How to Calculate the True Cost of Printing Part 2

Track every cost in the printing process

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Today we follow up on the info-gathering we did yesterday about your printing systems to start assigning price tags. Well, you have to assign the price tags based on your actual costs, but we can help show you where to look for the escape routes your money is taking. Printing doesn't have to be expensive, but any uncontrolled process becomes a budget nightmare, and printing is no different. Control your cost of ownership and help your bottom line.

The first budget item? Hardware and software. Large companies worry about printer management software, but small companies usually just waste time trying to update print drivers for all the different printers they have. Yes, you must count time wasted fighting printer drivers as part of the cost of printing.

Hardware costs are easy for the big things, but tricky for the small ones. After you bought a printer, did you add extra paper trays or printer memory? Print servers? Internal hard disks? All those items count, so put them in your spreadsheet.

Speaking of printer drivers, do you track printer management time in general? Is there a person who spends a few hours per week wrangling printers? That time counts as well, because that person spends time supporting the business process of printing.

Part of the “printer wrangler” job description is to help train users to print. Sometimes the “training” is a couple of minutes showing a little tip, and sometimes it's hours trying to figure out what what's on the computer monitor doesn't come out on the paper. To be fair, the problem may be in the computer and not the printer, but the time spent is still part of the printing process.

Outside firms providing printer support and maintenance must be tracked. There's little or no reason to take out a support contract on a $100 personal printer, but plenty of reasons to cover a color laser with a duplex printing module that costs closer to a $1000. Guaranteed: the person who authorized printer maintenance doesn't track the expense in the same place as consumables.

And here we get to the big cost: consumables. Paper, and the ink to smear upon it, makes up the bulk of the consumables budget. Quite often, each department has their own consumables purchasing process and point person. Stop that now. Route all printing supplies purchases through a single person, and you will stop some waste immediately. When one person has to order similar but different ink jet cartridges for multiple similar but different personal printers, a workgroup printer may soon replace all those individual printers. Buy in bulk to save money and time.

Once you have all the costs on your spreadsheet, divide the total by all the printers, people, or output pages you gathered yesterday. Your number will be different from the company next door. The trick is to accept that number, then reduced it. Smart purchasing, management, and consumables controls will drop your price per page/printer/person by as much as half.

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