Friday tech tip: three (increasingly severe) ways to reduce your printing costs

By: John McGarvey

Date: 18 October 2013

Laser printer probably about to break down{{}}

Look at it: every page a waste of money

Printing stuff out is expensive. You can spend a fortune on ink, toner and paper — not to mention the cost of buying the printer in the first place and getting it seen to when it (inevitably) goes wrong.

With research in 2010 finding that each employee in Europe prints an average of 31 pages a day, we don't blame you if you're trying to cut your printing costs. And for this Friday's tech tip, here are three options — from the obvious to the controversial:

1. Go double-sided, draft and greyscale

If you've ever investigated your printing costs before, you'll probably have done these three things already. If not, they can have a big impact on printing costs and waste.

For a start, make sure your printer is set to print in double-sided mode. This is sometimes called duplex printing, because printer companies love their jargon.

Also, find the draft setting and turn it on by default — this will use a lot less ink or toner, at the price of print quality that's ever so slightly worse than normal.

Finally, make sure your staff don't print in colour when they don't need to by setting the printer to greyscale.

(Incidentally, if you're in the market for a new printer, make sure you spend the extra for one that does double-sized printing as standard, without requiring you to turn the paper over manually. It's worth the extra expense.)

2. Implement a smart card system

Increasingly, companies are using smart printing systems to manage, track and control who prints what.

This usually means that once an employee has sent a document to the printer, they then have to walk to the printer and swipe their individual smart card to retrieve their printed document.

As well as reducing your overall costs and letting you track who prints what, this system should put an end to unwanted printouts lying on the printer.

3. Ban printing altogether

If your company has a chronic printing problem, it could be time to play hard ball by banning printing on certain days each week.

Think carefully before enforcing this though. It may be impractical to expect some employees to print nothing, even if it's just for a day.

I also once worked for a company that confiscated the printer power cables in an effort to restrict printing. Going by the amount of grumbling that took place that day, I think it's likely the resulting productivity dip more than neutralised any cost savings.

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