Printer Base Management/Chapter 1 of 4: The Unifying Principle

It is still very common to find such oldies but goodies like the hp LaserJet 4000, built all the way back in 1997, or the LaserJet 4200, just quietly cranking away at their hefty workloads. When managing a large printer base or even a semi-decently sized base, the problem with certain printers lasting as long as they do is the constant effort of repopulating new printers into the base. Why is this problematic?

When an older printer within any given printer base breaks down, and a CFO or IT director doesn’t want to spend the money to repair it, he or she naturally seeks out a brand new printer to replace it with. It sounds like a good idea, but the problem with this logic however, is that the newcomer (a.k.a. the printer), will now require a whole new supply base in order to make it run. This creates a twofold problem because obviously, now you have to begin stocking a whole different line of toner cartridges, but the real problem lies in “What should I do with all of my unused toner for my old style printers which I no longer own?”

As an example of this, Laserfleet was recently hired to perform an audit of both the printers and the supplies for a local University. In just one department, we discovered over $2,700.00 in unused toner and ink, which over the years, had been crammed into desks, closets and storage rooms.

All of this toner and ink we found now had to be discarded, because any printers that had once used those products had long been removed by the University. Not a single printer they now owned could use any of it!

This is when we spoke to them about the necessity of steering their printer base towards a Unifying Principle. The Department immediately needed to: 1) Stop purchasing a complete grab-bag of printers. 2) Buy only equipment that would use their current toner stock supply, even if this meant buying some good, used printers as opposed to new ones. 3) Buy printers only in groups of the same printer model family. 4) Purchase printers only outside of their current toner supply base if they could fully justify it. For example; if they were in need of a very fast and large network printer, then buy it. 5) Drain down their present toner stock and only then buy new stock. 6) Begin having Laserfleet track and stock only what they would use from month to month, buying supplies more frequently but in smaller quantities. Since our toner supplies arrive next day, this technique was very doable for them. They employed the rest of our suggestions, and today their closets and storage rooms are virtually empty of expensive supplies and carry only the bare minimum they need to get by on.

Also, be aware of accepting any free printers, such as those piggybacked with a computer purchase. The toner and drum costs alone for these types of printers far outweigh the benefits of having just bought a Unifying Principle printer in the first place. Worse yet, when the free printer breaks, and inevitably it will, you will then be stuck with a costly inventory of supplies. Remember, nothing is free…

This now brings us to our Unifying Principle. Regarding printer base management, a Unifying Principle means to have as many printers systematically matched within a supply chain as possible. For example: If you have five different employees, each with his or her own type of desk top printer, you obviously now have to stock five different toner cartridges, one for each of those particular printers. Not only does inventory cost rise as you now must buy one cartridge for each printer, as opposed to simply keeping just two cartridges at a time in stock, but you also run into the possibility of oblivious staff members ordering the wrong products or end users opening up box after box while trying to insert the wrong toner into their printer because it doesn’t fit. (Believe it, this does actually happen!) When this does occur, the cartridge is generally discarded, one, because it has been opened, and two, the oblivious employee doesn’t want to tell anyone what he/she has done. Valuable company money is now wasted! Worse yet, when a printer(s) gets replaced, the toner already in stock on the shelf becomes worthless.