Multi-function printers, also known as All-in-One printers, MFP, or AOP, are one of the most popular printer options in the world. Often, this is the case for good reason. MFP’s make it easy for organizations to fit scanners, printers, and copiers into smaller spaces, reduce the cost of upfront investment, and ensure that any printer can handle the common demands of employees.

That aside, they’re not for everyone. Investing in multi-function printers can be cost-effective if you need functions like scanning but might not pay off if you don’t.

If you’re upgrading, expanding, or otherwise changing your print fleet, it may be a good idea to assess your print needs to determine what technology you actually need.

If you’re bringing in managed print services, this type of assessment will likely be included as part of the service, but it’s also important to understand your own needs and the decisions made by those service providers.

Cons of Multi-function Printers

Multi-function printers undoubtedly have a lot to offer, but sometimes, their pros turn into cons. The same features that prove to be their greatest strength often result in disadvantages for organizations that don’t need those strengths.

1) Increased Hardware Costs

Multi-function printers cost more than a standalone printer ever will. While they do combat those costs by reducing the volume of hardware and reducing the total cost of purchasing separate devices for printing, copying, and scanning, the value lies in whether you actually need those other services.

The days of having a standalone copier in every office is long gone, but you may not actually need it. Many organizations can simply duplicate documents digitally and increase the number of print runs.

2) Increased Risk of Hardware Failure

More capabilities mean more parts, more moving parts packed into the same plastic shell, more use, and more heat. Each of these contributes to a higher likelihood of failure. And, when your all-in-one printer goes out, every service it offers goes out as well. Of course, most offices have more than one MFP, which leads to the second problem.

3) Longer Print Queues

Offering more print capabilities typically results in people doing more with printers. In the case of the MFP, with the same device. Unfortunately, multi-function printers will typically dutifully perform every single request in their queue without regard to the urgency of the task or the time required to complete the task.

In Administrative Office Management, Pattie Gibson suggests that reducing time spent waiting for printers can save most organizations considerably by boosting productivity.

While there are ways to get around lost productivity (such as switching to digital print queues and allowing queuing to be managed from a computer and ensuring the print fleet is right sized to the organization), it’s an important consideration.

4) Complex Print Distribution Needs

Can your print network handle the complex demands of multi-function printing? If your organization’s network can’t save scanned files to the user’s account, either in the cloud, on their computer, or on a server they have access to, scanning is largely useless.

If printers don’t create digital copies of documents for smarter print queuing, you also likely can’t manage. And, multi-function printers require two-way traffic capabilities, because the files are sent to and from the printer. Your network has to be ready.

5) Reduced Print Capability

It might sound a bit like an oxymoron to say that multi-function printers have less print capability than a standard printer, but sometimes, it’s the case. Organizations in need of specialty and high-end print graphics often lose out with MFPs, largely because you have to pay considerably more for all-in-one print devices capable of meeting high-quality print than you would for high-end printers with separate scanners.

So, graphics studios, architects, designers, and organizations looking to create high-end print inside their organization will often benefit from at least some printers that are not one-size-fits-all. This is especially true considering many laser multi-function printers are still black and white, which really only fits the needs of text-heavy offices and organizations.

6) Running Costs

Multi-function printers are more expensive to repair, manage, and run than single-function printers. That makes sense considering they typically offer more connectivity, definitely offer more features, and often don’t require a connected computer to run. These features are advantages if you need them, but otherwise just an added cost.

Making the Right Decision for Your Organization

Multi-function printers are quickly becoming the standard solution for most organizations. And, with technology that rivals single-function printers, that makes sense. However, it’s still a good idea to review if MFP will benefit your organization or if you’re just installing it.

Assessment – Do employees scan or copy documents? Would doing so add value in any way? Is digitization a better alternative?

Printer Capabilities – Are single-function printers capable of meeting connectivity and availability needs?

In most cases, organizations can benefit from a diverse print fleet, capable of meeting the needs of individual offices. High-print volume offices like finance typically only have to quickly print copies of specific documents without the need to copy or scan. Implementing low-cost single-function laser printers could save your organization considerably.

On the other hand, if you want to digitize these environments, single-function printers may not meet your needs. On the other hand, branches like sales typically have to print and scan documents. You can skip these stages with digitization and digital signatures to reduce print volume, but again, a single-function printer may not offer the support or capability.

The best option is to review your organization on a team-by-team basis to ensure everyone’s print needs are being met. Chances are, you can size your print fleet to comfortably meet all needs, creating a balance between meeting feature-needs and cutting costs.