There was a day when socializing in the copy room was as much a given as congregating at the company water cooler. Employees had plenty of reason to hang around for a chat. After all, the copier malfunctioned more often than it spit out the requested number of pages. Dawdling was therefore easily justified by a cranky copier, whether or not said copier was asked to produce anything.
In the spirit of comfortable camaraderie, the copy room also typically housed a coffee pot (in the U.S.) or an electric tea kettle (in the UK). A warm beverage and a friendly chat: What more could a worker bee want while he waited for the prescribed paper outcome? Except, maybe, the actual copies so he could meet a deadline. There are trade-offs, you see, in any business arrangement.
The trade off with the current copy room evolution, especially when one fades away entirely, often means the tea kettle must find a new roost. The conversation must move to another location without the convenient cover of a cranky copier. Change, oh it does have its disadvantages!
But a flip of the tea leaves delivers a reading of advantage on a different front. For one thing, copying and printing no longer nails your shoes to a cramped space papered with labour notices and yellowed, thumb-tacked messages. Today’s workers can copy, print, fax, and manage documents from a single machine in-office or out on the town from a phone, a tablet, or a computer.
It is the end of an age. Digital printing and the Internet have changed the iconic copy room to a simple icon on devices connected by the Web.
End of the Copier Era
“Employees are demanding more from their copy center due to a combination of competitive pressure to quickly respond to market conditions and their ability to produce more types of documents using sophisticated graphic software,” says Charlie Corr, VP of corporate strategy at Mimeo.com UK, an online digital printing company that was awarded HP’s Preferred Partner Gold status in 2010.
Indeed, employees are no longer looking to mimic one hard copy to a dozen or a hundred other identical pages. Instead, today they expect to leverage everything in both the digital and real worlds into profound but easy creations of their own – and at Internet speed. The copiers of old cannot measure up to these new demands. The copier era is over, long live the MFP (multifunction product).
There is much to appreciate in the new copy room victor. For example, new copy room devices have web-connected touchscreens to find and manage documents. Digital cameras can upload directly to printers that allow cropping and touchups directly on the device. The hardware can be easily integrated into your infrastructure by Internet, LAN, or wireless connections. Firmware inside these new devices can automatically update and add new features without anyone needing to install them. There are numerous other features and options on today’s MFPs, ranging from software to services designed to accommodate anything from the truly mundane to the totally outlandish of business needs.
With such an array of possibilities, it is no wonder that the passing of the copier era is scarcely noticed.
From Closets to Free Range
Huge copiers once lurked in copy rooms the size of closets. Now, much smaller and more powerful MFPs quietly perch by desktops, in modern copy centers, and even in cars. But it doesn’t matter much where the machines physically are – at least not in terms of where the user needs to be in order to command them. Take, for example, HP ePrint.
“ePrint lets you print from any smart phone or computer without installing any special drivers or software,” says Sarah Fortuna, UK and Ireland HP Inkjet & Web Solutions Marketing Manager. “You can use ePrint sitting on the couch in front of your printer or from a coffee shop on the other side of the world. As long as you can send an email to your ePrint-enabled printer, you can print.”
An oft-overlooked advantage of such a service is the savings in delivery costs. You can, for instance, give the print command from your phone at the airport – but have the documents print at your destination, be that a hotel or an office. Don’t worry about securing the documents. The printer does not print them until you enter the security code when you arrive. The same can be said for the graphics or presentation team at your home office. The employees can work on last minute details while you travel, then print the documents at your destination when you arrive.
The bottom line: You and your staff are no longer tied to a copy room. You are hereby free to roam wherever business takes you. Possibly that’s in search of a cup of tea.
The Hottest Trends
First, there is the overall trend to consider. While oversized and specialty pieces are often printed via services such as FedEx Office’s, overall printing and copying is shifting away from commercial printers and into departmental devices within companies of every size, everywhere. This graphic from InfoTrends shows how increased printer speeds and dropping prices have changed the overall printing landscape.
New technologies such as HP’s FutureSmart Firmware and Open Extensibilty Platform (OXP) simplify printer fleet management and extend the life of MFPs in the enterprise. Combined, the firmware and application layer allows HP and its partners to develop advanced applications that run off a server rather than on the internal memory and processing power of individual devices. FutureSmart also automatically updates the printer fleet enterprise-wide. Such advancements continuously inflate the printing and document management possibilities so that competitive advantage is instantly realized.
Beyond the how in the business printing process is the question of what is being printed. Given the onslaught of digital files, some items (such as newsletters) are rarely committed to paper. Other items such as emails, presentations, reports, and proposals are no longer printed in vast quantities – indeed, their numbers are steadily declining. That’s not to say that the printer isn’t in use – quite to the contrary. The number of printed legal documents is peaking while printing from mobile devices, cloud computing, and pages from the Internet are emerging fast. Here is a chart by InfoTrends to illustrate the changes.
While these trends are understandable given the advent of the Internet and the top performance now attainable from new printing technologies, the one thing that will not change is the need for paper hardcopies. Indeed, Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of the Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) at HP, said laser printing is the Web’s future.
Color laser printers are among the fastest growing MFPs specifically because they aid projects that once were considered beyond the scope of an office machine. The crisp clarity and sharp colors rival those that were formerly only available from commercial printing plants.
Today, copiers and printers have crossed over and blended together into multifunction products. Copier vendors and printer vendors are labeled as such today only as a nod to their corporate roots. However, there are many striking differences between actual products in terms of features, options, and performance. “The real differentiators are in the services and solutions offered,” says Bob Palmer, director of InfoTrends’ Digital Peripherals Solutions Consulting Service.
The copier is pronounced dead and the copy room can be anywhere, so the question of where to put the tea kettle still looms large. Perhaps someone should install GPS in the kettles so people can find them in their new office nooks.