Perhaps more than any other type of organisation, schools face considerable challenges in cutting down on their dependence on paper. When it comes to lesson resources, homework, administering tests and assessments, paper copies are often still the most straightforward and sure-fire way to ensure all 30 pupils in a class get what they need.
Whilst the arrival of laptops and tablets offers a digital alternative, they come with their own considerable price tag and logistical burdens. As every teacher and school administrator knows, the printer and copier remains an essential hub of school life. But keeping things working efficiently, not to mention controlling costs, presents a sizeable challenge.
So how do you manage print queues so they don’t get out of hand and ensure required resources make it to the classroom on time? How do you keep a lid on spiralling expenditure when, for many hard-pressed teachers, hitting the print button is often the path of least resistance?
Here are three possible solutions to consider.
The biggest battle most schools have with reducing print costs is cutting out unnecessary and waste printing. Ultimately, the best way to achieve this is through educating staff, but habits can be hard to change. Organisations therefore find that a nudge in the right direction in the form of monitoring and controlling printer use can have a significant effect.
It might just be a case of introducing a monitoring system so you can generate reports into print use, using the results to show staff where waste and duplication has occurred as an incentive to change behaviour. Or it might be a case of introducing user authentication systems, with each staff member or department provided with an account. Once the account runs out of funds within a fixed period, no more printing can be done.
Another alternative that has proved useful in schools is to restrict people’s access to certain printers, depending on location within the buildings. This stops the old problem of people resending jobs to another printer when they are in a rush and find a large queue, which often leads to wasteful duplication. Whichever solution is adopted, print controls can reduce expenditure by up to 40%.
Managed print services
The challenge of controlling print costs is a matter of managing equipment as well as user behaviour. When you are running a fleet of, say, 10-plus printers and copiers, keeping on top of maintenance and supplies becomes a sizeable job in itself. One fault, or one printer running out of toner at an inopportune time, can put serious stress on the rest of the fleet and cause major bottlenecks. When people are rushed and queues start to build because a printer is offline, that’s when mistakes and waste happen.
With a managed print service, you pay a fixed price per printed page and get everything included – toner level monitoring and automated dispatch when it is running low, all service and repairs carried out by local engineers, dedicated support for any issues via a help desk or online. When you factor in the costs of downtime and inefficient use of other machines when one or more is offline, a managed service often delivers considerable value.
Even where schools have invested in the likes of laptops or tablets for their pupils, not all materials they need for lessons are available online or in digital format. Hard copies of books and other paper resources continue to be vital teaching and learning resources and the default position to share them with a class is to copy them.
The digital alternative is to scan a hard copy into a network, but what many schools struggle with is building file libraries and retrieval systems that are straightforward for children to navigate. Having to name, describe and build pathways for new files takes time, especially for staff who are less confident with digital media.
With a scanning management system, this can all be done for you. Meta tags can be added automatically using information in the scanned document, which can then be used for efficient storage and recovery. These integrate fully with common storage platforms such as Microsoft Sharepoint or Office 365.
To find out more about how Weaver & Bomford can help your school reduce your printing bills, please get in touch with our friendly team today.