Modernizing the Copy Room Environment

Printers and copiers do a lot more than output documents. They can eat up resources when poorly managed or offer an all-in-one solution when properly purchased. School district administrators are concentrating on getting the most for their money, which often means moving away from having a large fleet of different devices that have singular functionality and moving to consolidation with multifunction devices that copy, print, fax, scan and more. Print infrastructure is changing, as administrators look for alternatives and providers that can manage these services, with better efficiency and cost effectiveness.

“School districts spend a lot of money on imaging and printing because they do not have the tools to continuously monitor the print management infrastructure,” says Valeria Phillips, worldwide industry consultant, Public Sector Government and Education for HP. “According to surveys we have taken, most districts don’t even know how much they spend.”

Jeff Metze, industry manager, State & Local Government, Education at Lexmark, says, “As a provider, we are responsible for understanding the trends in the industry and to helping our customers down that path to better manage their assets and reduce costs. We help clients change behaviors and the environment to meet the goal of printing less and saving more.”

Assess Your Environment
The first step to finding a solution is assessing the environment that already exists. “We survey the customer’s current environment, usage and type of devices owned,” says Metze. After an understanding of the client’s usage and needs is clear, a recommendation as to what technology features will best serve them can be made.

“We want to make sure they optimize the infrastructure, so they have right amount of devices, located in the right places and equipped with the right functionality,” says Phillips. “We want to propose an environment that meets everyone’s needs, from the art teacher, to administrative users, to students.”

Manage Your Environment
Significant cost savings and gains in efficiency are obtained by proactive management, and there are many tools and services that void downtime and money loss due to maintenance issues or supply needs. Customers can self manage their environments, or a company can provide those services.

One example that can help a district save money is toner management. Gone are the days where a significant amount of district money is tied up in a closet full of toner just waiting until it is needed. Management software can track the toner level of each device. When the toner reaches a certain level, the software sends an automatic alert with the model of toner needed, so it can be ordered. This frees up money to be used for other needs and also avoids the down time of a device waiting for the next toner delivery.

Optimize Your Environment
So, now you have a fleet of devices located in the right areas and managed so there is as little down time as possible. What’s next? Business optimization. Paper costs money; printing less saves more. Optimization involves taking a look at business processes and finding ways to eliminate paper from those processes. “Multifunctional technology — printing, copying and scanning — allows districts to create digital copies of pages,” says Phillips. “Document management software allows the district to share those pages with students, parents, etc.”

Creating a digital environment as much as possible saves money. “We want to help clients manage information — paper or digital — and help them access that information and manage it as quickly and efficiently as possible,” says Metze.

An example of streamlining a process to be more cost effective and efficient can be found in something that happens in schools every day: taking and grading tests. The right tool can help reduce waste in this environment and decrease the cost of an increased need for assessment. The nifty bubble sheets used for many tests come with a host of problems. Each sheet of bubble testing paper costs money. Districts are forced to have sheets in stock for tests taken every day in multiple classrooms. Then, there is the issue of filling them out: it takes time and is prone to errors. Let’s use my son as an example. Not only is he saddled with my impractical last name, but his father and I blessed him with a first name that also has nine letters. Even if he manages to correctly fill in the bubble for each of the 21 letters in his name, he loses out on the time it takes to do so. In a 50-minute period of time to take a test, John Smith definitely has the edge over my son.

With a print-on-demand solution, bubble sheets are printed when and where they are needed, eliminating the toner closet syndrome. “If a form changes or you need only a certain number of questions, you can print exactly what and how many you need when you need them. This is obviously much more cost effective,” says Metze. Integration into student information systems is also possible, so students no longer need to bubble in their names, student IDs, etc. The forms can be pre-printed with that information, reducing errors and wasted time. And, when the teacher has the form graded, the information can be pushed directly into the grading system.

Another example is streamlining IEP information. A document management solution allows unstructured information to be taken and made into more usable information. For example, a letter from a doctor is unstructured (not in a form or template). The solution takes the information from the letter and associates it with that student’s record. This eliminates the need to keep a paper-based file for each student, which can cause privacy issues.

Mobilize Your Environment

A big challenge for managing devices and the print infrastructure are mobile devices, since these devices aren’t on same network as the printers/copiers (they are typically on a wireless or mobile network instead). A cloud-based offering can solve this conundrum. With this solution, whether the job is created via mobile device or desktop computer, they are all available to the infrastructure for printing. This provides a cost reduction, as the print infrastructure does not have to be expanded. It also allows learning to move outside of the classroom. Teachers can even send a print job while off site at a field trip or a conference.

The Bottom Line
Paper will always be needed to a certain point in schools, so the goal of an effective printing/copying program is to make the use of paper as cost effective and efficient as possible. The right devices, infrastructure, management and tools can increase productivity, reduce cost and help meet green school initiatives. 

Danielle Przyborowski is an Ohio-based writer with experience in education-related topics.

About the Author

Danielle Przyborowski is a Dayton, Ohio-based freelance writer with experience in educational and architectural topics.