Effort of Duplication

"Managed print services" may help companies rein in an insidious expense.

Purchasing may get a boost from this year’s Economic Stimulus Act, given the inclusion of a bonus depreciation provision; it allows companies to deduct 50 percent of an asset’s value on top of the standard 20 percent.

Whatever the acquisition method, there are challenges when switching to managed services. People inevitably resist change, especially if it means losing a beloved desktop printer. Xerox has seen printers hidden under desks or in closets. Health First encountered similar resistance: executives initially complained about having to print confidential documents at shared printers.

Eventually, with education, the staff accepted the changes. “If you’re going to print something confidential, you can walk to the printer and then hit a button so it doesn’t print until you’re there,” says Rogers. “We got around all those initial grumblings and now we don’t hear complaints anymore.”

That’s an outcome many companies hope to copy.

Yasmin Ghahremani writes about business and technology from New York.

Well-Documented

Shouldn’t the advent of the “paperless office” have rendered the need for managed print services obsolete by now? Not yet, perhaps, but vendors aren’t taking any chances. Several are pushing their R&D efforts toward projects that do, in fact, anticipate a world in which “soft” (that is, electronic) copies rule the day.

One of the biggest technology trends in the copier/printer world involves open-architecture platforms, which enable newer devices to capture and route documents to customers’ back-end systems. “This is probably the sexiest, most revolutionary technology to be introduced in the printing space in the last five years,” says Don Dixon, research director at Gartner. “These open-architected multifunctional printers (MFPs) incorporate automation features that save a ton of money.”

Florida’s Health First chain of hospitals, for example, used to purchase reams of preprinted medical forms. After patient information was entered on them, someone had to carry them to a scanning department to be input into a document imaging system. Today, nurses simply hit a preprogrammed button on a Lexmark multifunction printer and the appropriate form prints out on-site with registration data already filled in. Once a patient completes the remaining fields, the nurse scans it into the imaging system, which routes it to the electronic medical-records system. The scanning department has been completely eliminated, saving the company $1 million annually.

Other vendors are also exploring ways to manage documents electronically. Toshiba recently came out with Re-Search, an indexing program that can be used with its own or other vendors’ MFPs. The program indexes the contents of all network documents as files are scanned or stored. “The indexing makes for much more efficient searching than a Windows search engine,” says Taiji Miyagawa, video postproduction supervisor at Adlink Technology. His company uses the software to search through the 18 to 20 terabytes of commercials it produces for cable networks throughout the Los Angeles area. “You don’t even have to be that organized in terms of where you store your files for it to work efficiently,” says Miyagawa.

Paper may never disappear entirely, but the incidence of paper cuts may soon decline dramatically. — Y.G.

Reams Preferred

42%: Amount of global wood harvest devoted to paper production

5.4 million tons: Office paper consumed annually by U.S. companies

$800–$1,000: Annual per-employee expense of printing/copying/imaging

16.3 million: Number of printers and copiers sold to U.S. companies in 2007

Source: IDC

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