Cutting costs and reducing the carbon footprint
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Growing awareness around sustainability and green initiatives has forced many companies to look over their printing behaviours. While going green may seem like ‘the right thing to do’, social responsibility alone might not be a strong enough driver for sustainability initiatives within organisations. But add the extra bonus of cutting costs at the same time as carbon footprint and the whole idea seems like a no-brainer. And, as Computerworld finds out, the printer giants have transformed with this trend.
Software helps reduce waste
The Bay of Plenty Polytechnic in Tauranga uses print analysis and reporting software from Canon. UniFlow allows organisations to measure usage and cost by user, workgroup or department.
The polytechnic, which has four schools of study – applied science, applied technology, business studies and design and humanities, offers 88 full programmes and 38 short awards. While the institute has been using UniFlow for a number of years it has not been fully harnessing its capabilities, says copy centre team leader Dean Ellery. This year, the polytechnic is looking to further exploit the available features to reduce both waste and cost, he says.
The top benefit of the software is the flexibility it offers in managing print, says Ellery.
“It gives the ability to put different costing structures in for different devices, and the reports you can generate from that. It also has good flexibility in terms of being able to generate reports as you want to see them,” he says.
You can also apply rules and routing, meaning that print jobs can be routed to the machine best suited for it – for example making sure bigger jobs go to bigger machines.
“That gives us better cost-savings and stops bigger jobs clogging up smaller machines.”
The organisation is also considering rolling out a ‘secure print’ module, also called ‘follow me print’, that requires users to go to the printer and put in a code to release the print job.
“You don’t have to print at the printer nearest to you, you can print anywhere you like,” Ellery says.
“But the real benefit for organisations is cost-savings. It tends to make people walk up to the machine and print what they actually want,” he says. “They print what they want and can just delete the print jobs they don’t need anymore.”
Often, people print documents but never come and collect them. “That is just waste of resources and money,” he says.
While the “paper-less office” hasn’t quite happened, organisations seem to be moving towards printing only what they need, Ellery says.
“I think printing has its place [in the workplace] but let’s reduce everything we possibly can,” he says.
Bay of Plenty Polytechnic has implemented default double-sided printing and it re-uses paper as much as possible, he says. The organisation has also converted most printers to MFDs (multifunction devices). These are more expensive upfront but run more efficiently and have better functionality, he says.
Other examples of where environmental initiatives in printing have also brought cost benefits include Boston-based law firm Nixon Peabody and oil and gas services company Baker Hughes in Houston, US.
As part of a company-wide sustainability programme at Nixon Peabody, the IT department spent US$30,000 to retrofit printers, converting nearly all printers to double-sided printing by default, reports Computerworld US. The firm also encouraged its employees to keep documents in an electronic form rather than printing them out. As a result, paper usage has plunged by 15 percent, saving an average of 120 cartons – or 600,000 sheets – of paper every month.
At Baker Hughes, a managed print-services programme launched last year is estimated to cut energy use by 20-25 percent, translating into savings of US$2.8 million each year. As part of the programme, printers are consolidated and replaced with more energy-efficient models, writes Computerworld US.
Raising end-user awareness
There has been a significant shift in awareness over the past few years with sustainability becoming one of the top-three criteria for many large corporate and government customers, says Peter Chambers, general manager of Canon Business, Canon New Zealand. Small and medium customers are also increasingly considering sustainability but the main focus there remains on cost, functionality and ease of use, he says.
“I think its fair to say that print has been seen as contributing significantly to waste in the past,” says Chambers. “Despite huge improvements in technology, manufacturing and recycling over the past decade, the most significant contributor to waste is the end-user. We need to continue to raise awareness of the ability to achieve the same objectives by making more sensible choices.”
When considering moving to a more sustainable printing solution IT-managers should look at what functionality is available to reduce the amount of paper, ink and power used in the print solution, says Chambers. However, he believes the main gains come from changing the organisation’s and the individual’s approach to printing.
“[That] involves raising the awareness around the impact of decisions end-users make each day,” he says. “One of the reports our customers love shows the savings in both costs and ‘trees saved’ as a result of decisions they make.”
Chambers recommends “pulling back the covers to understand a supplier’s real commitment to sustainable practices, including how they manufacture, what investment they are making in research and development in this area and their commitment to work in partnership to realise the gains”.
“Just claiming to be carbon neutral isn’t enough and can be achieved by purchasing carbon credits which, in themselves, do not aid the customer in realising any significant gains,” he says.
Canon has a number of sustainability practices in place, such as ISO14001 accreditation in all its operations around the world; compliance with the RoHS (Removal of Hazardous Substances) directive; and 89 percent of its MFD (multifunction device) parts are recyclable, says Chambers.
He says Canon is also at the forefront of energy efficiency technology which includes product lifecycle assessments, energy saving technology, such as on-demand fixing, induction heating, quick-fixing toners and energy management systems.
“Smaller, lighter units lower product delivery costs and generate less landfill, particularly when much of the material can be recycled,” he says.
In 2004 Canon set a global target to double its measurable efficiency by 2010.
“At a product level, this translates into reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent over the full product lifecycle,” he says.
He adds that all Canon Oceania business units have measured their carbon footprint and the results are published on Canon’s website.
“We have recently committed to a target to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions across the Canon Oceania group by 1.5 percent per annum until 2020,” he says.