Michael Powell, product marketing manager at Kyocera Mita South Africa, discusses what the trend towards colour printing means for businesses.

Within the industry, there is a trend towards colour equipment, which is still building in strength. However, this is not a simple win-win situation and customers need to give careful consideration to such an upgrade to understand the impact it will have.
It can’t be assumed that there is a one-size-fits-all solution. The pros and cons are different for every business, just as the business needs and processes are different.
The positive aspects are quite obvious. Colour printing offers higher quality presentation, easier comprehension of the information displayed and, hence, improved productivity. It also offers advantages that are specific to certain market sectors and verticals – just think how much better it is to have documents with colour pictures of properties if you are an estate agent.
The prices of quality equipment have come down – even in terms of the consumables – and the technical specifications have improved to the point where practically professional quality images can be printed on machines that almost anyone can afford to buy and run.
The trend in hard-copy documents is moving in lock-step with the trend in online and electronic documents towards richer content and a better user experience.
However, customers need to be mindful of the additional running costs involved, which can quickly erase other gains if they are not properly managed.
Perhaps a quick overview of the main market segments will help to illustrate the two main points: that each business needs a customised approach and that there must be effective management to control costs.
At the entry level, there is the home user and SOHO customer. The advantages for this part of the market are pretty much the same as for the larger business but the management of usage, consumables and inventory is less of an issue. Yes, there is a higher price for ink, toner and special papers but there is a demonstrable saving in cost, as well as the convenience factor.
At the top end, there are professional photographers and people in the publishing and advertising sectors. The equipment in this area is very expensive but it can deliver huge savings compared to outsourcing reproduction. You might not want to run 20 000 magazines or posters off on a high-end office printer but, if the requirement is for a smaller run, it can be quicker and cheaper than getting it done off site.
The market where there is the biggest adoption of colour equipment is the general business sector – all the way from SME to enterprise. This is a major shift from the dominant viewpoint of 10 or 15 years ago when any printer purchasing was almost a necessary evil and monochrome was the standard choice.
How often do you see a company document these days that is not in colour? Look at those old staples, the pie-chart and bar-chart – they are much easier to read in colour than in a range of greyscale shadings. It has a marked impact on corporate image if a logo is in true colour and not just a greyscale version.
One can say, especially given the lower costs of equipment and the higher technical abilities available, that it is a no-brainer to buy colour machines and just keep a number of monochrome printers for the very basic document needs. Then, depending on volume of printing, you can make a decision whether to go for inkjet or laser.
But now, customers have to look at the impact on consumables. Ink, toner and paper costs will increase. There is then the temptation that workers will use the equipment for private needs or accidentally run hundreds of copies in error – and that will cost a lot more in colour.
Just about any modern printer beyond the desktop, entry-level machine will have document caching, user account controls and network management technology.
It is critically important to use these features – they are not just nice to have, they are there for good reasons. You can’t just make assumptions about responsible usage – you have to have systems in place to enforce it and audit exactly how the equipment is being used.
Our customers find that, provided the controls are in place, switching to colour generates bottom-line savings. The extra expense on machines and consumables is outweighed by the positive effects of better presentation and improved productivity.
Without proper management however, there can be seriously negative consequences. The technology is there to prevent that situation – make sure you use it.