps businesses cut the hidden costs of inefficiencies by:

• Giving greater visibility into the printing process, to monitor and review exactly what is needed and what is wasted.

• Ensuring that the right printer is being used for the right job and these are configured appropriately. Replacing older unreliable models with small-footprint, energy-saving, multifunctional devices which combine scanning, faxing and printing functions.

• Streamlining and securing document workflow, converting to paperless workflows where possible by using direct scan to email capability, for example, enabling printing from mobiles and tablets and ensuring sensitive documents can be printed only by authorised staff and on demand only.

By giving their printing a makeover in this way, businesses can identify the ‘silent overheads’ lurking in the shadows of their workflow– and instead achieve a clean, pared down and completely transparent process.