Monday, December 04, 2006

Friends Don't Let Friends Print

Many of us are addicted to printing things off our computers, especially older folks. Who cares what it costs to have a hard copy of something rather than merely looking at it on a computer screen? So what if 99% of these printouts end up in the trash?

In some companies, the boss’ email is screened by his/her assistant, printed out and placed in the In box on the boss’ desk. A doctor often will dictate a letter, print it, sign it and fax or mail it to a patient or colleague. For many of us, an essential element of photos is handing them around to friends and family, putting them in albums or hanging them on the wall.

We prefer to read things printed on a piece of paper. We can make ourselves more comfortable; we don’t have to strain our eyes or neck to read it on the computer. We can underline and write comments in the margins. We can walk down the hall and show this thing we’ve printed out to a coworker. We can take a document into the toilet to read it.

Printing options and costs vary all over the map. There is the cost of the machine, the service contract and the costs of supplies to consider. Do you want to print in color? Do you want to share printers or let everyone have their own or both? Do you want to print photos and text or just text? Do you want laser or inkjet technology? Do you want to collate and staple? Do you want a printer that is also a scanner and fax? How big or small do you want the printer to be? How fast?

I don’t know what it costs you to print in your situation. I bet you don’t know either. Nobody I know tracks their costs, including the time costs of people dealing with supplies, printer problems, paper handling, etc., and calculates a fully loaded cost of printing. People would be amazed if they did.

How does $0.50 per page sound? If you have inexpensive color ink-jet printers, that’s not an unreasonable number. If you have a large, networked laser printer (B&W), your printing costs per page will be substantially lower, if you print a lot of pages.

Reducing your printing will not only improve your bottom line. Reducing paper will make your operation more efficient. You will no longer have to file reams of paper, and it will be much easier to find things when you need to. Business processes can move much more quickly, moving electrons instead of sheets of paper.

Because printing is a largely uncalculated and unmanaged cost in most organizations, it has become a cash cow for many in the computer business. Hewlett Packard, the market leader in printers and number 2 in PCs has a 15% profit margin on their printer business and a 3% margin in the PC business. HP’s sales of supplies such as ink and toner accounted for 59 percent of printer business sales. (See: ).

So remember, the next time a "friend" is bragging on you about the wonderful new printer they got, tell them to go away. Friends don't let friends print.

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