The tough economic period means that both public and private sector organisations are looking internally to become leaner, more efficient and reduce costs. Amidst all the internal cuts that can be made, printing is perhaps the most overlooked, unaudited expense. This is surprising as printing activity can create a huge, unnecessary overhead – typically consuming 3% of total revenue for businesses.

Within a work environment, the need to print emails, pictures, texts, and web pages, means that print volumes are growing – with an increased demand for colour output. Many organisations are also using high end colour printer and copier devices to print material – previously the preserve of print houses. Many organisations also posses too many print devices, which are often old, inefficient and expensive to operate.

It is therefore essential that an organisation fully understands how efficient its printing activities actually are. Once this awareness is achieved, by employing a best practice’ management approach to controlling printing, will dramatically reduce these potentially high costs.

The problem areas 

Most organisations possess an uncontrolled print environment, where ownership and management of printers, scanners and copiers is fragmented across business departments and locations. There may be no centralised record of who owns and uses the equipment, and no information on the most appropriate service contracts. Additionally, few organisations have document tracking systems that accurately measure the true usage for print, scan and copy output.

These chaotic scenarios mean that in the majority of organisations, there can be general lack of control or consideration when printing, coupled with a high level of wastage. The cost of printing per page may seem relatively low, but when you look at the overall volume it represents a substantial overhead.

Whilst the majority of printing consumption comes from normal daily work, there are also common instances of personal use. Organisations that use a large volume of printing and copying – with a high number of individuals using the systems, usually increases the potential for this misuse.

Uncontrolled printing is another factor, which includes costly colour printing, to completely unnecessary single sided printing. This really is a criminal waste of company money. Identifying the true costs of wild, unnecessary printing can be very difficult, especially where companies have multiple offices. However, the bottom line is that printing creates a huge financial drain, so the cost impact shouldn’t be ignored – whatever the size or complexity of an organisation.

Another area to examine is the printers themselves. Organisations may think they are saving money by continuing to use old printers but this can be a massive false economy as business efficiency is significantly impacted by printer downtime. Older printers a prone to more chews/jams and can then take forever to print. They can also be very expensive to run due to increased maintenance and supply costs.


Most companies may have some form of basic print and copy control systems in place, but they are rarely fully integrated and have little or no management. There is no question that there are real cost savings to be achieved from managing print better. Many businesses are turning to managed print services partners to eliminate inefficiencies and enhance the print process.

Managed print solutions come in different formats, from complete service charges, and ‘cost per click’ contracts. To leasing or outright purchases, or even no upfront costs, and a percentage of annual company savings.

The management and software that is included in these services is so powerful, that money, consumables, resources and green IT issues it solves, can be considerable. For example, the software can enforce duplex printing, black & white or even cancel unwanted jobs.

These services can also be constantly monitored and modified. Allowing printing preferences across specific applications. For instance, all mail and word documents are forced into b/w duplex, PDF on a permissions service and colour on powerpoint.

Another large saving can be generated from permissions and pull printing. This is where company employees have the site access cards programmed and can only collect prints from specific printers by swiping their cards, or via number keypads. The sheer volume of print jobs and thus consumables, saved by only collected, wanted jobs, would surprise even the most conservative organisations.

Clever print reporting tools can then relay very powerful information back to IT and procurement teams. This can then help facilitate print usage training and education for the staff that create this overhead.

Organisations must not be afraid of upgrading and consolidating their printer hardware, as on average, the hardware price of a printer represents just 5% of the total cost of ownership. The remaining 90% of the ownership expenditure covers support and operating costs.

Thankfully, the emergence of Multi function (MFP) printers has enabled companies to significantly cut ‘ownership’ costs by replacing outdated standalone printers. MFPs provide network printing, copying, faxing and scanning in one device so this efficiency reduces operating and inventory expenses. These highly optimised machines can also save hours in a person’s working week.


Making the switch from unrestricted copying and printing, to a system where every page is controlled and accounted for means, as well as reducing usage volume, the amount of waste will be cut. Savings can be made by reducing print volumes and decreasing the use of other consumables such as ink and toner. The resulting reduction in paper waste and energy consumption will also help organisations become more environmentally friendly.

By investing in a more modern and efficient print environment will improve will enable organisations to quickly save significant costs, which is essential in these challenging times.