All in One: Multifunction Office Equipment

Technology constantly changes the way that we live and work, and office equipment is certainly one area that’s undergone tremendous change in the last 15 years.

Remember the days when a department had individual machines for faxing, copying and scanning? Well, those days are quickly becoming a thing of the past. It’s now possible to get all this and more with one piece of equipment, and the revolution isn’t over yet.

The Market

“The market for multifunction peripheral (MFP) office equipment has emerged in the last 10 years,” says Don Cummins, Vice President, Marketing, Fax, Printers and Multi-Function Products for Brother International Corp.“The market has seen very strong growth and it has yet to reach maturity.”

Cummins says there are three levels within the market, home/small business, mid-range and corporate, which is where colleges and universities fall.“The home/small business sector has been the leader in purchasing for MFPs to date,” he says. “Individuals in this sector see the great value in having one unit that will fax, copy and scan. You can purchase a very good MFP that provides excellent service for less than $300. It’s a great value.” Cummins says that in the next four to five years that the most significant growth will come in the mid-range and corporate markets, and education users are likely to play a significant role in that growth.

Assessing the Need

According to Cummins, the keys to determining which MFP is right for the user lies in assessing the volume within an individual area as well as the number of users. “You have to know who is using what machines and the volume they generate in order to identify the MFP that is best for a department or use within a facility,” he says. “This is especially critical when it’s not uncommon to have 30-40 users in an area who may generate 10,000 or 20,000 pages a month. Use relates to both the type of machine that is required as well as to whether you should lease or purchase the equipment.”

Product Benefits

MFPs are wonderful solutions for college and universities according to Dave Bair, industry director for public sector, at Lexmark International, Inc. “Institutions must be able to track use, reduce waste and have cost-effective operations. MFPs work well in a variety of settings including offices, libraries and within departments.”

As one example, Baird points to the use of MFPs in the library. A white paper authored by Lexmark states that “with strategically networked MFPs students can scan copies of research materials and send them directly to their personal e-mail account. Paper and toner consumption are dramatically reduced, not to mention hardware wear and tear.”

The ability to reduce consumption is critical according to Baird. “It’s not uncommon for students to scan materials and then send them to multiple printers for output since they want to minimize their wait time. Enabling students to e-mail information directly reduces waste on several fronts. Studies show that waste drops by 40 percent when students have to pay for each print job, so tracking this use is vital to cost reduction.”

Steve Perry, product market manager for Lexmark, says that MFPs provide additional benefits. “An increasing number of colleges and universities are using smart cards or other ID forms so that students can either be billed for printing when it’s needed or debit their account. MFPs can be set up with a card-swipe feature for this purpose, which is very efficient for everyone.

He also says that available hardware can form the building block that enables MFPs to serve as the entire output strategy for a campus. The device’s benefits, including a variety of network platforms, high speed and a broad product line, allow administrators to craft the solution that is right for their institution. Using MFPs also helps reduce supply expenditures according to Perry. He points to the fact that users with separate fax, scanning and copying machines formerly had to purchase different supplies for each machine. Now, the list of supplies can be narrowed because one machine does it all. At the same time, service contracts for multiple types of machines are eliminated because, again, one machine can do it all.

What the Future Holds

Technology for MFPs will continue to advance, especially regarding network operating systems and how applications can be tied together. This will make operations even faster and less expensive, which is all that any college or university could ask for regarding their equipment.