Caroline Wright considers the costs and benefits of completely upgrading your school’s printing solution…
When you Google search for ‘printing in schools’ the top results all reference 3D printing. Certainly in the world of education sector printing this seems to be the latest buzz word, and justifiably so; back in 2012 to 2013 the Department for Education’s study of innovative ways of teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and design subjects revealed that 3D printers had a highly motivational effect on pupils, with most schools reporting a greater interest in STEM subjects when using the technology.
However, while schools focus on this new teaching resource, is there a danger of letting traditional printers get old, costly and inefficient? While they may seem less interesting and therefore less worthy of attention, the fact is that schools spend a highly significant part of their budgets on printing and printing consumables. It also appears that the potential cost benefit of being managed efficiently, makes them a cost centre worthy of attention!
Our recent ‘Resources in English Maintained Schools’ research report showed that English maintained secondary schools are currently spending £61.2m per annum on ‘general school items and stationery’. Most of the 303 secondary headteachers, deputy heads and bursars who responded to the survey, defined ‘general school items and stationery’ as printer consumables, paper and writing instruments.
We commonly see situations where there are multiple printers dotted across the school, or in some cases every class. These are often of varying ages, different brands and of course using assorted toner cartridges. Managing those printers and any required maintenance time, let alone the cost of toners is a huge burden on time, school budgets and learning opportunities. So what is our advice to schools?
1. PRINT AUDIT
The first step is to invite a selection of print supply companies in, to carry out a print audit. BESA member organisations all adhere to our code of best business practice and therefore the audit should always be free of charge. The only commitment from the school’s side is time and having your historical print cost information to hand.
The audit is part of the fact-finding process. Without an audit, any printer supply and management proposal is not worth the paper it’s printed on!
In addition to giving you a better insight into the current areas of usage and expenditure, the audit should highlight current printing levels, the existing printers’ life expectancy and full costs. Are you printing double sided? How much print waste is there? Are you printing in colour when you could be saving a lot of money by printing in black and white? Do you know where your print expenditure is currently going?
The print supply companies should be asking you plenty of questions. Schools know what they want and what they hope to achieve, no other company knows this better. The suppliers should also be able to provide you with references from other schools who have a history of using their services.
2. COST CENTRE MANAGEMENT
An increasing number of schools are moving towards cashless transactions. The potential for having your printing management integrated with your cashless transaction system; using ID cards and fingerprints is worth considering.
3.EXTERNAL PRINT MANAGEMENT
The printing/photocopier industry tends to have a level of stigma attached to it and in some cases you are quite right to be wary. However, schools can rest assured if they are dealing with our member companies. And the reality is that there are highly effective ways for schools to manage their printing, one being a fully managed print solution.
In short, when a full audit has been carried out and the supplier has really immersed themselves in the school and its objectives, a fully managed print solution will certainly reduce unnecessary printing, save or eradicate maintenance time for internal resources, reduce printer downtime and also save budget that can be better utilised elsewhere.
Once again the solution that is right for you has to be one you are comfortable with. It could be a situation where the school pays a lease, contributing monthly or quarterly and in an agreed way, for example on a cost per print basis. What is important is that you know the costs in advance, along with the terms you’ll be committing your school to. There should be virtually no need for any staff to have to spend time on the printers other than for printing.
Your chosen partner needs to be able to clearly demonstrate the total cost of ownership and benefits to you. Your school’s situation/printing environment will evolve, and it is down to the skill and commitment of the supplier to ensure that any solution they provide changes with the school’s needs.
A warning: it is important to note that a managed solution does not necessarily mean a complete overhaul of a school’s existing equipment. Managed service contracts are commonly three to five years and therefore, being comfortable that you are going to reduce costs and increase efficiency is important. The supplier’s service level agreement and response time is a consideration; you don’t want any surprises. And of course the costs that you are comparing must include ordering, maintenance, training, reporting, warranty terms and down time.
Something we hear a lot about in schools is the importance of their environmental goals. A managed printing solution will reduce volume (typically by around 20 per cent through eradicating waste print jobs and encouraging more double sided printing) and an audit can also be expanded to examine co2 usage/ reduction by moving to a more centrally managed multifunction printing solution.
Therefore, if you have a variety of printers around your school it may be worth inviting a few managed print suppliers into your school to understand the benefits that can be achieved.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Caroline Wright is director of the education sector’s trade association, BESA. She has written this piece with professional input from Nick Madhavji, managing director of one of its member organisations, Joskos Solutions.
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