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Keeping printing costs under control. By Nigel Harris

4th Apr 2007
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A report entitled ‘Outsourced Printing – a Waste of Paper?’ from the leading economic research consultancy cebr and OKI Printing Solutions suggests that huge savings could be made by implementing simple changes to everyday printing tasks in tax consultancies and accounting firms.

The report estimates that the accountancy profession wastes £11 million a year in unnecessary external print costs, which it rather unimaginatively suggests could be spent providing every accountant in the UK with a top of the range £40 calculator - every year! I am sure most accountants could find something better to spend the money on, but the point is well made.

The savings are even more impressive in other sectors. The estimated £115 million wasted in the education sector could be used to fill every teaching vacancy two and a half times over with new graduate teachers. In the civil service the £110 million savings could be used to cover the Council Tax on 82,808 band D homes or to buy 2.1 million combat helmets (assuming there are 2.1m service personnel to wear them).

Cebr’s argument is that users could save significant sums by using technology to replace expensive outsourced printing with in-house printing, and by more efficient management of existing in-house printing tasks. The report reckons that 20% of bought-in print is never used and simply thrown away.

The latest colour printing technology allows users not only to print professional-looking letter heads, business documents and marketing materials as and when they are required, but easily and effectively to design them in-house too.

Where in-house printing is already used, there are still significant savings to be made by ensuring that your printers are correctly set up to minimise time and paper wastage, using ‘mono’ when documents don’t need to be in colour, and using ‘duplex’ for printing on both sides could save an average-sized firm thousands of pounds a year in ink, toners, paper and their time, whilst delivering a better service. Tax departments, for example, are obvious targets for print savings - there is no good reason for printing self assessment returns in full colour!

These savings don't require a big outlay. A simple cost saving utility I use daily is Fineprint, a cheap printer utility which allows you to print several pages on one sheet of A4. I use it to print file copies of things like 4-page CT600 returns on a singe page. They are perfectly legible, save ink and paper and don't fill up the file.

Coincidentally, on AccountingWEB our own research has come up with some similar conclusions! Simon Hurst’s recent Techno-rant dealt with selecting a new colour laser printer and revealed that a more expensive machine can work out cheaper in the long run when consumables are factored in. Simon calculated that the more expensive £520 printer actually worked out £130 cheaper to buy and run than the £250 model!

The community leaped to Simon’s support, a number or readers commenting that it is often cheaper to buy a new printer than to replace expensive toner and drum units when a printer needs servicing. There was no consensus on good and bad brands – Oki, Samsung, HP, Kyocera and Canon all had their supporters. No surprisingly, HP as the most common brand of printer also took a few knocks.

An interesting suggestion came from Trevor Scott and Paul Johnstone – they recommend buying a second-hand colour printer and cheap consumables on eBay! Older HP printers, reputed to be more reliable than the newer models, can be picked up on eBay very cheaply and still have years of useful service left in them after being cast off by firms more interested in having the latest models.

So it looks like some in the accounting profession are not content with just a new calculator each year, they are hunting out some serious cash savings by actively managing their printers. Cebr reckons potential print savings could boost UK GDP by £1 billion. It’s good to see the accountancy profession making its contribution.

Further reading

  • Outsourced printing – a waste of paper? - cebr report (34-page PDF)
  • Why a £520 colour laser printer is cheaper than a £199 one
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    Replies (2)

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    By User deleted
    19th Jun 2008 11:08

    The Benefits of Print Management
    We should also consider ‘print management’ - the strategies companies put in place to deal cost-effectively and/or securely with in-house printing. Typically, firms will use the functionality to deliver a ‘print audit’, enabling them to gauge what each employee is printing, what individual printer has been used, what specific items have been processed and what are the overall costs.

    The ultimate objective might be enhanced security or more efficient management of costs including the ability to accurately recharge external clients, or each internal business unit or department.

    There are a broad range of potential benefits. Firms can configure their systems so that print jobs are automatically diverted to the least expensive or most appropriate printer available or alternatively that users are alerted to the fact that there is a better option on offer.

    One of the most exciting potential developments is known as ‘follow me’ printing. This approach will allow individuals who find that their chosen printer is already busy to simply walk up to another printer and divert their job to that device by means of a swipe card or user code.

    Other developments are being driven by the desire of many firms to save money by restricting access to expensive colour printing within their organisation. Companies are increasingly using print management technology either to prevent users from printing in colour altogether or to restrict the software packages which they can use for colour printing. This need is likely to be an increasingly important driver of new technology in the future.

    For any accountancy firm, there are a range of benefits including the ability to control printing costs more effectively, to provide staff with the freedom to print where they wish or alternatively to restrict employees’ access to certain types of printing. If businesses are looking to recharge clients for printing, they may be able to recapture all of their print costs through efficient print management. Critically for accountancy firms, there are also security benefits

    At the most basic level of print management, vendors can simply put a password on a particular job to ensure that only the person with relevant authorisation can print a specific document. This addresses security concerns that exist within many accountancy firms.

    Evolving Market

    The main market development currently in print management is that more utilities are being built into the hardware. Some printers now have a built-in encryption printing and secure printing capability. This immediately addresses the concerns of any company where security is an issue.

    In the future, the further development of the print management market will primarily come down to how vendors react to customer needs. Technological development will be shaped predominantly by customer feedback and the market will continue to be driven, for the foreseeable future at least, by end user requirements.

    Thanks (0)
    By pauljohnston
    12th Apr 2007 16:33

    Printing out CT600
    Nigel why are you not storing them digitally. A lot less cost on paper.

    SEriously the comments about Education and paper are true and may even underestimate the wastage. My wife has just changed schools and the amount of paper put into the recycling was large.

    Perhaps an e-footprint of each industry would help.

    Ofcourse with the Civil Service less paper would mean less jobs (to sort and carry it..) !

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