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Green Tech

A Pathway to Paperless: The Promise of Print Management Software

They’re not there yet, but print management software has helped administrators make deep cuts in faculty and student paper use, trimming costs while protecting the environment.

It may always rank behind cost savings on the list of intended benefits of a K-12 paper conservation initiative, but performing an environmental good is still an important outcome of the effort schools and districts can make to reduce the amount of printing they do. “We tend to forget that manufacturing one ton of paper takes about 84 gallons of oil,” says Noel O’Dwyer, vice president of marketing and strategic alliances for Equitrac, a provider of print and cost management software. “It also generates about 5,690 pounds of carbon.”

At Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati, the school’s information technology director, Jeff Gaier, acknowledges that the motivation for implementing print reduction measures was to save money, but the environmental gain was an effective lure. “We used it as a little bit of leverage to get people to buy in,” he says. “It definitely helped. I had teachers whose goal really was to go paperless.”

That target hasn’t yet been reached, but the school’s use of Equitrac’s Equitrac Express has at least made it plausible. Gaier introduced the software in 2008 in an attempt to cut printing costs after the school’s photocopier output had reached 2.2 million pages in a single year. The school’s five-year lease on its copiers was up, so the time was ripe for a major initiative. Leasing new printers, the school chose to downsize the model the students would use and put those savings toward purchasing a print management tool.

“We were ready for a new system,” Gaier says. “We knew we could save money by printing less.”

The first solution was clear: Eliminate banner pages. Gaier and his team did some research and found that banner pages—pages that identify the person who is printing—were responsible for a good portion of the excess. For example, the data showed that most student print jobs were three pages, including a banner page. “Just by eliminating the banner page we could reduce the amount of student printouts by a third,” Gaier says.

The new software erases the need for a banner page by requiring users—students, faculty, and staff—to enter a unique ID number into the printer in order to release a print job. “We preinstall the software on all the users’ machines, and everything is tied to their network account,” Gaier explains. “Our current user names were already created. The only thing we did was put into the Equitrac database the student ID or the faculty ID.”

Faculty waste was really its own problem, but the software’s use of personal ID numbers took care of it as well. Gaier says that teachers would often print the same document more than once because they couldn’t find it the first time. “We’d have 300 pages of test material that would be printed twice,” he says. Separate print jobs would collide in the copier’s finishing tray, so some teachers would mistakenly pick up others’ paperwork.

Doing away with instant printing, as Gaier calls it, put a stop to this carelessness. Holding printouts in the copier until teachers punch in their ID number or run their ID card by an infrared barcode reader means no more “lost” print jobs.

Another crucial step Gaier took was the establishment of print quotas. In the 2008-2009 school year, the first year with the new system, Gaier gave each faculty member a limit of 5,000 printed pages; the student quota was set at 500. Though leniency was afforded to faculty who went over their limit, students paid 10 cents for each surplus page. Transgressions were minor, however. “I bet the student who paid the most paid probably $5,” Gaier says, adding that eventually faculty will also be penalized for exceeding their allowance.

The measures Gaier took worked, as the school’s print output was cut by more than half in that first year, from 2.2 million pages to 1 million pages. He credits one key feature of the new system: a pop-up window that alerts users to how many pages they have left in their account each time they go to print. “You don’t really realize how much you print until you look at a balance,” Gaier says.

Gaier sets new quotas annually for students and faculty by looking at how much each group printed the previous year and then deciding how much he can hope to bring it down further. Last year, he reduced the student quota to 250 pages. Gaier removed quotas on faculty users and placed them on individual departments to get a better handle on where the most printing was being done. The plan now is to adjust quotas down per department by 10 percent off the prior year’s print volume.

In 2008-2009, the school saved $20,000 in printing costs, Gaier says. He hasn’t dug into the numbers from last year yet, but he says the school pushed its print budget down another couple of thousand dollars and came in nearly right on it, so he knows money was saved.

He’s continuing to work toward getting as near to a paperless solution as possible. “I really believe we can get our school to under a half-million copies and prints,” he says.

Similar goals were set by Rialto Unified School District in San Bernardino County, CA, but its issue was more runaway printers than runaway printing.

Last year, 2,400 printers could be counted within the district’s 25 buildings. Part of the problem was a lack of oversight over individual schools, says Joseph Davis, Rialto’s former deputy superintendent. “We found that people have a tendency to buy things on their own because equipment gets cheaper and cheaper,” Davis says. “So we ended up with approximately 600 printers that we didn’t even know we had.”

Davis retired over the summer, but not before putting a call out to Xerox, whose personnel and print management technology came to the district’s aid.

“They came to us saying, ‘We want to reduce costs,’” says George Dalinger, Xerox’s principal of western education government operations. “They didn’t say they wanted to reduce printers. That’s often the way it is.”

Xerox print services people went into each Rialto school to inventory the printers in use. At the same time, the company installed a piece of software on the district network that gathered print volume statistics on the machines. Once the data was taken to Davis, agreement was reached on the number of printers that could be retired without sacrificing productivity, whittling those 2,400 machines down to 1,400.

Going forward, to avoid such excesses again, the district is employing Xerox’s Enterprise Print Services (EPS) software, which collects data on all of Rialto’s printers continuously and reports on the page output of each machine. “Every year you can reduce more devices as you see what’s not being used as much,” Davis says.

A new tool called Enterprise Print Governance (EPG) has been added to the software to enhance the control districts have over users’ printing habits. Dalinger says it works “before the fact,” when someone prepares to print. EPG allows a district to set rules for each user—such as how much color printing the person is allowed. If the parameters of an intended print job fall outside those designated for the user, a pop-up screen appears. This “rules-based printing,” Dalinger says, enables a district to set a print budget and work within it. If a print job goes over a certain dollar value, it can be denied.

“This really educates the students and the teachers that there’s a more responsible way to print,” Dalinger says.

He also explains how Rialto’s effort to reduce the number of its printers has the extra benefit of protecting the environment by averting the chain of harmful events that occurs in the manufacturing stage. “When a printer is manufactured, components are being delivered by trucks,” he says. “There are the emissions that go in the air. It’s packaged with packaging stuff, then it’s trucked out to somewhere. When the manufactured device gets to the user, then you have the packaging issue—you have to take apart the consumables. So the manufacturing of each one of these things harms the environment.”

Another environmentally beneficial move was the district’s decision to upgrade its printers by leasing Xerox machines that come with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Qualified designation. Dalinger estimates the new printers will cut the district’s power usage by about a third. In addition, the devices feature automatic duplexing—printing on both sides of the page—which will help reduce print volume. With the cuts in electricity and paper use, Davis says, “we figure our conversion will save about $250,000 per year.”

Davis suggests there may be another conservation effort in store. The district has student records on paper that go back 50 years. He foresees a paperless solution in the offing, saying, “I see what we’re doing as a complete picture of transforming our industry into the modern age.”

LINKS

Equitrac: equitrac.com

Xerox: xerox.com

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of THE Journal.

About the Author

Judy Artunian is a freelance writer based in Newport Beach, CA.

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