Could Centralized Printers Lower Productivity?

The “Key Printing Trends and Their SMB Impact” study, produced by InfoTrends and sponsored by Brother International, suggests that small and midsize businesses (SMBs) could be underutilizing their copy and print environments and may be losing up to $336 million annually in employee productivity costs. Respondents to the study came from a variety of executive, middle management and other positions in a variety of industries.

“One thing that came out of this study was how the office copier has become like the water cooler,” says Dan Waldinger, director of marketing, Solutions & Services at Brother.

Survey results indicate that employees who work at SMBs that have centralized copiers and/or printers spend 6,500 more hours annually at those machines than workers at companies that do not centralize those functions. Results also reveal that time was lost walking to and from the printer, as well as in discussing non-work-related topics at the centralized unit.

With the average pay per employee estimated to be $30 per hour and an approximate 1,728 SMBs in the United States identified as having centralized copiers or printers (according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and study results), Brother estimates that up to $336 million in employee productivity costs could be lost each year.

The study also reports that employees are printing less than they once did: The average print job is now five or fewer pages. While many SMBs have the capability to print up to 100,000 pages monthly on their multifunction printers (MFPs), they are averaging closer to 10,000 per month on each device. Survey results indicate that printing needs have declined for a variety of reasons, ranging from improved workflows to younger generations that are fully adapted to mobile and networked environments.

“The workers coming into the workforce today did not grow up on paper,” Waldinger points out.

At businesses with 500 to 999 employees, 64 percent of respondents indicated that the top reason for printing less was the automation of business processes that once required print. Some 60 percent said that improved IT infrastructure was a factor, while 52 percent said they had employees who preferred electronic documents. Other reasons for a decline in print included green initiatives and the growing use of mobile devices to access information.

The survey also revealed that MFPs are being shared by large number of employees. At companies that had 500 to 999 employees, for example, an average 39 employees shared a color laser copier MFP, while an average 40 shared a black-and-white laser copier MFP.

However, a centralized MFP may not be the most optimized solution for all SMBs, according to Waldinger. Deploying needed devices closer to employees would result in less time spent walking back and forth and less employee time spent in non-office chatter.

“The importance of matching the technology with the needs of the organization is the most critical message we want to put forth,” he says. “Organizations are looking under every rock for cost savings. [Print] is an area they traditionally haven’t thought of. They are investing in tablet technology and smartphones. It’s not a far reach to talk about the printing device as well.”