(This article originally appeared on Inkjet Insight.)

Print shops have personalities. Some are built around a culture of leveraging vendors for services to keep everything up-to-date. They use the Club Med approach of buying all-inclusive access to the services and teams to keep the equipment humming along. Other shops like to keep their hands on everything, taking more of a Home Improvement approach. They have a room full of tools that would make fans of Tool Time jealous. And then, there are the shops that take the hybrid approach based on the time they can devote to maintenance activities, the experience levels of their team members and how assigning team members might impact productivity.

The crucial data point is that you do have options. Most vendors are happy to discuss what they offer for maintenance options, what training is available for your team members, and how to pay for maintenance when the vendor team does the work. Look at all available options and run the numbers. Your needs and budgets will be different from the shop down the street. Also, consider how maintenance costs impact your Cost of Goods Sold and your Total Cost of Print.

Consider these options and talk to your vendors about them, even if you think you know what you want to do.

Maintenance Contracts:  Most vendors offer regular preventive maintenance and emergency support. Look at these contracts carefully to see what they include and exclude. Some include a specific number of specific parts. For others the parts are always an added cost. Look at the flexibility of scheduling maintenance, how long they estimate their work will take, and if there are added charges for support on weekends, holidays, or night shifts. Look for added costs associated with travel time for the technicians. Comb the contract carefully to understand the costs and benefits.

Maintenance Wrapped into Click Charges:  Click charge contracts are not as common in high-speed production inkjet, but they do exist. They make assumptions about the expected throughput on the machine and the nature of the work being done. The click charge is designed to cover some or all of the machine’s wear and tear and the cost of performing needed maintenance. It may include print head replacement as well as specific parts. It may include some replacement parts, but it may not.

It becomes pay-as-you-go maintenance, where the machine may phone home to trigger needed care. As always, carefully review the contract for click charges to see what is included. If there is a requirement for purging fluids, wipe cassettes, or other consumables beyond the ink, are they included or invoiced as an extra cost. Look for the specifics on how often you can call for support and what obligations the vendor has for response times. Consider maintenance flexibility and anticipated downtime requirements. Ask for a list of potential extra charges and any added costs you might incur. Read the contract and consider circulating it among your team leads to ensure that everyone agrees with the plan.

If you look at those options and decide that either self-maintenance or a hybrid approach that leverages your team for the basics and brings in the vendor team on a quarterly or bi-annual basis, remember to review your contract carefully for your obligations.

Come back next time when we explore the cost impact of different maintenance models.