Vendor focus

Maturing MFPs, colour printing market

Express changes in the corporate printing market are leading to increased awareness and use of such technologies as managed print services and smaller, more intelligent multi-function printers (MFPs), according to analyst firm Gartner.

 

Customers are also looking for ways to improve their business processes all in an effort to increase and drive up productivity. Up to half of knowledge workers’ time could be spent printing and looking for documents. This is an area where resellers could come in and cultivate significant business opportunities by offering solutions that meet the challenges that big or small clients faced in the printing arena.

 

There has been concerns about the cost of hardware, paper, and consumables, as well as the move to adopt green, or environmentally-friendly technologies, is combining with falling print volumes to drive customers to adopt new printing technologies.

 

Colour printing

 

For resellers that are selling printers, MFPs, consumables or managed print services, assisting organisations to take control of their printing environments is one of the most effective ways to manage costs and lower TCO.

 

Printing hardware costs on the other hand are rapidly declining, especially on the colour side where the average sales price of a printer is predicted to fall at a cumulative annual rate of 15.8 percent from 2001 to 2011, according to Gartner.

 

And while the declining costs of printing hardware may spell lost revenue for resellers in the short-term, over a long-term period this could lead to more opportunities for earning recurring revenues especially on the consumables side of the printing business.

 

Dan Smith, General Manager for Integrated Marketing at Xerox MEA, says with prices on colour printing devices continuing to come down, now – more than ever before, this is the time for solution providers to help businesses to break with old habits and learn how easy and economical it is to create quality in-house colour brochures, presentations and marketing collaterals. “At last, cost savings and colour printing are no longer mutually exclusive,” he says.

 

Smith says many technological advances are making in-house printing a viable option for businesses of all sizes, but two in particular are making it a reality: cost and supporting software and drivers. This, says Smith, is an area where solution providers and resellers need to explore. Today, it’s more affordable than ever to buy a colour printer that produces vibrant colour documents,” he says. “Desktop colour laser printers are available for less than US$350. Solid ink printers, which produce brilliant colour prints, can be used with almost any type of media and are friendly to the environment, start at $699 and, new high-yield cartridges that provide more toner at a lower cost per page make it more affordable to use colour printers.”

 

Kabeer Madhil, Sales Manager at Century Computers, a dubai based solution provider and HP Preferred Partner specialising in IPG solutions, says while the hardware printing costs are coming down and the adoption of colour printing environment (in corporate, SME, home) continues to grow, customers are more and more concerned about the cost of colour.

 

Madhil says although majority of documents are still printed in monochrome, the documents which are printed in colour account for larger chunks of the printing costs in corporate or SME environments. “While the declining of hardware printing costs means less margins for solution providers in the short term, pushing colour printing and consumables is still a viable business for savvy resellers,” he says.

 

Managed print Services

 

Deploying managed print services (MPS) is a strategic priority for companies looking to uncover new ways to save money, according to a recent survey undertaken by research and analysis company Quocirca and co-sponsored by Xerox Corporation.

 

Nearly 70% of survey respondents say better management of their print infrastructure is a strategic imperative, with cost savings driving the MPS investment. Even during the economic recession, more than 90% say they will continue with plans to deploy MPS to reduce the cost of printing, sharing and updating documents.

 

“The survey findings support the fact that the economic downturn is actually raising the profile for the cost savings potential that comes with MPS,” says Stephen Cronin, president, Xerox Global Services. “Now more than ever, companies are calling on Xerox as a player in the MPS market to proactively manage print output and spur growth by giving back valuable employee time.”

 

Cecile Drew, a principal research analyst at Gartner, says that customers are looking for ways to take advantage of MPS to cut costs.

 

Drew defines managed print services as a series of steps for cutting print costs, including an assessment of a company’s current fleet of devices and printing requirements, technology and processes to optimise the management of that fleet, break-fix and management services, management of the hardware and consumables, and training.

 

The first is to create a strong corporate governance environment. Drew says a company needs to establish a clear, defined purpose for working with third-party service or managed printing solution provider. They also need to specify a new organisational structure, making it clear who is responsible for what, and establish metrics to measure the effectiveness of the managed print services.

 

The second, Drew says, is to carefully manage the transition to managed print services. This includes designing a plan for evolving the technology, communicating the benefits of adopting such services, and implementing clear knowledge transfer plans to get new employees up to speed as quickly as possible.

 

The third best practice is holistic management of the service. This includes looking at how to handle differences between offices in multiple geographies; how to monitor the activities across the entire fleet of printing devices; and implementing a global IT strategy taking into account data management, process automation, product refresh

strategies, and outsourcing strategies, she says.

 

Sami Jaarah, Sales Manager at Dubai-based Green Point Computers, a solution provider specialising in printers, tonners and cartridge business, says although MPS is still in the early stages in the Middle East region, there has been a lot of interest in this arena.

 

Jaarah says more clients are signing contracts on the supplies side as this takes away the worry of them having to budget for consumables costs.

 

Jaarah says more companies in the region are turning to rented printing solutions as it is a cheaper option for them than managing their own print budgets in-house. “There has been a lot of interest from smaller clients to rent a printer or MFP with us servicing and providing consumables,” he says.

 

MFPs

 

Printing is changing for the better. Newer colour printers and MFPs are faster; they’re loaded with more features and capabilities; and they are making environmental breakthroughs.

 

With colour printing making significant inroads, another technology to watch is smart MFPs. Smart MFPs, unlike traditional MFPs, are programmable and customisable for customers’ specific requirements, and use software applications to allow such services as charge-back, automated workflow, and the ability to scan to directly to a folder, an ERP system, to an enterprise content management system, to email, or to a fax server.

 

The advances made in A4 multifunction products (MFPs) – together with corporate environmental and efficiency drives – could be leading to the demise of the traditional A3 office copier, according to printing solutions provider Lexmark International.

 

Increased awareness and concerns about environmental issues, combined with the economic downturn, have led many companies to analyse IT hardware budgets and their devices’ energy output. As an example, the European Commission aims to reduce carbon emissions from Information Technology by 20% in the next ten years, as well as achieving a 20% increase in energy efficiency.

 

“Many companies have more printers and copiers than they actually require, and many need to consolidate their hardware to save on energy, space and costs,” says Mohammed Addarrat, GM at Lexmark Middle East. “A3 copiers in particular have become a casualty due to their actual, and carbon, footprint. Multifunction products have caught up with them in terms of functionality, performance and energy output.”

 

Addarrat adds that Lexmark is committed to helping customers work productively while printing less and saving more. The Lexmark X658 monochrome laser MFP family, for example, enables companies to save up to 25% on the total cost of ownership compared with an A3 copier. “Many companies still feel they have a need for A3 copying, particularly in departments like research and development,” says Addarrat. “However, across the organisation’s footprint, IT departments must work toward the right balance between A4 and A3 MFPs to achieve the most environmentally conscious, and most business efficient, printing.”

 

Lexmark’s A4 MFPs have been designed to cater to business user needs – and dealers are referring to them as "copier killers." A3 use is dwindling because the MFPs can offer the same functionality – at about half the price.

 

Xerox’s Smith agrees and says in addition to the physical advances of the printers themselves, a plethora of software also makes it easier and less expensive than ever for businesses to their own rich marketing materials and other deliverables. Driver features for booklet printing and automatic two-sided (duplex) printing means long reports and a variety of office applications are done right the first time – saving time and money.

 

Smith adds that for those resellers with an eye for colour, selling Pantone-certified printers will allow their end-users to match output to Pantone colours, and an array of colour controls – from hands-off to advanced options. When combining such supporting software with the improved technology in printers and multifunctional devices, it’s easy to produce materials that make a big impression at a low cost.

 

John Ross, GM, Middle East, India, North East Africa at OKI Printing Solutions says the MC160n is ideally designed for the small office, home office (SOHO) users under tight space and cost constraints looking to achieve more with less. “Within its highly compact design, the new MC160n is a cost-effective and competitive solution which brings true multi-functionality within reach of micro business and SOHO users,” he says. “Many businesses in this market have an occasional need to print in colour, for example when preparing invoices or printing letterheads.”

 

Going Green

 

As part of OKI’s broader commitment to developing more environmentally-friendly printing solutions, the MC160n has secured Energy Star compliance. This according to the vendor is a US Government-supported programme targeted at businesses and individuals and designed to protect the environment through improved energy efficiency.

 

At the same time, Ross says MC160n customers will also benefit from OKI’s three-year warranty, for which purchasers simply have to register on-line. “In summary, the new MC160n provides an attractive desktop MFP solution for busy small businesses looking to improve efficiencies and save money,” he says.

 

Lexmark’s Addarrat adds that aside from consolidation considerations, companies are becoming more and more aware and concerned about the impact of technology usage on the environment.

 

As increased awareness and concerns about environmental issues, combined with the economic downturn, continue to be top of the agenda for most companies, resellers that grow their expertise in this area are likely to win more business and deals. As many companies are analysing IT hardware budgets and their devices’ energy output, it is vital that resellers in the Middle East understand their customer needs. Doing so will give them the much needed competitive advantage.

 

Rapid changes in the printing market are leading to increased awareness and use of such technologies as managed print services and smaller more intelligent MFPs. Printing hardware costs are rapidly declining, especially on the colour side leaving solution providers to seek new business opportunities that bring in recurring revenue like the consumables business. RWME?s Manda Banda investigates.

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