The savings from print management is like picking low-hanging fruit

Today's economic malaise presents organizations with a golden opportunity to justify an enterprise print management program. Office printing remains an underexploited savings opportunity, and actively managing it can reduce spending by 10% to 30%.

Reducing printing costs is becoming a strategic priority for many organizations that see their costs rising every year. Gartner estimates that total print costs -- including hardware, maintenance, supplies and support -- comprise 1% to 3% of a company's overall revenue. Studies show the average employee printing cost is approximately $150 annually just for ink and toner, and this cost can vary by industry vertical.

CASE STUDY: Nonprofit hopes to cut printing costs with tablets

Some organizations are attempting to gain control of this escalating problem through favorable supplier contracts which reduce the overall costs of toner and ink consumables, or through outsourced printer fleet management that is based on volume and fixed costs. Both of these tactics leverage favorable pricing of consumables, which can be fleeting and subject to change.

The print management vendor Preton is taking an entirely different approach to the problem. For example, rather than lowering the price of consumables, Preton is using technology to allow companies to consume less ink and toner without degrading print quality. The PretonSaver is a print management solution that can complement existing initiatives while delivering additional cost savings and reduce the carbon footprint and toxins associated with printer consumables.

PretonSaver is a software solution designed to enable organizations to better manage and increase visibility into their printing resources. The software combines printer management, optimization of toner and ink, reduction in paper consumption, management information reports and rule-based printing into a single print management tool. Promised functionality includes:

• Maps all printers and users on the network automatically

• Reduces toner and ink consumption

• Enhances security through authorized access to specified printers for sensitive applications

• Enforces duplex printing and N-up compressions for specific printers and applications

• Provides reports, statistics and an audit trail through a centralized management console, including but not limited to total pages printed each month; color vs. monochrome pages; costs per department, printer, computer and application; and total savings per month

Preton says it delivers three value propositions.

First, the company provides visibility into an organization's overall printing activity. This is done with detailed analysis and reporting of the cost of printing, who is printing from what applications, which printers are the high-cost printers, and the average cost per page. This kind of insight makes it possible to eliminate or consolidate printers without impacting productivity.

Second, Preton says it delivers demonstrable savings on consumables. PretonSaver uses Pixel Optimizer technology which calculates the print value of the number of pixels a printer will use on a piece of paper. This is based on complex calculations to determine which pixels will be laid on the paper, or not. The product can actually delete approximately 30% of the pixels a printer would normally print by taking advantage of a printing trait called "bleed" (for ink printing) or "smear" (for laser printing) to cover the empty spaces of the "missing" pixels. When a drop of ink or toner is placed on a sheet of paper, that drop expands anywhere from 10% to 30% of the original diameter. When PretonSaver removes select pixels, it assures that the adjacent pixels are covering for the small gaps. The end result is less ink or toner is put on paper without noticeably impacting print quality. Over the course of a year, using less ink or toner on every print job can result in significant savings.

And the third leg of the Preton value position is the application of rules and policies on the way people print internally. PretonSaver has a range of print policies that organizations can implement. For example, today duplex printers are quite common but users don't utilize them to their fullest extent. An organization can enforce duplex printing on specific printers or by specific applications (such as email). The same goes for N-up printing, the printing of two pages of text on one page. This could be used when printing email messages or other internal reference materials. Another popular policy is the auto-omission of images when printing web pages to avoid printing unnecessary banners, ads, and other graphic content. All you end up with is nice clean text on the page. Organizations that use the print rule functionality can reduce print volume by 10% to 20%.

When used together, these three approaches can provide organizations with savings that range from $60 to $80 per employee annually, the company claims.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses PretonSaver to save money and reduce its own impact on the environment. Hal Waggoner, acting CIO, was challenged by the Illinois governor to reduce printing costs by 10%. Waggoner says his organization engaged Preton as a way to improve visibility into their printer fleet for statistical purposes and for making decisions on inventory and usage of their network printers at the agency's headquarters and seven regional offices. They also wanted to reduce their printer cartridge consumption.

"We were able to gain very granular visibility into our printer fleet," according to Waggoner. "Preton allows us to see who is printing what, with what application, on what printer. We know what the costs are for the printer, the user, and the associated consumables. After one year of use, we have greatly reduced our print cartridge use and saved quite a bit of money."

Waggoner also notes that many, if not all, printer vendors claim to reduce toner and ink usage with an economy mode. "While this is true, the economy modes are not created equal and they don't compare to the results we obtain with Preton. Further, with Preton we can control the print savings by device, application, and the user generating the print job. This is something that can't be done with existing print software."

For organizations that are looking for new ways to shave the IT budget without impacting the organization, comprehensive printer management offers some low-hanging fruit.

Brian Musthaler is a principal consultant with Essential Solutions Corporation. You can write to him at Bmusthaler@essential-iws.com.

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About Essential Solutions Corp:

Essential Solutions researches the practical value of information technology, and how it can make individual workers and entire organizations more productive. Essential Solutions offers consulting services to computer industry and corporate clients to help define and fulfill the potential of IT.

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