The Small Business Printer Workout You Don't Want

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted October 10, 2014

Need some exercise?

Many small and midsized businesses (SMBs) give their workers time on their feet away from their desks, but it comes at the cost of productivity. Each year, the trips to and from the office printer add up to 4,333 hours (for a 500-person company), provided those employees print an average of five times a week, according to new research from InfoTrends and business equipment maker Brother.

Even if your employee roster is one-tenth the size, you'd still lose valuable productivity hours—to the tune of 433 hours a year. It's time better spent with customers or drumming up new business.

According to the report, Key Printing Trends and Their SMB Impact (registration required), "instead of walking to a printer, employees could be reaching out to clients, completing important marketing collateral, or performing a range of other important tasks. In terms of cost, the sub-optimal placement of printers can cost a company tens of thousands of dollars each year."

InfoTrend estimates that, in the above example, the company misses out on $129,987 per year.

Small business printing trends

Practical Printer Placement Boosts SMB Productivity

Many SMBs streamline their printing environments and promote device sharing with higher-end, copier-based multifunction printers. While it beats outfitting each and every cubicle and office with a desktop printer, it means that many workers must take a stroll each time they hit the print button.

"With fewer devices in the office, it is only natural they will be spread more broadly across the organization," states the report. "Whereas previously the closest printer may have been just a few feet away, today it may be more than 100 feet away."

Such setups run counter to employee expectations of "anytime, anywhere access to information and technology." Or as Dan Waldinger, director of solutions marketing at Brother, told Small Business Computing, "proximity is a big component of productivity and efficiency."

The report is part of a new initiative called "Don't Supersize. Optimize." Brother's goal is to help SMBs develop printing strategies that boost productivity and save money with—through an outreach program that offers guidance on right-sizing their printer fleets.

Today's businesses need to rethink their attitudes about how and where to deploy printers. For starters, a mammoth multi-function business printer may look impressive, but workers may only be taking advantage of a fraction of its capabilities.

Shifting Small Business Printing Trends

"Eighty percent of organizations are printing less, reported Waldinger, citing figures from a recent CompTIA study. And when they do print, they print an average of three to five pages. The cause, he added, is the "proliferation of smartphones and tablets."

Adding insult to injury, office and IT managers that checked off every costly printer option will be dismayed to learn that workers these days "are just not finishing documents." In this case, "finishing" refers to advanced functionality like stapling, hole-punching and binding.

A3 printers (capable of printing on 11-inch by 17-inch sheets), in particular, go underused. Just two percent of all print jobs classify as A3, which is ample enough for brochures, large spreadsheets and architectural plans, but falls short in the modern workplace. Instead, SMBs are turning to cloud sharing, online marketing and digital workflows.

InfoTrends and Brother advocate a deliberate approach of placing more basic printers in nearby, easy-to-access locations.

IT departments, for example, may get away with a barebones model or two. Meanwhile, those savings can translate into printers that support higher duty cycles and specialized document management capabilities for departments such and legal and sales. In both cases, SMBs can save money in the long run with low-cost upgrades, affordable supplies and manageable maintenance costs.

The one-size-fits all approach to business printing is failing SMBs, according to Waldinger. It all boils down to using the right tool for the right job, and keeping it close at hand.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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