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Slash waste by taming printer chaos

Organizations enlisting managed print services find huge savings on paper and energy

January 19, 2010

Are you turning over every stone to find hidden savings? Procter & Gamble is, and it found millions of dollars -- all hidden under thousands of printers and copiers.

The Cincinnati-based consumer products company realized the savings after it hired a contractor to manage its global array of printing devices and the paper and ink cartridges they consume.

[ Taming printer waste is but one of Ted Samson's 2010 green-tech resolutions for businesses. | Keep up on the day's tech news headlines with InfoWorld's Today's Headlines: Wrap Up newsletter. ]

Using a managed print services (MPS) provider, as P&G did, is a way to consolidate, centralize and outsource management of your company's printing and copying functions. In return for paying a monthly fee to an MPS provider, you can cut printing and copying costs by 25 percent or more by leveraging economies of scale and rethinking how many printers you actually need.

Companies have been keen on the idea of copier/printer consolidation since multifunction peripherals were introduced. But MPS vendors such as Xerox, HP, and others have taken efficiency to the next level: Not only can they streamline printing and copying operations to help customers save money, but they claim that they can maximize worker productivity by monitoring what employees are printing, and where and when they're doing it, and then suggesting workflow and process improvements.

With 135,000 employees in 80 countries, P&G prints and copies millions of documents annually. In early 2008, those documents came from 45,000 individual devices -- copiers, printers, scanners and fax machines -- that were shared by just four employees each, on average.

[ Learn how 2009 Green 15 award winner P&G slashed travels costs -- and its carbon footprint -- with telepresence. ]

Offices were free to buy their own devices and supplies, a practice that "was absolutely not efficient," says Caroline Basyn, P&G's director of global business services. She proposed outsourcing printing at all 200 P&G sites to an MPS provider. "I want to manage this whole print fleet as if it was one printer," she says.

Basyn chose Xerox Office Services in September 2008, and P&G is on track to slim its printing and copying fleet from 45,000 devices to fewer than 10,000. Now there are an average of 15 employees using each device. With 65 sites outsourced so far, P&G has reduced printing costs by 27 percent, paper costs by 30 percent and energy costs by 40 percent, according to Xerox figures.

Though Basyn originally chose to go the MPS route to improve efficiencies and help digitize the company, the cost savings can't be ignored. Document printing and processing costs are typically equivalent to 3 percent to 5 percent of a company's revenue, according to Gartner. For P&G, that would put such costs as high as $3.8 billion in 2008.