Your Reproductive System

The Choice Is Yours

For most business workgroup purposes, a sub-$3,000 copier will suffice. Narrowing down the options will require some thought. On the one hand, you don't want to spend more than you have to, but on the other hand, you don't want to invest in a machine that will be inadequate for your needs.

One of the first considerations is how many copies per month you'll be making. Make a generous estimate and pad it with room for growth if you see some business expansion in your future. If you figure you're going to run off about 200 copies per day, then you can figure about 6,000 per month. Next, match that up with the listed monthly duty cycle for copiers that interest you. Be aware that manufacturers are notorious for inflating duty-cycle numbers, so always aim for well over your estimate. Back to our example, you would minimally want a copier with a 10,000-page duty cycle. Working a copier harder than what it's designed to handle increases the chances of it breaking down and requiring service. Most digital multifunction copiers don't list duty cycles.

Speed is another factor to consider. Warm-up time, time to first copy and CPM all come into play. The Sharp DM2000 Network Laser, for example, takes 7.2 seconds to spit out the first copy, while the analog Xerox 5818 takes 6 seconds. But the Xerox has a 100-second warm-up time-which doesn't sound too terrible until you find yourself standing around waiting for the machine to get ready. And despite the high-end Kyocera Mita DC-6500's 480-second warm-up time, the big analog machine only needs a scant 2.8 seconds to produce the first copy.

Once you and your copier are ready to go, you'll want to consider copy speed. If you're used to 6 or 8 ppm output from an inkjet printer or multi-function machine, you'll enjoy the minimum 20 CPM these copiers do. Those speed-demon statistics carry over if your copier doubles as a network printer.

Some other features to consider include duplexing capability, sorting options and memory. Duplexing is an advanced feature that's available as an option on some lower-end copiers, and it comes standard on the Kyocera Mita DC-6500. Most digital copiers come equipped with memory that can be upgraded. The Sharp DM2000 comes equipped with 8MB memory, expandable to 136MB.

Traditionally, copiers have been purchased from local office supply dealers through the normal sales-person format. Most of the smaller workgroup machines can now be found through online retailers and even at the occasional office super-store. One-on-one contact through a local seller still offers some advantages when it comes to such a major hardware purchase. The more complex machines typically are bought along with a service contract to handle any repair problems that arise. But many buyers are now relying entirely on the manufacturer's warranty. Read over the warranty terms to see how long you'll be without a copier if repairs are needed.

And don't forget paper, ink, drums and cartridges. Yum, consumables-parts that require refills or replacements. This is also where most of your operating expenses will come from. Always check the cost of supplies before you buy. One interesting purchasing option comes from the Ricoh online store. For $4,580, you can purchase the Aficio 180 in a package that includes one year of service and supplies. Other online stores may offer similar deals.

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This article was originally published in the March 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Your Reproductive System.

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