Outsourcing Printroom Management

First and foremost do not have your printroom, printer fleet or postroom managed by your security company. Security companies are sacrificial anodes – when you are sued for a security issue the security company carries the can and is usually bankrupted and they maybe bankrupted by another client they serve; not only by yourselves. At this point you have to either TUPE (transfer of undertaking protection of employment) people back into your organisation or find another company to manage security, print and post operations for you, but at short notice and therefore higher costs. It is usually much easier (and cheaper) to only have to find another security company.

Whether you go in-house print management or outsourced it has to be a separate department, not simply part of facilities or IT, otherwise exact costs cannot be allocated. You may also want printing costs to be allocated to your departments via an internal accounting system to see who the big spenders are. This is easy for your printroom (a simple spreadsheet at the minimum), but difficult for your printer fleet unless you have printers with built-in accounting functions such as Xerox etc. If you do not have departments accountable for their print spend then you have moral jeopardy in which there are no consequences for departments' usage of printing and therefore no checks or balances to account for. They are in effect not responsible for their actions in so far as their print spending is concerned.

A common trick employed by print management companies is to offer extremely low cost or “free” hardware (copier / printers) in return for a higher click cost. They also recommend an organisation wide pot to charge all printing rather than make departments accountable for their print spend. You will end up paying much more for your printer costs than you can imagine. Local Authorities are often lured by this as they do not have any upfront costs to pay out.

Here are some questions you need to ask before going out to tender:

  1. Many organisations have little understanding of the number of print devices (copiers, printers, fax machines, desktop printers, stand alone printers) or their use by staff. Do you?
  2. Document production, distribution, storage & retrieval systems, applications, helpdesk support, logistics, legal implications, environmental issues, waste, energy, warranties and invoice payment costs are usually points that have never been identified let alone costed.
  3. Do you spend more money on the print management contract than you save (assuming you did an accurate audit of your printing costs before you went out to tender – see above)?

The primary means to save money on an existing print management contract is to limit colour printing to documents used by graphic design, marketing and sales i.e. external documents. All internal documents do not need colour and do not get printed in colour. Invoices & statements are best printed in black onto (offset litho) preprinted invoices. It is cheaper in the long run presuming you do not over order preprinted material and then change your contact details.

The secondary means to saving money is to dispose of small desktop printing devices which have a much higher cost per page – only use the larger free standing copier/printers with the correct paper to minimise paper jams. Paper comes in different qualities to match the speed of your printing device, check with your supplier. The security issue raised for having their own desktop device is redundant as most free standing copier / printers have password protection options requiring you to enter your password at the device to get your print-outs.

The accounting function for printing does not often include the smaller desktop devices as their toner cartridges are often bought using departmental budgets or come under stationary expenses. This is a highly profitable part of print manufacturers sales and they put a lot of effort into securing sales of small desktop devices, often selling them at cost to make money on the toner or inks.