The effects of the Government’s £4 billion budget cuts for social housing are far from over. Most of you will have seen staff redundancies, fewer affordable homes delivered and more people added to England’s 4.5 million housing waiting list. Budgets are under greater scrutiny as housing providers scramble to help families into homes, so it is a smart approach to look at in-house costs and how they can be reduced before looking at more staff redundancies.
Print rationalisation is a good starting point as it’s easy to do. It’s also easy to measure the savings from reducing the number of devices in operation, print consumption and usage.
Resolving each housing provider’s problems isn’t as simple as auditing what print solutions are currently being used and the volumes handled each year to suggest a generic proposal. Instead, the focus is on challenging the current print environment. Questions need to be asked about the existing systems and print consumptions, but the solution should be based on innovative and customised services that improve the housing provider’s situation and inevitably cut costs.
The majority of print companies will approach housing providers without understanding their requirements, needs or desires. It’s important to have a solid understanding of managed print services (MPS) and an in-depth knowledge of this industry. Furthermore, having a combined MPS that ensures devices are appropriately monitored by IT and software solutions helps to maximise savings.
Knowsley Housing Trust is a good example of this. KHT wanted to rationalise its entire printer and copier estate comprising over 40 networked printers and more than 12 copiers and multi-functional devices (MFDs). Based on a detailed assessment, the estate was strategically replaced with only 16 MFDs and two retained devices as these were confirmed to be the right machines to complete the job. All were supported and configured with print management software to create a defined workflow. For KHT, the print and IT solution saved on toner costs, sourcing, print, paper usage and waste, uncontrolled colour costs and energy costs. Furthermore, this was all done without adding to the IT department’s workload to maximise the savings.
By continuously delivering innovation to housing providers in response to their individual requirements, MPS can help save thousands of pounds per year. For example, Contour Housing Group evolved its print solution by removing existing stock and updating equipment. By implementing MPS, Contour received quarterly savings in print and energy costs and gained more control.
Another example is Look Ahead Housing and Care. It had more than 40 devices supplied and manufactured by one of London’s largest and oldest copier companies. The copiers were very old, poorly maintained and uneconomical. Look Ahead replaced them with 28 MFDs six years ago, but recently wanted to expand its printing and copying capabilities while reducing costs. Look Ahead implemented an MPS, with its membership of Procurement for Housing (PfH) helping to add additional savings.
Look Ahead is also using a real-time device monitoring and management system for printers and MFDs. This tool delivers complete visibility of supplies management, fault diagnostics and management reporting, both in-house and remotely. Look Ahead is therefore assured that devices are proactively managed to deliver asset management, volumes and utilisation reports, toner usage and automated toner dispatch while identifying device faults remotely.
By monitoring all available network devices, meter readings, toner levels and error codes can all be monitored in real time. A system should also be able to remotely order consumables such as toners when the MFDs need them, removing the need to hold stock on site; the wastage that occurs when stock is ordered but never used is thereby reduced.
There are visible green improvements too. Through a recycling programme and raised awareness of print waste, MPS can help housing providers achieve their green targets.
There are several tips to follow when selecting an MPS provider, for example:
Look for a company that is a PfH member and has worked with other housing providers in the UK.
Look for an independent MPS provider that is vendor-neutral. Many print suppliers will advise housing providers to throw away existing devices even if they have only just been replaced. It may be that the device isn’t required in one department, but would be well suited for another.
Request a site visit to assess your full print requirements – ensure that the MPS provider talks to different members of staff in order to understand each department’s needs as well as the overall corporate needs.
Choose a solution that is not only the hardware, but also includes software and support. The software should offer on-time consumables delivery and remote support.
So to answer the original question, can managed print services really help with budget cuts? Yes.
An independent managed print IT services company can offer housing providers another way of helping to deal with budget cuts. By looking at the individual requirements and challenges of each housing provider and addressing these specifically, an MPS solution is capable of overcoming any IT obstacle, maximising workflows and ensuring cost savings.
David Knowles is director of public sector and education at M2.