What to look for in the ideal office printer / photocopier

What is an MFD?

Digital MFD, MFP, all-in-one, smart MFD… there are various names to describe an MFD – or Multi-Function Device – which is a machine that scans, prints, faxes, and copies.

A multifunction printer/product/peripheral/device is the same thing, no matter what the different manufacturer’ marketing departments say! Digital photocopiers were originally called MFPs because printing was the main other additional function added beside photocopying. It’s no longer appropriate to call the latest photocopying equipment a photocopier, because it has so many applications and does so much more now than simply make a copy.

While at its core an MFD is a photocopier, that means by definition it makes a true copy! The MFD scans, photocopies or faxes an original with the required result that a true copy will appear somewhere. The desired result is for an exact or accurate representation (true copy) of the original to be produced. Today, as we move towards a paperless workplace, scanning has become the more prominent function. The once simple single use office photocopier is now an IT device central to document printing, copying and digitally storing, a full but complex document management device.

All modern MFDs should have the ability to multi-task – print while scanning or fax while printing. Only when the functions require you to share hardware, like the automatic document feeder (ADF) would you have to wait to use it for the second function (e.g. scanning or batch photocopying). I would always advise clients to make sure they will get the most productivity out of any new MFD. You should ideally view, and even test, the MFD that you are considering buying.

What’s a smart MFD?

A smart multifunction device is a MFD that has an operating system and smart operation panel (tablet) that allows you to add applications to extend the abilities of the MFD. The two major types are Java or HTML applications. These SMFDs are capable of direct customisation of apps for speed of use over various operational requirements and document management platforms.

We’re a long way from the simple copy machine invented by Chester Carlson decades ago! He invented xerography, the first dry copy machine, and further developed the technology along with a small independent company called Haloid Xerox Company, which later renamed as Xerox Corporation. The simple office photocopier invented by Chester, to simplify a copying process for documents, is now an office communications IT behemoth with operational requirements from simple office photocopying, scanning and printing, to more complex uses involving add-on software solutions for document management and digital storage. It is now a central nervous system of most modern offices!

Do I need an MFD?

Almost all offices are looking to streamline operations and increase efficiency. It seems like time is in short supply. Most modern offices are moving to multifunction devices as opposed to single function. Early exponents of all-digital offices didn’t count on printers and photocopiers transforming into all-round office multifunction devices. The latest models from Ricoh can perform tasks from high speed colour/mono scanning, photocopying and print double-sided and super-fast in A3 – both colour and mono output, plus they can be used by phones and tablets.

If your requirement for printing equipment is limited to single use only, i.e. just printing, then it will simply depend on two factors. The supply cost of the device and the running cost of that device. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll find that the cheaper the device is to purchase the higher the running costs will be. Your purchase will also depend on whether you require colour output or mono. There is a significant cost increase both in printer cost and the output print cost associated with it. When it comes to colour printing, laser printers are normally higher in cost than inkjet. Inkjet is fine for some office colour printing, but have you ever tried to print a full colour page on an inkjet? Make sure you put up a clothes line in your office so that you can hang it up to dry!

If you require a multifunction office device – copy/print/scan/fax – there are a number of key questions to remember when choosing an office MFD:

  • Do you require A4 or A3 print/photocopy/scan size?
  • Is speed a priority, or is low cost more important?
  • Do you have a large photocopying requirement, and do you need stapling and punch facility on the device?
  • Will scanning become the more used function on the device, or is high-speed print output the main factor?
  • Will you require a fax capability on the device?
  • Do you need colour output and if so what print quality? Will mono, draft quality prints suffice?

Whatever decisions you make now will impact performance and will restrict what can be done in the future. It is worth taking time to consider current requirements, as well as possible future requirements you might have. Think about the needs of the office – both generally and for specific requirements (e.g. accounts, where you might decide to scan all inbound documentation, delivery dockets, invoices). If your office scanning requirement is going to be the most dominant feature on your equipment, then buying the cheapest ‘printing equipment’ will not suffice. The price of equipment is not the single most determining factor, but it is an indicator!

Most manufacturers provide guidelines and specifications on usage per month based on output volume. However, this is completely useless if the dominant feature is scanning! A 50 page per minute (ppm) A4 mono MFD will be considerably cheaper than a 50 ppm A3 model. The 50 ppm A4 device will have a monthly guide volume of 15,000 pages per month, but the 50 ppm A3 model will also have the exact same recommended monthly volume! Yes, the A3 model can print and scan A3, but that is not the only difference, on the mono A4 only MFD, the scanning feature will be an auto reverse document feeder (ARDF) with a maximum feed capacity up to max 75 pages. The same speed, 50 ppm A3 MFD will have two options for the document feeder on scanning, a 220 sheet ARDF or a 220 sheet single pass document feeder.

Both feed options on the A3 model will be a far superior option compared with the 50 ppm A4 device, both with identical page per month recommendations. The single pass feeder is far superior than the standard ARDF fitted to most current A4 and A3 models, but it of course more expensive. Both devices should offer mono print and colour scanning. The price on the A3 model with ARDF will be cheaper than the same device fitted with a single pass feeder, while both A3 models will be more expensive than the A4 device.

So while price is important if you are buying an office MFD, it is far more important to really compare apples with apples when you are making device comparisons. It is important to know what primary function you are buying the equipment for and the different options each device has, alongside any device limitations. There is a lot to consider beyond equipment price, which is why we offer expert advice prior to any equipment purchase.

How can I choose the right supplier?

When you are buying a car, TV, laptop or some other item for your personal use, do you just look for the cheapest you can find? I know I don’t, and I’m fairly sure you don’t either. We all want the best value for our money and buying cheap isn’t always the best value. The reputation of the manufacturer and their product is a strong determining factor. I generally research almost everything I buy ad nauseam and decide then where I would best spend the money. Equally, after you buy your new car, it would be safe to say you don’t take it to the cheapest service garage and hope for the best. Especially after parting with your hard-earned money! So why then would this common sense go out the window when you are considering purchasing an MFD for our office?

You should research the manufacturer and the model you are considering purchasing. You should research the support levels provided with their after-sales service. Here are a couple of things you should consider:

  • How long has the company been selling their product range of MDFs?
  • How long has this company been servicing the equipment they sell?
  • What is the experience of their technicians on the range of equipment you are considering purchasing?
  • How long have they been selling and servicing in your area?
  • What is their reputation for service & support after the sale?
  • Do they have system IT engineers on their staff?

I always like to meet face to face when I’m buying or selling. It might be a little time consuming, but – just like buying a new car – a new MFD should function for several years and run trouble-free if serviced correctly by qualified engineers.

Best value should never equate to cheapest price

I’ve been around the photocopier industry long enough to have the informed opinion that while there are a lot of good equipment sales companies, there are fewer with the ability to provide the required support levels after sales. Anyone can sell an MFD, and sell cheaply, but few can adequately provide the after-sales support. The cheapest price won’t seem so great when poor service and support cause you endless headaches and broken promises… not just in 2017, but in 2018, 2019, 2020, and beyond.

I like to tell potential customers the honest truth up front: we won’t be the cheapest company to provide a quote, and if that is what they want we’re probably not the best supplier for them. We will be extremely competitive, and we will provide the best value for money, but I make no apologies when I say that good service and support come at a price.

In a modern office with all its deadlines and time pressures, the reliance on a multifunction device has become such that most users rightly expect it to just work. Whenever and however they need it to. With so many manufacturers and so many operational requirements, how do you choose the right multifunction device for your business? I’m not suggesting all devices are equally reliable – there are marginal differences in terms of operation and reliability – but there are MAJOR differences in supply companies’ ability to support those devices.

We can all agree that equipment breaks down. When it does, you need a fast, responsive service that gets your device repaired. Sounds simple? You would be amazed how often this doesn’t happen. Advances in smart multifunction devices and the increase in operational use and function mean that good after-sales support should be paramount when considering your supplier. The after-sales support far outweighs the purchase battle for lower device or device support costs at time of purchase. Yes, value for money at time of sale is a factor when purchasing, but all that is redundant if the functionality is poorly supported after the sale!

If you have any questions about buying an MDF for your office, or would like a no-obligation quote, get in touch!