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September 2001
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Document Management

A Printing Primer

By Chris Froman

PURCHASING technology equipment for today's growing law firm can be a daunting task, especially with so many options to consider. With so much riding on the documents law firms produce everyday, the one technology tool that can directly reflect on a law firm's image and -- believe it or not -- bottomline, is the printer.

A Printing Primer

Independent research firms estimate that organizations spend between 1 and 3 percent of corporate revenue on printing business documents alone. These estimates may even be conservative for today's paper intensive law offices that often find themselves buried in paper.

Regardless of how much your firm is spending on printing, the options for properly equipping your office are endless and can sometimes be confusing. Here's a breakdown of the various choices, their benefits and some ways your firm might be able to apply these technologies to save considerable dollars.

Monochrome Laser Printers

Monochrome laser printers have quickly become the law office mainstay. They print in black and white and are characterized by:

The Bottom Line

The impact of printing on your firm's bottom line can be startling:

* According to recent studies, printing costs corporations an amount equal to 1 to 3 percent of their revenue.

* The average $1 billion corporation generates 88 million sheets of paper each year.

* Paper use is growing 8 to 9 percent per year.

* About 40 percent of help desk calls are output related.

* E-mail is increasing printing volumes by 40 percent.

Consider these statistics from Jan V. White's "Color for Impact":

* Presentations and printed pages are perceived as 60 percent better when they are in color.

* Visual search time is reduced by up to 80 percent by color coding.

* Ads in the yellow pages get 44 percent more response when red is used.

* Advertisements have 52 percent higher readership when color is added.

* Readers pay attention up to 82 percent longer when color is used.

* Presentations are 70 percent clearer when color highlights the pertinent details.

* Color increases recall in educational materials and training manuals by 60 percent.

* Brand identification increased 70 percent when color was added.

* High speeds: Typically 20­50 pages-per- minute.

* High resolution: 1200 x 1200 dots-per-inch (dpi) resolution for crisp black-and-white documents.

* Sophisticated paper handling: Lots of paper capacity, envelope feeders, and finishing functions such as stapling.

* Low cost: $699-$2000 depending on speed and options.

These devices can easily be networked together so that several employees can share one souped up device instead of outfitting everyone's desk with a single printer. Monochrome laser printers are quickly replacing copiers -- the office dinosaurs that take up so much space and are often plagued by paper jams and frequent service calls. Monochrome laser printers are the most prevalent type of printers in law offices for printing all types of documents including briefs, contracts, invoices and general office printing.

Color Laser Printers

Color laser printers are growing in popularity, largely because prices have dropped so rapidly over the last few years. Now, an entry-level color laser printer that cost $12,000 six or seven years ago costs as little as $2,000. Most affordable color laser printers today are a bit slower than their monochrome brethren, however today's best models print color documents at speeds from about six pages per minute up to about 24 pages-per-minute.

Color consumable costs are also dropping, making color devices affordable to buy and use on a regular basis. Cost-per-page has dropped from about 20 cents a page in its infancy to only eight or nine cents a page today ­ a lot less than sending color jobs out to a print shop.

The benefits of color printing in the office are significant. Consider:

* Presentations and documents are perceived as 60 percent better in color.

* Studies demonstrate that readers pay attention up to 82 percent longer when color is used.

* Color increases recall by 60 percent.

Multifunction Printers

Multifunction devices (MFPs) combine printing, faxing, copying and scanning into a single, compact device. When office space is at a premium or costly, MFPs can be an ideal solution to handle a multitude of office tasks. "Business"class units start at about $2,000 and can be networked.

The future of these devices is scanning documents in and then e-mailing, filing or faxing them into document management systems or to multiple destinations or recipients immediately, saving considerable time. For example, a copy of a signed contract could be easily scanned, stored electronically on a server, e-mailed to the client for their files, sent to the account team for notification and sent to the billing department to generate an invoice, all in one step.

Color Inkjets & All-in-One Devices

Color inkjets are toaster-size, personal desktop printers designed mainly for home and small office use. Although they are very affordable to buy, their supplies costs often are higher than their laser counterparts. They come with less ink, making cartridge replacement frequent and more costly on a per-page basis. Paper handling capabilities are often limited, making high-volume or long documents cumbersome and slow to print. Many can't handle legal-sized paper.

Inkjets do offer super-high resolutions (2400 x 1200 dpi), making them ideal for photographs and image printing, but not as practical for text-only or spot color. Most inkjets cannot be networked among several computers so buying one for every desktop can get costly.

New all-in-one inkjet models hitting store shelves offer printing, copying, faxing and scanning capabilities in a single microwave-sized device. Although very affordable, compact and easy to use, these devices often aren't enough to handle the volumes associated with most fast paced law offices.

But firms may find these devices very useful for proofing color documents right at the desktop or for telecommuters or late night workers who need an affordable printing at home.

Chris Froman is vice president, U.S. commercial sales and marketing, at Lexmark International, based in Lexington, Ky.

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