Big Copiers: Do you really need them?

Thirty years ago it was inconceivable to most of us that mainframe and mini computers would  be supplanted by the lowly PC.  And who would have expected that the tiny iPhone would have the computing power of PC workstation of only a few years ago.  Smaller, faster, better has been the norm.  So why is it that purchasing and facilities managers think that they absolutely must replace their large aging copiers with one of equal or larger size?

Is it because they’re printing and copying more?  Most recent data suggests that hard copy volume is flat at best but more likely declining slightly over the next several years. A recent Morgan Stanley report suggests that tablet (aka the iPad) use is expected to force a drop in corporate printing and copying by as much as 15%.

Do organizations really copy that much any more?  We are a field service company in the area of copiers and printers for over 400 LA area firms.  We’ve found that the vast majority of large stand alone copiers are seriously UNDER utilized.  Less than 5% actually copy more than 15,000 pages per month.  Not only are the copiers underutilized we are continually amazed at how many copiers organizations typically have.  This is definitely a case of the “inertia of the status quo”.  Even though printing and copying trends have changed radically over the last 10 years, copier hardware buying trends have not.

So your copier lease is coming up.  What should you do?

1. GET DATA ON HOW YOU’RE USING YOUR CURRENT COPIER!!!!  This is singularly important.  Find out how much volume per month you are running through the copier and in what sizes: 8×10, tabloid (11×17) and Legal.  Get a life count from each of your copiers at least two weeks part and calculate your monthly usage.

2.  Determine your current cost per page.  Get your current lease payment plus click charges.  Divide your current lease payment by the number of pages per month you copy/print.  Add this number to your click charge.    You may think you’ve got a hot deal since you’re paying less than a penny a page on your click charge but when you add in your per page lease cost you might find that you’re actually in the 5-10 cents per page range.  Reason being: under utilization.

3.  How much tabloid output?  Your users may be insistent that they absolutely must have a big copier because they occasionally print/copy tabloid.  Check the counter on tabloid printing and figure out your monthly tabloid volume.  Why?  Because tabloid capable devices cost 2-3 times more to buy and supply than those devices that can only do letter/legal.   What we often find is that clients are only using tabloid very occasionally, say to prepare their annual budget spreadsheets.  If this is the case then may we suggest Kinko’s or instead of having 1 tabloid capable device for every 10-15 letter/legal size copiers.

4.  Compare options.  Once you have all your current copier data together it is now time to compare your options.  What other option is there other than an equipment refresh with another 3-4 year lease?

4345MPF - Top selling copier in its class.

Consider buying your next copier outright or leasing with a $1 buyout at the end.  We would recommend that you consider the HP line of MFPs, specifically the Laserjet 4555MFP, the Laserjet M9050MFP, and the Laserjet M3035MFP.   The Laserjet 4555MFP for example is a 55 page per minute device with a base price of only about $2600.  Nicely equipped it can be had for $3500.  It takes the same all in one cartridge as the laser printers, it is extremely reliable, and compatible cartridges are available to make your operating costs even lower.

We serve clients that have Laserjet MFPs that are 6-7 years old and still running great.  They own them outright, make no lease payments, and are running reliably at relatively little cost.   We service and supply these devices on a cost per click basis of about 1 cent per page typically.

So what if your copier salesman is offering 1/2 a cent per page?  Is that a good deal?  In the example below you would need to be printing/copying over 42,000 pages monthly before the lower click charges would justify the cost of leasing the machine.  Note: very, very few office copiers come even close to this amount of copying.

Remember when it comes to copier math, it is not just the price of the machine or how much per page.  One of the single most important variables in copier economics is how many prints/copies per month.  Get this number and do the math!

Monthly Clicks           15,000
HP Laserjet 4555MFP
Price  $     2,700.00
MPS Click Charge  $       0.0110
Copier Lease
Lease Amount  $       300.00
Number of clicks included in lease           10,000
Lease Term 60
Click Charge  $       0.0050
MFP Monthly Cost  $       210.00
Copier Lease Monthly Cost  $       325.00
Difference  $      (115.00)
Total Breakeven Clicks       2,541,667
Per Month Breakeven           42,361

Personal Black and White Printers

Personal PrinterAs a managed print provider we’d prefer that our clients didn’t have personal printers.  Ditto the IT staff of our clients.  But the reality is that end-users frequently request/demand that they have their own personal printer.

So, the question we frequently get is which one to buy.  Here’s our list of criteria to consider:

  • What personal printer models are you already using in your fleet?  If you can, try to standardize on something you already have, assuming that it fits the bill with respect to the other criteria below.  Remember, an additional model means another toner cartridge you have to stock.  Even if your model is discontinued you can usually buy a refurb – more on that below.
  • How much does it cost to supply on a cost per page basis.  Before even looking at the price of the printer you should be determining the cost of the cartridge and its page yield.  Divide the former by the latter and determine your cost per page.   Typically, the cheaper the printer price the more expensive the cost per page.
  • How reliable/fixable is the printer.  This is not so easy to determine.  The best source of information regarding this is to pick the brain of a laser printer technician.   We share our opinions below.
  • Speed, size, options – network card, duplexor, color.   Even though it may be a “personal” printer we recommend that it be on the network, thus get a network card.  If it’s not on the network, the device is difficult if not impossible to manage.   Regarding color:  I would emphatically recommend against allowing personal color machines.  They are extremely expensive to operate and not very reliable.  Make it your organization’s policy that issuance of a personal color printer will require written authorization from the CFO.   That should put a stop to it.    We’ll discuss color options in other blog posts.

So specifically what should you buy.  Shown below is a list of HP Laserjets that could be used as a personal laser printer.  Note the huge variance in cost per page.  Also note that the higher the cartridge yield the lower the per page cost.   What about other brands – Lexmark, Okidata, Samsung etc?  In general the personal printers offered by these manufacturers are either impossible to repair (throw away) or insanely expensive to operate – 4 cents per page (for BW, color 20-25 cents – again, don’t even go there) or more on toner alone.  HP also has some very expensive printers on a cost per page basis, and we would tell you to avoid those, the Laserjet 2035 and the Laserjet 1022W for example.

* Indicates a printer we would recommend.   Note the Toner CPP is just that, the cost per page for toner only assuming you’re buying compatibles.     Add 50% or so if you plan to buy OEM.   Add another 30-40% for parts, repairs, and maintenance.

Printer Cart Yld Speed Est CPP Printer Price Source
Laserjet P1505           2,000 24PPM 2.5 cents $125 Refurb
Tech Verdict:  Good printer for low volume use.  Reliable but cheaper to replace than to fix – usually.
Laserjet 1320*           6,000 22PPM 1 cent $165 Refurb
Tech Verdict:  Great printer, highly recommended
Laserjet 2035           2,300 30PPM 3-4 cents $200 New
Tech Verdict: So far, ok.  Expensive to operate
Laserjet 2055           6,500 35PPM 1.25-1.75 cents $325 New
Tech Verdict: So far, ok.  Expensive to operate
Laserjet 1022W           1,600 19PPM 4 cents $149 New
Tech Verdict: Throw away printer, expensive to run.
Laserjet 4200N*         10,000 35PPM 0.6 cents $225 Refurb
Tech Verdict:  Great machine, runs forever.  Reliable, Servicable.
Laserjet P3005         13,000 35PPM 0.6 cents $150-200 Refurb
Tech Verdict:  Junk, formatter board goes out 60% of the time.  Display freezes
Laserjet 2420*         12,000 30PPM 0.6 cents $150-200 Refurb
Tech Verdict:  Good printer, but sometimes has gearing issues around fuser.
Laserjet 2015           7,000 27PPM 1.2 CENTS $150 Refurb
Tech Verdict: Junk, lots of formatter board failures

Color Printer 6280

We’re currently testing a Xerox Phaser 6280 color printer.   The things we liked about this printer were:

1. Low purchase price for a DN model (network and duplex).   Approximately $400

2. Compatible supplies availability – at relatively low cost – CPP comes to about 8-10 cents.

3.  Speed: 27 PPM.

One of my service techs setup the 6280 with compatible cartridges.  Ran 100 pages.

Unfortunately on the left hand side, there are three recurring dots, probably from the black cartridge.  So, we’re not off to a good start with compatibles.

New cartridges are over $229 each so a complete set of four will put you back $916, or more than 2x the cost of the printer itself.  CPP will be running 15 cents a page for just the toner.

In addition, the printer is fairly big.  At 20 inches in height it’s not much smaller than an HP Color Laserjet 4650, which while huge, is quite reliable and considerably less expensive with respect to supplies.

Update 1/25/2012:  Received a replacement unit for the black cartridge with the dot.  So far works great.

Update: 3/5/2012.  The compatibles work OK as long as there is not a lot of solid page coverage.  Good for text, graphs and small pictures.  Makes a mess of it if you try anything with a lot of coverage.  Recommend this machine for relatively low monthly print volume.  The cost of new toner is prohibitive, so compatibles are essential unless you have a really big wallet.

Managing Printer Costs


At least 50% of all help desk calls are printer related.  Many companies, my clients included, spend thousands of dollars a month on supplies, service and hardware replacement of their office printers.

Office printing is one of the most inefficient and under managed expenses of most organizations.

When we interview prospective clients the vast majority have no idea how much they currently spend on supplies or repairs.

Device manufacturers sell printers for one and only one reason: to sell you toner.   They make little or no money on the printer itself.  All the profit in this industry is in the supplies.  Which is why they’d very much prefer you shop for those amazing printer prices and not cartridge prices before you buy your printer.

In addition, device manufacturers such as HP, Lexmark, and Xerox tend to “refresh” their printer offerings every 18 months or so.  Each new printer model comes with its own unique cartridge (generally).  So as your organization accumulates devices over the years, there is an ever increasing number of cartridge skus you need to order, stock, and store.

Repairs are another headache.  Do you replace the fuser for $250 plus $110 in labor or should you just buy a new machine?   And how do I know that the printer actually needs a new PIU unit, fuser, and a new set of feed rollers?  Is the repair guy trying to sell me parts I don’t even need?

The point of this blog is to help you sort through questions such as:

What desktop color printer can I buy that’s small, reliable, and doesn’t cost a fortune to supply.

What printers should I buy (or avoid) based on the experience of the guys who repair them?  The people who repair stuff are often the best source of information on the relative reliability of the m0dels they work on.

Do all compatible cartridges suck?  Or is it just me?

My printer is telling me I need a new maintenance kit.  Otherwise, it seems to be running fine.  Do I really need one?