Reducing the burden

Retailers may not immediately realise they could make savings by taking a closer look at their printing. At the same time, pressure from consumers is mounting for them to demonstrate their green credentials. Vivienne Rosch finds out where costs can be saved, processes streamlined and business optimised while reducing printing's burden on the environment

Retail environments tend to be disparate, with stores spread across the country, observes Stuart Davis, product manager at Epson. "It can be difficult for a company to know how much they're actually spending on printing. With our managed service we manage printing for them centrally, using software which allows us to 'see' all printers across the country, what toner they're using, whether they've got faults or need servicing." This eliminates duplicate ordering and stock piling of consumables. Hundreds of individual invoices are consolidated into just two a quarter, providing management information on who is printing what where. Rationalising printers, service and consumables across all outlets produces efficiencies.

On the green front, some steps require no investment. Graham Lowes, marketing director at OKI Printing Solutions, advises printing multi-page documents double-sidedly, using colour only when necessary and switching off machines not in use. He also recommends implementing an efficient management strategy, using print audits, for example employing OKI's print control software to gauge what each employee is printing. OKI provided printing solutions to mens' outfitters Hacketts and to Robert Dyas, who also took a nettickIT PoS solution from OKI's partner Pierhouse.

There is less need to stint on colour when using Xerox' new colour printers. Solid ink printing was developed by Tektronix in the US in 1986. Xerox bought Tektronix in 2000 and its early solid ink colour printers were popular with graphics customers. Its new generation makes this technology attractive to businesses generally. Last year, Marks and Spencer ordered 1,050 Xerox Phaser 8560 solid ink colour printers for its stores. Tesco's Personal Finance and John Lewis have also bought Phaser colour printers.

September 2009 saw the UK launch of Xerox' ColorQube range of A3 solid ink multi-functional devices. They have won numerous industry awards. The company's sector marketing manager Nick Stainton comments: "ColorQube is innovative, dramatically cutting the cost of colour printing and waste." Xerox' three-tier pricing for ColorQube charges by the amount of colour per page: "A customer with a typical split between useful (less than 1.2 per cent of colour), everyday (up to eight per cent colour), and expressive (full colour) can save around 50 per cent on colour printing costs."

ColorQube is also easy to manage. Anyone can replace its four blocks of
solid inks - no cartridges - on the fly. There are only four further parts requiring
end-user replacement over its lifetime. Fewer parts means fewer items to transport and store, saving emissions and space. It also means less waste. Stainton says: "The amount of packaging for a comparable amount of consumable items to run a laser printer is 90 per cent more."

ColourQube's lifecycle energy use is nine per cent lower than a typical laser printer's, earning it an energy star. Its carbon footprint is 10 per cent lower (Rochester Institute of Technology). This makes it an excellent choice for those requiring affordable high quality colour printing that is "greener".

Mobile labelling

"It's about printing what you want, when you want it, where you want it." For labelling goods received into distribution centres, ensuring they can be "picked" immediately and delivered to stores, Clive Fearn, marketing director at enterprise mobility solutions provider Barcode Warehouse, recommends mobile printers. They avoid errors made by staff collecting labels from shared-use fixed printers and walking them to where they are needed.

Fearn says mobile printers offer ROI in a matter of months. "Mobile printing reduces costs and increases productivity." It aids accurate asset tracking from distribution centre through the store to customer returns. This reduces over-ordering and minimises shortages and unnecessary deliveries. Distribution centre staff save an average 30 minutes a day walking. It is equally useful for price markdowns and shelf edge labels in front of stores. The John Lewis Partnership successfully used a Zebra Technologies mobile printing solution in its Northamptonshire distribution centre and in Stevenage.

Doubling up

And so to the check-out, where the average weekly supermarket store produces a till receipt of alarming length. Many retailers have their receipt rolls pre-printed on the reverse side with promotions or advertisements. Toshiba TEC's TRST-A10 and TRST-A15 thermal PoS printers allow retailers the choice to print whatever they wish on both sides of the receipt roll in the store, either cutting paper wastage by an average of 42 per cent, or printing promotions on the reverse, but avoiding costly outside printing with minimum order quantities that end up being dumped when the offer expires.

Toshiba TEC's consumables manager, Tony Morrison, says: "The flexibility is tremendous, whether the stores decide to reduce waste by half, or print promotions on the back. A lot of the stores are looking at them also to print coupons." They could also sell the space to advertisers. Thorntons chose the printers for their flexibility. Head of IT, Steve Harris, comments: "We selected the TRST-A15 printer based on speed, reliability, low power consumption, competiveness and the comfort that the hardware is backed by one of the world's leading technology companies." Morrison believes both Tesco and Morrisons are considering double-sided receipt printers for when their existing printers need replacing.

The new-type rolls are more expensive, but Morrison says stores will recoup
costs fairly quickly: "On top of the 42 per cent reduction of receipt rolls, the savings for them are storage space, fewer deliveries, and a cost saving on the
number of roll changes, which each take approximately 23 seconds. Reducing that by half can save the company up to £4,000 a year, just in labour, and
reduces the time a check-out is closed, so throughput is higher." The
cost of the rolls will come down as use increases.

Epson's TM-T88V, the first thermal printer to have earned an energy star,
does not print double-sidedly, but can still save up to 15 per cent on receipt paper. Printing on polymer film with IBM's SureMark is another eco-friendly option. Technology offers many choices to save costs in this area, or to go greener. Best of all - the two frequently coincide.

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