Coincidentally, Cars & Copiers Have These 7 Caveats In Common

The machine you see in the picture above came alive back in the Spring of 1968. That's when Ford launched the brand new, 428-cubic-inch, 7.0L Police Interceptor V8 engine. It was absurdly powerful, with improved breathing heads and larger exhaust manifolds than its predecessors. When it was dropped into the range-topping Shelby GT500, the new engine gave birth to the Cobra GT500 KR - short for "King of the Road".

The machine you see in the picture below was sprung into action some 48 years later. With it's world-class security protection, it can keep you & those you care about safe at all times. Advanced monitoring, based on cloud and big-data analytics, can predict service and supply needs so you never run out of fuel when it matters most. It's known as the HP LaserJet E87650Z - short for ... actually to be honest I have absolutely no idea what the "Z" stands for... ok, I'll admit these two machines don't have a lot in common at first glance.

However, when you examine them a little further, you'll find that cars & copiers actually have a lot in common - and they also share some key caveats to be cautious of.

Copiers can often blend into the background of the workplace. Like cars, as long as they're working properly we may use them while we're on "auto-pilot", pretty much going through the motions as we get on to where we need to be & what we need to be doing.

If you work in an office setting, you will no doubt be interacting with some sort of document imaging device on a daily basis. As they become more & more ingrained into your network & capable of performing many of the same tasks as computers, knowing the basics can really help you become more productive in your role.

You'll also have to replace your copier some day, typically through some sort of a Managed Print Services agreement. When contemplating any sort of business agreement, it never hurts to be prepared, and after reading this article you will feel more confident when the time comes to examine the printing environment within your company.

Luckily, even if you have never thought about purchasing a copier in your life, there’s a good chance you or someone you know has purchased a vehicle in the past.

This article breaks down the similarities between purchasing a new car and purchasing a new copier, to help you figure out what the priorities of your company should be when looking for a new device. It will help you make a smarter decision and gain a firm grasp on the factors to consider when looking at new printers or copiers for your office space.

We will start by looking at the Total Cost of Ownership of buying a copier. Just like a car, printers & copiers are not one-time transactions. They both require regular maintenance & replacement consumables - fuel for a car, ink or toner for a copier.

In either case, taking a broader look at the cost of operating the device, the overall reliability, and the company you will be developing a working relationship with are all crucial factors to take into consideration. Don't get fooled by an "incredible deal" - the sting of poor quality lingers long after the price has been forgotten, as the saying goes.

Let's begin by considering how your asset will need to be maintained in order to operate in optimal condition consistently:

1.) Oil Changes vs. Preventative Maintenance (Reliability)

You can show me just about any mechanical device, and I will show you a device that is capable of breaking down. Whether it is a new car, a new copier or a new lawn mower … eventually they will all succumb to mechanical fatigue, it happens.

One of the best ways to delay the depreciation of your hardware and prevent downtime in your office is to perform regular Preventative Maintenance. This service is all about addressing the root causes of many breakdowns and failures before they occur, such as premature "wear n' tear" on the rollers or automatic document feeder assembly.

People generally understand the need to maintain their cars with regular oil changes, tire rotations and other routine items. But when it comes to printers, people are generally more hesitant or less likely to see the need for maintenance, although in general it is the same concept: Invest a little bit in the present moment, to decrease your likelihood of having to spend larger amounts in the event of a break down. Downtime is also a drain on the productivity of your team members who rely on their printing device to do their jobs most effectively.

When you are examining the pros and cons of going forward with a Preventative Maintenance agreement in your mind, I would first and foremost consider how much impact printer or copier downtime would be to your organization.

Those who work in healthcare, legal firms, banks, and many other fast paced industries simply cannot tolerate any downtime from their document imaging devices.

Companies operating in similar settings would be wise to consider maintaining their equipment on a regular schedule, and they should also have a back up printer ready to go in case Murphy's Law decides to poke it's head out and say hello. Avoid single points of failure.

At the end of the day, you can ask yourself this question:

If the main copier in your office were to breakdown right now, and it was not able to be repaired for a couple days due to a wait time for parts – what would the overall effect be on your company?

If you the thought of your main copier being completely down for a few hours makes you slightly sick to your stomach – Preventative Maintenance might be for you.

2.) Fuel Mileage vs. Cost Per Page (Efficiency)

I’m not a fortune teller, or a psychic. I didn’t even consult Ms. Cleo before writing this post… but I am still very confident when I tell you that the price of ink & toner is not going to start decreasing anytime soon. Securing your price today to protect against inflation tomorrow is a very smart idea.

Some Managed Print Services providers will enable you to secure your special low pricing for up to 5 years. This helps control the Total Cost of Ownership of the printing hardware you’ve invested in. This would be like a car dealership guaranteeing you that the price you pay for gasoline today will not increase for 5 years - you would take that deal, right?

This focus on “Total Cost of Ownership” has already been rampant in the auto industry for some time, where the competition over creating the most fuel-efficient vehicles possible has evolved into electric vehicles that run entirely on battery power slowly but surely becoming the new norm.

People are obsessed with the fuel economy of their vehicles these days, and with the rising costs at the pumps it’s easy to see why. Car manufacturers are battling it out constantly, searching for any possible edge that could make their “mile per gallon” statistic lower by mere decimal points.

The fuel economy numbers for any given vehicle are often plastered on the windshield and splashed across the screen on television commercials right along with the monthly payments of the vehicle, slithering its way into the minds of customers as one of the main factors in their buying decision.

The reason for the lack of “Cost Per Page” advertising on new printers can be narrowed down to a very simple yet essential factor: car companies do not sell gas.

If every car manufacturer also had their own gas station (ie: Honda Fuels, Ford Fuels, etc.) they would probably market their vehicles completely differently, focusing less on the overall efficiency of their machines and creating a new marketing angle, because they would have a stake in the “consumables” game as well.

That’s the case right now in the printing & copier business, where manufacturers not only sell you the machine, they also control the market of the replacement parts & consumables needed to keep the machine running. Thus, you do not see “Cost Per Page” stats splashed across the boxes and brochures for most devices on the market like you do for fuel mileage on cars – it would be counter intuitive for a company to steer you away from products where they hold the highest margins.

It is essential that you learn how to protect your own bottom line by knowing how to navigate these waters intelligently, or outsource the project to a Managed Print Services provider who can lead the project for you.

3.) Towing Capacity vs. Duty Cycle (Capacity)

Anyone who has hauled a camper or boat on with their truck at some point knows that you always want to tow less than your maximum capacity to play it safe and promote the longevity of your investment.

The same principle applies to your copiers in terms of how your overall printing volumes related to that machines “duty cycle” and “recommended page volumes”.

Whether you’re buying a new truck or a new printer, you still want to keep in mind the highest demands you will be placing on the machine – such as towing uphill or printing thousands of pages in one day to put together a complex proposal for an important client.

The key is finding the sweet spot – the perfect balance between the cost of the hardware and the cost efficiency of the machine based on your printing volumes. This can be accomplished quite easily through your local Managed Print Services provider.

Also, keep in mind that when it comes to copiers, the usual justification for a higher priced device should be a lower cost per page, which was mentioned above. In general, the more expensive the device, the lower the cost per page will be.

In the search for balance between capacity & efficiency, sometimes expert advice can be a useful tool to utilize.

4.) Horse Power vs. Pages Per Minute (Speed)

Sometimes, buying a copier with extremely fast printing or scanning speeds can be a complete waste. It’s like owning a Ferrarri in downtown Manhattan – sure, it can go fast, but when are you really going to use all the available power in that setting?

All that power is going to waste, unless you are trying to impress someone (which is fair... I mean, personally, whenever I want to show off to my friends I just flaunt my new PageWide printer to make them jealous). But nine times out of ten, you should aim to get just the right amount of speed to satisfy your end users without breaking the bank.

There is also more to printing speed than just the printer engine. You also need to consider how your device will handle tasks such as multi-page proposals that require large amounts of RAM, scanning images at high resolutions or the ability of your email server to handle large file sizes being transmitted across your network. Sometimes you need to look deeper than horsepower and pages per minute into the “behind the scenes” specs that can drive real performance.

For instance, in NASCAR and Indy 500, all participants drive high performance race cars that are tuned to absolute perfection. However, if you took a NASCAR vehicle and threw it on the Indy 500 track it would assuredly finish dead last, and vice versa.

Similarly, a “high performance” device will deliver mediocre results when it is placed in the wrong setting.

5.) Heated Seats & Sunroof vs. Stapler & Stacker (Functionality)

Added convenience features can make life easier, or simply more enjoyable. If you live up North like me, heated seats can provide a momentary bliss when you dive into your car to escaping the stinging sensation of the frigid winds smashing against your skin.

If your routine tasks involve a large amount time spent on the stapling, stacking, sorting and hole punching of printed documents then having those tasks automated for you ahead of time could provide a similar level of satisfaction.

Make sure you need the finisher unit, extra trays and other accessories before you pull the trigger on a device though, otherwise you are just throwing money down the drain. The heated seats in my car would not provide me the same level of pleasure if I lived in Florida. The same accessory I currently love would turn into a complete waste if I changed the setting I’m using the machine in.

Throwing a “Stapler / Stacker / Hole Punch” finisher on the side of your new copier purchase because you think it looks cool or you might need it one day is a bad idea. These finishing units can always be added on later, and most Managed Print Services providers have the flexibility to add items to your existing lease easily throughout the agreement.

6.) Torque vs. Warm-Up Time (Acceleration)

Everyone gets excited about horsepower when looking at new cars & trucks, but for real acceleration off the line or towing capacity what you are really looking for is the rotational “torque” power of the car.

A similar analogy can be made for the printing speed of a copier. People often only look at the “pages per minute” of the device, while ignoring the warm up time. This can often lead to frustration, as your copier may print with lightning speed – but it takes 2 minutes to warm up from sleep, negating any efficiency gained by the robust print engine.

Warm up times can also be adjusted based on your company’s priorities on maximum speed vs. total energy consumption. Tools like HP’s WebJet Admin can allow IT Managers to change the settings on individual devices remotely, so your company can achieve a healthy balance between productivity and controlling your carbon footprint.

This is where a product demonstration can come in handy. Take the time to visit the showroom of the company you are doing business with to see the device they are recommending in person, don't just rely on statistics on paper - they can be misleading.

7.) Warranties vs. Care Packs (Peace of Mind)

Warranties are useful for your own mental health and peace of mind just as much as they are for protecting your investment. It’s nice knowing in the back of your head that if anything does go wrong with your new purchase, someone has your back and will rectify the situation.

When you decide on a vehicle at the dealership, you are then often sold on extended warranties, rust protection, & much more.

For copiers & printers, you have the option of choosing between “Care Packs” of various lengths, but it is still inherently the same concept of purchasing any warranty – there is that nagging voice inside of your head that is saying “But what if it doesn’t break, and buying the warranty turns out to be a silly investment?”-- which is, of course, is completely possible.

The nice work around for this with printers & copiers comes in the form of Managed Print Services, which often comes with a built-in service agreement for the lifetime of the agreement – essentially giving you a lifetime warranty on your printing hardware at no additional expense – in fact, Managed Print Services can lower your printing expenses by up to 30%.

Off to The Races…

I hope this article comparing cars to copiers allowed you to gain a deeper understanding of the factors to consider when purchasing your next piece of printing hardware.

If you are looking for a helping hand to guide you when making this decision, the team of Managed Print Consultants at Datarite can ensure you make a smart choice.

Everyone of our Managed Print Consultants has undergone extensive training and is completely certified by HP.

Here’s how you can get in touch me personally:

Steven Croft: Senior Managed Print Consultant
@stevecroftsales across Social Media