Documents using colour have distinct psychological advantages over
monochrome. It is said that they improve retention of information by 60 to 70
per cent and make it much more likely that the document will be read.
This is all very well, but mention colour to a customer and they will often turn blue in the face arguing that colour will put their printer supplies budget in the red.
Cost is the main argument against colour and the first hurdle to overcome in making a sale. Tracey Fielden, head of office marketing at Canon, believes there is one test that can allow colour to argue its own case. “In the business environment, colour is important because it achieves cut-through and it is more impactful than black and white,” she says.
“Print a page of text in mono and put the main points in bold. Then print the same page, but highlight the main points in colour and the reader will look straight at the key points and pick them out more easily.
“We did some research in 2005, through IDC, and found that 57 per cent of companies have saved time since introducing colour and this is purely down to the fact that it not only increases recall, but reduces the number of errors in understanding the information.”
Fielden feels companies that produce high-quality colour documents project a more professional image to their customers. Stuart Swinton, business manager at HP’s imaging and printing group, agrees and quotes HP’s own findings.
“If you send a bill with due amounts or due dates highlighted in red, payment returns can be increased by 30 per cent. Colour is particularly important for SMEs because customers are 55 per cent more likely to pick up a colour document than a black-and-white one and it improves brand recognition.
A smaller company using colour in its brochures and marketing collateral can project a much more professional branding and look like a larger organisation. Most customers understand this, but there is still concern over what it’s going to cost.”
Managers in charge of printing facilities often fear that introducing colour will encourage inappropriate use of colour and that the privilege may even be abused by staff printing out their holiday snaps at the company’s expense.
A lot has been done to allay these fears through improvements in management software. These products are often bundled with the
printer and fall into two categories: usage monitoring and access management. Both tools can be key to selling the colour proposition.
Usage monitoring applications are excellent tools to open up the ability to offer consultation services. They allow usage patterns to be plotted to determine the top users or the main applications that access a
printer. This can be extended in some cases to allow departments to be individually billed for their use of a colour printer.
Lexmark has a coverage estimator that can calculate the average amount of toner used by a printer on a per-page basis. The vast majority of manufacturers’ estimates of cartridge life are based on an average coverage of five per cent per page. For colour printing the amount can vary widely between five per cent for a text page and almost 100 per cent for a full-colour image on a page. By using Lexmark’s estimator, a company is able to find its own average and calculate much more realistic running costs.
At a rudimentary level, access management can be performed at the printer driver level. Most drivers can be configured to block access to colour so that a particular user can only access the printer as a monochrome device. Control parameters have become more fine grained as time has passed and filtering is now being driven down to the application level, so that a user may access colour for printing out a brochure produced by Adobe Acrobat, but not from an email reader.
Swinton sees management software as a way to soften the blow of increased costs. “Colour will cost more, there is no doubt about that, but there is a definite business benefit to using colour and a return on that investment. However, you’re still putting more toner on the page to create a colour document, so HP is trying to mitigate that risk. Apart from bringing the hardware cost down to be comparable with monochrome prices, we are addressing the running costs and we have what we believe are unique tools to help the customer control the use of colour in their environment. They can control this by user, user group, or even by application.
“HP is currently the only company that can control the usage by application. So, for instance, it is usually a waste of money to print email or database reports in colour. By turning off colour for emails across an organisation or a user group, significant savings can be made of between 10 and 15 per cent.”
Other companies are catching up with HP on the control front because fine-grained management is probably the next most important requirement to reliability and security. Canon allows usage capping, so that a user has a limit to the number of colour prints that can be made in a certain time period. If the user needs to exceed this allowance, permission has to be sought from the office manager.
Oki Printing Solutions also provides management software and Alan McLeish, the company’s product marketing manager, says that its colour access management software will also offer application controls in January.
McLeish feels it is important to support the customer as much as possible by offering extras. Many companies will adopt colour to bring processes in-house, such as the production of marketing materials. This may assume staff have design skills that may not be true and could damage a brand image. To help with the simpler tasks, Oki offers templates on its web site.
“We provide tools for our customers to help them with design,” says McLeish.
“We also provide them with guides on how to produce marketing materials. We’re not setting up as designers, but we do have templates available to help with everyday needs. For serious campaigns and key marketing materials, designers are a necessity, but there are quite a few everyday requirements that can be done using a template.”
When hot on the trail of a potential sale, it’s easy to make overblown claims about the production of quality marketing materials. Fielden at Canon warns that more businesses want to cut costs by bringing outsourced printing in-house and this is driving colour uptake in the
“Organisations need to make sure that they only use quality colour materials and sources. If they have a pixelated image, it will be no help whatsoever. Companies that produce high-quality colour documents can project a more professional image to their customers,” she says.
Some companies were quick to accept the use of colour printing because of the cost savings. McLeish explains: “Estate agents were some of the early adopters when affordable colour with reasonable speeds appeared. Prior to that they were going out taking photographs and having prints produced by a photographic lab. When the prints came back they had to be stuck on to monochrome specification sheets to give potential buyers an idea of what was on offer. Now they can do that with digital cameras and just drop the images into the documents that can then be sent much more quickly and at less expense.”
Manufacturers battle to gain a leading edge. When Oki produced a colour laser printer that did the job in a single pass, the competitors had to sit up and take note. Oki’s secret was that its page printers are LED-based rather than using lasers. This made it relatively easy to quadruplicate the mechanisms for producing a print from the four toners in the colour printer. The laser printer makers were still effectively passing a sheet of paper through the printing proc ess four times to create each page. Times have changed and the single-pass laser is now available, at a price, but the low-end printer market is still based on multipass printers.
The vendors are also responding to the changing needs and tastes of customers, such as the green trend of the IT industry. Companies want to be seen as environmentally conscious and printing is seen as an area of waste. Not only as an obvious source of deforestation, but also because of the waste materials produced when empty cartridges are dumped.
Recycling of cartridges has been around for some time, but according to Tracey Rawling Church, head of marketing at Kyocera Mita, the results are not making a massive difference. “The percentage of cartridges that are refilled and returned to the supply chain is only 20 per cent. So you think you are saving the planet by buying refills, but for every one you buy there are four others going into landfill, so it’s really not solving the problem.”
This could be a problem in the future if environmental concern reaches the point where most customers want to deal with accredited green manufacturers. Kyocera has claimed green credentials for more than a decade with lifelong printer drums and simplified toner cartridges. Recently, Ricoh and Xerox have taken a greener stance with new angles on the printer market tackling the green issues and claiming to negate the cost and speed advantages of mono laser printers.
Both Xerox’s Solid Ink and Ricoh’s Liquid Gel technologies use printer heads with similar principles to inkjet printers. The difference is the physical state of the inks at room temperature. Liquid Gel is a new technology, but Solid Ink has been around for some time.
Xerox bought Tektronix in 2000, a company that had a novel printer using wax-based inks. After a quiet development period, Xerox is now trumpeting the benefits of the solid ink printer as offering cost parity with monochrome printers and having a very low environmental impact.
The claims hinge on the design of the system. Xerox’s solid ink printers heat the wax to liquefy it and use inkjet-like print heads to apply the ink to a drum that transfers it to the paper. Ink is supplied in the form of coloured wax blocks that fit into four hoppers on the print head itself. The print head spans the width of an A4 sheet of paper and does not move, so throughput is high at 30 pages per minute (ppm) for colour or mono.
Because the ink hoppers can hold up to five sticks of wax and the head is stationary, the ink can even be topped up while the printer is working. The printed image is capable of brighter colours than with other printer systems, but has a slightly waxy finish.
Darren Cassidy, director and general manager for the office group at Xerox, says: “The solid ink printers are particularly eco-friendly because there are no cartridges to recycle and there is a lot less packaging because the ink sticks are small. Solid Ink also allows users to print high-quality images on recycled paper, rather than having to invest in speciality media. Resellers can now go out with a compelling message that will make customers sit up and listen, especially the ones who still believe colour printing is too expensive.”
Ricoh’s printer technology has been around for a couple of years and its design is more traditionally like an inkjet. The Liquid Gel inks are held in replaceable reservoirs connected by pipes to the print head that zips back and forth across the paper. Even so, a respectable throughput speed of 21ppm is achieved for both colour and mono.
The gelatinous state of the ink means that it does not soak into the paper but, like the Solid Ink droplets, binds on to the surface. This gives a crisper edge to the colour than most inkjets achieve because the colours do not bleed into one another.
Although laser has been the principle technology because of quality and throughput, Solid Ink Xerox Phaser series printers and Ricoh’s GelSprinters could be disruptive. There is also HP’s Edgeline CM8050 and CM8060 printers that use a fixed, page-wide inkjet head. HP claims that this gives a throughput speed of 60ppm in monochrome.
Steve Pearce, marketing product manager for Samsung Electronics, has this advice for resellers looking for leads: “When it comes to identifying potential colour printer customers, resellers should be looking at the 110ppm segment, which currently dominates the A4 laser market,” he says.
“Resellers should be talking to those businesses that use inkjet printers about the benefits of colour laser printers. While the high capital costs and size of these printers have traditionally put people off, new technology has shrunk the printer, made it easier to operate and, more importantly, reduced the cost. Resellers can increase their profit margins, as printers which were previously beyond the reach of many businesses due to their cost are now an option,” he adds.
Louella Fernandes, a principal analyst at Quocirca, says: “There are many benefits when adding colour to documents, whether its adding value to marketing communications material or making information easier to read, interpret and recall through the use of colour. Many businesses can now save on outsourcing large print jobs to print providers by printing in-house.
“At the same time, hardware prices have come down and most consumers are now familiar with using colour at home and expect to use the same technology in the workplace. However, the cost of colour printing is still high (more consumables, therefore higher TCO), which has tended to inhibit its adoption throughout an enterprise.”
Xerox trumpets colour savings
Security firm set to become part of acquisitive Shearwater Group
Distributor merges three northern sites into one new hub in Warrington
Activist investor puts forward five director candidates as turmoil continues at security giant
Nima Green asks what is driving public cloud uptake in Germany