When companies are searching for a competitive edge, they usually don't start with their office printing. But with some surprisingly easy measures, organizations of all sizes can improve their printing practices to increase productivity, save money and lower their environmental impact.
Modest improvements in a printer fleet's energy efficiency can trim your company's power bill, for example. Double-sided printing is a simple way to conserve thousands of pages of paper. And versatile multifunction devices can streamline workflows, boosting efficiency.
Knowing where to begin is often the hardest part. Many companies don't have a full grasp of how their current printing affects the bottom line, let alone their environmental footprint.
By following a simple three-step process, you can get insight into what's working -- and not -- with your office printing, set clear goals, and put an action plan in motion.
Step One: Assess Your Printing Products and Practices
Start by taking stock of printing across your company, with the aim of establishing a performance baseline. Form a team and include your IT manager, office manager, key decision makers and colleagues who are environmentally minded. Your success will also depend on getting support from your company's principal or management team.
In your assessment, look at both people and infrastructure. Study employee behaviors -- such as triggers for printing, device preferences, and how supplies and equipment are recycled -- and attitudes, such as whether they're concerned about the environmental impact of printing. Knowing how your workforce prints today will offer clues for focusing your efforts and managing the changes to come.
It's also important to audit your organization's printing and imaging equipment. Track which printers meet eco-label criteria, such as Energy Star in the U.S. Count the different devices needed to print, fax, copy and scan. Figure out the ratio of users to each printer -- chances are, you have devices that can handle a bigger load than they currently have.
Once you've gathered this information, develop a clear picture of the environmental impact of your printing. Leveraging tools like a carbon footprint calculator can help you quantify your paper use, energy consumption, carbon footprint and costs associated with printing.
Step Two: Test Your Thinking and Set Goals
Use the environmental snapshot of your office printing to zero in on areas for improvement and set priorities. Examine how each potential change will affect your business to understand whether it makes sense. Use online tools to help you quickly compare the estimated costs and environmental impact of replacing a single printer, consolidating workgroup printing stations or updating an entire fleet.