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Changing Business Culture for MPS vs. Educating Dealers

In the U.S.A., managed print services is maturing to a point where most companies are now open to strategies that can reduce printed output and its related costs.

Successful dealers, value added resellers (VARs), IT service providers and others in the MPS arena have learned (some through trial and error) to partner with their customers to discover how printed output can be reduced.  Collaboration offers the opportunity to team with the business’s print reduction advocate to make meaningful improvements.

While business machine OEMs often promote print management with one program or another and may even encourage their resellers to say that less printing in the business place is possible, most do nothing to promote awareness of what can be accomplished.  A good number of businesses come to the realization that if they are going to reduce imaging costs, it is their responsibility to come up with a strategy to make it possible.

Many try to decipher what they print, why and by whom.  Some may try installation of collection software to discover what’s happening, only to become bewildered and look to their dealer or service provider for help.

Historically that’s where challenges begin.  Many VARs don’t have the staff in place or even know what to do to take cost reduction to the next level.  Some in our industry feel this is because OEMs and suppliers condition dealers to sell parts and equipment.  Many machines have built-in features that can help reduce printed output, but often they are never activated for benefits to be reaped.  Others have said the lack of skilled people or training opportunities is the problem or that management claims MPS is not cost effective.

Real-world experience from an end-user perspective …  

Years ago I worked for a “Big Box” retailer.  When I first joined the company I loaded containers of used paper on pallets to be sent to the recycler and thought nothing of it … Paper was needed to conduct business.  The company was happy to put money back on the bottom line with recycling revenue.  As the years went by, paper use naturally dwindled, but I never realized or thought about it.

Back in the early 90’s order worksheets were created for every vender.  Each day my fellow department heads and I would gather our Suggested Order Quantity (SOQ) paperwork and write replenishment orders for future need.  Once orders were complete and signed off by a manager, SOQs were given to a computer room staffer for keystroke entry.  Orders were created, and in some cases reprinted and mailed to vendor for fulfillment.  Completed documents were dumped in the recycle bin to be sent to the recycler.

As I moved through various management positions, paper use expanded as analysis reports became tools to drive sales and manage inventory.  Small mountains of paper came in the form schedules, analysis, P&L, and personnel records and of boxes of training documents … all requiring some form of re-distribution.In the late 90’s the company implemented electronic ordering via mobile cart with touch pad computers. The paper order stack began to diminish … Analysis reporting was still there but paper consumption was halved.  I remember when the large 8 ½ by 13 tractor feed dot-matrix printers were replaced with more efficient, ream capable, toner outfitted, duplex equipment.  Soon came on-line scheduling and training, on-line report viewing, on-line employment record keeping and more.  As an administrator, I saw the budget for paper decline to where it nearly matched that of the monthly bathroom tissue and paper towel budget!

All this happened without company edict or cultural change within organization … paper use simply diminished because of advancing technology.  Don’t get me wrong — paper was still there when I left, I’m sure it still is, albeit for specific application; custom orders, required-by-law hardcopy recordkeeping, etc., but overall, paper use has and continues to decline.  I am confident others have experienced this as well.

Need other examples?

When my wife and I went to refinance our home a year or so ago, we never signed a paper document.  Everything was done with electronic signature capture and approval.  As the “paperwork” was finished, we were asked if we wanted a hard copy, an electronic copy or both.  I had the “documents” emailed. 

Even schools are using less paper.  Students submit school assignments to instructors on line … including assignments math.  Universities send course work to scholars electronically … and electronic textbooks can now be rented.  As learners complete more work than I ever did, they have less paper to show for it.

The above experiences are given because I was on the other side of the fence — as a consumable end user I simply accepted the evolution of business, never considered it to be cultural change.Dealers driven by the equipment quota demands of manufacturers are not evolving as fast.  Machine purveyors are reluctant to drive change because of the potentially high reduction to their revenue stream.

Because of the above, I contend that it is MPS providers that need education – they need to realize how printing devolved at the user level.  Only then can they become a preferred managed services provider.

Educating Business for MPS

Evidence leads many to believe it is dealerships, VARs and manufactures that need to change … because the technology being sold today logically moves people away from paper.A recent internet article reinforced my anecdotal detail, noting that government and medical entities still have the most printed output.  The article added while it is important to know what is being printed there is plenty of opportunity to reduce paper output … even if the only measure taken is an increase in duplex application.  Business leaders who embrace small procedural changes can greatly affect the bottom line and printing and its peripheral expenditures are the target candidates for cost reduction.

Education can be a simple behavioral change.  Integrating new office practices should be collaborative efforts … with human resources and other administrative staff working together with IT professionals to develop ways to change and improve the way people work.  Educating businesses on what can be accomplished may simply be the first step in the process.

Unfortunately, even though MPS has matured, many machine dealers have had miss-steps along the way.  Some of those miscalculations have been so bad that when the subject of MPS is raised, ill-informed VARs turn color and run the other way.  Short-sighted owners and managers have even been known to bury their collective heads in the ground, hoping that MPS will go away and they won’t need to get involved.

The real education path should be directed towards dealers, VARs and other service providers.  Only then can they become confident enough to convey how they can and will help their customers reduce printing costs.  End-users with confidence in their provider’s abilities find it easier to buy into proposed changes.

MPS providers who convey confidence in their MPS offerings have first determined what it is they can do.  The MPSA ( ) suggests that there are four primary MPS models, each built on the previous:

  1. Supply Fulfillment only
  2. Supply Fulfillment PLUS Break/Fix Service
  3. Supply Fulfillment, Break/Fix PLUS Equipment Management
  4. Supply Fulfillment, Break/Fix, Equipment, PLUS …

Successful MPS purveyors choose the model they have the ability to offer and do whatever it takes to be a premier provider in that area.  As one level is perfected, they move to the next.  The dealer’s education path may begin internally with the development of a standard operation procedure (SOP) for what they intend to offer.  For example a supply fulfillment provider may develop their SOP to include procedures covering:

  • Supply changing behaviors – What triggers supply-item change request?
    • Automated (device-based)
      • False positives (looks like toner was swapped, but it was not)
      • Premature replacement (via user induced and/or machine warning)
      • Higher frequency of changes due to coverage variance
      • Multiple (redundant) software alert notification prior to actual replacement
    • Customer (user-based)
      • Early swaps (margin-erosion)
      • Multiple user requests for more toner
      • Lost stock (over-shipment due to multiple customer requests)
      • Shrinkage (loss, theft)
      • User vs. provider replacement
      • Content of the printed detail (fill on the page)
  • Supply changing behaviors – What triggers erode profitability?
    • When to send OEM vs. compatible (per contract terms)
    • Defects (supply quality)
    • Misdirected stock / Out of stock / Rush shipments (cause and effect)
    • Order tracking (to what level? per device, per supply quantity, etc.)
    • Carrying costs (safety stock, tracking remote warehouses)
    • Yield of supply item (what is being printed)
    • Managed vs. unmanaged fleet (is the dealer managing the entire fleet or not)

Being a successful MPS provider requires diligence and a certain amount of ground work.  Providers unwilling or unable to commit, should not venture in to the managed services arena.  They give us all a bad name.

… In Summary

Education for managed print services begins at the dealership level.  Too many providers thinking they will “get into MPS” discover too late that they are unprepared and cannot deliver on promises made.It is much better to …

  • start slow and look internally ,
  • decide what can be offered,
  • put the right people in place,
  • develop best practice SOPs, and only then ,
  • embark on the MPS journey.

Start small, maybe by offering supply and/or service fulfillment to the most loyal of customers.  They already have an established relationship and are more forgiving as the dealership and the customer learn together.  Expand to equipment management when supply/break-fix has been fulfilled … Remember the old adage “Under promise and over deliver.”  It is much easier to build on a solid platform than on wishes and dreams.