In today’s evolving IT world, companies are looking for every advantage, at every angle to find areas to improve the business and reduce costs. Printers are frequently one of the most overlooked assets on the IT network. They are expected to “just work” with little attention paid to how they are being used and, in a lot of cases, little understanding of what they cost. These overlooked devices can cost companies tens of millions of dollars because they have not been properly optimized for the needs of their business. Beyond the hard costs, there is the productivity loss when printers don’t work and employees can’t easily print.
HP has been working with customers to solve these types of issues and get the highest level of performance and value out of their print environment for over twenty years as part of our Managed Print Services engagements. The rise of big data and the internet of things represents an important set of trends that are driving significant advances in how printers are managed and serviced. These concepts are helping deliver higher levels of flexibility, transparency and control, which translates to lower costs and a better print experience for end-users. We see the potential for even more advanced applications to deliver even greater improvements in the future.
Here are a few ways big data innovations can improve printing for your businesses.
Gaining Deeper Insight into the Printing Environment
Gone are the days when printers were those dumb devices sitting in the corner of the office that almost never seemed to work. Modern printers are smart, connected devices, embedded with sensors and software that enable them to collect and share data about themselves, allowing a greater degree of insight into the state of the printers in a fleet than ever before.
Through the application of big data and business intelligence, it is possible for IT organizations and their MPS partners to collect richer insights about their printers, using it to manage them for efficiency and productivity beyond what is possible today. Some areas where advances in data collection about printers is helping drive improved performance include:
- Machine-to-Machine communication, enabling more automated and consistent printer servicing and management processes
- Machine learning, which supports predictive capabilities that allow for services to be provided to a printer before a breakdown or interruption occurs
- Advanced remote diagnostics to minimize downtime for printer servicing
- Integrated insights about user interactions for better understanding of the user experience as well as device optimization
Leveraging Big Data for Stronger Fleet Performance
Historically, printer placement around the office has been guided by a limited set of data, such as print volumes and color usage. Big data enables precise printer placement in the office, determining issues like where a color printer is needed vs. black and white, where a multifunction printer is needed, or how many printers a business needs. By bringing together many types of data such as user profiles, , data types and the duration of print jobs along with the composition of the existing printer fleet, it is possible to create a plan for the optimal device deployment and update that plan as the office evolves. The result is a printer deployment strategy that is customized based on the needs of each office to increase the performance of the workforce and avoid unnecessary print-related expenses.
Big data makes it possible to be proactive and predictive about the management of the printer fleet, allowing for faster diagnosis, dispatch, and resolution of service events. Repairing printers and copiers has traditionally been a slow and manual process. An employee would experience an issue with a printer and alert someone who would then call the servicing company. A service technician would be sent over to diagnose the device and begin repairs. Often new parts would be needed, prolonging downtime for the printer even more. Today, remote diagnostics and predictive capabilities make it possible to identify and resolve many issues remotely before the service technician is on site, making the process of repairing printers significantly faster and more accurate.
Big data also helps IT be proactive and predictive about determining when printers need to be replaced, repositioned, or removed. In the past, departments made decisions on device replacement, doing one large, single purchase of a fleet based on a rough guess of the years in service, or usage. Now, IT managers have ongoing access to several forms of data (usage, years in service, printer type, user profiles, location, fleet views in the vicinity) to make more precise recommendations on when a printer should be replaced with a newer model or one better designed to meet the needs of employees in the vicinity. This results in a more precise and data-driven device management strategy that lowers costs by reducing service visits and increases productivity by preventing printer downtime.
These capabilities will continue to advance, enabling the development of the “self-healing” printer. This concept brings together big data analytics, machine to machine communication and automation to enable printers to take steps to reduce and prevent their own service interruptions.
For example sensors within the print devices can monitor the speed of the paper through specific areas of the device, as well as thickness and moisture of the paper to automatically make adjustments to both the roller and fuser systems to improve performance and print quality. Enabling printers to monitor themselves and initiate firmware updates or other performance adjustments as needed will help extend the life of their replaceable parts and further reduce the frequency of service visits, to improve printer performance while lowering costs. We see even more potential for “self-healing” in the future, when printers can connect directly to inventory and service scheduling systems to further automate the printer servicing process.
Turning Data into Actionable Insight
Big data has already resulted in significant advances improving printing for businesses and will continue to do so in the future. If you are interested in learning more about how to get greater data-based insights to manage your print in environment, you should consider the following:
- If you are already working with a Managed Print Services provider, you should ask them about their big data capabilities and make these types of capabilities and performance modeling part of your overall print environment plan.
- If you are not currently working with a Managed Print Services provider you should consider it. Be sure to find a vendor with the tools and expertise to deliver detailed data analysis about the performance of your print environment and partner with you to manage it.
Your print environment does not need to be a cost and productivity issue. By embracing the potential of big data to gain more actionable insights, it is possible to cut costs, improve productivity and gain maximum return on your printer investments.
Scott Steele is Head of Managed Services Tools & Infrastructure at HP Inc. He leads the implementation of tools and infrastructure to help enable HP Managed Services. Contact Scott @hpbiznow.
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