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6 Questions to Ask About Your Printing Setup That Could Save Money Those office devices you don't give much thought to may actually be a drain on your resources.

By Dan Waldinger

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In the past, IT was often viewed as a cost center. But today's IT professionals are business-savvy executives responsible for bottom-line results. They are important members of the corporate management team, tasked with improving productivity and efficiency. However, many CIOs may be surprised to find a significant business loss caused by their own departments.

For example, a CIO at a company with 500 employees can potentially recover more than $100,000 per year, according to our study, by asking six key questions and making simple changes that often require zero development costs. They're easy fixes that many IT professionals may be overlooking.

Related: Sneaky Recurring Contracts: 10 Common Ways Your Business Is Getting Overcharged

How does your company compare? Run through these questions and find out.

1. Approximately what percentage of your workflow is paperless?

A self-assessment tool for small-to-medium business users offered by Brother International Corporation has shown that paper is still critical to business operations in most industries. On average, only 36 percent of respondents are utilizing paperless workflow.

While paper will likely never go away entirely, businesses can utilize technology to help reduce the paper, increase efficiency and minimize printing-related costs. To potentially do this, consider adopting electronic document capture and sharing, enabling mobile-based printing and scanning, leveraging cloud-based services and moving to sustainable/"green" printing.

2. Do you currently utilize output management software to help secure, redirect or track print jobs in your office?

The data collected from the Brother self-assessment tool shows that only 19 percent of businesses are making use of these valuable tools. Output management software can help you control costs and reduce paper usage. An InfoTrends whitepaper titled "Device Underuse and Unbalanced Fleets" reports that organizations can maximize cost savings and productivity through print management/cost recovery solutions to automate a range of print, copy and scan tasks, including activity tracking, cost allocation, quota setting/enforcement, secure printing, job redirect and reporting.

Industry-specific solutions are also available. For example, healthcare organizations can deploy software that securely integrates printers with electronic medical records or claims management systems, enabling jobs to be properly transmitted to the appropriate repositories.

3. How many pages does your organization print per month?

InfoTrends research shows a steady decline in printing, which can be attributed to a number of factors. Many employees choose to work from smartphones and tablets rather than from printed documents. Most print jobs are now five pages or fewer, and the decline in print volumes will persist as more operations move from paper to digital. This knowledge can translate into big savings for your organization.

Here's a trick to aid in improving your bottom line: Many multifunction printers are capable of printing at least 100,000 pages per month. However, many businesses typically print no more than 10,000 pages per month. For businesses committed to a common 100,000-page per month contract, this 90 percent underutilization wastes valuable capital. Determine your organization's print volume and recalibrate to match the needs and help curb the monthly losses.

Related: 10 Essential Startup Expenses, and 10 You Should Avoid

4. Which best describes your current printing environment?

It is printers for every desktop; a mix of desktop printers, shared printers and standalone copiers; or primarily a shared standalone printer/copier?

The ideal solution is a mix of desktop printers, shared printers and standalone copiers. Current Brother self-assessment results show that 18 percent of companies provide a printer for each employee and 25 percent have a mix. However, more than half (57 percent) rely on a shared standalone printer/copier -- a strategy that may kill productivity and hurt the bottom line.

5. What is the approximate number of printers and printer/copiers in use at your company?

To optimize productivity, maintain a worker-to-device ratio of approximately eight to one. A survey conducted by Clarus Research Group reveals that workers with more shared printers are also more digitally engaged. A greater number of these respondents say their companies encourage the use of digital documents, use multiple screens, find reading on screen easier, use more mobile devices than they used to and are more environmentally conscious.

Those that have centralized printers are more than two times more likely to say their company printers take too long to finish printing jobs. But just adding more printers won't solve your challenges.

6. What's the average distance an employee needs to walk to use a standalone printer/copier?

Printer placement is the most critical step in maximizing your cost savings. InfoTrends data shows that poor allocation of office devices is a drain to corporate profits, wasting more than 4,000 hours and nearly $130,000 per year in long walks to and from copiers and printers. The solution? Make sure you have one printer within 25 feet of every workgroup.

The Clarus survey shows that trips to the printer can also be a significant drain on productivity. Non-work conversations at the printer are 98 percent more likely to result in stops to other colleagues' desks to chat about personal things, but only 28 percent more likely to chat about work.

In fact, 61 percent of employees have conversations at the copier/printer vs. just 31 percent who have conversations at the water cooler. This wasted time could be costly to SMBs. As the CIO, you can easily mitigate these business losses with more appropriate device allocation.

Many IT leaders overlook office devices when optimizing for cost and efficiency. If your company is like most, your printers may be too big, too far away and too expensive. A balanced deployment strategy the results in right-sizing your printer fleet can help you save time and money, and it's surprisingly easy.

A number of free resources are available to guide you through the process and help improve the bottom line. For a more in-depth assessment of your organization's challenges, along with custom recommendations, use the free Brother self-service assessment tool.

Related: Broken Tech: Should You Fix it or Replace it? (Infographic)

Dan Waldinger

Director of Marketing, Brother International

Dan Waldinger is the director, services and solutions marketing, for Brother International Corporation. With more than 25 years of industry experience, Waldinger leads the Brother SMB initiative, Don't Supersize, Optimize. Under his leadership, Brother provides resources, self-assessment tools and solutions for SMBs to help reduce document-related costs and increase efficiencies.

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