With economic conditions still uncertain and the prospect of a double-dip recession looming, SMEs need to make sure that they are doing everything they can today to protect themselves and provide a firm foundation for future growth. One of the key aspects of this will inevitably be a tighter focus on cost control and one of the most effective ways in which small businesses can achieve this is by adopting a smarter approach to business printing.

This article was written by Andrew Hall of OKI Europe, a division of OKI Data Corporation, a global business-to-business organisation dedicated to creating professional in-house printed communications products, applications and services which are designed to increase the efficiency of today’s and tomorrow’s businesses.

In uncertain economic times, SMEs need to make sure that they are doing everything they can today to protect themselves and provide a firm foundation for future growth. One of the key aspects of this will inevitably be a tighter focus on cost control and one of the most effective ways in which small businesses can achieve this is by adopting a smarter approach to business printing.
 

Industry estimates suggest that many organisations spend between one and six percent of their annual revenues on it [printing].

Most SMEs are unaware of how much they spend on printing. It is effectively an unknown cost. Yet it can be a hugely significant one, with industry estimates suggesting that many organisations spend between one and six percent of their annual revenues on it.

The potential for savings is huge. Analyst Gartner estimated that “most companies could reduce their printing costs by 10-30 percent.” The issue is how can SMEs best achieve these reductions. For many, the answer will either be through managed print services (MPS), or the more slimmed down basic print services (BPS), typically depending on organisation size.

The primary objective of any MPS or BPS implementation is to reduce the total cost of ownership associated with an unmanaged print environment. By assessing the current set-up, SMEs gain an insight into existing usage.

In a typical implementation, the print vendor works directly with the SME, or in collaboration with a professional partner, to carry out an assessment of the customer’s current print output. The vendor analyses the volume being printed, in A4 or A3, black & white or colour, and agrees a plan to suit the individual customers’ needs so the customer always knows the true cost of printing.
 

Enhanced Control

By tailoring their printing fleet to their business processes and operational workflow, SMEs can drive up productivity levels and benefit from access to the latest print technologies, which will not only cut their carbon footprint but contribute to a more secure print environment and above all, save money for the organisation itself.

The long-term benefits of a MPS/BPS implementation are far-reaching for most SMEs. These businesses can typically reduce costs as the approach provides visibility into the printing process, enabling the organisation to monitor the overall number of prints and the departmental split, showing where volumes are high, and make appropriate adjustments as and when required.

The approach also allows SMEs to plan their expenditure more effectively. Bringing together the cost of equipment and ongoing supplies with service and maintenance into a monthly budgeted expense can ease the upfront capital costs of refreshing technology every three to five years.
 

Role of MFPs

Multifunction products (MFPs) can play a critical role in MPS/BPS implementations. These all-in-one devices can be key in driving productivity by enabling businesses to scan documents to PDF or email.

Devices are easy-to-manage, compact, and increasingly feature integrated control functions, which can control the volume and type of printing individuals can engage in.
 

Monitoring Costs

Of course, the best MPS/BPS solutions should be flexible and adaptable. On-going assessment, communication, reporting and review should be key factors in the engagement with the customer.

These approaches make the often unseen costs of printing, not just of hardware and consumables but also of storage space and man-hours spent supporting and maintaining a variety of disparate systems, more visible to SMEs. In addition, they show them exactly how much they could save by bringing in the latest high-speed, energy-efficient products that require minimal support.
 

Of course, the best MPS/BPS solutions should be flexible and adaptable.

Audits are ongoing and a regular part of most MPS implementations. This kind of approach also allows SMEs to benefit from the use of cost recovery software, which enables them to monitor and track costs and their impact on the bottom line.

By tailoring their printing fleet to the organisation’s workflow and real needs, SMEs can enhance productivity and benefit from the latest print technologies, which in turn will reduce their carbon footprint, contribute to a more secure print environment and save money.

The long-term benefits of this kind of implementation are often extensive. SMEs can typically reduce costs, as the approach gives greater visibility into the printing process, enabling IT managers to monitor overall number of prints and departmental splits.

Further benefits can be garnered by setting printers appropriately. Devices can be set to print in mono as standard, allowing an SME to reduce unnecessary colour printing, but enabling it to use colour when required. The printers can also be set up to print double-sided, as a default option, allowing the business to make further cost savings while cutting paper wastage by up to 50 percent.

In summary, opting for a MPS or BPS approach can bring a range of benefits to SMEs, helping them monitor, control and cut costs, drive efficiencies and achieve more secure printing. In other words, it is an approach that will clearly benefit almost every SME operating today.