Whatever happened to the paperless office? For years, experts declared that the printer would go the way of the dinosaur, and all paper-based documents would be eliminated.
We’ve certainly come a long way toward that goal. Web-based forms, mobile applications, email and file-sharing tools have enabled us to minimize the amount of paper required for business processes and transactions. Nevertheless, most organizations still maintain a fleet of printers at a surprisingly high cost.
According to a recent study by market research firm InfoTrends and Brother International, small to midsize businesses spend an average of $13,000 to $62,000 annually on printing. Printing costs in the financial services, manufacturing and nonprofit sectors are at the upper end of that scale. Human resources documents, accounting and expense reports, and sales literature are among the most commonly printed documents.
Many organizations are unaware of how many peripheral devices are in use, but odds are it’s more than are needed. Research suggests that many printers and other peripherals are used less than five minutes in a typical eight-hour workday. Consolidating these devices can help organizations rein in costs and improve productivity.
The first step is to inventory all the peripherals in the organization and determine which ones are actually needed. Then consider whether it makes sense to replace multiple desktop devices with a single multifunction peripheral (MFP).
Business-class MFPs combine printing, copying, faxing, scanning and digital sending capabilities in one device. Although they cost more than consumer-grade peripherals, MFPs provide advanced functionality and the ability to consolidate supplies, services and support.
MFPs can also play a central role in document management strategies. Software tools allow MFPs to scan documents directly to email or a file folder within a user’s directory, and even convert the document to an editable word processing file or spreadsheet. Optical character recognition (OCR) can extract data from predefined fields and send it to a database or business application. Application integration can also be used to support complex workflows and document management systems.
Embedded software can secure MFPs so that only authenticated users are allowed to release documents through a PIN code, user ID/password or ID card. The software is installed on the hard drive of the MFP and controlled via a built-in touch-screen display on the front panel. This allows the user to manage all account information and reporting from a central location.
For green-conscious offices, MFPs can dramatically reduce paper, ink and toner use. For example, MFPs can receive faxes and distribute them directly to the recipient’s PC or to the trash, eliminating the need for hard-copy printouts. Automatic duplexing for double-sided printing is another paper-saving feature, and some MFPs have an “ID copy” feature that allows users to copy both sides of a document onto one side of the page. This is particularly useful in medical and insurance organizations that frequently need to copy driver’s licenses or insurance cards.
The key takeaway is that printers and other peripherals can eat up a sizable portion of the IT budget. By eliminating seldom-used devices and consolidating the rest, organizations can save money, boost productivity, improve security and simplify management.