Simple office and marketing printing is something most organizations don’t put a great deal of thought into, but they should. Some studies estimate print as costing organizations anywhere from 1-3% of total revenue, which is considerably by any standards. Understanding your print costs, where they come from, and how to reduce costs will help you to optimize print by making better choices.

Importantly, your actual print costs will depend on your existing hardware, number of employees, and factors such as print-volume, print type, and demand.

Understanding Print Costs

Print costs include several aspects of printing, including maintenance, management, software, hardware costs, and actual print-supply costs.

Hardware – Hardware is the most visible cost of printing, but not typically the most impactful. Here, you either purchase hardware upfront, lease it, or purchase hardware with a payment plan. You typically pay interest and have an upfront cost. Printer hardware varies greatly in price based on size, print-volume, and print ability.

  • 750-6,000 pages per month = $400-$600 (5 users)
  • Up to 25,000 pages per month = $400-$2,000 (25 users)
  • 25,000-60,000 pages p/m = $1,500-$6,000 (25+ users)

Here, choosing hardware means calculating total expected peak usage and supplying offices to that level. So, if you have 120 employees who are expected to print 5-15 pages per day, you have to meet a 54,000 page per month print capacity. Most importantly, you have to organize printers to meet individual team and office needs, so that printers are conveniently located an accessible.

Your cost calculation should be:

Total cost of printer (hardware cost + delivery + installation + interest) divided by total number of expected years of use (typically 5-6). So, an HP LaserJet Enterprise M604n E6B67A priced at $1,249 paid upfront will cost $17.30 per month of operation.

Paper and TonerPaper and toner are another very visible cost for most organizations, but many don’t track it. In fact, Gartner estimates that 90% of organizations don’t. However, actual cost of print typically varies from about $0.02 cents for black and white text to upwards of 0.30 cents for color pages.

However, costs can vary depending on your paper, toner, and how you supply both. For example, if you purchase paper at a store and simply restock, purchase disposable cartridges rather than refillable, or pay delivery costs, those should be calculated as well. You’ll often find that cost per page varies considerably from one printer model to the next, so if you’re calculating, you have to do so on a printer-model-by-printer-model basis.

This can add up considerably, with one United Stationers report on Empowered Employees suggesting that the average medium-size business spends in excess of $692-$1062 per employee on office consumables each year. This means that if you operate with just 50 employees, you’re still spending to the tune of $30,000+ on office consumables such as print.

  • Paper – (Divide the cost of the package by the number of pages) Average 1.2 cents per page
  • Toner – Check the page count on the printer when installing a new cartridge and when removing it. Divide the cost of the cartridge by the number of printed pages. Average 1-3 cents per page depending on color or b/w

Average cost per page: 2-5 cents per page. At 2 cents per page, printing 50,000 pages will cost you roughly $1,000 per month in supplies.

Maintenance – Printer drums, fuser assembly, and other replacement parts add to the total cost of your print. For example, if you print 50,000 pages with a $200 printer drum, it’s costing you. You also have to factor in regular maintenance, calls to IT and demand on support and help desk, and external calls or time employees spend on maintenance.

  • IT Support – What percentage of IT support calls are print related? How much time do they take? How much are you paying IT? If you have 5 people in IT, 20% of all IT calls are print-related, and calls take up 15% of total time for individuals receiving them, you could calculate your support costs at 15% of one person’s salary. (If your IT tech makes $32,000 per year, you’re spending $4,800 per year on printer support)
  • Parts and Hardware – These costs are direct and can be calculated based on printed page cost
  • External Support – How much do you spend on external maintenance? Such as hiring a technician to visit and repair a printer.
  • Run Costs – what are actual electric usage costs?

Software and Network – Printer software and networking can be considerable, but few organizations actually calculate it. Here, you should review how your printing network impacts your organization, what you’re spending on software, and what you’re spending as a whole.

  • Network Load – What type of network is your printer system on? How much of total load is comprised of print? If you’re printing over internet rather than LAN or VLan, these costs can be considerable.
  • Server – Does your print network have its own server? If not, what percentage of your total server load does it comprise? What do you spend on that?
  • Software – Do you pay per month for print software? Does old software cost productivity?

Other Costs – Printers can result in increased costs through data leaks, increased security risks, and other factors. If these impact your business, it’s important to calculate them in as part of total cost of print.

Reducing Print Costs

Gartner estimates that the average business can reduce the total cost of print by 5-30% by managing print services. However, most organizations don’t have the time, infrastructure, or resources to do so effectively. Sourcing print from a managed print services (MPS) provider will ensure that the following cost-reducing steps are taken inside your organization:

  • Match printer-size to demand. Over or under-fitting hardware will add to costs
  • Implement software with page recompose, pull printing, and online backups
  • Implement training to increase awareness of print costs
  • Track printer-usage with user accounts and access logs
  • Implement an MPS to reduce demand on IT support and external maintenance
  • Continue optimizing print hardware and software to meet your needs

Printers can cost a considerable portion of your annual budget, which is why it’s important to review costs, where they are coming from, and if you can reduce costs by switching to a single solution provider with managed print services.