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Industry Insight

Document Printing by the Federal Government: Your Tax Dollars at...Risk!

Printers battle paper waste every day,

By Patrick Henry
Published: June 3, 2009

Printers battle paper waste every day, but the U.S. government apparently hasn’t heard that there’s a war on. A recent study commissioned by Lexmark claims that one third of all documents printed by federal employees goes straight into the trash or recycling bins, costing taxpayers more than $440 million per year. According to the study, it breaks down like this: • On average, each federal employee prints 30 pages each work day, totaling 7,200 pages per employee per year. • Federal employees estimate that they immediately discard 35% of those pages the same day they are printed. That’s 2,250 unnecessary pages per employee per year, or 6,572,593,440 waste pages annually. The conclusion: “When in their agencies’ offices, federal employees print without restraint.” The study, based on a survey of 380 government employees, also found that younger federal employees print and discard paper at about the same rate as their baby-boomer colleagues. So much for the supposedly greater environmental awareness of Gen-Y workers, at least when they’re on the public payroll. In fairness, though, federal workers of all ages realize that something could and ought to be done: • 89% report that their agencies do not have formal printing policies in place. • 69% believe that their agencies’ paper trails could be converted to digital trails. • 64% acknowledge that they could print less. The study, widely cited in the media, is sure to become fodder for government watchdog groups. It recommends more duplex printing, converting more documents to digital files in lieu of hard copy, and holding employees accountable for their printing habits. On June 24, Lexmark will follow through with a free webinar on how agencies can eliminate unnecessary printing by transforming employees’ printing practices. Register for it here.

Patrick Henry, Executive Editor for WhatTheyThink.com is also the director of Liberty or Death Communications, a consultancy specializing in research, education, promotional, and editorial support services for the printing and publishing industries.

Patrick Henry is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us here.

Please offer your feedback to Patrick. He can be reached at patrick.henry@whattheythink.com.



By Michael J on Jun 03, 2009

Is there really a difference between a government bureaucracy and any global's organization? Or similar formations in education systems or health organizations. The discourse in the world of Managed Print Services is focused on exactly that issue. For the 95% of commercial printers, I think the best way to get a piece of this action is to partner with best of class MPS outfits in their local regions.


By Clint Bolte on Jun 04, 2009

The Managed Print Services thread deserves a little further discussion as it clearly is an uncut diamond in this public sector application. Though started only a decade or so ago with the advent of specialized software and multi-functional devices, Managed Print Services is quickly becoming the genre for the transition from a hardware concentric management issue to that of a knowledge worker productivity opportunity. Whether it is entirely outsourced or a blend of services from specialty vendors providing maintenance or supplies, MPS will surely be embraced by corporations of all sizes sooner rather than later. Proven cost savings venues are plentiful: a. Economy of scale buying of equipment and supplies, b. Moving the assets off the balance sheet as part of a cost per copy (cpc) contract, c. Reducing head count by outsourcing service, d. Utilizing pop-up software on all equipment to encourage users to save money, such as default duplexing and sending the job to the least expensive device for printing, is a user behavior change initiative, e. Utilizing the scan and fax features of the multi functional printers (MFPs) reduces unnecessary printing by capturing and moving documents electronically, and f. Total chargeback capability via user code or card, i.e., no free copies, also contributes to fewer copies being made. Process improvement adds to knowledge worker productivity: a. Office mapping to assure that the appropriate equipment is convenient to all employees adds to efficiency and savings, b. Client productivity and satisfaction climb with automatic software feedback embedded in the hardware (1) to maintenance forewarning problems improves up time and (2) to supplies control reduces idle inventory investment, c. Software queuing work (with user permission) to low production demand periods (nights) increased hardware utilization and d. More energy efficient hardware, fewer copies, and recycling add to the corporation’s overall environmental efficiencies.


By Michael J on Jun 05, 2009

Clint, I'm curious to any reactions you might have to the idea that commercial printers can get into the MPS by offering what PacPrint calls the printernet idea. It's an updated version of "distribute and print." But with the advent of MPS goes deep into the organization. The notion is that the same document could be printed at the workgroup, the in-plant or the commercial printer or a network of commercial such as Consolidated or any of the franchises. The choice could be made by the user. The problem, as I see it, is the wildly different cultures of the copier world and the commercial print world.


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