VA performing judo cuts on printing costs

Eliminating personal printers is one goal, also working on comprehensive printing strategy

The Veterans Affairs Department is looking for savings on printing costs in 2012 as part of its “Ruthless Reductions” agenda, according to Roger Baker, the agency's CIO. The agency issued a Request for Information on Nov. 24 asking for input and advice on how to do that.

According to the text of the RFI, the eventual strategy "will assist in enforcing policy and managing users printing habits in-line with the overall strategy to ensure optimal performance and cost efficiencies. The solution will specifically have the ability to manage the print infrastructure, monitor usage, resolve issues, account for devices, and enhance productivity while reducing our 'global footprint.'"

Just before Thanksgiving, Baker told reporters on a conference call that a key target is eliminating desktop printers in favor of larger centralized printers. He said he believed the majority of desktop printers can be replaced with the centralized printers within five years.

The move away from desktop machines and toward centralized printing has been tested in several pilot projects, and while it is not yet official policy, the department is moving in that direction, Baker said.

The cost savings could be significant, he said.

“We found that, over multiple years, eliminating the majority of desktop printers saves about $1 million per large facility,” Baker said. “That is a significant piece of money saved by moving to large-scale multi-function printers.” The VA operates 54 hospitals and 171 medical centers nationwide.

At the same time, however, Baker cautioned that reducing the number of desktop printers is a “balancing act” and “we do not want to be pennywise and pound foolish.” If a manager can make a strong business case for a desktop printer, the printer will stay, he added.

Baker made the remarks in a conference call on Nov. 23. An audio version of the call was published online by Fierce Government IT.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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