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Death of the copier?

Firstly, please excuse my rudimentary illustration to support my narrative below, and the awkward irony that someone within the copier industry, whom relies upon this industry to make a living, would decide to first blog around its potential demise!  I shan’t pretend I have been witness to the last 30 years of industry evolution, or earlier years, revolution; I’m 32, so clearly I haven’t..  But, from time to time, mainly upon installs it seems, I can often overhear my father reminiscing enthusiastically our with customers over the day of the ‘Wet Copier’ and other such by gone offerings poor folk had the pleasure of living with in the earlier years of analogue technology. And the money they used to cost! So clearly, things have moved on a lot.

I have only a modest 7 years of wisdom to recall upon, but even I, have seen change in manufacturer line up’s in their attempt to continually go one better than each other.

Amongst all the gizmo’s and range of applications available today to the customer, the underlying agenda between supplier & customer has seemed to be pretty much the same thing, save money & save time through efficiencies, to save more. Fine, I get all that. Where I now start to question some of finer detail to achieve the above, is within any given managed service today, it’s still very much about consolidation, remove this, remove that, “reduce your printer outputs!”  “You’ll save money!!”…. but why?

Sure, the larger single or multifunction devices are superbly inexpensive to run, which was the main reason for having one in the first place, if you had the room for it. And, if you didn’t, you had to make room. But you know what, the little’ns, the A4 single/multifunction devices have been catching up, and fast; in fact, in terms of running costs, they’ve nearly caught up.  So, it does beg the question, “why would you buy one?”

Like most dealers today, we are able to monitor our customer toner levels, volumes of prints, scans etc. When pondering and collecting my thoughts on this subject before blogging about it I thought it would be interesting to check how many of our customers were actually printing A3, that used A3 devices. I was startled to realise how many A3 sized, larger devices in the field don’t actually turn an A3 page.  And I suppose it makes sense, too. How many of us actually print anything in A3? I do on occasion, and judging by the focus group which I have remote visibility of, I appear to be one of the few.

So this does beg the question, “when am I better off with an A3 device, if I’m not actually printing A3?”  So I ran the figures..

I took the lowest priced A4 multifunction Olivetti, similar in functionality to flagship A3 devices, so still designed for a maintenance agreement, and benchmarked it against the lowest priced device within the flagship A3 range from the same manufacturer. Without getting too granular with my numbers here, the A3 device was approx. 75{d195eceed8222db772e860f22652bbbd4a1d256aa8146c4be9851e2e3b27ac46} higher in value in terms of capital expenditure vs. the A4 device, which equates to around a £1000 premium, so gives you an idea of how much better value the A3 device had to be purely on running costs over a given period. Based upon 2000 colour pages a month, a reasonable volume but not silly high, a customer would only see a financial benefit to the company wallet upon month 33 if using the larger A3 device. Naturally, there’s a number of variables to consider, such as volume of colour and/or mono printed each month, how consistent your monthly volume is, etc, etc. But it does mean companies who prefer to refresh their hardware every three years, whom only actually print in A4 could well be better off going for an A4 multifunction, which, by design offers a host of benefits beyond the remit of cost.

So what else is important to companies when reviewing their strategy for office print, other than costs? Okay, it depends upon whom you’re pointing the questions at, but, broadly speaking, if an A4 machine is suddenly comparable cost wise with a bulkier A3 device in certain environments, I wonder how many businesses would renay on the belief that stripping back to the bare minimum, making people walk further, to fewer busier outlets for their print jobs was still the best solution for them?

After all, bringing back more printer outputs closer to staff desks would mean greater convenience, and in an ideal world more bums on seats for greater productivity. A4 devices closer to staff would then less bottle necking at busy times, scanning would also be more accessible, smaller devices would fit neatly into tighter spaces neatening up office space.

Don’t shoot the messenger here!  Buy I think there is definitely reason to start at least challenging status quo, and current rules of thumb, as now at least it doesn’t seem quite so clear cut when it comes to the economics. Rationalisation does not necessarily mean a reduction in costs. I have noticed on a few occasions now companies at refresh stage have reverted back to A4 only multifunction devices, so based upon this and feedback from some of our customer’s, this is already starting to happen.