By Daniel Hunter

Inefficient printing is costing UK professional services over £45 million per year, according to new research from Epson and independent research firm Coleman Parkes.

Based on a survey of more than 500 professional services companies across Europe, the research found that the UK is the worst offender for habits such as printing documents and not reading them, failing to collect them from the printer and unnecessary reprinting.

With the survey showing that print volumes in these firms could increase in future years as their businesses grow, they could make significant productivity gains by improving printing practices and familiarising themselves with the newest technologies.

The study focused on small businesses with heavy print loads, including legal, finance and other business services, and found similar patterns common to many such organisations across Europe. The majority (56%) do not bother with ‘duplexing’, which means setting printing as double-sided, while 83% do not closely monitor the cost of all consumables (including ink, toner, paper). This suggests these businesses are not managing every aspect of office expenditure and are unaware of the savings they could be making.

An increased carbon footprint is a further consequence of inefficient printing practices. The study found that only 19% of European professional services firms have a closely monitored policy to switch off their printers and that 75% of companies do not have a defined policy to purchase products that have a minimal carbon footprint or environmental impact.

Neil Colquhoun, business sales director from Epson UK, comments, “With more than half small professional services firms printing upwards of 150 pages per week, they need to think about the savings they could make by choosing the right technologies for their businesses and using them properly. By introducing best practice guidelines on printing and by educating staff on the consequences of an inefficient approach, it is likely that companies of all kinds could achieve better value from their printing activity while reducing their carbon footprint.”

The research also looked at how willing businesses would be to embrace ‘on-the-go’ cloud-based printing, where an individual connects directly to their business printer via the web using their smartphone or tablet. It found that 95% of respondents have a smartphone and/or tablet and over a third (37%) believe that smartphones and tablets will have a significant impact on the ways materials are printed in the future, suggesting this will become an increasingly popular trend within businesses.

Neil added: “The latest inkjet printers offer all the communications functions that small professional services firms require and, used properly, they can easily work out cheaper to run and far more energy efficient than laser printers.”

Top five tips on taking a more cost-effective, productive approach to printing:

1. Set policies and introduce training to ensure staff are aware of how to print duplex and decide who is responsible for turning printers off when leaving the office

2. Ensure your office manager has installed the correct software so you can determine the real printing needs of the users on your network. This will allow you to install the right printer in the right location, resulting in the most efficient printing solution and cutting down on waste

3. Consider moving to an inkjet printer to achieve cost savings. Compared with a laser printer, Epson’s WorkForce Pro offers (50% lower cost per page, energy savings (80% lower power consumption 3) and increased printer speed (no time needed for the laser to warm-up)

4. Introduce mobile printing: simply visit the relevant app store and download the mobile application that’s right for your device, before following the instructions to sync this with your office printer

5. Consider introducing ‘swipe cards’ to enable printing — swiping the card against the printer means your team is more likely to pick up the print when it’s finished. The simple act of using the swipe card reminds people that the print has been done and helps to keep track of costs.

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