South African companies can achieve massive cost-savings as well as benefit from significant productivity improvements by opting for a managed services model in their document output environments.

According to research from Gartner print costs can run as high as three percent of total revenue in certain enterprises, but companies can reduce these costs by up to 30% by opting for a managed services model. The benefits that managed print services offer are similar to those that companies have achieved by outsourcing other non-core business functions, says Nick Constantinou, business development manager at Itec Distribution.  
By opting for managed print services, companies can free up financial and human resources for their core businesses and will be able to buy print services on a monthly basis rather than sinking capital into buying printer hardware that will quickly become obsolete.  “Your chosen supplier takes full responsibility for the entire print infrastructure, including all services, support, and supplies,” adds Constantinou.   
Typically, the service provider will conduct an in-depth assessment of the client’s print environment when taking responsibility for providing a managed print service, he says. It will identify opportunities to drive down support, maintenance and consumable costs in the printing and imaging environments as well as ways to consolidate and centralise printers, scanners, fax machines and other output devices. The managed services provider should be able to reduce and manage costs of document output on the client’s behalf – and guarantee cost-savings with a predictable per-page cost.
One way that managed services help companies to save money in the printing environment is by freeing them from the burden of day to day management and support of their printers, says John Buchanan, national technical manager at Itec Distribution. Printer downtime accounts for an estimated to 30% to 40% of all helpdesk calls in the average enterprise and can be a massive drain on both end-user and IT department productivity. Rather than needing to take up separate service contracts, or employ or train someone onsite to support and maintain their machines, they will look to the managed service provider for all their needs.
Another way that managed service providers can help their clients reduce printing costs is by looking at their existing print fleets and replacing ageing equipment where appropriate. In some cases, it will make sense to centralise printers and share them among a number of users, or to replace standalone printers, scanners, copiers and fax machines with multifunction products (MFPs). Older copiers and printers that run up high energy and maintenance costs could be replaced with newer devices that run at a lower cost of ownership.
Companies should look for managed service providers that can offer advanced reporting services that maximise their efficiency gains. For example, Itec has solutions in place such as Sentry and Print Director that enable the company to manage the client's print environment in a proactive way.
Specifically, Sentry automates the reporting of many common service and maintenance issues by document output devices (including printers, copiers, and MFPs) on customer sites so Itec can manage its customers’ print infrastructure in a proactive manner. Print Director, meanwhile, is an enterprise system that tracks, audits and controls all printing and photocopying on a network. It allows for user tracking, inter-departmental and client/project code billing.
The move towards managed services is expected to accelerate in 2010 and beyond as more companies look towards suppliers to help them manage their print environments in a holistic manner, Constantinou says.