From the Editor: A Fleeting Opportunity
A few years ago, while busy putting out fires and keeping the presses running in his in-plant, a manager got a call from his boss. The CFO had received an email, she said, and he wanted the manager to respond to it.
“I work for a firm that represents a copier-audit company,” it began, and went on to explain how the company had saved more than $1 million for a university and could potentially do the same at this organization by reviewing its copier and printer agreements.
Though the company asserted it was “not a copier company” the approach was strangely reminiscent of the way copier companies pitch their ability to assess your organization’s MFD situation and “rightsize” your fleet.
The very fact that this manager’s CFO took notice of this unsolicited email is evidence of how much more weight the ideas of outside companies have than those of inside experts — like the in-plant manager, for example. I know of managers who have brought up the idea of fleet optimization with their bosses, but it never took hold. Departments and key staff didn’t want to give up their personal printers or their fancy, feature-rich copiers (that they only used once a week). They had “use it or lose it” funding to spend on MFDs; consolidating all devices under a single contract just didn’t matter to them.
But when an outside firm presents the same fleet consolidation idea that the manager presented, dollar signs suddenly appear in senior management’s eyes as they imagine the savings. The equipment vendors who offer “managed print services” know how to make them look good to a CFO, grabbing their attention with high potential savings figures. Even though common sense would tell anyone that the vendor’s “audit” will be biased, and its recommendations will only include its own equipment — not necessarily the best deal for the organization — it just sounds too good to pass up.
“And by the way,” that vendor may add, “we can also remove the expense of your in-plant. Save you millions — though we have no data to prove that.” (O.K., they don’t actually come out and say that last part.)
A Fleet Management Success Story
So what’s an in-plant to do? Clearly, waiting for an outside company to come knocking is not the best strategy.
I caught wind of one solution while attending the College and University Print Management Association of Canada (CUPMAC) conference a few years ago. One of the speakers, Ray Konecsni, detailed how the University of Regina had used an independent technology consultant to assess its MFD fleet, identify cost reduction opportunities and get faculty and staff to buy into a campus-wide print strategy.
Because Konecsni worked in an academic environment, where administration was reluctant to anger tenured professors by ordering them to give up their personal printers, he knew he needed to gather data before anyone would take action. So he convinced the university to issue an RFP for an independent consultant to assess the fleet and develop a print strategy. The school was able to select a brand-agnostic consultant with the school’s best interests at heart.
The consultant’s analysis of equipment in use revealed a ratio of staff to output device of 1.2 to 1. Based on recommendations, that was eventually reduced to 2.45 to 1, with fleet costs trimmed more than $3 million. .
New IPI research shows that just a third of in-plants handle the management of their organization’s MFD fleet. If you’re among the other two-thirds and there is no central management of your fleet, it’s time to push for it — before an outside company pushes their way in, with results you may not like.
Related story: Be the Admiral of Your Fleet
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited more than 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.