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BLOG: Unlocking the true value of print

Lee Lee Ken | Nov. 8, 2011
The Managed Print Services market in Asia Pacific is growing rapidly, at double digit rates.

Managed Print Services (MPS) is a business model that allows companies to control their print infrastructure, rationalise the hardware they use, and take advantage of ongoing service level agreements with a strategic partner. Prior to creating an MPS solution, consultants will examine the overall lifecycles of business documents – from creation to disposal or archiving – in order to select the most appropriate printing technology and services for a specific company’s needs and processes.

The MPS market in Asia Pacific is growing rapidly, in some cases with growth rates as high as double digits. In emerging economies like China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia, MPS is expected to see rapid growth in the next five years. Albeit at a declining rate, mature markets such as Australia, South Korea and Singapore will also continue to see growth. 
 
As a professional response to corporate printing needs, MPS can create value that extends beyond purely saving cost. MPS is a delivery mechanism for printing specialists to share best practice in supplies management, strategic consultancy, and the ongoing support and optimisation of the infrastructure.

The approach: Processes beyond print

As with any outsourcing agreement, the more integrated the business partner is with its customer, the more streamlined processes become. In the case of MPS, the relationship can include:

•    An optimised output strategy – looking at the print requirements of a business and designing a solution, geared towards printing less
•    Total visibility of cost – so expenditure is transparent and there are no financial surprises
•    Proactive and reactive services – combining supplies management with support services
•    Cradle to grave asset management – ensuring the health of the printer estate
•    Management information and reporting – to demonstrate, in detail, printing habits across the organisation, down to the individual
•    Continuous Improvement Program – to ensure the most efficient print infrastructure and the most suitable technology is in play.

But what are the hidden benefits – key business issues that can often go unnoticed or uncontrolled – that MPS addresses?

1.    Workflow optimisation

The term ‘MPS’ encompasses much more than just a managed fleet of printers. Before a solution is implemented, the business processes are examined, and a response designed to fit exactly with the business needs. Often, printers have company software embedded in them that is tailored to fit the workflow. A credit card company, for example, might receive online applications that need to be printed multiple times, with different copies needing to be sent, faxed or e-mailed to different departments. An embedded software solution would see the whole process being controlled from the touchscreen of the printer or MFP, with much of the process automated.

2.    Infrastructure rationalisation

When a company starts an MPS project, the first thing they notice is often how much can be saved in hardware. While many organisations are concerned with having enough printers with enough features for all staff, there is little focus on what is really needed and why. It might be that multiple devices could be replaced by MFPs, or that colour printers could be replaced by black and white in cases where colour isn’t critical. It’s also important to review form factor and how it relates to the working environment. With an outsourced printing environment, these factors can be continually monitored and tuned to meet the needs of the business’s printing infrastructure.

3.    Management of waste

MPS allows businesses to leave planning and operation of the printing estate to the experts, enabling a consistent approach to toner and printer type, for example. At the same time, workflow and infrastructure are rationalised and optimised to mean the right functionality and features are available to get the right jobs done. This ensures that there is little wastage, with control of printing resources right down to the employee level.

4.    Security

Depending on industry or customers, a company may have differing needs or levels when it comes to document security. For example, banks or law firms may be legally required to keep certain documents secure. In these cases, printers are fitted with card readers or keypads so the printouts are accessible only by employees with the correct permission. Another example may be to ensure print jobs not printed within a certain time are wiped from the print queue.

5.    Control of supplies

One by-product of multiple types, formats and brands of printers in an organisation is the amount of different inks, toner and paper that a company needs to store. When printing is approached centrally, this issue can be reduced through rationalisation of equipment, but also through the just-in-time delivery of supplies. Imagine the scenario: A printer is low on toner. What happens in your office now? An operations assistant or user will need to go to the stockroom and hunt for the right replacement cartridge, replace it and then – if they think of it – return the cartridge to the manufacturer for recycling or remanufacturing. In the case of MPS, cartridges can be proactively delivered at the point they empty and even fitted by a support technician. In this instance, productivity wasn’t affected and the business can continue to operate with minimal disruption.

The result: Supporting business without borders

One key aspect of modern business is the distributed nature of working. Large organisations have offices in numerous different countries and time zones, which presents technical issues when managing the technology estate.

With MPS, a global printer estate can be treated as just that – one worldwide network. As a result, IT management can have visibility of the health of the network, and supplies, at any time. And as employees travel throughout the network – from office to office or country-to-country – one single MPS solution can ensure that, whatever office the employee works from, the ability to print is immediate and seamless.

Businesses are striving to provide flexible working for employees, while maintaining control of all assets, cut costs and streamline processes. As technology evolves and employees begin to expect a more organised approach to IT, MPS is already playing a large part.

The writer is general manager, Lexmark Asia Pacific.

 

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