COMMENTARY

Easy money: How to save big money on printing costs

Brian Henderson is director of federal consulting at Lexmark Government Solutions.

The only buzzword in federal government bigger than “deficit reduction” is “spending cuts,” and there is little debate that federal agencies make unnecessary expenditures each year. The good news is that agencies can achieve $1 billion in cost reductions each year without cutting any programs. Those savings can be achieved by using less paper and more actively overseeing document management functions — that is, by improving the efficiency of printing, copying, faxing, scanning and related expenditures.

It might be hard to believe that a $1 billion savings is possible with a simple reorganization of agency printing processes, but it is. What’s the holdup? The challenge begins with the fact that agencies are typically unaware of how much they spend on these functions. They have no one in a position of responsibility tracking total dollars spent or coordinating and streamlining the total costs associated with document management. Expenditures on ink, toner, paper and copiers come out of multiple budgets, which can lead to excessive purchases. In short, federal agencies are overpaying for their document management function.

How can agencies fix that? To make measurable change, each agency would need to create an approach that works best for its offices. However, there are three components that every successful plan should have.

1. Dump desktop devices, older printers and large copiers. Agencies can consolidate faxing, scanning, copying and printing onto multifunction devices that can perform all those activities on a single machine, thereby enabling agencies to remove most desktop printers, which are more costly to operate than network printers. By combining that approach with the elimination of underused larger copiers and replacing older devices that are more expensive to maintain, agencies can save upwards of $550 million a year.

2. Reduce ink, toner and paper use. Agencies can establish a network print queue to eliminate accidental and unnecessary printing, use electronic storage instead of paper storage to meet documentation requirements, and implement a policy that requires employees to print two-sided documents — for a potential savings of $434 million per year.

3. Implement a management strategy for documents. The strategy should include enforcing management standards and establishing a method for reporting that shows how agencies are meeting their savings goals. Changes mean nothing if they cannot be measured and maintained.

Not convinced that a seemingly insignificant change can create a billion-dollar impact? Studies of actual paper use in the government indicate that, on average, federal agencies use 44 billion pages each year. In a recent study of federal printing habits, Lexmark discovered that 35 percent of those printed pages were unnecessary. The same study revealed that 92 percent of federal employees admit that they print more paper than they use each day.

If the government can eliminate unnecessary printing and reduce paper use by defaulting all printing to double-sided, agencies would print 19 billion fewer pages each year. Those pages translate into real dollar savings when you consider the amount of paper, ink and toner that is used every year on those 19 billion pages.

There is no reason, other than inertia, that federal agencies could not streamline their document management processes to generate those savings. The three-pronged approach has proven successful in thousands of other offices and businesses, and it can work for the federal government.

If feds apply a unified, holistic approach to document management and require agencies to track and report on their spending, Uncle Sam will print money instead of unnecessary documents.

About the Author

Brian Henderson is director of federal consulting at Lexmark Government Solutions.

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