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Reducing office printing

Back in 1975, Business Week coined the phrase ‘the paperless office’. Since then, many people have tried, and many people have failed. In fact, the volume of office paper sold worldwide has more than doubled over this period. Wearset set out to buck this trend, and have managed to reduce our printing volume by 21% over the last two years.

As part of the publishing industry, our systems revolve around the production of the printed page. We estimate that we print 8–13 pages for each print-ready page prepared on behalf of our customers.

This volume of printing is visually obvious when you visit our offices (or those of any publishing company) – mountains of proofs everywhere and office space dominated by storage areas. These are just the visual symptoms; of greater concern is the waste that excessive printing creates – a waste of time, money, space and resources.

In 2009, we decided to act. This document gives an insight into what we did and what the results so far have been. It is an ongoing and expanding project, and relies upon close coordination with our customers, so please contact us if you wish to find out more.

Our plan revolves around four actions:

1. Analysis

In-depth analysis of print quantities. The ability to track the type, quantities, and sources of all printing creates the evidence-base from which improvement actions can be verified.

2. Awareness

Raise awareness around the whole workforce about the project. Asking for suggestions led to a deluge, showing just how willing many people are to improve things and to prevent waste. We put some of the suggestions to immediate use by producing simple, quick, best-practice guidelines and tips that everyone could implement within their daily print requirements.

3. Improvement

The next step was to begin the process of improving the printing systems. The main gains made in this area were based around:

    • better alignment of people to printers (resetting defaults, networking to the most appropriate printer, etc.);

    • avoidance of printing to waste or printing to archive (on many occasions pages were being printed simply to physically pass the job on, or to be placed into archive storage);

    • open dialogue with print suppliers to improve efficiency through maintenance and specification. We found our print suppliers were very willing to work on improvements, seeing it as a way of sustaining their business.

    4. Development

    The really big gains will be made as we continue to develop more electronic production processes, reducing our reliance on hard-copy. To implement this, we need careful coordination, and so we have two project-development teams set up to examine e-proofing.

    One team is looking at our internal workflow. The move to onscreen editing is virtually complete, as is our work on the initial pagination process, using style sheets, templates and macros. Our biggest challenge is assessing the integrated quality checks that occur repeatedly on each title.

    Our second team is looking at working directly with interested customers on the output and return of e-proofs. We will be writing an article about this area in the near future, but once again, please contact us if this is of immediate interest to you.

    Tony Hunter, our project leader on print reduction, offers some practical tips to anyone faced with the same goal…

    To start with, simply have a sit down and think. Ask yourself where and when you print, and then ask… why? Do I really need to print that? Is there an alternative? And, something that is also just as important: would that alternative save both time and money? Reducing the costs of printing is valuable, but making sure that reduction doesn’t damage productivity is often just as important.

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