As the full-time administrator of a major Northern California law firm, Chris Carvalho is in constant demand: He deals with personnel issues, he handles accounting, and he manages technology. Carvalho oversees all operations for the two-office firm, Gagen, McCoy, McMahon, Koss, Markowitz & Raines , which has 17 lawyers and 18 support staffers. Everything comes down to efficiency, he says. Something as seemingly simple as managing, maintaining and stocking supplies for the Danville, Calif.-based firm’s 12 printers can take up more time than Carvalho probably has.
A couple of years ago, he took a hard look at the printing — and printing problems — within the law firm. Legal work is file-intensive, and Gagen McCoy’s printers often needed toner, experienced paper jams or simply worked poorly. Addressing users’ printer needs could sometimes take hours out of Carvalho’s day and even affect the productivity of the lawyers.
“When a fuser would break on the printers, they would just shut down, and I’d have to quickly shift users to another printer,” he says. “That was bad enough during the day, but if an attorney had a problem with a printer at night or on a weekend, I’d have to walk them through it over the phone. I was spending a lot of time focused on maintenance and troubleshooting, and our users weren’t happy.”
What's your biggest issue in managing printing?
35% Time spent on machine upkeep
35% Spiraling costs
20% Environmental waste
10% Document security
SOURCE: CDW poll of 353 BizTech readers
Carvalho knew that part of the problem was the printers themselves, so he decided to replace eight of the 12 aging printers at Gagen McCoy with more reliable HP CP3525 color laser printers . But as he prepared to make his purchase, a sales rep at CDW suggested that Carvalho try a printer auditing and management service before moving to the new HP printers. The software should help the firm run its printing operations more efficiently  and cost-effectively, the rep told him.
Carvalho installed FMAudit’s WebAudit , a web-based application that uses a browser and Microsoft’s .NET framework to automatically collect data about printers and other devices in an organization. At Gagen McCoy, that included not only the printers but also a handful of Ricoh copiers. The fact that the app is product-agnostic was a big bonus too, Carvalho adds.
“We immediately saw the value of keeping track of things like toner levels, fuser usage, how many copies each unit is producing and paper jams,” he says. “I have set alerts that let me know when there are problems in all of these areas. For example, I’ll set it to let me know when there is 20 percent of toner left in a printer, and again at 6 percent, when I consider it critical.”
Traditionally, only large companies have taken advantage of managed print services, but it can be worthwhile to any company that relies heavily on printing.
“Print has always been viewed as a necessary business function, but it hasn’t always been looked at strategically,” says Robert Palmer, director of the managed document practice at Lyra Research of Newtonville, Mass. “There are so many print and other devices scattered throughout an organization that are used inefficiently, and these tools provide the opportunity to improve productivity and efficiency while reducing cost.”
Productivity was definitely a driver for Carvalho. “If you have a 300-page job printing, you can’t have a printer shut down on Page 60 because something isn’t working right,” he says. “If I know about potential hiccups in advance, I can fix problems before they become bigger problems, and our attorneys can stay productive.”
Carvalho is more productive as well. Because he knows precisely when supplies are getting low, he can streamline ordering. Even more important, because he can monitor printers and copiers at Gagen McCoy’s two locations from a web browser, he can eliminate unnecessary trips to check on printers.
The ability to set alerts also has increased efficiency. The preset alerts generate e-mail messages that provide details about any particular issues with the copiers or printers.
“Generally, I choose two alert levels: one to tell me when it’s time to order supplies, and a more critical level that adds to the urgency,” Carvalho says.
This type of tool can provide multiple opportunities to save money, says Darin Stahl, lead research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group. The ability to measure use levels and match them to employee use patterns, for example, can help an IT manager decide how to create default printer settings for various workers within a business. Some users, for example, might be set to two-sided, black-and-white printing as a default, saving color toner and paper.
In situations where printers are leased and have volume caps, IT managers can use print management software to monitor volumes and divert printing to other printers when cap limits are reached, saving overage costs.
Companies that bill by time or job can also benefit. “In professional services firms, printing costs, including paper and electricity costs, can be charged back to the customer,” Stahl says. “If you can discover those costs, you can have employees tag jobs with a customer ID when they send a print job to the queue.”
For Carvalho, “the cost savings is my time. It saves me from having to run around and check things.”