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Multitasking with Multifunction Printers

Combination devices reduce costs and ease management for IT.

Like most government organizations, the Texas Department of Agriculture has dozens of departments, each requiring a constant stream of printing, copying, faxing and scanning services. Until a few years ago, such tasks were managed by several different machines. But faced with tight budgets and a small IT staff to handle the needs of 500 employees, it soon became clear that something had to change.

After analyzing the cost of repairing and replacing machines as they reached end of life, as well as the cost of supplies they required, the idea of moving to a multifunction printer -- an all-in-one device that handles copying, faxing, scanning and printing -- looked very attractive.

"The main driver was total cost of ownership," says Mike Cardwell, assistant commissioner for administrative services. "We realized that it wouldn't cost more to combine these functions than to have separate machines. That, combined with easier management and the chance to standardize the units, sold it for us."

The Texas Department of Agriculture standardized on multifunction printers in 2004. Today, the agency has a combination of HP CM8050 units for its color needs and HP LaserJet 4345 for its black-and-white requirements. In addition to the cost savings, Cardwell says the machines' advanced features have been a great boon for the organization.

"The Human Resources department, for example, deals with a lot of sensitive documents," he says. "Before the multifunction printers, they wanted a printer on everyone's desk. But now they can attach a password to a print job, walk up to the console, push a button and get the printout."

By rolling out multifunction printers, the Texas Department of Agriculture has joined a growing movement in state and local government. Drawn by reduced cost and easier manageability, more agencies are deploying MFPs.

These devices have broad functionality; in addition to consolidating printing, copying, scanning and faxing, they also can store scanned documents in a repository (if the software supports a document management application). With these capabilities, MFPs are a cost-effective replacement for outdated single-function printers, says Louella Fernandes, a principal analyst at UK-based research firm Quocirca. In addition, MFPs are also more environmentally friendly, she says, because multiple single-function devices use more energy and paper than a single MFP. Older single-function devices also may be less energy-efficient and may not support double-sided printing.

While the key advantages for most organizations are cost and manageability, organizations shouldn't overlook the productivity and workflow-related benefits, Fernandes says.

"MFPs can be used as power document processing hubs; scan-to-email and scan-to-file capabilities and integration with document management systems can help optimize [the transition from] paper to digital workflows," she notes.

Boosting Productivity

Optimizing workflow and ease of manageability were the major drivers for the City Attorney's Office of Oakland, Calif., in incorporating MFP devices into its fleet of network printers.

"We needed a solution that would integrate with our document management system -- one that could scan, profile, OCR or convert into a variety of formats," explains IT manager R. Craig Strunk. In addition, the solution needed to be able to produce color content for presentations.

Back in 2005 when the organization first rolled out the technology, Lexmark's multifunction printers already offered everything the City Attorney's office needed. Strunk's division now has five Lexmark X762 MFPs, one on each floor.

"We chose MFPs over color printers because they would allow us to retire the fax machines we had on each floor, supply staff with a backup copier if the main copiers were being used, and relieve some of the burden of the everyday print jobs from our other network printers," Strunk says.

In addition to boosting productivity, the Lexmark MFPs are also helping the department's attorneys process e-discovery and public records requests. Uploading scanned files to the city's litigation support software requires a load file that contains metadata about the documents. The department previously had to outsource that job for $500 to $700 each time they wanted to use MFPs to load documents into the litigation system, Strunk explains. But now the office has written a script to load the scanned documents. "With the MFP's ability to read barcodes, it's just a single press of a button for one of our users."

May 04 2010

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