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Think smart, print smart

by Phil Jones

Today’s managers and company owners are faced with an interesting challenge when it comes to making their businesses more productive.

The traditional method for driving up office productivity was to put the onus on employees; make them work harder, longer hours and take responsibility for more workload. Over time, it’s been proved that this is not the way to retain, motivate and get the best out of your staff.

We’re currently in a period of almost full employment for skilled and qualified people working in the UK’s major sectors. This means that employees, quite rightly, have the ability to pick and choose their employer. More often than not, they are looking beyond salary alone and it’s the softer benefits that matter. Work life balance and flexible working arrangements will often do more to attract the best quality candidates than a company car and other financial incentives.

This means that employers need to look for new ways to drive up efficiency and improve productivity in their organisations. Technology has always been the first place to look – good systems that speed up business processes – but perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of company performance is printers, especially in SMEs.

Obviously, it’s important that as your business grows, your printer grows with you. Workers will get frustrated and lose time if they aren’t given the right tools for the job. Inkjet printers, for example, are ideal for small and home offices but, as workloads increase, a laser printer becomes a worthwhile investment.

However, there is more to printers than simply assessing print speed. In today’s low-carbon economy, as well as hardware and consumable costs, businesses need to also consider the environmental footprint of the products they buy, including energy consumption, paper reduction and end of life impact.

Printers are no longer dumb machines with a single function and, if used correctly, today’s smart printers can make day-to-day working more efficient, saving both time and money and contributing to a better planet.

Some printers can now accept data from USB flash drives. This allows documents, such as word files or PDFs, to be printed directly from such a device.
This is a great time saver for offices with mobile workers or for frequent travellers. When working on the move, often you are making last minute amendments to proposals or presentations and this allows you to print the final amended version, right at the last minute from a memory key, without the need for a printer driver or network attachment.
This saves piles of pre-printed versions potentially being put into the waste stream if further amendments are made on the fly and of course you having to carry them in the first place! If you travel regularly, you will know how difficult it is to access printers in hotels, so this new feature should set free a whole new army of "last minute" executives.
Modern multifunction printers have also been adapted to work seamlessly with email. By scanning a document direct to an email inbox, important documents can be communicated faster across multiple contacts.
Even if your company is keeping up with modern trends, this is no guarantee that you are feeling the benefits. Recent research conducted by Brother revealed that 86 percent of UK office workers haven’t been trained how to use their printer, meaning that many functions are simply lying dormant.
If you don’t believe me, look at any piece of printed office paper lying on your desk. If our research is correct, there’s a 94 percent chance that only one side of the paper has been used, despite the duplex feature being commonplace on most printers.
You don’t need a math’s degree to work out that training staff how to use duplex printing could cut your paper bill in half, as well as sending out the message that you are an environmentally aware business that doesn’t waste money or energy.
In 2008 Brother UK will be upping the ante by working closely alongside business customers, especially small to medium-sized businesses, to help them get the best from their machines and reduce their environmental footprints.