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    Tips for better environmental performance through better printing

    Sand Martin Wood - OKI's woodland in Cumbria

    Environment has become a critical issue for the past few years and most people started to realize that they have to take a more responsible attitude to their consumption of energy and carbon emissions. This is not just a matter of being a good neighbour: increasingly it is becoming a central part of doing business. The prospect of legally enforced carbon quotas and trading schemes is near. Many companies, keen to establish their own green credentials, expect the highest environmental standards from their own suppliers, and being able to demonstrate best practices could mean the difference between winning and losing major contracts.

    The idea that a single business change process could both save money and reduce the carbon footprint must be extremely attractive, then. There is such a subject, and it comes from a surprising quarter, something that rarely attracts much management time: business printing.

    The Centre for Economics and Business Research (cebr) has completed a major study into this subject, across 23 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Smarter print management – controlling costs and environmental impacts suggests that by taking a new approach, and in particular adopting the latest printer technology and print management systems, enterprises can bring much of the print that was traditionally outsourced back in-house, resulting in savings of as much as $25,000 million across EMEA. For the UAE only, cebr estimates that savings could reach between AED 238 million to AED 540 million.

    But the study did not just identify cost savings, cebr estimates that by saving waste and by printing at the point of need 1.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions could be saved each year across EMEA, equivalent to taking 400,000 cars off the road or the emissions from 750,000 long-haul flights.

    The changes needed to realise these savings are not difficult: they simply need you to take a fresh look at how you manage printing, from letters and invoices through brochures and documentation to labels and packaging.

    How are these savings achieved? Through three simple steps: print what you want, where you want it, when you want it. This is the route to cutting waste, which in turn is the key to saving both cost and emissions.

    Print what you want. The conventional logic is that when you use an external print house you print in bulk for economies of scale. The converse of this is that you then have to allocate space to storing all this printed paper.

    More to the point, once it is printed it is fixed. You introduce a bold new feature on a product or service; you have thousands of brochures, not mentioning the new feature, in stock. Do you add a supplementary sheet? Do you pulp the existing brochures and reprint? How do you ensure that all stocks of the old document are withdrawn from circulation?

    Today you have to produce brochures and data sheets in online form, because customers expect to be able to access product information from the web. Ensuring these online versions are fully up to date is easy. When you need a copy – for a proposal, to sit in a rack in reception, maybe a small stock for an exhibition – print just the copies you need.

    Why do you need printed letterheads or invoice blanks? Today’s printers are perfectly capable of achieving the resolution and colour fidelity to reproduce logos and layouts as well as the text. Why expend energy on two print processes when one will do?

    Finally, ensure that duplex printers are used whenever possible. Printing on both sides of the paper halves the number of sheets you need.

    Print where you want it. It is an obvious point, but if you print in bulk, it has to be delivered – probably by diesel-fuelled truck – to your premises. If you have multiple offices, the chances are it will have to be shipped from headquarters to branches, again consuming energy unnecessarily.

    Change your working practices to embrace document management. Scan incoming documents so that everything can be handled within your organisation as files, from the customer order to the barcode label, from the enquiry to the invoice. Edit, annotate and create electronically; print only when you need a paper copy.

    Around your own buildings, carefully review workflows and see where printers are needed. Give staff ready access to printers for their own, one-off requirements. That should include black and white as well as colour printers to get the best performance and efficiency. Put high speed collating bulk printers in a dedicated print centre. Serial numbered barcode labels should be printed at the point in the production line where you stick the label onto the product.

    Exhibiting in Las Vegas or Hong Kong or Cape Town? Shipping brochures and other documents is wasted air freight. Email the documents you need to your local agent – or even a print shop at the exhibition centre – and print there. A real saving in carbon emissions.

    Print when you want it. Stationery stores are a waste of office space, heating and light. Eliminate so far as possible printing in advance and you eliminate the storage issue. It also means, as we have seen, that the information will be completely accurate and up to date.

    Do not think that printing in-house means that everything comes out on plain paper. Printers are available that print onto paper at any size and onto any stock: if you want your brochure on a glossy board, print onto it.

    There is no reason why changing the way you manage your business print should affect the quality of the results. But it will save money and significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

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