Multifunctional printers have many advantages over stand-alone units. But how can you properly evaluate them? Find out from an expert.
By Jeffrey A. Smith
Make no mistake: The digital equipment output marketplace is in an all-out war. Printer and copier manufacturers are fighting over clicks, plain and simple. The spoils are the profit from an ever-increasing volume of printed output. Disinformation comes from all fronts, causing confusion among the masses of business consumers.
At the heart of the battlefield are the multifunctional units. My company, Pro Buyers LLC, defines a "multifunctional" unit as a digital imaging device that can perform more than one of the following four basic functions: copying, printing, faxing and scanning. Virtually all output devices today at or under 40 pages per minute (ppm) are capable of performing all four functions; devices over 40 ppm are generally not able to send and receive faxes in the traditional sense (although, with scanning software, many higher-speed units can scan-to-fax).
Pro Buyers Tip: Multifunctional units operating at speeds of less than 15 ppm (usually retailing for less than $2,000) are typically not true business-class devices. For the reasons stated below, we do not recommend their installation in most office environments.
Slow To Catch On
The industry has used three primary arguments to sell multifunctional devices:
1. Space savings compared with having to find room for multiple separate devices.
2. Cost savings due to not having to buy essentially identical marking engines and service contracts for each.
3. Better overall output efficiency in being able to leverage a single high-powered engine to perform all functions faster.
Although multifunctionals are still making inroads into the office workplace, their replacement of single-function devices has not been as quick as vendors originally envisioned. Why? For many users, the initial reaction is one of skepticism that one device will be able to handle the multiple tasks that may be required. (In reality, this is not a major concern since most units are never used to their maximum volume capacities.) Also, they wonder: "What if I need to print something confidential?" (This objection is easily overcome with the secure/password printing feature found on the printer driver of most units.) Many users will also privately wonder: "Will the laser printer on my desk be taken away?"