Save Resources by Printing Materials as Needed Instead of in Bulk

The average business unknowingly spends one to three percent of its revenue on printing, a 2011 IDC study sponsored by Xerox found. The Government Accountability Office likewise discovered most federal agencies waste $440.4 million a year on unnecessary printing, prompting the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative for Print Management to launch its PrintWise program in 2011. Such efforts by government agencies, private enterprises and advocacy groups have identified ways organizations can cut costs and promote greener policies by reducing printing. Printing on demand instead of in bulk sits high on the list of ways companies can trim waste.

Sources of Extra Printing Costs

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions recently identified common patterns inflating printing costs, using the GSA's survey as a case study. Employees reported throwing away 35 percent of 7,200 pages printed annually. Few agencies encouraged two-sided printing or limited color usage. Additional wastes included using high-resolution excessively, using printer-inefficient fonts, failing to pool printer resources, and leaving printers on over weekends.

Another problem is printing extra physical documents. For instance, in 2011, the U.S. House and Senate introduced legislation to restrict the Government Printing Office from printing more legislative documents than needed for archiving. Senators Tom Coburn and Herb Kohl estimated reducing Congressional Record printing could cut costs by $8 million a year.

Studying parallel problems in the private sector, Xerox traced the root cause to lacking a print management strategy. Common symptoms include not tracking printing costs and buying new printing equipment without checking if existing resources are adequate.

The Print-on-Demand Solution

In the publishing industry, where printing costs are paramount, one solution companies have turned to is print-on-demand (POD). The traditional publishing practice of producing large print runs ahead of sales, incurring enormous costs from shipping and returning unsold items. POD reduces this expense by keeping books in digital format until copies have been ordered.

This is the same type of inventory control system retail chains such as Walmart have used successfully, and as this illustrates, the model works well across multiple industries. For instance, MetLife Retirement Savings has reduced its printing costs for 401(k) enrollment kits by 25 percent through POD. Any type of business printing potentially lends itself to POD, from business card printing to creating standard forms to catalog production. Choosing a printing provider that follows green paper practices can further leverage POD.

Guidelines for Cutting Printing Costs

POD works best as part of an overall print management strategy. PrintWise recommends seven basic steps to start cutting printing costs. Setting printer defaults to duplex can cut waste in half. Using grayscale will reduce color costs. Printing in draft when high resolution is not required will save ink. Removing personal desktop printers encourages resource sharing. Freezing new purchases reinforces printer pooling. Using sleep mode conserves power costs. Finally, using toner-efficient fonts, such as Times New Roman, Century Gothic or Garamond, instead of Arial, can cut printing costs by as much as 30 percent, the GSA has found.

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