The University of Regina gets its printing under control

April 9, 2012
by By Michael Power

For the University of Regina, the first step towards solving their paper usage issues was realizing they had a problem. A few years ago, the institution looked at the amount of paper it used, who used it and how. The bottom line: There was room for improvement.

The university hired an external consultant, Calgary-based print optimization service provider Print Operations Group (POG), to investigate the printing situation and benchmark it against other, similar institutions. The results painted a less-than-perfect picture.

“When they came back to us, they told us there was no print strategy or governance in place,” says Ray Konecsni, the university’s director of customer support services. “For example, our printing department, which reported through ancillaries, was responsible for the photocopying devices and central print. And IS (information services, or the IT department) was responsible for the file print function—the infrastructure for print—but each respective department end user had the freedom to purchase whatever device they wanted.”

POG discovered the university had no standardization in buying toner and other related products, Konecsni says. There were roughly 1,200 devices across the campus and the school had a staff-to-device ratio of two-to-one. As well, 72 percent of the printing came from desktop or personal printers (23 percent of which was colour). “We were a very costly environment,” Konecsni notes. “When you looked at our total cost of print and how many pages it worked out to, it was an average of about nine cents a page.”

Getting started
So how to change? An initial move was getting support from the university’s senior management. Members of the C-suite were approached about bringing the organization’s print services under control. “A lot of people on campus felt we were actually very green to begin with and had done significant work to become green,” says David Wilson, the university’s associate VP, information services. “Our analysis told us, that may have been the perception but not the reality. What we then did was make sure our senior management was on board.”
The university’s director of purchasing and senior purchasing analyst signed on, says Konecsni, and the department was instrumental in the process. Purchasing helped develop the RFP that led to POG’s involvement and in setting goals once a vendor was chosen. To secure that vendor, the university used an RFP template POG provided that included service level agreements and other terms and agreements.

The university included end users in the hardware selection, says Wilson. The organization hosted onsite demonstrations for staff in order to see options that would meet the university’s requirements, then give feedback on the equipment’s features. “There was quite a rigorous process we took the organization through in making our selection of a vendor,” Wilson says. “That helped raise awareness and made people comfortable they weren’t going to be required to take a less-productive solution in the process.”

The right stuff
In the end, Lexmark Canada won the contract. One of the initial steps the company took, says its manager of business development Mark McCullough, was to come up with an analysis of how the university was using the devices it already had. Lexmark discovered that, along with shared resources and workgroup devices that various departments were using, some employees were also using “personal output devices” on their desks that weren’t being utilized by a group or department. As well, many of those devices came from different manufacturers.

“The first step is really starting to understand what the current state is and, more importantly, what should the future state look like from a device type and a device location point of view,” McCullough says. “Obviously, efficiencies are gained by better utilizing the technology to serve more people without impacting productivity.”

Lexmark, along with its reseller partner, Calgary-based WBM Office Systems, came up with a proposal for standardizing the university’s print and multifunctional devices that would deal with issues surrounding cost reduction and sustainability.

Rather than simply slashing the number of printers the institution uses, Lexmark worked to ensure the university had the right number of printers to do the right number of tasks. “It’s not just about replacing devices with other devices,” McCullough notes. “It’s also trying to make sure the new devices proposed are also bringing efficiencies and productivity enhancements to the users.”

For example, one of Lexmark’s solutions the university adopted was Print Release. Usually, a job prints to whichever printer it’s sent to. But users can forget to collect their printed material. Or the job gets lost. Other times, a user collects several jobs belonging to other users without realizing it. Print Release requires the user to release the print job while at the device, reducing the amount of wasted paper. Print Release can also be configured to delete jobs that aren’t released within whatever time the user sets up, for example, after 24 hours. “You send a few print jobs to the printer thinking you’re going to get them, you get distracted and you forget to go,” says McCullough. “Rather than having them sit there for two days, Print Release deletes them and if the user remembers they need them, they have to start the process again.”

Lexmark and its partner also walked around the university mapping where the devices were, then developed a plan to optimize how they’re used. Since then, Lexmark has stayed in touch with the school to ensure they’re meeting their objectives, says McCullough. “We’re very much interested in making sure the technology we put into any organization gets used in the way it’s intended,” he notes.

The results
So far, the university has seen progress from the changes it’s made. The institution has gone from about 1,200 devices to 1,178 and plans to whittle that down to 310 in five years, says Konecsni. That will bring the person-to-device ratio down to 4.8, which is more in line with industry standards. The school wants to lower its electricity consumption from over one million kilowatt hours to less than 900,000. Its C02 emissions have hovered at roughly 1.37 million kilograms over five years. But, says Konecsni, “based on the devices we’ve put in place, or are planning to put in place, we’re going to be hitting about 822,000 kilograms of emissions over that five-year period—a reduction of 40 percent or 550,000 kilograms.”

In the future, the institution plans to reduce its consumption further. One of the five pillars in the University of Regina’s five-year plan focuses on sustainability, and the school appears poised to live up to its commitment.