A large percentage of calls from customers to corporate service desks have always been related to toner and toner cartridges, primarily those used in printers. While toner hardly deserves the same level of attention you pay to your server farm or datacentre, it can still represent a substantial expense and logistics burden. When I looked more closely at this barely visible and poorly understood aspect of IT infrastructure, I found that most organizations don’t have a good grasp of what’s going on, and even fewer have made any significant effort toward optimization. This is especially surprising since proactive “consumables management”, as it is often called, is not complex, requires little or no investment and presents numerous low-hanging-fruit opportunities to reduce administration and cost, streamline operations, and increase printer uptime and print service delivery. Here is the scenario typical of most organizations I've looked at: most don’t know how much they are spending on toner, and because they have no idea how much they are really using, they invariably over-buy and stockpile the toner on shelves or in cupboards somewhere, with little knowledge of, or regard for, expiry dates. Toner cartridges are often bought by individual departments, or even individual users, and quite often when they are urgently needed, so premium prices are paid for the convenience of getting them quickly at a local retail outlet and with little consideration for possible tradeoffs around yield (i.e., number of pages that can be printed) and price, for example. The cost is often charged to a credit card and, just as often, that cost is lumped in with other items and thus not separately identifiable from other departmental operating expenses. Does any of this seem familiar? How about your organization? Can you honestly answer “yes” to the following questions?
- Do you have good visibility over all toner purchases?
- Is the right toner being chosen (e.g., compatibility, yield, environmental)?
- Do you know who is buying the toner and who is using it?
- Does your process ensure that users don’t purchase toner themselves?
- Do you know all the places where toner is being stockpiled?
- Is your toner inventory managed rather than happening on an ad-hoc basis?
- Do you know how much you’re spending on toner?
- Are you getting the best possible prices?
In my experience, businesses that engage a managed print services (MPS) partner have an easier time solving the problem of ad hoc and inefficient toner purchases. Most MPS providers have remote management tools and processes to proactively track print devices and toner requirements. No need to contact the service desk, devices never run out of toner, a more predictable cost model and staff don’t have to order toner or manage printers. I’d love to know how you manage your toner requirements. Post a comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.