Want to Make Your Print Hardware Work Harder?  Think Software.

Imagine an iPhone—the latest, greatest version with the most memory, power and camera features available. Now...picture it without any apps.  How valuable is it to you now?

Hardware is essential, and its capabilities are impressive. Yet you can’t do anything without the software. Print devices are much the same. The actual printer—whether cutsheet, continuous feed, or large-format—is a necessary and substantial investment for your print shop. To get the most out of your hardware spend, you need to make your hardware work harder, which requires software.

Here's another way to think about 'why software when it comes to hardware' that hit home for me.  Ricoh’s U.S. Customer Experience Center Director, Roger Serrette, put it this way: “Everybody who buys the same machine as you HAS the same machine as you. You differentiate and maximize its potential to drive business with software.”  It's that simple!

(Listen in on Roger’s conversation with Andy Young, Global Software Business Development Manager for Ricoh Graphic Communications, in this installment of our educational webinar series: How to Leverage Print Software to Maximize Your Hardware Investment.)

Maximize your printer investment by following these three steps:

  1. Make the Most of What You Already Own 

Making your print hardware work harder for you doesn’t have to start with buying new software. Instead, make sure you are effectively using the software solutions you already have in place. Optimize existing systems to maximize output.

That may sound obvious, but many print shops follow a path that looks a lot like this:

  • The print shop invests in a new software solution in response to a big RFP poised to drive the business for the next three years. Once that RFP is complete, often that solution is set aside, used only for that one purpose.
  • Another opportunity comes along and the business adds another solution to meet that customer need. And then another, and another. 
  • Now, 15 years later, the business has a collection of disparate solutions, possibly built on a mix of platforms. 

Sound familiar?

Many print businesses buy software for a specific purpose, then don’t think to investigate what more it can do. 

Do you have a host of tools at your disposal with untapped capacity? Take a hard look at the software you have. Can these tools help you expand or enhance your business, or are they only useful for one particular purpose? The answer to this question will help you determine what solutions to keep, further utilize or replace.

  1. Find the Gaps in Your Workflow Automation

As you evaluate the full capabilities of the software solutions you already have in place, take time to carefully assess your entire workflow, end to end.

A comprehensive workflow assessment is most effective when it includes an external perspective and the expertise of a workflow specialist. It is often too hard to remain objective when reviewing your own organization. There is a natural inclination to say, “I know what’s going on in my business, and I know where the problems are.” Rather than basing your assessment on 80 percent gut reaction backed up with 20 percent data gathered to validate it, bring in outside eyes to look from an unbiased viewpoint. 

Whether you work with a professional services team on-site or virtually, a workflow assessment can provide insights into your operation and the tools you use to help resolve bottlenecks and other pain points. The team can help you diagnose areas of vulnerability and come away with recommendations for improvement.

Are there missing components in your workflow that could give customers added convenience, visibility into job progress or other less tangible benefits? Along with considering the data and quantifiable analysis of your current hardware, software and processes, an assessment should factor in how to best meet your customers’ needs beyond delivering the finished product. 

  1. Don’t Just Find Efficiencies—Fuel Growth

While ROI on software may be harder to validate than on a hardware investment, it often comes down to automation and personnel: how many dollars are saved by reducing employee time spent on manual tasks. This may seem less tangible than calculating how many pieces go through a print device in a year, but if you understand how much time is spent on each task you plan to automate, you can see the return.

Additionally, the right print software and automation goes beyond saving time and money to setting the stage for growth. A software investment’s ROI is not strictly based on the number of manual touches and people in the room. Also calculate how those efficiencies allow you to redeploy people to areas that allow your business to grow.

This could include everything from the less measurable benefits of focusing more of your staff time on high-value, customer-centric tasks to the tangible profits derived from introducing new services and lines of business without adding staff. 

Software extends your printers’ capabilities and capacity, enabling you to take advantage of business opportunities. The decision of whether to invest in software or hardware—hinges on an assessment of where you are, where you want to be and whether this investment will help you achieve those goals.

What’s Next?

If you are ready to find opportunities to improve your hardware investment and differentiate your business with software, Ricoh is ready to help you. Request a workflow assessment today.

Meet the Author

Linnea is Ricoh’s Director of Global Marketing, Alliances & Operations. She is responsible for growing the worldwide awareness of and demand for the production workflow software and solutions portfolio. Linnea is a brand specialist with more than 25 years of experience, having previously held key leadership positions at Hunter Douglas, Qwest, and PepsiCo. Linnea holds an MBA from Hoffstra University and Bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration and International Affairs from the University of New Hampshire. Linnea manages global strategic partnerships and marketing operations for Ricoh, giving her a comprehensive view of the business, customers, and markets. An accredited global marketing leader, Linnea is passionate about small businesses, even volunteering her marketing communications, social media, and digital marketing expertise to small businesses and associations. Her goal is always to help other businesses thrive. She authors many Ricoh blog posts to this end.

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