Paper, Paper Go Away

K-12 school districts that break their addiction to printing and find new ways to manage the flow of printed materials are logging substantial savings. The Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township, near Indianapolis, for instance, slashed printing expenses by $125,000 per year by changing its practices. Wayne Township serves a student population of 16,000 and employs 1,100 teachers in 21 schools and five administrative buildings.

“We started out just targeting costs, but we found that consolidating our print infrastructure and standardizing the equipment also cuts waste, saves time and helps teachers use classroom resources efficiently,” says Pete Just, chief technology officer with the district.

Just began his quest to reduce costs six years ago when he asked Cannon IV, an Indianapolis-based managed print services provider and equipment reseller, to help develop a strategy that would reduce the numbers of printers and lower printing costs.

At the time, 1,670 printers and copiers were pumping out printed documents all across the district. “We were close to having a printer in every room,” Just recalls.

Working with Cannon IV, Just developed a plan that reduced the equipment count from 1,670 printers and copiers to 515 devices, many of which are multi-function printers (MFPs) capable of printing, faxing, scanning and copying.

Just also standardized the equipment, selecting Hewlett Packard (HP) Laserjet monochrome MFPs, Color Laserjet MFPs, Color Laserjet printers and Designjet large format printers.

“All of our schools have the MFPs in several locations, within three or four doors of every classroom,” Just says. “Because we have standardized on four models, we can transfer devices from school to school to balance needs. Standardization also simplifies training for teachers and maintenance.”

The new MFPs extend the district’s efforts to reduce the use of paper and ink. That effort began with the purchase of classroom projectors in 2000. Connected to a teacher’s computer, the devices project the images or text displayed on the teacher’s monitor to the projector screen. Instead of photocopying materials, teachers could simply scan documents to files and call them up for projection in the classroom.

Unfortunately, teachers did not have quick access to scanners. Today, however, the new centrally located MFPs make scanning as routine as printing.

After scanning a document, teachers can project it in class or save it to a learning management system where students can download it.

Scanned documents enable a number of paper-saving processes. “Once teachers (or administrators) scan documents in, they have a number of options,” Just says. “They can scan to a file and send the file to their email address. They can post the file on a share drive. They can scan the file and send it to an email list — this simplifies distributions from administrators to faculty members and from a faculty member to peers and to students.”

The system is a first step toward an all-electronic document system. “Electronic documents have great advantages over paper,” Just says. “They are easier to store and search for, and they are easy to mark up on a projection screen in class or when students are collaborating on projects.”

To reduce printing even more, the school district’s staff has set the default print option to produce PDF files rather than a printout. It’s a reminder to think again about making electronic copies before printing to paper.

Of course, mechanical printers must still print some documents in ink on paper. When that becomes necessary, Wayne Township teachers use the computer in their classroom to send a print command to the appropriate device in a nearby room.

During the day, the teacher will have reason to walk past the printing room. He or she can drop in, check the printer for the appropriate stored jobs and punch in a security code to print.

While it sounds inconvenient, it improves on the old system in which teachers printed a document in the classroom, carried it to a photocopying room and stood in line until the copier opened up.

Still, why make the teacher press print twice, once in the classroom and again in the printing room? “It’s called print-on-walk-up,” Just says. “We’ve found that printing the document immediately causes waste. The pages are in one stack. Teachers forget to pick them up until the next day. Sometimes they forget that they printed the job. Sometimes, they pick up their job plus half of someone else’s job.”

Overall, says Just, the district is saving $125,000 per year on printing services. Equipment costs have plummeted as the number of devices was reduced by more than half. The new multi-function devices are more expensive, but the dramatically smaller numbers needed ensure overall equipment savings. They are also larger and so more durable. Plus, MFPs are more efficient — they use less ink. Finally, they have been designed to upgrade with software or new components instead of a new machine.

And, the $125,000 in savings doesn’t include paper savings. The savings on paper purchases allowed by electronic documents is a bonus.