Managed print services

From the June 2020 print edition

We use them every day but don’t often think about the total costs associated with managing multi-
functional devices (MFDs). MFDs are not typical desktop printers, as they are more tied to a network system with multiple users and encompass printers, photocopiers, fax machines and scanners in one device. Historically, these were separate devices taking up various spaces throughout an office.

By combining multiple devices into one, MFDs have become more complex and represent excellent cost savings opportunities if managed correctly. They are also no longer big and bulky, having become streamlined, state-of-the-art pieces of equipment.

An active assessment
Managing MFDs is known as managed print services (MPS). In the past, print services was limited to outsourcing print work to a third party. Today, an evolved managed print services program is about organizations assessing their printing program and technology, streamlining to the most cost-effective setup while maintaining high service levels. Lengthy downtime with printing devices is an issue. MPS programs are no longer focused on the cost per paper, as they involve the selection of the most effective multi-function device based on volume and output criteria, as well as the proper selection of toner technology. The improper selection of a multi-function device could be costly. Like all business processes, the MPS is a stand-alone process that should be reviewed regularly.

Most companies already have a sourcing solution for buying paper. When assessing the print manage process, start with understanding how much paper is printed daily. MFDs are designed according to volume. The higher the print output, the costlier the MFD. If your monthly volume is 20,000 sheets, assuming a 20-day work-month, that’s 1,000 sheets per day, or about 2.08 sheets per minute (in an eight-hour day).

In selecting an MFD, you must know your print output per minute. There is no sense in selecting
a device that can print over 100 pages per minute if your output is only two-to-three pages per minute, as this is wasteful and can become costly. There are MFDs that can print 25 pages per minute, which would be more suited for low-volume applications, as there are MFDs for mid-range volume.

Next, determine the print output: black and white (B/W) only, or B/W and colour. Low volume (under 30ppm) MFDs are typically B/W only, whereas mid-range to high volume MFDs (greater than 30ppms) come in both outputs. This is critical for two reasons. First, there is a higher cost associated with colour prints. If you outsource the MPS program to a third-party MPS provider, they will want to know the breakdown in volume according to B/W and colour. If you do not have this information, you will be at a disadvantage during the negotiation. More important, during your monthly analysis, you should be analyzing your volumes according to each output and make the necessary corrections if costs are an issue: if volume is higher in colour, have your IT department restrict output to B/W only.

Secondly, if choosing a colour MFD, there is an additional cost of toner. With B/W, only one toner is required; whereas with colour you must have four different toner cartridges. The replacement cost
of each toner must be considered. A third-party MPS provider will factor the additional toner cartridges into their monthly service fees and bill you accordingly.

This leads us into the third area of review when choosing a multifunctional printing device – the type of toner. Toner technology has evolved. The traditional cartridge style is the big, bulky cartridges with the toner roller as part of the cartridge. Due to the mechanical design they are expensive. With a built-in toner roller in the cartridge, these toners tend to jam, causing down time.

Solid ink
Another style of toner is the solid ink design. With this design, a non-toxic, resin-based polymer of solid blocks of ink are melted and then sprayed on the paper in liquid form. Advantages of the solid ink design are that there are fewer moving parts, it uses a print head, making it one of the simplest and most efficient systems to use and because there is no cartridge, it’s environmentally friendly with no waste
or material to recycle. A problem with the solid ink design is the output may feel like crayon texture.

A third is the bottle style cartridge system. With this toner, the cartridge looks like a bottle that feeds toner to the roller and drum units, as the toner roller is a separate device. Over time, the toner roller may need replacing, but due to the operational design, costs are significantly lower than the above styles as you are only paying for the consumable material. It is important to understand the style of toner cartridge
as it impacts volume and cost.

Higher volume MFDs use the bottle style toner cartridge and have a high upfront cost, but the long-term operational costs are much lower. The low-volume MFDs use the traditional style cartridge, have a low-to-medium upfront cost and the operational costs are higher. Whether deciding to keep a MPS in-house
or outsource, understanding all aspects of your print services helps to reduce costs.

Jeff Russell is corporate purchasing manager at Miller Waste Systems Inc.