By Dale McIntyre
Most people don’t give much thought to office printing. Because printing is a habitual part of everyday office workflows and processes, it’s often taken for granted. This tendency even applies to the people who are tasked with managing print for their organizations. Typically, cost management strategies for office printing are focused only on print devices and related supplies, rather than the big picture.
But printing is more about people than it is about printers. Most people print at the office for one of two reasons: business processes and workflows, or just out of habit. On average, employees print about 6,000 pages every year, and more than half of those pages are wasted or unnecessary, which isn’t altogether surprising: Employees acknowledge that a large chunk of their printed material could be read on a computer screen instead.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize printing this much has significant consequences on both the environment and profits. Each year, an average of 18 trees are cut down to accommodate the paper usage of every 10 employees. And don’t forget about toner and ink cartridges: It takes one gallon of fossil oil to produce a single laser cartridge.
Most business leaders underestimate the number of printing devices they own throughout the enterprise, so it’s no wonder that so many of them are surprised to learn they’re spending 1 to 3 percent of their annual revenue on printing. The true cost of printing is difficult for most companies to gauge because so much of it is hidden. Beyond the cost of printers, paper, toner, and routine maintenance, add the energy consumption costs of a large device fleet.
Also, fleet complexity (having several different printers from a variety of manufacturers) requires a lot of IT resource time and adds to the volume of support calls and supply chain management tasks. This, of course, equates to more unnecessary costs.
Many companies turn to managed print services (MPS) to help make sense of it all. These services can certainly help, but they typically focus only on devices and related supplies and leave out the demand side of the equation. People are the critical component of a successful print strategy; if you don’t address employee printing behaviors and educate people about optimal printing choices and best practices, you will miss out on significant gains toward your cost savings and sustainability goals.
To make effective and long-lasting changes that promote a greener workplace, you have to change the mindset within your company culture so that people become more mindful of their printing choices. With the right strategy and approach, your employees will come to realize that every decision to print has a cost with more depth than simply the dollar value of the printing transaction. And with this new mindset, print volumes will inevitably decline. A study by Kyocera Corp. found that most employees actually want to make such changes to their office printing habits to help the environment and reduce business costs.
To foster more mindful printing wherever mindless demand prevails, here are a few tips:
1. Install the right software solution
Print management software can capture all the data on who, what, when, where, and why employees are printing. You can’t manage what you can’t see; this data provides the critical insights you need to make informed decisions and take effective actions.
You can also use reports generated with this software to begin the education process, which must permeate the entire organization. People become more conscious of their decisions to print when they see that their employer cares enough to track this hidden expense.
2. Define business-critical print
By evaluating and then clearly explaining what should and should not be printed, your print volume will begin to decline. For example, you can use print management software to reveal how much printing is coming from applications like email clients and Internet browsers, which are not typically part of required business workflows. You could also discern how many documents are needlessly printed in color, which is three to five times more expensive than black and white.
The idea is to make employees think about what they really need to print and encourage more efficient alternatives. For example, using a shared drive makes for easy viewing and note taking during meetings.
3. Create an internal green campaign
Business leaders can develop and launch an internal marketing campaign that explains to employees why reducing print volume is so important. The focus could be on energy conservation, water conservation, or cost management — whatever best fits your company’s mission. By connecting the “head to the heart,” real and sustainable change can be achieved.
4. Optimize your printer fleet
Don’t underestimate the difference this well-known streamlining process can make for your company. After taking steps to reduce the demand for printing, you can look at reducing the number of print devices deployed throughout your organization. This will help refocus your company’s mindset with regard to print. By taking fuller advantage of a smaller fleet of printers — preferably comprised of fewer makes and models — you will take a large step toward achieving your cost savings and sustainability goals.
5. Consider becoming a certified B Corporation
Having a B Corp certification means your for-profit company meets rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Additionally, a B Corp business strives to use its influence to solve social and environmental problems.
My company helps organizations all over the world reduce their printing. Our essential purpose, reducing the mindless consumption of resources associated with print, helped us to achieve the status of a certified B Corp.
Wasteful printing is pervasive in business. This represents a huge opportunity to achieve measurable and dramatic sustainability gains in a short amount of time. But it all starts with the right strategy and tools. Remember that people are the key to successful print management. With the right technology in place, your own printing data will help to reveal the best path forward, and you can begin to build a sense of print stewardship throughout your organization.
Image credit: Pixabay
Dale McIntyre serves as a vice president at Pharos Systems International, an enterprise print solutions provider based in Rochester, New York. Dale provides strategic leadership in the areas of sustainability, brand, and customer engagement. He regularly shares his unique sustainability perspective on print strategy through blogs, webinars, and appearances.