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 user 2006-12-15 at 12:22:00 pm Views: 49
  • #17171

    years now, major printer companies have worked with the world’s largest
    businesses — banks, retailers and manufacturers — to ensure their
    printing needs were met.But for the past two years, companies such as
    Hewlett-Packard and Lexington’s Lexmark International have begun to
    focus on big business’s little brothers.Both companies, and others,
    have introduced managed print programs aimed at small and medium-size
    businesses to help them track printer fleets, toner usage, error
    messages and just about anything else an exasperated IT manager would
    ever need to know.The programs offer various degrees of complexity, but
    all hinge on the notion that printing has become more convoluted to
    customers who prefer simplicity.Few start-up companies have an IT
    department on day one. As they grow, they buy printers that suit their
    immediate needs, resulting in a hodgepodge of hardware.Small
    businesses, and particularly medium-size businesses, often have too
    many printers, a key problem, said Larry Jamieson of printer industry
    tracker Lyra Research.”It’s not necessarily the cost of the printers
    themselves, but the cost of printing,” he said, noting that companies
    can print too much on older models with high costs per page.It might
    sound like a printer company’s dream — more pages on more printers
    equals more profit-turning toner cartridges — but those companies
    realize, Jamieson said, that their customers will work to get those
    costs under control.”Each of the (printer companies) is saying ‘If we
    can get this under control, we’re going to have more control over their
    printing. If we’re the guys they’re going to, they’re going to use our
    equipment,’” Jamieson said.Enter managed print offerings. These tools
    allow printer companies or resellers — businesses that sell printing
    products and services to end users — to track printing at a firm.A
    successful print audit can reveal inefficiencies and even point out
    statistics that show, for example, how often a certain printer breaks
    down. Managed printing also offers just-in-time delivery of toner,
    meaning no more trips to your local office supply store when the
    cartridge runs out.Such programs can also be paid for with standard
    monthly fees that make budgeting easier, though some also set a
    pre-defined limit of pages and attach overage fees when a company
    exceeds the maximum.”Companies are still trying to figure out what the
    best model is,” said Philip Grote, an analyst with the research firm
    Current Analysis.

    HP’s answer
    leader Hewlett-Packard unveiled its Smart Printing Services program,
    aimed at small and medium-size businesses, in November 2005.Customers
    pay monthly fees, which include hardware delivery, installation options
    and supplies delivery, said Tami Beach, U.S. business operations
    manager for the program.The fees are based on projected toner usage,
    Beach said, but are updated annually based on the amount of toner a
    customer actually uses.Smart Printing Services, though, is available
    only for HP printers, leaving companies with other brands to purchase
    more HPs or step up to a higher-level program, Beach said.Although the
    program is available from HP, the company also allows resellers to work
    with it, offering commissions based on a contract’s value.

    Lexmark’s answer
    took a different approach. Calling rival offerings like HP’s
    essentially finder’s fee programs, it offered resellers the Lexmark
    Fleet Manager, which made its debut in October.Unlike HP, which can
    retain lots of control over its program, the Fleet Manager’s “focus is
    on choice,” said Marty Canning, vice president and general manager of
    Lexmark’s Printing Solutions and Services Division.”We want to give
    choice: choice to the customer in how they buy and choice to our
    partners on how they sell,” he said.The Fleet Manager, run completely
    by resellers, tracks any brand of printer and can allow resellers to
    track clients on a global scale, showing Lexmark “really listened to
    the needs of the resellers,” said Grote, of Current Analysis.Canning
    said: “It recognizes our partners’ needs to meet their customers’
    diverse environment and our (resellers’) desire to improve service
    levels with their customers.”In demonstrating the program, Lexmark’s
    Jannette Baker showed how the company tracks its own printer use across
    the globe.Lexington office products reseller Electronic Business
    Machines got a look at the program before it launched, and president
    Michael Hicks said he already has three customers interested in the
    managed services.”They’ve given me the opportunity to service the
    customer better in every angle,” he said.Lexmark doesn’t require users
    to purchase Lexmark printers or supplies through the program, instead
    banking on various training and usage fees.But the company has waived
    those in 2007, Canning said, “to allow our partners to get out and get
    off to a fast start with the use of this program.”"We’re investing in
    our partnerships. Our belief is by enabling our partners … it’s going
    to drive more Lexmark hardware and supplies,” he said.

    Downstream expansion
    the managed programs moved from larger customers to small and
    medium-size businesses, is it conceivable they might one day target
    home offices? Or even consumers?Not likely, most say. Low usage and low
    numbers of printers make such a situation too easy to manage,
    especially since printer software already warns consumers when they’re
    running low on ink.Plus, from a printer company’s perspective, “it just
    seems that’s probably the lowest margin market now,” Grote said.”I
    don’t really see it…” Jamieson said, “but somebody may get really