Hard copy battle

Despite vendors' bold estimates, the region’s enterprises don't always read from the same page when it comes to their print spend.

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By  Administrator Published  May 1, 2007

Print vendors inevitably champion the merits of having a reliable printing system in place outlining various reasons for a business to invest in what is a relatively unglamorous piece of kit. Increasingly, the print set up of an enterprise is becoming a core function of the office set up, and as more documents are printed by a company, document waste, cost efficiency and security are issues that should be weighing heavy on a CIO's mind.

"Reliable printing solutions are incredibly important. It's not just a question of productivity; it's also about the customer. If you're an insurance or legal company, which is reliant on paper, then the documents you provide - if they're the only tangible product you provide for the customer - become increasingly important. If companies are investing anything in printing solutions, that's a good sign," says Dan Smith, office product manager for Xerox MEA. Smith also explains that the scale of investment in printing solutions differs depending on the enterprise and companies should only invest in the right printing solution for them after addressing their direct needs.

"Spend really depends on the enterprise. Enterprise is a difficult thing to quantify, because different companies actually qualify for enterprise.

"If we consider the Xerox measure, an enterprise organisation would require 1,000+ employees and an enterprise could be doing many different things," Smith says.

It is not simply a case of printing off a basic document anymore. Different companies have different needs and uses for documents and as such, require tailored features. Banks and legal firms place an emphasis on security with the majority of documents printed in those environments likely to contain sensitive or confidential information; copy shops, with printing as their core function, might concentrate on producing high volume documents and highlight cost efficiency as a driving factor; while customer facing documents, such as the ones produced by publishing houses, provide a direct product to the customer, therefore a higher quality of document is important to the business.

"One of the biggest enterprises could be a chain of copy shops, and those copy shops could easily employ over 1,000 people yet documents are their core service to customers, so their spend on printing equipment is going to be well above 15% of their revenues. If you also look at a publishing house, the paper you're putting in front of your customers is your product and the spend should reflect that. It's difficult to draw a figure per head but we are looking at studies to catalogue this," he adds.

A major bank in Europe recently adopted solutions from Canon to ensure the privacy of its printed output. "The nature of bank documents is confidentiality," says Gautam Chakrabarty, senior product manager, Canon Middle East. "If you have a network printer and copier, papers remain in the exit tray. They asked Canon to design a printer where you don't have any output."

"Canon reengineered the drives so each compartment can have sub-compartments," says Chakrabarty. "You can go to the machine, access your mailbox, scan and send by email. You can read the document from the display, and combine documents and print them as a booklet." Documents can be scanned, then sent as an encrypted PDF file.

"The person you are sending it to cannot open it or print it without the password," says Chakrabarty. "The way we have built the machine now, it's completely secure. We can also customise it for individual customers."

Fastlink, a Jordan-based mobile phone services company, houses 33 multi-function printers at its main office and a further 23 at its primary branches. The company employs 1,070 staff with a combined monthly print volume of more than 310,000 documents per month.

"Our printing set-up is considered a top priority because it makes our life a lot easier," explains Firas Karaman, administration supervisor at Fastlink. "Our printing solutions improve the company's cost efficiency dramatically."

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