As the technology available in the office equipment industry evolves and ties much closer to the networks that serve our business functions, it becomes more obvious that there are multiple decisions to be made. As a very interested observer of what trends I see that are taking place within our customer base, I feel compelled to provide a few of these options for today’s buyer to consider when making a buying decision. More often than not I see the customer becoming shortsighted and only buying the technology for today’s immediate needs.
When offered a choice between two alternatives, most people tend to select the least expensive choice or the option that fits the bill for today. The problem with this method is that most of today’s office equipment will be in place from three to five years of useful life and our needs will change much faster than that. So in essence we are making a technology decision today that we may have to live with for several years and not fit the future of the business, which is rapidly changing.
One of the first decisions that customers must make is “Do you want a color enabled device or just a monochrome device?” The cost of color-enabled devices has dropped dramatically as well as the price of color output per page. Most companies will set a black and white monthly minimum contract for service and supplies at a very competitive rate per page and allow a customer to pay for color pages only as they are made. In this situation you do not pay for color unless you are making color copies. I believe having the color-enabled capability is very important and the trend shows about 40% of the products that we place are colored enabled. This number is moving very quickly to a 50/50 split. Color output is on the increase and adding it makes perfectly good business sense.
The next decision involves facsimiles and whether to put a fax board on the newly acquired equipment or continue to use a stand-alone facsimile device. Again the relative investment in a fax board is very low and the advantage of having the facsimile pages deliver through your Multiple Function Product (MFP) not only lowers operating cost but also reduce the carbon footprint. Again we see the trend toward more fax boards and fewer and fewer facsimiles being placed. In addition, our study shows that facsimile pages in general are being reduced quickly by electronic delivery of documents to the desktop or even via facsimile software. In many cases the end user never has to print out the document but only reviews it for information and content. The decision to add a fax board to a MFP device almost becomes a no brainer when configuring your new equipment.
A third decision is what I like to say, ” to scan or not to scan”. As we have fully moved into the digital age, I see more and more need for documents to be in digital format or transmitted in digital format and attached to emails. The ability to transfer documents in this manner has obviously led to the demise of the facsimile machine, but also allows the documents to be retained in a format that can be stored and retrieved as needed. I see more equipment being requested with the scan feature as customers realize the value in document movement and storage. It is not unusual to see customers not purchasing the scan feature and then within several months they are contacting us to see if we can add the option since their business processes have changed. I caution customers to not be short sighted when making the scanner decision.
The last decision is often based on whether or not the customer wants to print to the MFP device or send documents to a separate network printer. This is one area where the printer has often won over the end user because of convenience or proximity to the workstation. I believe if given a choice, every employee within a company would want a separate printer on their desk. The disadvantage to these separate printers is the higher cost of the page output and the increased number of devices in the office. With the current economic conditions, I have see companies taking a closer look at expenses and making a genuine attempt to reduce the fleet of printers and move more prints to MFP devices. In one case we have a healthcare facility that has mandated that the fleet be reduced by 50 printers per year over a five-year period. Think about that reduction of a total of 250 printers and the related cost reduction. This is a trend I see but only when the company is willing to make the sacrifice of cost over convenience. When the decision is made in favor of cost reduction we see better utilization of device management.
These are just a few of the many decisions and options that we have with today’s office technology products. On a personal note as I get older somehow I seem to get a little wiser. I find that it often pays to pay for a little more than you need today because tomorrow will come faster than you think and you will regret the price of tomorrow.