How to reduce printing costs

In Printing Tips |

On May 8, 2017

Many businesses have no idea how much money they spend on printing. Sure, it’s a number that is never going to compete with outlays like rent, salaries or even software. Despite this, businesses are often surprised – even shocked – when they discover how much money their company shells out for printing.

If you run a business – or help to run one – you will know how important it is to know where your cash is going, and to always try and minimise spending wherever possible. The good news is, there are lots of ways you and your employees can reduce printing costs – saving the business money, and doing your bit for the environment while you’re at it.

The first step to reducing printing costs is to get a clear picture of the current situation. How much is your business spending on printing? Is that a number you are comfortable with? If not, how much would you like it to be reduced by? And by when? By setting a baseline, a target and a time frame, you can measure progress and are much more likely to achieve your goals.

So, you now know what your business is spending on printing, and by how much you would like to reduce it. The next step is to find out as much as possible about your business’ current printing habits. It is only by correctly diagnosing the problem that you will be able to engineer a successful solution. A couple of things to consider before you start interrogating your employees about how much they are printing.

First, for some reason, people are often very protective over their ‘right’ to print. It is a necessary business cost and the idea that you are trying to restrict that right can really wind people up. Instead, frame your ‘investigation’ as something that’s about making the business better – more streamlined and modern. It’s not about stopping people from printing; it’s about making sure they’re printing in the best possible way.

Second, it is also important not to give the impression that you are trying to find and expose the ‘secret printer’. Make it clear that no-one is doing anything wrong – this is just an exercise in improving how your business works. A focus on the environmental benefits of less printing might be a good angle to take as well.

Your research into the printing habits of your employees will help you understand whether they print by mistake, print too many copies, print in high quality instead of draft, print unnecessary emails… etc.

Now that you understand the printing behaviour in your office, it is time to start changing it. Not as easy as it sounds!

A good first step is something known as ‘choice editing’. This basically involves restricting the printing options available to your employees, while still giving them the opportunity to make decisions. Imagine you are a parent trying to get your child to eat vegetables for dinner. Choice editing would mean that, instead of allowing them to choose between vegetables and no-vegetables, you allow them to choose between peas, carrots or cauliflower. When it comes to choice editing for printing, you can offer your employees a ‘healthy’ menu of double sided printing, draft quality printing, black and white printing… you get the idea.

A second step that will help you improve your employees printing behaviours and reduce your business’ printing costs is to introduce a ‘second chance’. This basically involves a managed printing system, in which employees press print at their computers and then have to confirm the print job while physically at the printer. This small nudge can really help change habits, as well as significantly reducing the number of print outs made in error.

Of course, as well as seeking to change your employees’ behaviour, there are also some steps you should take on behalf of the business to cut printing costs. First, check your defaults. A bit like choice editing, this just means tweaking your system so that, by default, a printout is – for example – black and white, draft quality and double sided. Make the lowest cost option the default option.

Secondly, make sure you have the right printer for the job. Choosing the right printer for your business depends on whether you need to print a lot of high quality image-based documents, or are content with a machine that can churn out simple documents quickly. Choosing the wrong printer can seriously affect its ongoing running costs.

And finally, check that your business is buying the best value inputs – ie, paper and ink. The market is constantly changing and it is worth checking you are buying from the most competitive places at least every few months.

Last modified: May 8, 2017

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