Saving money on business printing – Why compatible consumables are not the answer

In these challenging times, the temptation to chase cheaper alternatives to consumables from the original printing equipment manufacturer may seem like a smart way to cut costs. However, in purchasing consumables from any source other than the named manufacturer, SMEs first need to assure themselves that printer performance and quality will not be compromised.
This is easier said than done. In reality, this kind of approach is unlikely to ever prove a good investment. The simple fact is that in failing to meet the high technical demands of an individual printer’s hardware, these poor quality compatible substitutes will almost certainly have a negative impact on both performance and print output quality.
Worse, they may also impact significantly on the life expectancy on what is a costly and often business-critical piece of office equipment, by increasing wear and tear and the need for related maintenance support.
This problem exists at two levels, counterfeit and consumable products. Counterfeit products are without doubt illegal and manufacturers like OKI Printing Solutions operate a strong ‘zero tolerance’ here and pursue the perpetrators of counterfeit products with the utmost vigour. But compatibles can also present problems not immediately apparent at the point of sale and may at the very least invalidate the manufacturer’s warranty. 
The often substantial price savings which can be made on non-standard printer ribbons and toner cartridges can seem very seductive, especially if there is little to distinguish the imitation from the real thing.
However, the ultimate victim is inevitably the end-user, who will not be getting the bargain they imagined. The truth is that, far from being a mere marketing slogan, ‘original is best’ is the route to go for any user looking to achieve optimum performance and print quality. Quality is critical if their collateral and other materials are to accurately reflect to customers and partners alike the quality of the overall business.  
Smarter Printing is the Answer
Equally, there is no reason for SMEs to be seduced by the possibility of cost savings on print consumables when there are many other ways they can save money through changing their approach to printing.
A recent report by leading economics consultancy, the centre for economics and business research (cebr) has found that firms and other organisations could save between £900 million and £2,100 million per year on printing costs. The report estimates that £360 million of these savings could come from replacing expensive outsourced printing with printing in‐house while between £500 million and £1,760 million could be generated by more efficient management of existing in‐house printing tasks.
Achieving this kind of enhanced efficiency is likely to be particularly beneficial to SMEs, who typically focus on sales conversion and rapid business growth. Such organisations will find that they can quickly reduce wastage and costs by simply reducing the number of expensive outsourced printing jobs they undertake and by using their office printers more effectively.
In doing this, they need to change their mindset and understand that a large percentage of printing, previously the domain of outsourced print shops, can now be carried out quickly and cost-effectively by staff using their own printer. Thanks to advances in print technology, organisations can now print a much broader range of documents in-house, including letterheads, notices, reports and labels.
Over 20 per cent of all outsourced printed material is never used. Hundreds of business cards and reams of headed paper are discarded every year. Today, it is increasingly important from both a cost saving and environmental perspective to improve the ‘utilisation ratio’ when printing. Producing documents and brochures on-demand as and when required is a sure-fire way of cutting costs and improving productivity. 

By using high-quality in-house solutions, SMEs will see an immediate impact both on the overall cost of their printing and their levels of wastage. Simply by bringing more print jobs in-house, they can eliminate over-runs and by raising the level of ‘right first time’ printouts, they can reduce the need to repeat work.
SMEs can achieve additional savings by adopting smarter printing practices. Much of this involves a process of educating users to reduce paper wastage. Users can save on resources by following the ‘think before your print’ guideline and never printing emails simply to read them, for example. They can be trained to cut paper wastage further by always using print preview, for example, or by using a web print utility to ensure each web page fits on one side of paper.
It is also important to ensure that printers are correctly set up to minimise time and paper wastage. Using ‘mono’ when documents don’t need to be in colour, ‘duplex’ for double sided printing and creating A5 booklets with multiple images on each sheet could save an average SME thousands of pounds every year in ink, toners, paper and time, while at the same time, enabling them to deliver a better service.
It is understandable that the UK’s SMEs will be looking to save money by adopting a new approach to business printing. However, there is no reason why they should look to achieve this by buying in compatible consumables. Not only will the pursuit of such an approach compromise quality and performance it is also likely to reduce the product lifecycle. Instead, SMEs would be better advised to drive savings by focusing more on in-house printing and through the adoption of smarter, more efficient printing practices, helping to cut costs and reduce wastage and put themselves on a firmer footing as the economy begins the long, slow process of recovery.