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Printer Reduction

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"...it's as easy as Pi ..." Well I thought so too when I began this project at least. As I eventually learned, every project has so many unexpected factors coming into play my Pi became a stew.

Let me clear up your confusion and describe my situation. A few years ago I was working at a world renowned museum looking to reduce costs in the hardware sector. After looking over things I realized that we needed to get better control of our printer deployment. The simple math of how many employers we had versus the TOTAL number of printers showed that we were looking at a ratio of 4 to1. This math included everything that could print other then blueprint class professional plotters (and we even had plenty of those I must add). My count included local printers, networked printers, lasers, inkjets, dye sublimation units, and even dot matrix devices (because we still had people printing multipart carbon as well as units attached to lab equipment, and facilities stuff such as HVAC devices). The majority of our printers, as you can expect, were HP products but we had IBM, Epson, Okidata, Xerox, and everything in-between.

Step one was to gather the total numbers of printers and make sense of what we owned. Luckily we had very good inventory management in place. This meant that I had excellent insight into what we owned. The reason I can make this claim is because we had recently completed a campus wide inventory of EVERYTHING we owned. Let me add that I was the project lead so I was intimately aware of both the process and data accuracy. Upon completion of this project we accomplished a 99.7% accuracy rate missing only 6 devices out of over 6000 inventory items (a future article will describe how I accomplished these figures). Finding the data was easy, categorizing and then using it was hard. The first split I used was whether the units were black & white or color. Then I split them into whether they were networked or local. Note that I used the criteria of whether they were actively USED as local or networked and not if they had that capability (however that factor would come into play later). Eventually, I created a Excel matrix document indicating what was out there sorted into black & white and color tabs the sub categorized into network and local, then finally showing the type (laser, inkjet, dot matrix or other). Finally, I created a pivot table showing counts by category type. The final tab cross- referenced the models showing pricing for consumables and number of support calls so I could calculate extra savings. Let me add that we calculated the additional benefit in freeing up our warehouse space since we could remove ink that was no longer needed for obsolete units along with being able to reduce service issues in maintaining old products out of warranty.

Step two was to show what a 10% reduction in our deployment would accomplish. I needed to show senior management what a conservative effort would deliver so I could get this project off the ground. This didn't involve in-depth analysis but was a simple cut across the board for hardware and ink. This number was shown to senior management with the additional information that with a conditional go-ahead, I would be able to not only provide a much better reduction, but a significantly better cost savings. I got the green light to move on to the next step.

Step three was to now seriously look at what we could remove. I obtained blueprints of every floor on our campus. I first had to get approval from plant security (as can be imagined) and then get access to the CAD server to work with online images. I literally walked through each building indicating what device type was in place and then where it was located. I knew each printer had been located (due to the campus wide project mentioned above) so I only needed to place the item on a map. I placed icons on the blueprints by both model and category (B/W, color, laser, inkjet, etc.).

It was now time to enjoy my Pi. Speaking for myself the last time I had to use this number, or play with a protractor, was in high school math. The industry standard for proximity to a printer is 30 feet of walking distance. Using 30 foot circles laid out on each floor plan I had to figure out how many printers would be used. This had to take into account that some printers were hard attached (lab and plant management units for example were excluded). I also needed to factor in local and network units and color versus black and white. I drew circles with my protractor on a 1 inch to 1 foot scaled map. In doing it this way, I could visually examine where every printer was located as well as what type they were. It was immediately obvious where we could start our reduction efforts. We had printers that were literally side by side. Some were a combination of color and black and white. Others were networked printers 'belonging' to different departments. We had printers that were network models but were used by individuals. I discovered that there were printers allocated to individuals that were not considered senior staff or not staff printing sensitive documents (such as in H.R.). Ahh the joys of politics... I got the network guys to grant me access rights to the printer management software (HP and their Jetdirect product was a godsend). I was able to log into every networked printer and determine the name of every print queue and just as importantly, the numbers of pages that the printer handled. That gave me information not only about maintenance but also page counts per month. I could easily see units that had low usage as well as areas of major use.

It was now time to get buy in from my senior staff. I spoke with my manager and we agreed that it would be easiest to accomplish this project using smaller steps and first grab the lowest hanging fruit. We wanted to replace old printers first and get rid of as many inkjets as we could. These had not only costly consumables but were prone to more support costs. The second round would remove excess printers within the 30 foot walking distances and produced overlap. I had access to a custom written program that allowed me to calculate exact walking distances but found that just looking at a map would suffice. As part of my plan I was able to determine that we could have people print black and white images on our newer color devices. When I contacted



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