Where to start?
So you've been given the job of getting quotes for a new Managed Print solution, AKA photocopier, scanner, printer for the office.
Where do you start?
How many quotes should you obtain?
Well, 3 quotes was the traditional rule of thumb but one of the problems with the 3 quote scenario above is that if you eliminate the cheapest and the most expensive you are only left with a single choice.
With the ability to contact multiple suppliers with a quick email template why not opt for more? I would suggest that 4 or 5 is the optimum number because this is likely to give you 2 or 3 well priced alternatives that fit the bill.
Any more than that and you face being overwhelmed with information and inundated with sales calls.
So get googling or on the phone and find suppliers who are situated locally or at least locally enough to provide a fast service response. This is not always as easy as it seems. With an impressive website, suppliers can often look like they cover your local area but these are often simple business addresses without any real bricks and mortar presence. So make sure the supplier has a genuinely local service centre or evidence of being able to provide rapid response when there is a requirement for parts and servicing.
Salespeople are human too
Always be willing to discuss your requirements with each of the suppliers you have invited to quote prior to making an informed decision.
It does of course pay to play your cards close to your chest - but not too close - so give the potential suppliers plenty of feedback on quotes and you will be able to narrow down the field fairly quickly.
If information isn't shared fully about your current situation and specific requirements, the process of obtaining proposals can become frustrating with much to-ing and fro-ing. So the route to getting the best deal is to be transparent about your expectations, requirements and budget. If all of the suppliers have the same information then you have levelled the playing field and should be able to compare quotes on a like for like basis.
So you've got 4 or 5 suppliers that are happy to put together a proposal but what are the important factors to consider and what should you be on the lookout for?
There are 3 steps to follow in this process.
1) Understand and communicate your requirements
Decide on your requirements and what you want the new printer to be able to do. This is where having a dialogue with the suppliers as well as internally is useful. Often requirements can be driven by changes in technology that you may not even be aware of.
So for example if you didn't know that a new copier could scan to DropBox you would never make it a requirement. By speaking with expert suppliers you will uncover features that may be new to you.
Lease v purchase
Do you have a Capital Expenditure budget available for this printer or do you prefer to lease? There are Pro's and Con's either way so speak to suppliers and your accountant to determine the best option for your particular circumstances.
Do you need A4 only or is there a requirement for A3? It can be very annoying when you need occasional A3 for a spreadsheet or map and don't have it available. If you have a reasonably heavy duty requirement. Always opt for an A3 capable machine.
What is your likely throughput?
Suppliers will be pitching in the dark unless you have a good idea of the capacity requirement of your printer. If you are an established business upgrading an old printer you should have historic usage figures based on invoices from the current supplier or if you don't currently have a Managed print Solution -for example if you've got multiple small desktop printers you should be able to guesstimate based on the amount of printer paper you purchase in any given month.
If you are a new business this may be impossible so why not hire a printer on a short term basis until you have a feel for your requirement? Most established resellers have a pool of machines that they can utilise as a rental fleet for just such a situation.
Print speed requirement. This is connected with capacity and throughput above. Don't get carried away demanding really high print speed if all of your prints are short runs of 1-5 pages. Speed to first print will be important if this is the case. Not the outright full speed.
How many trays?
How many paper trays do you need? Most printers have universal paper trays but make sure you take in to account the inconvenience of constantly reloading different sizes or types of paper e.g plain, draft, presentation paper A3, A4, A5. Mainstream A3 office machines tend to have a minimum of 2 paper trays as standard (1 for A4 and 1 for A3) and have the option to add a 3rd or 4th tray as well.
What kind of scanner/ document feeder do you want?
Many printers have more than one option in terms of capacity or ability for example single pass scanning versus duplex scanning.
Are there any finishing requirements?
Maybe you want to create your own brochures or booklets. Do you want hole punching, stapling, folding or tri-folding? If you aren't sure ask for these to be listed as separate options.
What business systems do you want to integrate with?
E.g Office 365, Google Apps, Document management. Multifunctional printers now have host of other functions.
There are other considerations too. Security GDPR, Cost control, Print & follow, Account track.
The bottom line is any decent provider should cover these bases with you during your discussions but if they overlook them - well you know what to ask.
2) Obtain and evaluate the proposals
So you have received multiple proposals based on your detailed requirements.
Now you need to evaluate the proposals you get. So what should you be looking for?
The following list is not exhaustive but should help you wade through your options and give you some tips to help you avoid the many pitfalls.
Lease or outright purchase cost.
If you lease make sure you pick a term best suited to the manufacturers recommended lifecycle (ask the reseller what the engine life is for example) and compare proposals on the same term. There is a caveat though which is that if your print requirement could change radically during the equipment's life this may be difficult to predict. If in doubt always purchase outright and obtain Managed Print Support alongside your purchase.
Support cost per page
Managed Print support will invariably be quoted as a cost per page to cover servicing parts and toners What is the cost for mono and colour pages - make sure you are clear about decimal places and understand whether the cost per page is expressed in pence or pounds e.g 0.4p can also be written as 0.004
Inclusions and exclusions
Are there any hidden charges or charges for delivery, installation, configuration, operator training? Look out for additional installation charges if you are based in an awkward location or access is difficult. Check that there are no toner delivery charges, network charges, software charges and annual administration fees.
Managed print support Terms and conditions
Always ask for a copy of the terms and conditions you would be expected to sign before you agree anything. These are often very one sided -And guess what? Its not in your favour!
API - Annual Price Increases. What are they and how often can they be applied? Do they apply to maintenance only or lease charges as well?
Service Termination fees - You may want to upgrade during the course of the agreement and termination fees for services can make this prohibitive (restrictive practice)
Parts inclusivity. Are there any parts that are not included at any time during the agreement?
Exceptional circumstances Increase - believe it or not these exist.
Cost per image/development - the cost should be per printed page. Look out for clauses that refer to cost per image, unit or development
Cost per scan.
Are there any charges for scanning? Scanning is normally free but if you predominantly use your machine for scanning there may be additional charges for this. To be fair to the supplier, if you don't spend any money on print charges but hammer your scanner in to the ground the supplier may need a mechanism for recovering the cost of maintaining the scanner.
3) Make a decision and place your order
If you've gone through the above process you should now have whittled down your proposals and found a supplier who can provide:-
- good equipment that has all of the features you want and need
- competitive prices for leasing or purchasing
- competitive prices for support
- local service for rapid response
- no hidden costs
- fair contract terms
- helpful non-pushy & friendly advice
So place your order. Good luck!