'Managed print services' can rein in printer/copier costs

Are printing and copying really strategic, really "core competencies" that must be managed in-house? No? Maybe that imaging-on-paper thing is a candidate for outsourcing. It's called "managed print services."

This is an area ripe for greater efficiency and cost savings, according to a recent article in CFO magazine. "By leveraging economies of scale and rethinking how many devices they actually need, vendors claim that companies can save 25 to 50 percent," the article says. Plus, the customer gets a predictable monthly bill.

The printing still occurs on the company premises, but the machines and consumables are managed by the contractor. It often means slashing the number of personal printers -- which may only be used 15 minutes/day -- in favor of multifunction machines shared by larger workgroups. That's also the downside: Many users won't release their death grip on their "personal printer." (Sometimes printers are hidden under desks or in closets to foil the printer police.)

The first thing the contractor/consultants do is to figure out the hodgepodge devices being used, evaluate the paperwork flows to see where processes can be streamlined and identify where printing can be reduced by moving to "soft" (electronic) copies.

In other words, they try to bring order to chaos.

The contractors include companies such as Lexmark, Xerox and InfoPrint Solutions (a joint venture of Ricoh and IBM).

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