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Taming the paper tiger

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Today there is technology to support the mobile office and, potentially, the paperless office. But, given the fact that there is still a lot of paper around, the real focus for business is on how technology can support managing those hard-copy assets.

With the rapid development and evolution of equipment, the office printer –including faxes, scanners and copiers – is no longer the dumb and, occasionally, annoying machine it used to be.
Office equipment, frequently in the form of a multi functional product (MFP), is now networked and intelligently managed as part of the IT environment.
“On our high-end devices, specifically the MFPs, we include hard-drive storage, which is aimed at cost and productivity benefits for the customer,” says Michael Powell, product manager for corporate and enterprise at Kyocera Mita South Africa.
“This allows a new distribution model which is much more efficient. Users can print out documents from the hard drive as needed, rather than having to do large print runs and distribute documents to people who might not even need it. This can be managed by password access, as well as logged and audited.
“Another feature on all our new machines is USB host printing, which means users can print PDF documents directly from a memory stick, rather than spooling from PCs through the network. This has obvious benefits in reducing network traffic and improved convenience.”
Apart from addressing document controls on the user side, there is an equal focus on management from the network side.
“The big trend for document storage is to eliminate duplicated and ‘siloed’ information – there should, ideally, be just one current copy held in centralised storage,” says Powell. “Manufacturers like ourselves have invested heavily in the management software and technologies to make this easier for users and administrators. We have KM Net software to support networking and PaperPort to support document management.”
“It’s important to realise that document control also depends on people. It is very important to have the right policies and procedures in place – and make sure that users are educated in how to apply them. The technology we offer supports this, but assuming that the technology is the whole solution – without buy-in from the users – is pretty much putting the cart before the horse.
“Next-generation equipment will allow integration of the printer hard drives with the IT network and back-end database but we’ll have to wait a while before that technology is ready for market.”
This future prospect and the extensive features of the latest equipment underline the need for IT departments and managers to be closely involved with how office equipment is used. It is no longer a passive, peripheral concern.
“Cost savings and productivity are the real drivers,” says Powell. “Management needs a thorough awareness of the technological abilities and a clear vision of best-use policies to achieve real value and results. Certainly, the equipment can support proper document control – the rest is just careful planning.”