The Network Printer Effect: Procurement Initiative Projects Big Savings

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Meadows Dean Sam Holland doesn’t use a personal desktop printer in his office. Instead, he opts for the nearby network printer.

“I’m trying to lead by example,” Holland says of his attempt to reduce the printing volume at SMU.

As part of its OE2C initiative, SMU plans to cut support of desktop printers in offices and encourage faculty and staff to use network printers in their respective areas. Employees will still have an option to use desktop printers, but the university no longer will support their upkeep, including toner and paper.

The cost-cutting measure will save SMU a projected $150,000-$200,000 in its first year, and possibly more later, says Dawn Norris, executive director of Student Life and project manager of the Procurement Initiative for OE2C. Holland, who spearheaded a similar cost-cutting measure five years ago as the director of the Division of Music, found that sharing network printers significantly decreased printing expenses. It came down to making better use of a limited budget, he says.

“It became clear that we were spending an awful lot of money on supplies by providing printers, by providing toner, by providing paper,” Holland explains. “But we had other areas that needed that money, such as faculty travel and supporting visiting artists.”

Following Holland’s decision, the division’s printing budget dropped from about $17,000 to $4,000 in a year. “We didn’t expect it to cut it that much. It wound up exceeding our expectations.”

Initially, there was concern from faculty and staff when he pulled the plug on desktop-printer support. “That was the first response,” Holland says, but eventually “reality hit” that the division was putting its savings to better use in other areas. Everyone had access to network printers near their office, but they could purchase their own printers as long as they paid for upkeep and supplies, Holland says.

As another part of his plan to cut back printing costs, Holland encouraged faculty and staff to send digital documents via email instead of making hard-copy handouts. Soon the Music Division faculty and staff started “using digital documents more than ever,” which really helped on costs, Holland says.

Norris believes SMU’s OE2C printing initiatives could have similar positive effects for the University. Right now SMU employees use an estimated 2,400 desktop printers. The OE2C initiative will decrease that to less than 1,000 network printers, Norris estimates.

“This initiative is one of the few in which we have someone in-house (Holland) who has run a pilot of it – and one shown to be a success,” says Norris, who voluntarily returned her desktop printer and now uses the network.

Besides saving SMU money, it also becomes a positive move toward sustainability – using less energy by not powering all those desktops as well as using fewer toner cartridges, she says. Another plus, one that the Music Division saw happen, was employees coming out of their offices and interacting with one another more often while using the network printers. Some SMU employees have been anxious about the new OE2C initiatives, and some have expressed particular concerns over the switch in printer usage. “But (Holland’s) program has proven successful over a period of five years,” she says. “It works.”

Reducing expenditures of things people are accustomed to getting is almost always difficult, Holland acknowledges. But reduction in this area is definitely worth it.

“Everybody is going to feel some pain one way or another,” he says. “But I believe we’re on balance to doing the right thing for the long-term fiscal health of this institution.”