Steve Lee, Director, Information Systems & Communications, Rosauers Supermarkets
Managed print services have been around for some time now and a lot has changed since they were first offered. There have been a lot of growing pains, but we are starting to see more mature offerings in the programs that are available today.
About 6 years ago, we moved our company away from an in-house, hot swap depot exchange for all of our printers to a vendor specific, managed print services offering. That move revolutionized how we spent our time and managed printers and scanners within our organization.
With 22 remote locations and a corporate office managing over 300 printing and scanning devices, we had our hands full supporting the organization. For our business, implementing a good MPS program gave us a much better way to support our needs.
We found several advantages to implementing an MPS program. The biggest was the cost savings of outsourcing the labor and logistics of managing the printer fleet. While MPS programs are not in-expensive, if you have several locations that are geographically separated, there can be a significant cost savings when support, labor and logistics are factored into the cost of operating the program.
Another advantage is that most MPS programs have cloud or centralized monitoring for devices that are connected. This monitoring, when configured properly, can facilitate the automatic re-order of supplies and alert teams of upcoming maintenance needs. Centralized access also facilitates fleet visibility and management tools for connected devices.
MPS programs offer other benefits like business analytics. Centralized data capture allows for reporting on key deliverables like cost per page that go down to the device level. Many organizations struggle to find the time to utilize these features, but for those looking to reduce costs, MPS analytics can give you ways to track cost reduction initiatives relating to printing.
Challenge your MPS team to help define and develop the best solutions for your organization and check references to validate what you think you’ve learned about them
With any program there are also challenges that need to be addressed. Some of the challenges with MPS programs include the support and service for devices within the program. If you have remote locations, it would be important to talk with vendors about service level agreements (SLA’s) for sites that are harder to get to. Most offer next or 2-day turn around for on-site service.
Other challenges include the support model for MPS programs. To keep costs low, many vendors outsource support to foreign locations. This can lead to user frustration for some as they work through language barriers and support technicians who walk them through time consuming troubleshooting trees. When working with an MPS sales team, ask about those types of details so that you have the proper expectation of what to expect and can communicate that to those using the program. When working with a vendor, it is also important to have a dedicated advocate who is familiar with your business assigned to your account. They can be key in escalating issues and helping to overcome hurdles that are encountered.
Another challenge is centrally managing all of the devices in the fleet. Most programs require network connectivity in order to participate in auto replenishment programs. Staying on top of devices that “fall off ” active monitoring is important to assure that the flow of supplies isn’t disrupted. Some program requirements are stricter than others so it is important to ask what that looks like from the MPS team beforehand.
When considering an MPS program, companies will often times have the choice between leasing and purchasing the devices that will be in the program. There are once again advantages and disadvantages to both options. One example is that devices that have lower use can be stretched to a longer life and make purchasing the devices more economical. Leasing can stretch out those up-front costs and provide a better “upgrade” path when the lease for a device comes due. A hidden down side to owning the devices is the disposal costs for retired units. Those looking to be environmentally friendly may want to research how this can be tackled under an MPS program being considered.
Some of the newer developments in MPS programs include offerings from companies that can provide solutions that are brand independent. Initial programs were developed, supported and run by manufactures. Some of those models created challenges for manufacturers trying to take all of those offerings on. Those challenges have lead the way to hybrid and outsourced models where third parties handle the support side of an MPS programs. The up and down side to this including better service and support with an offset of higher overall costs for the program with another vendor being involved. Doing your homework on these details will help set you up for what to expect and success.
We have found a great deal of success over the years with an MPS solution in place. Take your time to find the right solution partner and then work with them to develop a standardized approach for the organization. Find ways to address the business needs and then replicate those throughout the organization. Challenge your MPS team to help define and develop the best solutions for your organization and check references to validate what you think you’ve learned about them. You could find it makes a tremendous difference in your operations.