Guest article on managed print services by Rob Simcock of Kutana*

Back in 2008, M&S decided to start charging their customers for every plastic bag used at a small cost of 5p, which was considered an affordable price for the average British household. However, this delivered an 80% reduction in the number of bags used by their customers. Then Tesco followed suit but took a different approach, reducing the cost of your shop by 1p for every own bag you used. This scheme has not been as successful, cutting bag use by just 25%. This is a demonstration of how adding a financial value to something people previously saw as free can reduce the use and consumption of any good/service. Price acts as a deterrent, so could a similar premise be used to reduce another challenge for the environment: office printing?

We still live in a paper world. Despite increasing technologies that allow digital documents to fly around an organisation, the UK is still ruled by the A4 sheet. In 2011 the average UK employee printed 40 sheets a day, amounting to around 6000 sheets a year so it is undeniable that printing is large cost for the modern business. However, there is a huge environmental impact.

It takes around 12-24 trees to manufacture just one ton of paper, with each employee printing 6000 sheets a year it would take a mere 33 people one year to use up that ton. It is estimated that 66% of what is printed within the UK is waste, pages that could have been duplex, pages printed in error or pages not collected from the machine. Toner consumption also has a negative effect on the environment, the manufacture of a single mono cartridge results in approximately 4.8kg of CO2 emissions. There is clearly room for improvement but where is the incentive?

Currently it seems that there is no real financial advantage to reducing print volumes in many UK offices. With Total volume print plans making a come back offering a Managed Print Service there is no incentive for a business to print less. If anything with the ingrained human psyche to get ones moneys worth and due to the nature of such a contract businesses may print more, as they will pay the same either way. Adding a financial value to every sheet printed is likely to reduce a businesses print volumes. At the right price, this can, reduce costs and a company’s environmental impact thereby achieving very real business goals.

However, cost per copy toner inclusive contracts arguably present the same non-incentive to reduce printing. For a business the simple cost per copy contract does not offer enough financial incentive to actually make a real difference. A contract where a business must also pay for their toner offers a very real reason for individuals within that company to print or use less, not only are they paying per page but also more to replace toners, the frequency of this replacement businesses will soon realise they determine.

Take the example of an all you can eat buffet, those who attend normally eat twice as much as they usually would purely because they can, they would not do the same if they had to pay for two meals. If a business was aware that not only were they paying a cost per copy fee but also for each replacement toner the  cost of printing a further sheet would be far greater, and thus they would endeavour to print less, thereby reducing overall environmental impact.

The question becomes, is it better to have an all-inclusive price or to just pay for what you use?

Though charging for something like a plastic bag is highly effective in business to consumer markets, it cannot be so simply applied to business-to-business. There is a difference in objective, the 5p for an additional plastic bag comes directly from my own disposable income, whereas an extra 100 sheets printed comes off the company’s bottom line and I remain personally unaffected, this is illustrated in the statistics with 44% of people admitting they could print less in the workplace.

So, how can we get employees to print less and reduce environmental impact?

Simple toner reduction is one option. Software such as my own company’s Kappris can reduce the amount of toner actually used on a printed page without reducing quality. This could reduce a businesses environmental impact and increase  toner and machine life cycles. Reporting and monitoring would also be a useful tool, printing behaviour can be analysed and thereby made more efficient and employees can gain true understanding and insight into what and how much they print and how this can be reduced. Any reports produced could allow for true insight into what printing costs the business and the environment.

Email printing is often responsible for 20% of a firms  print output, and can be the main contributor to print waste. With employees accidentally printing long email chains, unnecessarily in colour, and single sided, much waste is often produced. A way of prompting/reminding employees exactly what and how much they are about to print with the default set to print just the last email message, duplex, mono and using 50% less toner would be invaluable in reducing overall output, whilst giving the user far more control.

With Managed Print Services being the main way for firms to procure their printing hardware with a blended fixed cost per copy rate including toner, why use less toner? They seem like the right decision for budgets and ease of use but ultimately is this the best option? Would it not be better to pay for what you actually use so you can work to reduce costs and environmental impact?

* Rob Simcock is the sales director of Kutana Ltd which has been active in the legal market since 1997.