In a competitive business environment

all companies are keen to save money. Yet while they’re looking at making major changes to cut costs, they can often be overlooking day-to-day activities that are allowing money to leak out of the door.

One of these areas is printing. Despite continual promises of paperless offices, we continue our love affair with having documents on paper. This means that printers have a habit of proliferating across the business, and before you know it your costs are out of control.

Identifying the Problem

So what can you do about it? The first step is to understand what’s happening, and that means conducting an audit. Carrying out print audits is a way of identifying all of the printing that you do within the business. Whether it’s departmental printers, desktop machines in executive offices, photocopiers or work that is contracted out to specialist printing companies, finding out what’s being printed where is the first step to understanding and controlling things.

One of the things the print audit will do is to collect usage information from your existing systems. Printer hardware always incorporates a copy counter of some sort which can deliver information on the number of pages being produced. If you have multi-function devices, this information can also tell you how many of the pages produced are prints, how many are faxes or copies, and the volume of jobs turned out in monochrome and in colour.

In addition to the amount of printing, you also need to know to know where the jobs are coming from. You might have networked printers that are used by lots of people as well as stand-alone machines attached to desktop PCs.

Printing Costs

You also need the audit to look at the cost of printing. There are a number of things to consider here. As well as the initial capital cost of the equipment, there is also the amount you’re spending on consumables and how much power is consumed, as well as maintenance costs. If there are print tasks that you contract out, these must be considered too. For a lot of companies putting all of this together and finding out how much they’re spending on printing can come as a bit of a shock.

It’s also important to consider the administrative costs of looking after your printers. How much effort goes into ordering and stocking different types of toner and other supplies, for example? How much time do support staff spend on tasks like clearing jams or replacing cartridges? All of this contributes to your costs.

The Next Step

Once you have audit information and understand exactly what your printing is costing you, then you can start to examine how you might streamline your operation and begin to bring your printing costs under control. Depending on what your audit has revealed, this might mean making just a few minor changes to allow you to optimise your print operations. In other situations it could require you to take a more radical approach.

Some businesses will want to take a look at their printing infrastructure. Using the results from your audit, you are able to work out where the most demand for printing comes from and position printers where they are most needed. You may find that fewer high-capacity machines are a more effective solution than several smaller ones. Combining your printing, copying and faxing requirements into multi-function machines can also help you to make savings too.

While financial savings are often the main motivation for conducting a print audit, there are some other benefits too. Armed with audit information, you are able to see who is printing and you can take greater control of what they are allowed to produce and in what format. There are security implications here too. With new rules like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force soon, any company that deals with sensitive information needs to have control over what information is printed out. Not only will this help you meet compliance rules, but it may help you make further savings by reducing the amount that gets printed unnecessarily.

With the economic situation continuing to look uncertain, all businesses are under pressure to cut costs. Taking control of your print operations therefore is a step towards ensuring that money doesn’t get wasted on inefficient operations and printing that isn’t necessary. By carrying out a print audit, you can take the first step towards ensuring your office printing is more efficient and cost-effective.