Multifunctional devices (MFDs)–all-in-one machines that can print, copy, fax, and often scan–may play a key role in helping agents to speed office workflow, increase efficiency, cut costs, and aid productivity, experts say.
According to John E. Salsman III, industry director, financial services, for Lexmark International Inc., based in Lexington, Ky., using MFDs to handle documents electronically, rather than using several devices and moving paper by hand, creates a more efficient business process that can reduce costs. Lexmark is a maker of computer printers, as well as MFDs.
“There are two types of agencies–those that are averse to technology and those that are on the leading edge,” says Salsman. He estimates that “70% of policies are written by agents with tech savvy.”
Agencies that take advantage of MFDs that enable users to “print, manage and move” documents more efficiently, while saving on equipment by consolidating several devices into one, he notes. Instead of printing out, copying and express mailing a document, he recommends that an agent send it out electronically.
The key to evaluating what to purchase in office devices is maintaining a balance that considers both the costs for maintenance and consumables (inkjet cartridges, toner, etc.) and the price of the equipment, says Jim Contino, manager of worldwide product marketing for Xerox WorkCenter products at Xerox Corporation, Rochester, N.Y. Anticipated productivity, convenience and security are also important issues.
“Do I want three or four separate units that have fax when that means I would need three or four fax connections?” he asks. In small offices especially, agents need to balance such practicalities against their operational needs.
An MFDs basic fax function may be inexpensive, Contino notes, but the machines often have high-end features that can aid in productivity and save money.
“How easy is it to use [the equipment] and how much time does it save me?” says Contino. “Simple things like a delayed send feature can allow you to fax between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., and that can save a lot of toll costs.”
Contino maintains that when it comes to productivity in MFDs, little things can mean a lot. “Even having multiple paper trays could be a key feature. Changing and refilling paper trays can cause people to have to wait.” That, he adds, could decrease productivity.
When it comes to costs, Contino notes, “in todays market, [MFD] equipment cost is readily available and most vendors are within 5% of each other. But what about the cost per page?”
In lower-priced MFDs ($600-$1,200), consumables may be more expensive, he observes. “Cost per page is always higher in the low-end unit that is slower [in output speed],” he explains. “They sell at or below the equipment cost, because they can make it up on consumables. Its $35 each time you buy an inkjet cartridge. The cost gets hidden.”
Laser-based machines with somewhat faster print speeds (12-28 pages per minute) will cost more for equipment, “but their features are higher and their costs to run are lower,” states Contino. “These products deliver really good value for the small office.”
He adds that the laser-based MFDs are usually “true multifunctional units,” in that they can send a fax while someone else in the office is printing from a PC. Many low-end units, he notes, feature several functions, but can perform only one function at a time.