Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New High-Volume Copier Guide

Better Buys for Business has released its High-Volume Copier & Multifunctional Guide. This guide, which covers black-and-white copiers over 50 pages per minute, includes a range of high-powered office and light production multifunctionals. The guide contains reviews and specifications for over 100 models from 15 companies from Canon to Xerox. The top models in each category have been given 2009 Editor’s Choice Awards.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Toshiba adds new high-end color copiers

Toshiba, which once trailed the pack in terms of innovative high-end color, is now capable of compete ting with the best. The new e-STUDIO5520c, 6520c and 6520c expand on the power of the -STUDIO5500c, Toshiba’s first made-in-house stab at high-speed color and light production. Unlike the 5500c, however, these models come with printing and scanning standard, not an option.

The e-STUDIO5520c, which runs at 55ppm in both color and black-and-white, has a list price of $24,999. The 6520c (65ppm in color and black) comes in at $30,999. The 6230c is priced at $32,999. These prices are all significantly lower than that of the 5500c.

These machines have a maximum of 3,400 sheets of input, and can handle paper up to 140lb. index in weight. There’s a choice between a simple finisher and a booklet maker. Other features are state of the art. Dual-line faxing is an option. Toshiba has taken a great step with these new speedy and flexible models.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ricoh introduced new production color printer

Ricoh recently announced the Ricoh Pro C900, a new entry in the high-end color production printing market. Note that this machine is definitely intended for high-volume production and would be found either in a centralized in-plant printing department or in a corporation or in a commercial print-for-pay shop. The Pro C900 shares some basic features with Ricoh’s black-and-white Pro C905EX copier-multifunctionals, especially in terms of the paper supply and output features/ The VC900 can hold thick stock up to 110lb. cover (165lb. index), with dimensions up to 13" x 19.2" in size. An EFI Fiery Print Controller is standard,

The Pro C900 can hold up to 11,000 pages in its input trays. On the output side, there are a 10,000-shet stacker, several finishers, a booklet maker, a ring binder, and GBC punch unit.

Built on proven technology, this looks like a promising addition to the growing roll of production-oriented color printers on the market.

Monday, September 15, 2008

2008 Scan-to-File Guide

Better Buys for Business has just published its 2008 Scan-to-File Guide. This volume includes reviews and specifications for current document scanners ranging from 20ppm to 129ppm. Products from 15 vendors are covered, ranging from Avision to Xerox. It also contains a glossary, a buyer's guide, and a discussion of the requiremenets needed for document scanning.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Check your lease payments

A recent case in North Carolina might make you want to recheck your equipment leases. According to the story reported by WRAL, a Raleigh TV station, a local copier dealer has been arrested for using fake copier leases to defraud its clients.

The fraud came out when one customer (a restaurant franchisee) found that it was being billed for a lease on a copier it did not own. Subsequent investigation has turned up at least two more victims of the ploy, and there may be more than a dozen. As the head of the defrauded company said, “"We had not heard of any lease. Our owner's signature and my signature had been put on this document, (and they were) not our signatures.” The police have been tracking down stored (unused) copiers and forged documents.

We doubt that this kind of fraud is common, but it’s not hard to see how it works. The parts of most companies that handle the bills are rarely in close communication with the department that manages office equipment like printers and copiers. In addition, leasing agreements are often so complicated that they get less careful scrutiny than other expenditures. Few end user companies have even a centralized list of what they own and what they lease.

So this might be a good time to do an equipment inventory, re-check your leases, and evaluate exactly how much you are paying for printing and copying. You probably won’t find out-and-out fraud, but you may find confusion, underuse, and a reason to work with the dealer to renegotiate.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Epson moving fast into business-class ink jets

Up until now, Epson ink jet printers and all-in-ones were, like most of their competitors, of limited use to businesses. Once you looked past the rated draft speed to a “normal” resolution (around 600dpi) speed, the speed fell off disappointingly, often to under 5ppm. In addition, color ink has been expensive, often far more than laser toner. These printers, well suited to occasional printing and well equipped for printing digital photos, just weren’t suitable for a real business.

But Epson is rapidly changing that perception. It has come out with two new series of ink jet printers and MFPs that offer from good to excellent speed, more moderate printing costs, and (in some cases) more than minimal hardware features.

The WorkForce series contains two printers, the Workforce 30 ($70) and 40 ($130). These low-cost machines offer decent speeds averaging well over 10ppm at normal resolution. The WorkForce 40 also includes both Ethernet and Wi-Fi networking. Both machines have good photo printing features as well.

Two all-in-one multifunctionals are also included in the WorkForce series. The WorkForce 500 ($180) and 600 ($200) can print, copy, scan, and fax, and have a 30-sheet document feeder in addition to a platen. The printing speeds are over 20ppm in normal resolution.

Even more robust are the printers in the B series, made up of the single-user t B-300 ($329) and the network-ready B-500Dn ($529). These machines print at over 30ppm in normal mode. They have fairly solid paper handling for ink jet printers with 650 sheets of input. They also do not come with extensive photo printing tools bundled in, indicating where Epson is headed with this series.

But most exciting is the cost per page. Epson is claiming a cost per-blsck page cost for the 500DN of under one cent, and a color cost around 3.5 cents. The B-300 costs are a bit higher, but still remarkable for a low-cost printer.

We have yet to get our hands on any of these machines, so we’ll be a little skeptical for now. And speed figures on ink jet printers are notoriously variable, based on ink coverage for each page, unlike laser printers, which have much more predictable speeds. But if the speeds and costs are anything near on the mark, Epson is going to make a big inroad into the growing market for low-cost color laser printers. Like HP and Ricoh (and others to follow), Epson is on the way to making ink jet technology a real contended in the office.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Citigroup: Cut the Color Copies

In what may be a dismaying sign for the industry we cover here, Citigroup recently announced that its employees must cut back on color copying and printing.

The world’s largest bank, suffering billions in losses from the real estate market, has been doing some furious cost cutting. They’ve laid off a host of employees, tightened up expense accounts, taken away Blackberries, and (shudder) demanded that employees use only black-and-white for internal reports and presentations. In addition, duplex copying and printing will be enforced.

The memo sent out from the company includes the following item: “The use of color copying and printing dramatically increases our copying and printing costs. Color presentations are unnecessary for internal purposes; therefore going forward color copying and printing should only be used for client presentations. Also whenever possible, presentations should be printed double sided to reduce unnecessary paper usage. Over time, we will be removing color copiers and printers from the locations where they are not essential for purposes of preparing client presentations.”

The big copier and printer companies have to be concerned. Color pages are now the mainstay of these companies, and a slowdown (or even a reversal) of growth in this area is going to hit hard.

Every survey has shown that most of the growth in the industry has been in color, and the vendors have been eagerly pushing the importance of color in getting the message across. And everyone knows that once color gets established, it tends to get used for everything, from memos to spreadsheets. But with color pages costing between four to eight times more than equivalent black-and-white in most cases, corporations like Citigroup are starting to perceive that while a little color is a great thing, a lot of color is an expensive luxury.

We suspect that the big companies in our industry are going to have rethink their marketing approach or their pricing schemes.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ricoh to buy IKON

Ricoh, the Japanese copier company (on of the top three in the world) announced it would buy US office-machine dealer IKON Office Solutions. The deal is for $1.6 billion. IKON is the largest U.S. independent dealer (400 locations) and is currently a major reseller of Ricoh’s copiers and printers (it sells over 20% of them). IKON is also a major reseller for Ricoh rivals Canon, Hewlett-Packard, and OcĂ©.

The buyout is the third in a series of purchases, where major copier companies have bought out independent US dealer chains. In April 2007 , Xerox announced the purchase of Global Imaging ($1.5 billion). In April 2008, Konica Minolta announced it would buy Danka Office Imaging ($240 million). If the IKON deal goes through, there will be no more major dealer chains, though there are still plenty of smaller dealers.

The structure of the copier/office equipment industry has been much like that of the auto industry, where only the largest customers bought directly from the manufacturers, That has changed in the copier industry over the years, as corporate sales divisions compete more and more with local dealers, especially at national accounts, the cream of the business. The IKON move is an emphatic acceleration of that process.

The interesting question is what Canon will do? IKON sells around 40% of Canon copiers currently. Canon seems to have lost a game of musical chairs, and it will be forced to build even more its own internal national sales efforts in the US. The squeeze is on for small and mid-size dealers.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Low-Volume Copier Guide

,p>The 2008 Better Buys for Business Low-Volume Copier and Multifunctional Guide has now been published. This guide covers monochrome machines up to 22ppm in speed, from such manufacturers as Canon, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, and Xerox. This guide includes charts, reviws, a glossary, and an industry briefing. You can order it here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Greener office equipment

A group called the Green Electronics Council recently released a report on progress in making equipment, mostly PCs and monitors, less harmful to the environment. The report measures the sale of products rated highly by a system called EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool).

EPEAT was developed by the EPA. This system rates a growing number of products as gold, silver, and bronze in terms of their recyclability, reduced use of toxic materials, and lowered power use. All US Federal computer buys now must be of EPEAT-certified products.

EPEAT-certified PCs and laptops make up 22% of all computers worldwide. Since its inception in 2006, there has been a 150% growth in sales of certified computers. Prospects are good that the numbers will keep going up as companies and individuals become more aware of the environmental costs of disposing old office machines.

Among the benefits of using EPEAT products are:
* Reducing use of primary materials by 75.5 million metric tons
* Reducing use of toxic materials (especially lead) by 3,220 metric tons
* Making significant reductions in mercury use
* Reducing disposal of hazardous waste by 124,000 metric tons
* Saving over 42 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

2008 Better Buys High-Volume Printer and Digital Duplicator Guide released

This guide, which covers black-and-white production printers with speeds from 50ppm to 150ppm as well as the very specialized category of digital duplicators is now available. More information is available here.

OKI upgrades its color printer line

Over the past month, OKI Printing Solutions has revamped its A4 (letter/legal size)color laser printer line from top to bottom, offering a set of models that combine lower prices with enhanced performance.

The new models are:
* The C3600n, which prints at 16ppm in color and 20ppm in monochrome, with a street price of $399.
* The C5650 family, which prints at 22ppm in color and 26ppm in monochrome, with prices starting at $499.
* The C6050 family, which prints at 22ppm in color and 26ppm in monochrome, with prices starting at $499, Unlike the C3650n, it comes with PostScript.
* The C6150 family, which prints at 26ppm in color and 30ppm in monochrome, with prices starting at $699.
* The C710 family, which runs at 30ppm in color, 32ppm in monochrome, with prices starting at $1,099.

All of models come are Ethernet-ready, many have duplexing, and all come with OKI’s enhanced HD color toners and color management.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Xerox’s mobile print driver

Xerox recently released a free piece of software for Windows laptops. Call the Mobile Express Driver, it allows mobile workers to find and use available PostScript printers at their current location. These printers include both Xerox and non-Xerox models. After the user plugs into a network (wired or wireless), using the print command causes a pop-up menu with all available printers from which the user can choose. This avoids the need to configure profiles for each new printer. The driver is available here.

Xerox now also offers a similar piece of software, the Global Print Driver, which allows Windows IT managers to quickly set up printer profiles for any users and supports both Xerox and non-Xerox printers, This could be a big time savings for It administrators, as it should cut down tedious and repetitious setup tasks every time a new printer of user is added to the network. It is available here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Xerox offers new library-oriented models

Xerox recently replaced its library-oriented 20ppm Digital Bookmark copier/printer with a set of four new machines, namely, the WorkCentre Bookmark 40 Copier and Copier/Printer and the WorkCentre Bookmark 55 Copier and Copier/Printer. Not only are these machines faster (at 40ppm and 55ppm), they also have new high-end features in common with Xerox’s latest WorkCentre machines.

There are several features that make these library-oriented. First, the platen has a beveled edge, designed to protect book spines, as you scan one page at a time without having to crush an open book on the platen to get a good copy. Second, the unit has also been designed to be wheelchair-accessible and easy to operate by novice users. In addition, there is an optional coin and bill vending unit and an ID-card reader.

The machines hold 1,200 sheets of ledger paper standard. You can add on a two-tray device that holds 3,600 letter pages. Single-position and multiposition finishers are available. So is a fax option.

The Copier/Printers include PCL and PostScript, a powerful processor, and a hard drive. They also support (optionally) scanning, including Xerox’s SmartSend scan workflow software. The Copier/Printer supports Xerox’ EIP (Extensible Interface Platform).

This specialized unit is aimed at a very specific market segment, primarily libraries. It’s a powerful machine with a good array of options.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Paperless or at least less paper

BusinessWeek recently reported (“The New Push to Get Rid of Paper,” 5/30/08) on a renewed effort to approach the long-wished for “paperless office,” noting that the term is now 33 years old.

Of course offices are anything but paperless. As the article notes:“According to RISI, a research firm that tracks forest products, in 1975 the average U.S. office worker used 62 pounds of paper a year. By 1999, that figure peaked at 143 pounds, but in 2006 it was still at 127 pounds.”.

But things may be changing, thanks to a public that is getting more used to receiving and viewing things on the screen. The article cites PNC Bank, 15% of whose customers now get PDF files rather than paper for account statements, up from 0% a few years ago. 80% of company internal reports are now published electronically, not on paper.

Among the interesting points cited in the report:
* One analyst “estimates that companies will spend about $8 billion this year on paper alone.”
* One company thought it “had 150 fax machines, but a detailed search turned up 1,000, many of which were rarely used.”
* “Researchers at Xerox found that about half of the documents printed in a typical office are thrown away within 24 hours.”