January 14, 2010, 1:08 PM — Once companies start counting their pennies spent printing, they often overreact to what they find. Goodness, they say to themselves, printing costs money, so let's stop printing completely. Oops. A reaction like that will cost you much more than you spend printing. The trick is to figure out what not to print, like e-mail, reports, and memos.
The old stereotype of executives who demanded their secretaries print their e-mail so they could read it should be filed under “funny history stories” by now. Not because all executives have gotten beyond that, but because there are far fewer traditional secretaries, and execs like to prove they're cool by reading e-mail on a Blackberry. Printing from a Blackberry takes too much work.
That said, many people do still print out e-mail for safekeeping, CYA with paper, or old habits. Try and stop that in your company. You often find those people have personal printers so they can hide their paper addiction. Encourage everyone to save e-mail digitally in a searchable and shareable place on your network, which is another series of columns in itself. The easiest way to get them to stop printing e-mail? Teach them how to search past messages to find the information they need, so they won't keep filling up filing cabinets with printed e-mail.
Reports consume huge amounts of paper in some companies. If you really want to track some waste, follow each printout to it's destination. I guarantee you'll watch some reports go straight into the recycle bin without being touched.
Start printing reports to PDF and making those files available on a shared folder at best, or via e-mail at worst. Beware sending PDF reports to people who print their e-mail. Data in reports will be found and referenced far more often when in PDF format than on paper, once employees understand the advantages of digital printing over wasting reams of paper.
Finally, memos. Does your company still hand out paper memos? If so, rethink that practice. Does the company encourage employees to keep memos, but provides no memo database easily accessed by all? That just encourages memo printing. Send memos by e-mail, provide shared storage for memos for reference, and cut down the cost of useless printing.
Yes, printing costs money. However, printing the right things at the right time positively impacts your company and your clients. Senseless printing is stupid and wasteful. Smart printing leads to better informed employees and more responsive customers.