School & District Management

‘Costing Us a Fortune’

By Katie Ash — October 14, 2009 4 min read
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To lower costs, save paper, and use less energy, schools are moving away from desktop printers in favor of networked high-volume multifunction copiers that allow teachers and students to print, scan, and copy documents.

“The operating costs are much lower” for multifunction copiers, says Marlon Miller, the education-segment manager for the Norwalk, Conn.-based Xerox. They also print and copy documents faster and provide the ability to print on both sides of the paper, he says.

“We certainly understand the budget pressures in schools,” says Miller, who recommends streamlining most printer and copier jobs to multifunction machines.

In the 550-student Minocqua-Hazelhurst-Lake Tomahawk Elementary School District in Minocqua, Wis., individual desktop printers are no longer an option.

The district started by eliminating all inkjet printers, says Jay Christgau, the director of technology for the district. “They were costing us a fortune, so we started replacing those,” he says. And at the beginning of this school year, the district eliminated all laser printers, as well.

“Those individual printers are awful for energy use, even in sleep mode,” says Christgau. “That, coupled with a lot of unnecessary printing,” spurred the district’s decision.

Now, all teachers and students will print to one of five multifunction copiers, Christgau explains. He hopes that the inconvenience of having to retrieve the documents will make students and teachers think more carefully about their decision to print.

“Nobody likes to be inconvenienced, and nobody likes something taken away, but we have a commitment to trying to go green as much as is realistic,” he says. And so far, results have been largely positive. “We’ve gotten some good feedback in the community, and that has helped,” he says.

In his district, school officials are leasing to own their multifunction copiers. Over a period of five years, the cost per page for each copy works out to be about 1.7 cents for black and white and 7.5 cents for color copies, he says.That price includes the cost of the equipment and materials, the maintenance of the equipment, and the payments toward owning the copiers.

Typically, each black-and-white copy is less than one cent, says Christgau, without any other factors included.

In comparison, an individual printer usually runs about 2 to 3 cents per page for black and whiteand 15 cents per page for color pages, says Miller, from Xerox, not including any other expenses.

A Good First Step

But that solution may not work for some districts, says Mike Dane, the vice president of product and services marketing for the Malvern, Pa.-based IKON Office Solutions.

“The opportunity is there to consolidate volume” by moving from individual printers to a multifunction copier, he says. “But you can’t just take the printers off everybody’s desks and add them to a multifunction printer.”

A good first step is to take stock of how many printers and copiers are in use and how many documents each printer or copier produces, says Dane. Then school administrators can evaluate what a realistic solution may look like for that particular school and strike a balance between cost and convenience, he says.

Jay Smith, the director of managed services for New York City-based Toshiba, says that new advancements in multifunction copiers have made them more secure and private than previous versions.

“The technology on the multifunction [machine] allows teachers to ... print from their classroom, and the print job stays on the server until they release it,” by swiping an identification badge or typing a password, he says. That technology ensures that if sensitive documents are being printed, they will not be left on the print tray, waiting to be picked up. Instead, the documents will only print after the teacher has verified that he or she is the one using the copier.

“It’s really a balance between privacy and availability,” says Smith.

Monitoring Copier Use

But the first step in reducing printing and copying costs is to put a strategy in place to monitor copier usage and performance, says Rod Davis, the founder and president of the Boise, Idaho-based Optimizon, a vendor-neutral consulting firm that works with school districts to negotiate copier and printer costs.

“You need to establish criteria so that the vendor and the vendor’s equipment and delivery of service can be measured objectively,” he says. Once the performance criteria have been set, costs will inevitably come down, says Davis.

School officials also need to systematically gather information about what printing and copying devices are on their network, how often they are used, when they require maintenance, and whether they are meeting the district’s expectations, says Ethan Davis, Optimizon’s vice president of marketing.

“Most districts don’t have the data they need when they go into the decisionmaking process surrounding copiers and printers,” he says. “Without the exact information, it’s tough to make good decisions at a district level.”

A version of this article appeared in the October 21, 2009 edition of Digital Directions as ‘Costing Us a Fortune’

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