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Is the office printer dead?

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We’ve been hearing about the paperless office for years — but the office printer isn’t going anywhere soon. It’s just changing to adapt to life in the digital age.

That’s the prediction of Gareth Brenchley, Managing Director at managed business services company Itec Cape Town, who says that even in an age of sustainability, smart mobile working and digital collaboration, most companies still have print-reliant workplaces, and spend tens of thousands of rands a year on print. 

“Businesses are still extremely reliant on printing for their business processes, but the print environment has grown up. The printer isn’t just a ‘dumb device’ in the corner of the office: it’s become part of a connected, intelligent network, with modern multifunctional printers (MFPs) giving users new abilities to digitise their documents and manage their information,” says Brenchley.

Interestingly, it’s not just the older generations that still use print. While online may be the channel of choice for the so-called ‘millennial generation’, Quocirca’s 2018 Print2025 report showed that 77% of millennials think paper and physical documents will still be important in the workplace in 2025. 

There’s no doubt that paper usage is slowly dropping, though. As connected printers integrate with broader enterprise content management (ECM) platforms, they are becoming part of the evolution towards more digitised workplaces. Users don’t have to print out a physical copy of a document: they can simply “print” it to the cloud, where it is easily accessible at any time.

Today’s generation of MFPs aren’t just sophisticated document management hubs; they’re also able to practically manage themselves. Brenchley says they use less paper, less ink and toner, and use device analytics to allow for better asset management, proactive maintenance and real-time reporting through what is known as managed print services (MPS).

“The managed print services model gives businesses key insights into their printing environments, with a better ability to track activity, reduce unnecessary volumes, manage costs and secure their network printers,” says Brenchley.

However, this only happens when print vendors become strategic partners to the business. They must help identify what business units really need, offer services that satisfy those requirements, and respond to the growing security and control requirements of IT departments, says Brenchley.

Security is becoming increasingly important in the print environment. User authentication can control user access and ensure that documents are only released into the correct recipients’ hands. Document management systems often include technologies such as biometrics, digital signatures, document security and general digitisation to ensure data and documents remain protected.

“There’s no doubt that print has a continued role in the workplace, but it’s changing to become more environmentally-conscious, digitised and mobile. The future isn’t a paperless office, it’s paper-lite,” says Brenchley.

Itec Group South Africa 

Itec is southern Africa’s fastest-growing office automation, production printing and tele- communications solutions provider. Through its 47 southern African branches, the company implements total office solutions based on imported, industry-leading and award-winning products.

Itec serves medium-sized and large businesses in sectors as diverse as financial services and retail — supporting its innovative solutions with proactive service delivery. Some of its customers include Value Logistics, Implats, Department of Housing, Business Connexion, ADT, Rand Refinery, First National Bank, Anglogold Ashanti, National Health Laboratory Services and ADvTECH.

Itec management rebranded the company in 2004 following a merger of the separate copier, printer, and fax business units initially established in 1987.

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