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Buying printers for schools

Posted on 27 Jan 2011 at 14:16

You can save money for your school not only by choosing the right printer for your needs, but by reducing your print costs too

Did you know that the average secondary school uses more than one million sheets of A4 paper a year? That’s just one of the extraordinary statistics that emerged on the cost-cutting blog started by Microsoft’s UK education team at BETT 2010.

Printing costs for paper and consumables are one of the biggest drains on ICT expenditure in schools, and in many establishments this has yet to be brought under control.

That’s before you get to the disparate hardware purchases, the dodgy leasing contracts and those school visitors whose arrival brings fear and anger in equal measures: the sharp-suited photocopier salesmen. The total cost is said to represent the biggest bill next to staffing.

In fact, many schools couldn’t even tell you what their total printing costs are; they simply don’t know. In these schools, the hardware, maintenance and consumables come under a range of budgets and departments and often there’s no one person to catch sight of all the invoices.

Rather than hide your head in the sand, now is the time to seize control: it’s a huge opportunity to make the sorts of savings that could protect your school in these days of spending cuts.

The good news is that it’s easy to find out about what’s happening – simply talk to other schools and colleges, particularly new or remodelled BSF (Building Schools for the Future) schools that have tried radical new solutions, as well as companies with expertise and local authority advisers. Between them, they can provide you with everything you need to know.

The view from the customer

Milton Keynes College, a further education establishment that currently has 33,000 enrolments, is at the top “enterprise” end of the education sector. It services up to 5,000 students and 1,500 staff on two sites, while its outside commitments include community-based centres and 13 prisons.

“There was no strategy until about three years ago,” says Neil Sperring, IT support manager at the college.

Since going out to tender for its printing services, however, the college has brought its total number of printers down from around 200 to 60, and is now using Canon’s uniFLOW software so it has moved from simple accounting – knowing the number of printouts created – to full print management.

Students and staff have an individual ID number (and will soon have their own swipe cards), which they use to pick up their work from any printer. This is known as “follow me” printing and is an emerging trend in schools, particularly those going through BSF projects.

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User comments

Lots of words, but little content.

This three page article could have been summarised in a paragraph or two.

Here we go:
Google follow me printing.
20% of print jobs are unwanted. Inkjets are expensive.

Come on guys, readers expect some more content in three pages.

By tirons1 on 28 Jan 2011

Talk to the end users!

As someone who actually has nearly a year's experience of working with Canon's new Uniflow system, I can maybe give you a few pointers.

It has, to be fair, meant that we have access to a few slightly better printers than we had before.
Er, that's it, by the way, for positives, apart from the possible "it has provided Canon with a great revenue stream".

Your assumption that no on in schools cared about printing costs is a fallacy - just because there were many budget holders didn't mean that they were not watching costs.

But what has actually happened in the year of Canon?

Printing volume dropped a little at first, but that was because Canon wouldn't tell us the cost per page until about six months into the contract. Unfortunately, things need to be printed, so the volume is back up, almost to where it was. No environmental benefit there.

Costs have more than trebled, now that we know Canon's pricing structure. In fact, when you factor in the double cost of single sided printing (Canon automatically charges for both sides, even of a one page document) it has more than trebled.

The fact that network printers jam, break, fail, etc. and are not local to a department for someone to take maintenance responsibility means that many sheets of paper are wasted - and Canon still charges the school for printing them.

The wonderful idea of simply not printing mistaken print jobs assumes that people only ever need to print one job every four hours. Uniflow software is so carefully locked down that you cannot withdraw a print job after you make an error, resulting in people printing 57-page PDF's by mistake (when they only needed a single assessment page). Don''t tell Canon, but when a colleague mistakenly sought 30 copies of a 57-page pdf (£50 worth of mistake), I switched off the printer rather than waste the money.

The printers themselves are not even that good. In our area of the school, for example, we have a printer which (in less than twelve months of it's life) has had two weeks off for paper feed problems and a complete imaging drum replacement. Did they put a high end, high volume printer in when they took away nine personal laser printers and three colour inkjet mfps? Well, if I told you the paper tray holds 250 sheets of A4, you'll get the idea.

Our school's in house high volume copier has also gone. On a lease contract, it could churn out copying jobs at just under 2p per double-sided A4 page, all in. Canon charge me 6p.

Oh, and whilst the printer is also a photocopier and scanner, the scanner is not accessible because Canon's software won't allow access. So we had to go out and buy three stand alone scanners.

Am I impressed?

As an end user - no. The hassle has been increased and the quality reduced. I spend more time dealing with printer faults than I used to, and I have to wander back and forth to the printer changing paper over for multiple colour coded print jobs (for dyslexic pupils, for example) which means a job that took five minutes now takes half an hour or more.

As a budget holder - no. The new system costs more and delivers less.

More annoyingly, the whole question of who prints what and how was crying out for a thoughtful solution. This would have involved re-educating staff and pupils, using new technologies, reigning in costs and cutting environmental damage. Instead, we got a hashed job from a company that saw potential for maximising its own profits and doesn't care about end users or the environment.

So who is happy? Well, the council have managed to lose half of an admin worker because of the contract. But a hundred teaching staff and four technicians are having to work longer hours to make up, so it doesn't really balance out.

Overall the only winner is Canon. They have been given a licence to print money!

By MrTee on 13 Feb 2011

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For more details about purchasing this feature and/or images for editorial usage, please contact Jasmine Samra on pictures@dennis.co.uk

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