How managed print services (MPS) can add efficiency and streamline operations Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2010

Since the economic downturn began, one of the biggest challenges for business owners has been the sheer uncertainty of the economy. When business slows and the future is tentative, tough decisions undoubtedly arise.

One of the most heart-wrenching and stressful challenges business owners and managers face is finding ways to reduce costs without cutting jobs. One of the newest and most innovative ways in which companies can reduce expenses and save jobs is through managed print services (MPS).

“This is a completely new service that didn’t exist eight years ago,” says Sonny Kumar, the vice president and general manager of Toshiba Business Solutions. “Now it is one of the most highly demanded office technology/administration services requested of vendors due to the economic climate, not only here in the U.S. but worldwide.”

Smart Business spoke to Kumar about MPS and how your business can benefit from it.

What is MPS?

Toshiba developed the first MPS program more than seven years ago, called Encompass 1.0. It was created with the intention of being more than just another sales tool for dealers. It was designed for the purpose of providing a solution to meet customers’ needs for process improvement and reduced expenses. At the time, this business model was a new idea, not immediately replicated by other manufacturers, and not quickly adopted by the dealers selling office technology devices.

But then the economy fell apart. As a result, those manufacturers and dealers who had not previously adopted an MPS strategy were now open to the idea as demand from customers skyrocketed. Within a few short years, MPS became the hottest buzz word in the office technology industry, and there is not a copier manufacturer in existence today that doesn’t claim to have an MPS program of some kind.

Because many of the programs are still in the early stages of development and implementation, there continues to be some debate when it comes to the definition of MPS. Essentially, MPS is managing a customer’s existing fleet of imaging devices regardless of brand. In other words, it doesn’t matter what brand of devices you have. If they work for you and are valuable in an optimized fleet, a good MPS provider will service and support them. The MPS provider is not focused on removing your machines and replacing them with its own brand in order to create greater profits. Unless it’s the right thing to do for the you, of course. Not all manufacturers take this brand-agnostic approach though, so businesses really need to do their homework and find the vendor that works best for them.

Why has the popularity of MPS programs skyrocketed amongst businesses of all sizes in recent years? In other words, what are the benefits to the business owner or manager?

The primary reason businesses tend to explore the option of MPS is in an effort to reduce expenses. MPS can save a company up to 40 percent on operating expenses in an incredibly short period of time. However, there are other benefits as well. In addition to cost savings, MPS offers the simple convenience of having someone else manage what is likely one of the administration department’s least favorite tasks. As mentioned, every program is different, but there can be a single cost per page, user-friendly online management tools, a single point of contact for customers, simplified billing for all devices, and integrated security and sustainability features. It is not uncommon for businesses, with little time to deal with the management of office technology devices, to find themselves with an excessive number of copiers and/or printers, purchased through several different vendors, which means different points of contact, depending on the device. Therefore, the simplicity and ease of having one point of contact managing a company’s devices is the second-greatest selling factor.

The integrated environmental and security features are probably two of the biggest differentiators for Toshiba specifically. The Encompass Green Report accurately measures energy consumption, carbon emissions, paper usage and solid waste, to provide a customized analysis that pinpoints opportunities for reducing environmental impact. The integrated SecureMFP program helps customers better understand where security risks lie. Based on the risks detected, Toshiba then outlines a strategy for cost-effectively fortifying document management. For many companies, securing documents and devices is no longer an option, per government regulations that require certain levels of protection be provided, such as HIPPA, FERPA, Sarbanes-Oxley and eDiscovery.

What should you look for when examining a vendor for MPS?

With program features differing from one vendor to the next, and even the definition of MPS varying depending on who you speak with, it is extremely important to carefully review your options with each manufacturer. Every business has unique needs and priorities, and as you explore the options available, it will be clear who can and cannot meet those needs. At the end of the day, regardless of the program features or ideologies about MPS, it all boils down to customer service. You want someone who is your partner, has your best interests and not sales goals at heart, and is responsive to your requests.

Sonny Kumar is the vice president and general manager of Toshiba Business Solutions. Reach him at sonny.kumar@tbs.toshiba.com.