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Printing costs, while seemingly insignificant, can create detrimental financial impact on an organization over time. According to our research, the average cost of a company’s printing operations is generally between three to six percent of total revenue, but what does this really mean? What is the actual cost of running your printers, copiers and fax machines, and how is that impacting the success of your business?

First, determine if your operations are unmanaged or without a centralized decision-making infrastructure. In an unmanaged printing environment, costs are distributed across multiple departments and hidden from management. As a result, most organizations cannot answer these five basic questions about the cost of their printing/scanning/copying environments, meaning that the holistic cost structure of their fleet is left unknown and uncontrollable.

1. How many printing, copying and scanning devices does your organization have?
It is important to first understand how many devices are contributing to print expenditure. Unless you can locate and identify every device within your organization, you can’t begin to understand your printing operations and quantify the impact imposed on your budget. Additionally, if you are tracking devices on your network, have you considered the ones that aren’t connected? These devices are operated "under the radar," contributing hidden, unmanageable costs to your bottom line.

2. How many pages does your organization print or copy per year?
If you know how many devices are operated within your organization, do you know how many pages are printed? If you aren’t tracking page volumes, it is easy to understand why you cannot manage the costs associated with your print environment. A precise understanding of print volumes is a key step to gaining control of incurred costs.

3. What does it cost to print, copy and scan these pages?
Do you understand the specifications of each device in your fleet? Operational costs can fluctuate from device to device, and understanding these fluctuations is essential to quantifying and managing costs based on print volumes.

4. What is the ratio of users to printers/copiers/multi-function printers (MFPs) in your organization?
Have you considered the ratio between your devices and users? Most organizations operate with a 2.2 device-to-user ratio, on average. This type of environment, with surplus device volumes, is extremely inefficient–directly corresponding to increased waste in supplies, energy consumption and associated maintenance. However, by identifying device volumes, you can rightsize your fleet and achieve an environment closer to the industry best practice of one device for every six users, reducing overhead from associated costs.

5. How much time is spent by your information technology (IT) staff supporting print?
Lastly, it is essential to maintain awareness of IT human resources allocated to device maintenance and support. In an unmanaged environment, a company of 750 employees spends an average of 3,700 IT hours supporting printers annually, shifting focus away from innovation and key projects necessary to drive increased success within an organization.

Our research reveals that the average annual printing cost per employee is $4,801. This is just the out-of-pocket cost for acquiring equipment, buying supplies and maintenance. Not included in this figure are IT support costs (shown above) and other secondary costs associated with print management.

Without complete knowledge of your expenditures, it will be difficult to build a case for making positive change. In gaining a full understanding of the costs associated with printing and implementing optimized decision-making standards, you can reduce print costs, improve internal customer satisfaction and free up your IT staff for more mission-critical tasks.

Mario Díaz is the vice president of consulting at Photizo Group, a global consulting and market intelligence firm, and has more than 25 years of strategic marketing and business development experience, including executive management positions at Apple, Avnet, Toshiba, IO Data Centers and QMS. Learn more about managed print outsourcing.