Manage the business, not the printer: the cost of centralisation

The value of physical documents to employees and businesses

Manage the business, not the printer: the cost of centralisation

The value of physical documents to employees and businesses is still beyond question. But with the popularity of printing, companies must look for ways to manage ongoing costs, workflow and efficiency.

Research carried out by QuoCirca, commissioned by Epson in April 2016, showed that while the overall demand for printing is flat to declining, colour printing is on the increase, and these costs therefore need to be managed more closely. One common way that companies have controlled cost has been through the centralisation of colour printing.

Rather than continue to support distributed laser workgroup printers and copiers, organisations instead leverage the economies of scale found in centralised multifunction machines and copy centres.

But organisations are now realising that centralising colour office printing can mask hidden costs and inefficiencies. Here we’ll explore the impact of centralisation, and present a possible solution for businesses like yours.

The cost of centralisation

In order to rein in expense and inefficiency, many organisations work to drive traffic away from departmental and personal printers to a centralised device or copy centre, where both cost and performance can be more easily managed.

This centralised approach has a number of shortcomings that are often overlooked. A great deal of productivity can be lost as a result of the workflow interruptions among skilled professionals who must “commute” back and forth to get their documents.

According to research by the University of California, Irvine, it takes over 23 minutes for workers to get back to tasks after interruptions1. Multiply that productivity loss across every employee, every time there’s a need to print, and you can see the dramatic loss of productivity that centralised printing can cause. 

Critical communications often lose impact as well, since users typically look to avoid the hassle of printing on the “good” machine and make do with whatever monochrome printer or copier is available nearby.

But printing in colour versus monochrome makes a real difference. Thirty years ago, the University of Minnesota concluded that use of colour improves the efficacy of communications2. The study measured the effectiveness of visuals in presentations to persuade an audience – and the researchers found three benefits to using colour versus monochrome:

1. Colour is more persuasive

2. It enhances comprehension

3. Message retention is better

And finally, control over the process is compromised if documents are created outside the IT network environment where access, security and privacy are less easily monitored and controlled.

Unless companies have installed automatic software solutions to manage user authentication, security and document control, the risk of confidential or sensitive information being retrieved by mistake, stolen or lost is very real. Print jobs that are not picked up at all leave potentially sensitive financial, medical or proprietary information completely unprotected and uncontrolled.

A solution is in sight

Despite the digitisation of business today, most organisations continue to rely on paper hard copies to get the job done. A great deal of printed information drives the fundamental workflow and success of nearly any business, especially in high impact, high-touch areas like Marketing and Sales; Planning, Engineering and Design; and Human Resources. Doing away with it altogether is not an option.

But it’s clear that centralisation is not always the ideal solution for some workplaces. While it may be right for some environments, a more balanced deployment containing a distributed, localised print fleet can help businesses save money and boost productivity, by managing their printing effectively, without a negative impact on the business or the environment.

1 Worker, Interrupted: The Cost of Task Switching. Kermit Pattison, University of California, Irvine. Fast Company, July 28, 2008.

2 University of Minnesota, Management Information Systems Research Center, School of Management. “Persuasion and the Role of Visual Presentation Support: The UM/3M Study,” by Douglas R. Vogel, Gary W. Dickinson & John A. Lehman, June 1986