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Print Tracker Pro collects all meters from printer devices.

Advanced Alert Monitoring and Device Management

Setting alerts to trigger action is a GREAT way to move further into the managed print arena.  Regarding alert capability, what can be reported and what do some dealers do to expand their ability to gather a wider array of alerts for supply and service execution?

Promising what cannot be delivered gets dealers in trouble and setting alert thresholds to initiate action is very subjective.  Providers should consider all alerting variables as there is no “silver bullet”.

Involved value added resellers find that individual customers and certain devices placed in customers’ fleets may require distinct alert strategies.  The wide variety of collection software available differs greatly in how each gathers and reports device information.  Dealers should look for solutions that provide data in a manner that fits their business processes.  It may be better to get a single alert for an event rather than multiple warnings.  Logging actions taken vs. just clearing or confirming the alert will assist dealers in their device management practices.

Device Capability and Reporting Accuracy

Modern imaging devices store lots of information.  Knowing customers’ imaging fleets, their connectivity (local vs. networked) and capability, how each are used, and then coupling this detail with the collection software’s abilities allows dealers to cover the widest array of alert possibilities.

At Print Tracker, we recommend a thorough fleet evaluation before promising supply and service fulfillment and we suggest enabling the full array of alert capability as different strategies are employed.

High Demand/High Use, and Low Output Devices Alerting

Certain devices in every fleet get used much more than others.  These devices may experience continuous use or have high output print events prompting high supply replacement frequency.  Setting low alert thresholds may not provide ample time to get toner to the customer and/or may trigger false alerts. 

Conversely, if global site settings are enabled at higher percentages and some devices are seldom used, alerts may be sent far too soon.  We have machines at Print Tracker that have been reporting less than 5% toner levels for more than half the year.  Because of low output volume, it will be many more months before cartridges are actually replaced.  Setting high level alerts for these devices would trigger a false need.

Premature Cartridge Replacement (PCR) Alerts

It is best when toner levels drop as low as possible before replacement.  Some collection products offer PCR alert capability to notify individuals when cartridges are replaced too early or above the upper trigger limits.

Simple conversations can be held with the customer:  “We noticed you had a ‘bad’ cartridge and it was ‘replaced’” or “Can we come by and pick up the ‘defective’ cartridge?” Such exchanges are non-threatening and are often all that is needed to correct unwanted behaviors as customers learn someone is watching.

Setting multiple toner alert activation levels allows dealers to monitor early cartridge replacement, take corrective action when necessary, and still provide “just-in-time” supply fulfillment.

Alert Settings and Reported Information

In the examples above, dealers could set global site toner thresholds at “25, 15, 5” to cover most situations.  Then using the monitoring software’s built-in administrative capability, account managers could adjust device settings at specific thresholds; high output devices could be enabled to trigger at “35, 25, 15” with low use machines set at “10, 5, 3”.  The upper limit prompts the PCR alert; the lower levels trigger needed action.

For ‘minimum’ capable machines or for printers locally attached …

In some cases when older, very basic or simple imaging machines are being monitored or when working with locally connected printers, device status information may not be detected.

Collection software offering device specific management may allow alerting to activate on increasing page count.  ‘Volume alerting’ affords notification of actions needed based on this output.  If the toner cartridge used has an advertised yield of 4,000 pages, settings to activate an alert after 3,500 pages may provide the dealer the warning needed so supplies can be shipped or services performed.

For older devices that do not report in percentages …

For machines that do not report toner in percentages, supply need may be detected from the machine’s service functions.  These devices may indicate toner in a “READY/OK, LOW, or OUT” state.  Using the collection software’s device editing capability, dealers can remove toner alert thresholds for the machine and add service alert settings, such as “SLT”; where “S” triggers service alerting, “L” for alerts for when low toner level is detected, and “T” to provide an alert when toner is empty.

Enhanced service alerting …

Most collection software can report on service need.  Many go a step further and provide data on how machines are being used; recording specific meter information (multiple drum levels, duplex use, etc.), and others gather bonding agent and waste toner data.  This additional device information is usually reported as service data.  Print management providers should choose collection products that can gather and send the data they will use to provide all services promised in business agreements.

Alert Directing

Alerts can be sent in a variety of ways with each collection tool having their own methods.  Typical alerting can be sent via an email directed to an individual or department for action.  Whenever possible, email set up should not require use of the customer’s email system thus eliminating potential security challenges.

Where service providers have personnel on site to conduct machine service, alert information can be directed to web enabled smartphones or pad devices as well.  Putting into service a second installation of the collection software allows the first to gather and send meters and general supply and service information to the dealer, and the second deployment can send service or supply related need to the on-site staffer for immediate action to be taken.  Second tier alerting could include detail on devices that go offline or are not reachable, need cartridges or maintenance kits replaced, become jammed, or just need paper.

Information Sharing

The imaging industry is a tight-knit group.  Because of this, it may be in the end customer’s best interest to “share” alert information.  Alert triggers can enhance parts, supply and ‘break-fix’ service execution.   For example, when alerts are detected by the software and confirmed by the dealer, the information can be forwarded to the dealer’s parts supplier or in-house/contracted machine servicing agent.

Depending on capability, some ERPs may be configured so integrated alert data triggers supply quotes for review.  Quotes can then be passed on to supply partners for drop shipment or service scheduling.  In addition, meter data can be shared with invoicing providers.  Finally, integrating collected meter information with ‘Sales Opportunity Management’ software may allow advanced notification for potential increased sales.

Non-reporting Installation and/or Device Alerting

Collection software can provide a wealth of information — as long as it remains operational.  Warning of missed reports, missed check-ins, dropped devices, or even notification when devices stop sending alert data can help providers fulfill and maintain contractual agreements.  Dealers should look for a product that notifies account administrators when missed reporting events occur.  Upon receiving such alerts, or when the software can provide visual warning of installations or specific devices that have stopped reporting, corrective actions can be taken to get the data current before actual device need occurs or billing cycles commence. 

… In summary

A sound print management strategy should include a full spectrum of alert management capability, improve the customer experience, and help the dealership increase revenue.  An automated alert management program should showcase the dealership’s customer service ability and bring with it opportunities that may be impossible to provide with manual information capture.

Print management dealers, IT shops and VARs should enable alerts set at the right levels for their customers and the machines being monitored to provide proper warning thresholds for action to be taken.

Many print management software providers partner with their dealers and can have alerts forwarded to the supplier for direct-to-customer supply and/or service fulfillment.

Choosing the right information collection tools and partnering with the best provider depends on the dealer’s specific needs.  The MPS product chosen should encompass as many alerting features as possible so the dealer can make available a complete print management offering.