By Andrew Hall, Marketing Manager, OKI Systems UK

The world of printers and printing has evolved just like every other aspect of business - which is great for small companies as it brings with it new opportunities. However, the shifting landscape makes it difficult to make a sound decision without some guidelines.

So if you are concerned about high printing overheads or about time-wasting and inefficient document workflow here are a few issues to consider:

Think multifunction: The latest multifunction printers (MFPs) such as OKI’s new MC800 range, eliminate the need for a separate copier, scanner and fax machine. Consequently, they not only help to save a considerable amount of space in the office, but they also enable businesses to cut out certain stages of workflow. Their scan or fax to email functions mean less paper, better security and improved productivity.

Think strategically: Before deciding to buy the first single function device currently on special offer, see this as an opportunity to look more strategically about how to put your investment to work.

The new generation of MFPs available are also smart devices. In other words, the latest models include embedded software to enable small businesses to use them as an affordable document management system. According to a recent white paper by IDC almost 70% of small businesses are looking to adopt business automation tools to accelerate productivity. However, most of these are designed for the large enterprise.

Smart MFPs can fill this gap by providing an alternative document management system with the ability to capture documents from various sources – and convert, distribute or upload them to a chosen location. So, instead of just investing in a new printer, you could be upgrading your entire operational efficiency at the same time.

Think creatively: These days we almost all use online sources of information as our first port of call. However, we may still want to see hard copy brochures, posters, product sheets and other collateral as part of the buying process. However, without the need to print huge volumes, outsourced printing becomes more expensive and – with the acceleration of product cycles – becomes quickly outdated.

Look at the financial benefits of investing in a smart MFP that is capable of printing A3 and high quality colour compared to the cost of outsourcing plus storage costs. Investing in the capability to print in-house and on-demand could have many advantages in the future.

Think mobile: Small businesses can’t afford for employees to wait until they return to the office to access and print documents. Check that your chosen smart device is mobile print ready.

I will be considering each of these topics in more detail throughout this series of newsletters. However, if you consider this checklist you will be on track for a return on investment for many years to come.