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Cost and Use Analysis of Print Output

9 Oct, 2001 By: Lester Anderson imageSource

Cost and Use Analysis of Print Output

is a guide for the process of print output analysis. It is not a multi-vendor
guide that details each vendor's offerings. It is a description of what is
needed, from a customer point of view, to analyze the business impact of print
output on daily processes. Because my world revolves around software and network
connectivity, I focus on the analysis of print output devices that are or could
be attached to the network not stand alone copiers.


article does not have a spreadsheet that promises automatic analysis and
recommendations upon entry of 41 parameters, or any other magic number. Such
packaged formula solutions may shed some light on a problem, but rarely hit the
bull's eye indicating the solution for each customer's unique business. It
explores the issues that must be considered in the business process needs of the


Dealer Opportunity

should analyze the document output needs of an end-user company? Ideally, a
company should perform its own analysis because it knows its business better
than anyone else does. Nevertheless, the task is well suited for a consultant
from the document imaging industry. Who would be the ideal candidate to be that
consultant? The dealer should serve in that capacity. Analysis is sometimes part
of a sales process (often fee-based) that can also scrutinize workflow within
the business unit and develop a comprehensive document output plan. A truly
knowledgeable customer or equally knowledgeable vendor will not perceive this
activity as a one-time occurrence, but something that should be repeated
periodically, and whenever there is a major change in the business operation.


Factors that Compose A True Document Output Evaluation

document industry has seen dramatic changes in the evolution of products, and
the convergence of the print and copy tasks into a wide variety of multifunction
products from many different vendors. The problem is that printers are different
from copiers in how they are used and how they affect the workplace. Traditional
copier analysis tools often do not take into account the special circumstances
of printers. The printer analysis tools do not take into account the difference
in copier utilization.


And Printing

is a very good solution application in the measuring and analysis of prints
(clicks) in the copier and printer marketplace. This is often handled with the
help of print accounting software, which tracks the number of pages that are
printed/ copied by device, users, and often by job or client. The primary task
of this system is often bill-back of charges to a department within a company,
or in the case of a law office, to the client for whom the copiers or prints
were made.


problem arises because of the excellent, detailed information these programs
provide. There is a temptation to use them as a primary tool to determine
printer needs and device consolidation, without an understanding of the
different ways these devices function within a business environment.


how a departmental copier is used. A worker takes a stack of papers to copy,
walks up to the copier, puts the paper in the hopper, and then programs the
machine. If sorting is desired, the sort button is pressed. If sort and staple
is desired, the staple button is pressed, and this automatically activates the
sort function. Finally, pressing the big (usually green) button starts the
copying process. The digital copier will automatically rotate the image if the
originals were inserted wrong. If the selected paper size is not consistent with
the paper loaded in the trays, the machine will ask the operator to select a
paper size. There is also a stop button, so the worker can interrupt a print job
to fix any problems, (like wrong color paper) before proceeding. If the copier
runs out of paper, the worker fills the tray with one or more reams from a box
that is often kept next to the copier. The workload is balanced by "common
business sense." For example, if you have a copy job, but see four people
waiting in line at the copier, you might go back to your desk and wait until


consider the network printer. The worker wants one or more copies of a disk
file, so they pull down the file menu to select print. The worker then enters
the number of copies, and selects checkboxes for staple and/or collate. Some
more intelligent drivers will provide an image of what the output will look like
(i.e. where the staple will be placed).


worker generally does not have the means to determine if the paper is correct,
in either size or color. Generally 8-1/2 x 11 white paper output, however, he
will take it on faith that all will go well. If a worker desires print output on
colored paper, it may be necessary to warn others in the workgroup while he
"takes charge" of the printer for a period of time. The printer does
not actually print to the printer, but to a print spooler and/or print queue. In
most cases, the worker either does not or cannot easily check what print jobs
are already in the queue, has the same print priority as everyone else, and will
enter the print queue at the end. Most of the time, this is no problem but
things can go wrong.


worker early in the print queue might print a document that looks for A4 size
paper, causing the printer to stop and flash a "load A4 paper"
message. The print queue might be 100 copies of a 10-page document, which would
take more than a half an hour (at 30 ppm) for that project to be completed. This
can be especially frustrating if a worker mistakenly enters 100 instead of 10 in
the "number of copies" box, creating an extra delay. Lets look at
another real-life scenario, you may be printing a confidential document, and
just before you go to get it, the phone rings, so the job remains in the output
tray for anyone to read. Let’s say yours is the only print job, the paper is
the right size and color, and you give it the right amount of time to print your
200 copies. When you get to the copier, however, you find that it ran out of
paper after page 7, and is waiting for you to feed it more paper before it
finishes your job. Does this mean that printers are bad or more difficult to
use? No, it just means they are different. There are a variety of tools
available for some brands of printers that will do things like notify the worker
in case of a paper out (or jam) situation. But remember, the workflow and logic
of a workgroup printer is different than a workgroup copier.


Confusion Surrounding Duty Cycle

manufacturer of an output device provides a number that is published as the duty
cycle. Some manufacturers have a "duty cycle" and a "recommended
monthly volume," which are often very different. Some use "duty
cycles" to determine the capability of the machine, others to determine
preventative maintenance schedules. Nevertheless, this confusion is a minor
problem because printers (and copiers, for that matter) are not used at the same
rate all day long or all month.


make an evaluation strictly on the total, a 50,000 page-per-month printer with a
speed of 15 ppm sounds like it would work well for workgroups with relatively
stable daily output. It would print 2-3 hours per day, and this might sound a
little low on the usage side.


two other scenarios. One, where one day of the week (maybe Monday) that is
heavier than other days, the other is the heavy printing of certain reports,
statements, and other business documents, for the mid and end of month time
periods. The duty cycle, based on a per day output, would probably be exceeded
by the "Heavy Mondays" workgroup, and would certainly be out of range
on the for the "15th and 30th" workgroup. These businesses would most
likely require a speed of 30 ppm to meet their needs. This would be especially
true if the fluctuations of the "15th and 30th" workgroup were from
invoices being sent out, and cash flow was affected by delayed printing. This
type of analysis is especially critical when the purpose is to evaluate the
benefits of combining the page output capability of two workgroups to reduce the
number of devices. For two departments that produce an average of 2,000 pages
each per day, a single printer with a capacity of 8,000 pages per day might
easily work. However, if both departments have a pattern of printing 6500-7500
pages per day on the busy mid month and end month days, combining departments
will not produce satisfactory results.


Is the Solution?

end-user solution must address a business' output needs. While not all of
today's sales situations combine printers and copiers, many do. Even if the
specific procurement is restricted to one or the other, a brief analysis of how
integrated technology solutions might become part of future business needs would
be appreciated, particularly by the IT Manager.


is no formula that will give you a magic answer, but this is fortunate. If it
were that easy, the industry could provide very little value add to the end-user
community, and I believe the industry has a great deal of knowledge and insight
to offer. This gives need and credibility to those entities that wish to expand
further into the solutions and consulting marketplace. Because every business
environment is different, a complete list of questions to ask cannot be created.
What is presented here is not a list of questions but a list of topics where the
consultant must investigate. It is a starting point, not a roadmap, since every
business has a different destination.

  • Print
    Volume (how many and when)

  • Print
    Output Type (from what applications what special needs)

  • Workstations
    used (will they all work with the hardware proposed)

  • Workgroup
    logistics (who does what and when)

  • Network
    issues (how will it work within the current infrastructure)

  • Utility
    Software/Remote Access (what is needed/what is there)

  • Output
    Delivery including ERP (who needs what when and must it be tracked)

  • Future
    Business Plans (major changes in the future may be anticipated today)

result of this work is a truly a win-win situation, so long as all the facts
have been considered. In the past, some of these analysis attempts have been
less than successful because instead of trying to find the true needs of the
customer, the project was started to justify a specific machine and attempting
to put it into its best light. While that might have achieved the short-term
goal of machine sales, the reseller's credibility was often damaged when the
customer found that the fit was forced instead of being a natural outcome of
fact-finding. The goal in solution selling is to sell the customer value, not

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