Last year, Oki Printing Solutions polled 1,740 users of business printers in 16 European nations, in a diverse range of industries including banking, professional services, retail, leisure, manufacturing and the public sector.
The vendor concluded that business users across the region are still failing to take advantage of the potential for major savings in print costs.
Oki's survey found that most respondents bought their marketing collateral and similar items from third-party printers of brochures and the like, even though their in-house hardware was capable of producing such material. Many print tasks that are currently outsourced by European firms could, therefore, be moved in-house.
Graham Lowes, UK marketing director of Oki, said it seems that despite an ongoing and pressing need to reduce costs, including OpEx, businesses are failing to adapt. This is where the channel needs to step in, he suggested.
"We need to help businesses print less and print smarter," Lowes said. "This is where the reseller can add value. You can engage with the end user and talk about an appropriate proposition for them."
He added that VARs already move beyond the hardware to provide services, but this could be developed even further towards consultancy, which offers the opportunity to develop a new revenue stream in an age of shrinking margins.
"By talking about behaviours and the potential to save, they can add consultancy services, and can include little training sessions," he said.
Companies could benefit from making more and better use of their often-expensive hardware, he added.
Firms not only need to learn where they can make savings, adjusting printers to default to duplex, for example, or only printing when they really need to, but to use their printers' more advanced functions.
Customers need know-how
"If you start producing various materials in-house and in appropriate quantities - avoiding the need to make up a standard print run for a third-party supplier - you can save up to 20 per cent," said Lowes.
In the Oki survey, 69 per cent of respondents admitted to ordering business cards, 54 per cent bought brochures, and another 54 per cent selected posters and banners made by specialist third-party print houses. According to the vendor, 11 per cent said their print quality was not satisfactory, and another 11 per cent said they did not have time to figure out how to do it in-house.
Lowes said the Oki poll backed up findings by Cebr in a 23-nation study released in 2009. "The Cebr report identified that by bringing outsourced printing functions in-house, firms could save $5.4bn (£3.3bn) per year, with even greater savings in time, paper and other consumables made possible through the implementation of best practice internal print management," he said.
Staff often ignored or were unaware of printing policies within their organisation, he noted.
Only 24 per cent of respondents were certain that they had a corporate policy relating to duplex or colour printing. Eight per cent were unsure whether they had any printing policy. Yet Oki found that 62 per cent had printers offering duplex in the office - though only 15 per cent of staff were likely to use it every time.
"[And] as with a failure to use two-sided printing, unnecessary colour use is costly and environmentally unfriendly," Lowes added.
Practical examples of savings are shown by US-based Equitrac, which in March reported it had helped Liverpool John Moores University in the UK save $250,000 annually in printing costs - representing a reduction of four million pages printed. This included an estimated $100,000 in costs from pages sent to the print queue but not retrieved.
Equitrac believes a push for managed print services (MPS) has helped it expand its business rapidly. Michael Rich, chief executive of Equitrac, said the company had invested in expanding in vertical markets, geographies and distribution channels.
MPS savings sought
"This, combined with increased market awareness of the benefits of managing printing, has led to the rapid adoption of our software and
propelled us to this significant milestone of more than 25,000 installations," Rich said in a statement.
"Whatever the driver - reducing costs, going green, tightening printing security and control, or improving processes - a successful print management strategy must begin with an accurate understanding of printing needs and include the tools that enable and encourage behaviour change today and over time."
Xerox has also been investing in MPS, believing it can help deliver the savings and efficiencies that organisations are seeking.
Douraid Zaghouani, senior vice president of European channels at Xerox, said: "Businesses are looking for results in cost savings, meeting security measures and achieving sustainability objectives. That is why many are turning to MPS."
Vendor Lexmark last week announced research showing that recycling, on the other hand, has become widespread in European organisations - although 86 per cent of the 619 respondents in 11 European countries said they felt their companies could do more.
Ten per cent said their firm does not recycle anything, with 21 per cent saying that recycling is too difficult, too expensive, too time-consuming and creates clutter.
Steve Purdy, general manager at Lexmark UK, said: "It is clear many people believe more could be done.
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