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Printing is Ripe for a Green IT Makeover

Steve Fowler, AstuteIT

Steve Fowler, AstuteIT

This article has been contributed by Steve Fowler of AstuteIT.

Martin Chalkley’s first article advocating process and behavioral change to aid printing efficiency, rather than outsourcing to a Managed Print Services provider, resonated with my own findings of the challenges organisations are facing.

These are not only driven by economics, but also by sustainable IT. Incorporating corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability is now a consideration of IT projects; just turning off monitors at night or better IT recycling is no longer enough.

Print is one area where improving CSR and reducing cost is perfectly achievable, because it is a medium based on choice; single or double sided, colour or monochrome, laser or inkjet, multiple pages per page?  Individuals rarely think of the environmental or cost implications of their print decision and often just use the default settings provided.

So printing is ripe for a Green IT makeover and judicious application of management software will aid these goals. I hope this article will provide some useful points to consider for print optimization in your own organization.

What Part Can A Software Tool set Play?

Martin describes how to run a cultural change program based on data sources already existing in your infrastructure to save cost and reduce environmental impact.  After contacting him, it was clear that data collection, database creation and report generation, was a complex process taking a few iterations to perfect.  His success is laudable, yet I know that with investment in management software to automate these tasks, he could have achieved his goal with a quicker time-to-value for the program.

Martin is not alone in this respect. Our experience shows that around 70% of organisations can’t provide any meaningful analysis or breakdown of printing costs. Who prints what, where and when remains unknown. Most can account for the cost of consumables from purchase orders, but that is often the limit.

With Print Policy, flexibility is the key to success

Policy based solutions aim to reduce wastage using features like ‘Follow-me’ and defaulting to monochrome, duplex printing, etc. The best of them also address charge-back (internal cost reassignment) requirements.  However, the “one policy fits all” approach ignores different user groups’ needs and CSR becomes a tier 2 benefit of your program.  You should not accept this imposition. Print management software should operate as close to the source of the job – i.e. the user/application – as possible to allow application of policy by:-

  • Grouping of users and/or printers (e.g. by department, location, mode)
  • Application of appropriate policies to each group; specific application or print driver type
  • Exceptions – e.g. for specific individuals, printers etc.
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Don’t compromise on print quality

The production, use and disposal of consumable cartridges are both financially and environmentally expensive.  Changing the print driver density settings is a way to reduce those costs, for example by using HP’s ‘Economode’, but these settings are unilaterally applied.  Whilst it may be appropriate to use a lower density for emails, the same may not be applicable to other output such as letters to clients.  Eventually, the blanket change is shelved and a different solution sought.

Again, flexibility is key. Effective print optimization solutions enable customizable toner density settings, both between source applications and document types, and also within the different document elements!  Such control means active commitment to CSR based cost reduction, promoting sustainability to a tier 1 benefit.

Let me explain…  A document is made up of text, charts and images and a modern solution would recognize and apply your chosen density setting to each, e.g. print text at 20% toner reduction, charts at 30% reduction and images at 45% (See this example). Browser printing, where text is usually the salient object, but images are often the greatest percentage the page, is a prime candidate for differential density printing.  The net effect is that you can:

  • Actively minimize the toner used on the unwanted elements of each document
  • Reduce total consumables used without reducing quality and readability
  • Consciously implement an environmentally sustainable solution
  • Choose your own customizable densities not the manufacturers.

Indeed we find that a 20% reduction in all three elements has no noticeable effect on quality or readability but extends the life of the cartridge by 25%.

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Does “average cost per page” make any sense?

Tauro Print Optimization SoftwarePrint management tools also allow the charge-back of print costs.  Martin calculated consumable cost per page via an average cost model, the same method adopted by most software tools and the print managed service providers.  He would have preferred to know the actual cost of every print job, and you can by determining;

  • Exactly what the level of coverage is for every document i.e. the proportion of the document covered with ink/toner measured as a percentage
  • How much toner will be used
  • Then inform the user of the resulting cost prior to printing.

By linking actual print cost, policies and differential densities, we know a 30% cost saving and improved sustainability is eminently achievable, and you haven’t outsourced your printer estate. Turning this granular detail into management reports means you will know each employee’s usage and impact on the total cost.

How does a tool fit with Managed Print Services?

The managed service provider does not expect you to have understood the cost of your print infrastructure and all it entails.  So it is in your interest that before you get to that position, you have undertaken the cultural change that Martin suggests.  Implementing a software tool that approaches the problem at source, i.e. individual users, rather than ‘after the fact’ at the print job level.

This ensures you have given yourself the best negotiation position as you enter a managed service relationship. You will understand the needs of your organization as well as having made real improvements in efficiency prior to engaging with prospective Managed Print Services providers.

This article has been contributed by Steve Fowler of AstuteIT.

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About Martin Chalkley

Martin is a specialist in optimising IT costs and IT Sourcing Strategy.  Martin has driven collaborative relationships with IT and Telco Vendors and is co-author of the IACCM course on Supplier Relationship Management.

Martin is the owner at Consultandomi Ltd, SRM Programme Manager at the IACCM and an Associate Consultant at Gartner.

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