Little Printers, Big Expense: How to Control Imaging Costs

Most companies waste one percent to three percent of revenue on imaging. Here's how to change that, while you improve business process and cut energy consumption.

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Thu, February 28, 2008

CIO — Two years ago, in a bid to reduce costs and enable new technologies, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) merged its print shop, which handled bound materials like flip charts and insurance booklets, with its technology print center, which produced paychecks, W-2 forms and clinical handbooks. In the process, UPMC began looking at the amount of money that the $7 billion healthcare provider spent on printing, and the number of printers, fax machines, scanners and copiers deployed across its 20 facilities in western Pennsylvania. The figures were staggering, says Jeff Szymanski, UPMC's director of IT. The organization was spending approximately $10 million on imaging devices, supplies and maintenance every year.

It had 13,000 printers, copiers, fax machines and scanners for 43,000 employees. There was one device for every 2.5 employees, 10,000 print queues, and a tangle of IP addresses for the networked devices.

"When you look at the number of devices [in your enterprise], it's overwhelming and embarrassing," says Szymanski.

Most companies don't pay much attention to the amount they shell out for printing, not to mention the cost to procure, supply and maintain their fleet of imaging devices. "It tends to get overlooked because it's not sexy or up front," says Don Dixon, Gartner's research director for printing markets.

What's more, printing and imaging usually isn't controlled centrally in organizations. IT departments will be in charge of buying and installing printers because they run on the corporate network, while supply chain organizations or facilities departments will control purchasing supplies for those printers as well as other imaging devices. Consequently, enterprises waste anywhere from one percent to three percent of their revenue on imaging, according to Gartner's estimates. And in some paper-intensive industries like insurance and legal, that number is even higher, says Dixon.

At UPMC, Szymanski began a printing and imaging assessment in October 2007 with the help of Xerox. During the 12- to 18-month project, he expects to reduce his 13,000 devices to 3,000 multifunction devices (MFDs). During the next seven years, he expects to save 30 percent to 35 percent in printing costs. Additionally, the revamp will help UPMC move from approximately 2,700 dedicated phones lines to 1,300â¬saving about $11,000 per monthâ¬and reduce its 12,000 IP addresses for networked devices to 3,000.

In this time of increased focus on the health of the U.S. economy, CIOs would benefit from taking control of printing and document management within their organizations and investigating opportunities to consolidate and upgrade their fleets to MFDs that combine printing, copying, scanning and faxing functionalities. Not only can that save their companies moneyâ¬Gartner estimates as much as 30 percent annuallyâ¬but the MFDs and document management systems help automate and streamline business processes such as traditionally manual workflows and, in some cases, improve compliance with certain federal regulations through security features. By taking control of imaging, CIOs can also reduce their company's impact on the environment. Those benefits should help you make a business case for upgrading your company's imaging devices and for convincing recalcitrant users to give up their pet printers and change their attitudes toward hard copy, which ranks among the biggest challenges associated with these projects.

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