Quick ways to reduce print costs

The cost of printed documents is running out of control

The cost of printed documents is running out of control.

Most chief executives feel they have dealt with, or are tackling areas of cost in their company. Supply chain management has eliminated delays and customer relationship management has slashed the number of sales and support staff, so what is left?

Industry analysts including Gartner and IDC have recently sent a remarkably consistent message to CEOs: printing costs can amount to between 1% and 3% of turnover and are increasing fast. Print is the last out of control area of cost in most companies.

A recent survey commissioned by Lexmark showed that board-level managers are alarmingly ignorant about the cost of print. Overall, 61% of finance directors had no idea at all of the cost of document production in their business. This increased to 71% for firms with a turnover of more than £20m. As a result, many finance directors have no plans to cut print costs, nor do they see document production costs as critical to financial budgeting.

Bringing this monster under control may not be a simple matter. Printing is often at the front line in a turf war between facilities managers, who traditionally run the photocopiers and faxes, and IT managers, who usually control networked and desktop printers.

An important first step for any organisation is to examine how information flows through its business and between customers and suppliers. Complex business processes will often involve transferring information between hard copy and digital formats. The goal must be to avoid hard copy technology becoming the bottleneck that relegates business to a snail's pace.

Being able to capture hard copy information and quickly turn it into a digital format that can be easily shared is a powerful way to increase the pace of business, sometimes eliminating hours or even days from cycle times and improving customer satisfaction.

For companies looking for faster results, there are some simple measures to reduce costs with little effort. One is to install duplex paper feeds and encourage their use. Duplex feeds are much less expensive than they used to be and can slash up to 50% off your paper bill.

Another ploy is to default all printers to economy monochrome mode, forcing users to choose colour only if they really need it. Printing four e-mails to a sheet and eight Powerpoint foils to a sheet also reduces paper consumption.

But the best return on investment is probably gained by educating staff. Everyone needs to know the cost of printing and how to minimise it by working on screen and only printing essential documents.

Kevin Spinks is SMB director at Lexmark UK

Read more on IT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)

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