Small Change Realizes Large Savings

June 25, 2012
By Rita Boland, SIGNAL Online Exclusive

As U.S. military organizations and the private companies that support them struggle to adjust to decreases in funding, they are searching for efficiencies even in seemingly small matters. One area easily overlooked is office printers, but by making thoughtful selections through a well-planned process, information technology administrators can cut costs while simultaneously enhancing security.

The Colorado Army National Guard (COARNG) undertook such an initiative, replacing printers across the state with multifunction devices that protect sensitive information by requiring proof of identification at machines before they print. In addition, the network deletes jobs not claimed within 24 hours. This not only makes it more secure for multiple people to share a device—rather than requiring desktop printers—but it also reduces unnecessary printing.

Capt. Jeffrey Wilson, ARNG, chief, Information Services Branch, COARNG, says that the overall initiative had four main considerations: cost of ownership, manageability and quality of service, operational effectiveness, and work force productivity. Though the Colorado guard has been using the devices for less than a year, Capt. Wilson says it already has seen tremendous improvements in costs and security. For its purposes, the Colorado guard bought several of two Hewlett-Packard models, one for color and one for black and white.

Because the multifunction devices are networked, users can submit a print job at one location and pick it up at any other connected location, reducing help desk calls. Another time and money saver is the scan-to-email function, which allows users to email documents among organizations more quickly. Capt. Wilson explains that fax over Internet protocol acts as another key to efficiency. "That saves money and time because we're not managing now another device [fax machine] on the network," he states. "There are more efficiencies on the network and budget efficiencies in cutting copper lines."

In addition to the change in technology, a procedure alteration was worked in from the beginning. The COARNG invited three potential vendors to install their solutions and showcase their wares in an effort to win the contract. In the past, decisions were made simply based on price. Capt. Wilson explains that by doing the extra legwork, the state realized additional benefits. He and his team sent out surveys to end users several times before preparing a statement of work to give clients a stake in the solution. The efforts resulted in an easier transition. Capt. Wilson urges others to look to cost efficiencies to find the right solution before signing any contracts.

Personnel involved with the project also planned methods to make users more comfortable with the technology. Sgt. Robert Bingham, ARNG, who performs applications software development for the COARNG, explains that the implementation team created how-to videos before bringing the devices online to show personnel how to take advantage of their new technology. Sgt. Bingham says that because the Guard members responsible for deploying the machines had to understand how to operate them to make the videos, they were able to minimize the learning curve. "I believe that reduced the impact on end users," he states.

Colorado's Army guard is not alone in the effort to reduce cost and planning through printing. The ideas were also a topic of discussion at the 2012 Defense Information Systems Agency Mission Partner Conference, most notably during a panel discussion on information technology efficiencies. Cora Carmody, chief information officer, Jacobs Engineering, says the company instituted a policy of sharing multifunction devices among numerous employees and has realized significant savings while improving personnel security. Carmody stated that though printing may seem mundane, all cost-cutting measures add up.
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Share Your Thoughts:

Adds security: sure.
Reduces unclaimed printing: sure.
Costs less???
Um how much is each person making who is standing by the machine waiting for it to print?
Man hours are NOT free...

Hello Richard,

Thank you for taking the time to comment on this story. You bring up an excellent point. Any organization considering a switch to this type of printing would be wise (and responsible) to consider manpower costs when determining their cost/benefit ratio.
The people I interviewed felt that the move to these more consolidated, secure devices paid off both financially and in terms of security. The comms/IT departments saw decreases in the amount of extra hours their staff had to put in for rerouting and other various issues. In a time of reduced budgets, when people likely will be taking on more work to compensate for fewer personnel, examining effects on workload and time should be increasingly important to all government organization and supporting private partners.

Rita Boland