Control your print environment; learning lessons from the ‘frontline’

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Managed print services (MPS) is a mature market for devices like photocopiers and general purpose office printers, with the majority of businesses having used it for over three* years; 45%* claim it has been in place for more than five.

But with the rise of devolved workforces and widespread use of tablets, MPS has had to evolve in the front office to ensure that companies have complete visibility of their entire document environment. Managing print, therefore, continues to be important, the challenge is in controlling ever-increasing quantities of information and data from wide-ranging sources.

It has always struck me as strange that organisations never truly embraced the concept of MPS for back office applications in the same way they adopted it in the front. The principles and benefits are the same in that they’d gain control and visibility of their whole printer fleet as well as saving upwards of 30% in costs.

But just as there is a shift in front office requirements so too is there a shift at the rear. The increasing reliance in warehouses and factory floors on mobile printers, handheld scanners and tablets means it’s not just print assets that need managing, it’s all devices. If a device is lost or stolen, if it fails during peak periods like Black Friday or Christmas, or even if it runs out of battery life just before a shift changeover then this can seriously impact on your ability to fulfil customer needs. VDC Research estimates that a device failure equates to 80 minutes of lost productivity.

Asset Visibility Services (AVS) like those we deliver mean you have more predictive insight into the health of your mobile devices and therefore a higher level of operational visibility. And you don’t have to invest in mobile device management (MDM) software, as AVS can use a simple agent available on both Android and Windows enabled Zebra devices to collect the necessary business critical data. It can classify the health of each device using a simple traffic light colour coding system and give insight into how to fix the problem affecting operation.

Both AVS and MPS allow you to transform the way you manage your assets, making you proactive rather than reactive. They equip you with the tools and information you need to anticipate expenditure thus giving you greater budgetary control and fewer unexpected bills.

In the front office, cost was, and still remains, the primary driver for MPS. But companies require more than cost savings today, they additionally want secure print solutions and service, unsurprising given that 61%* of global businesses reported at least one print-related data breach last year. Again, back office environments are no different, and I reckon, for example, that some 90% of businesses are printing ‘on demand’ labels from the label design printer interface. This puts them at increased risk of operators making unauthorised label changes before printing, either by accident or deliberately, which could affect both productivity and reputation.

The front office MPS market is undoubtedly changing and arguably some box shifters are more vulnerable unless they can up their game as regards delivering service and security, or partner a business that does. The more successful MPS providers will be those that can bridge both paper and digital and meet the growing, complex needs of organisations.

We see similar shifts in the back office, with companies requiring enterprise level solutions to manage all devices like industrial printers, handheld computers, scanners and mobile printers. I hope that the drive for business process efficiency will persuade those with back office responsibility to learn from frontline MPS and start engaging with those best placed to deliver it through the warehouse door.

*Managed Print Services Landscape, 2016, Quocirca

Pete Laplanche

Out in warehouses and back offices, barcode printers remain the unsung heroes of the supply chain. Board director of Datatrade, Peter Laplanche, has spent 30 years communicating the importance of these mission critical devices, from early matrix printers to the latest mobiles. The brave new world of omni-channel requires even greater visibility and agility in track and trace, and label barcoding is…

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