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Forgotten elements of Total Cost of Printing – Reliability – Part 3a, Hardware failures (mechanical and electronic) under warranty

Issue 0940/1 – Once our printer is up and running, we assume that all is well with the world – until something goes wrong. Will something go wrong? Perhaps not – but that may depend wholly on which brand of printer that has been bought. In these third and fourth parts of our series on printer and MFP reliability, we look at the impact of hardware quality and reliability on Total Cost of Printing – firstly an introduction and look at warranty replacements, followed by a look at repairs outside of warranty in the next article.

Potential for hardware failure is pretty much common to all printers regardless of the precise printing technology involved. There may be some types of failure that are more typical of laser printers, and others to inkjet printers, but many of the faults could occur to either technology. So, the principles remain the same – a hardware failure is a hardware failure. We’ll keep supplies failures separate from this section because there are some very different factors affecting inkjet printers from laser printers.

So, here we turn to faults such as:

  • Mechanical hardware failure
  • Mechanical wear and tear
  • Electronic component failure
  • Paper pickup failure
  • Paper path blockage

There is little point is going into detail for each type of fault that can occur but there are several problems we’ve experienced that bear mention, as illustrations of just how frustrating and damaging reliability problems can be.

Problems experienced in recent years (behind each of which is a story) include:

  • Laser failure
  • Paper feed failures
  • Smooth paper pick roller
  • Paper jams
  • Torn paper fragments left in paper path

Scenario 1 – Paper jams/misfeeds
Some years ago, a laser printer in for testing had a particularly poor paper pick mechanism that suffered paper jams and misfeeds on a regular basis. There were four units of the printer being tested, with an average of just over 18,000 pages printed per unit.

In total, there were 61 incidents where the paper path had to be cleared either because of a paper pick failure or an actual jam inside one of the machines. In one day there were 39 failures! This means that, on average, there was a misfeed or paper jam roughly every 1,180 pages, or just over every two reams of paper used, with all four printer units affected.

Now, resetting the printer after a pick failure, or even clearing a paper jam, does not take long. The average time taken was just 22 seconds for a paper pick failure and 39 seconds for a paper jam. However, the total time involved in getting up from your desk, going to the printer, clearing the fault and then monitoring the printer to be sure that the print job is delivered successfully would be two minutes (and could, potentially, be more).

Again, this is not a lot of time in itself but, what about when this has to be repeated, over and over and over and over again? For this business device, printing 2,500 pages per month, it could be expected that jams or feed failures would need to be cleared at least twice a month, totalling 76 interventions in a three-year period.

If this is all added together at, say, 2 minutes per intervention, then we are talking about a significant added financial burden.

Paper misfeeds/jams
Average time to clear jam/misfeed 30 seconds
Time to monitor successful printing 1 minute
Time from desk to printer and back 30 seconds
Total time spent rectifying the fault = 2 minutes
Total cost of time @ €50/hr €1.67
Cumulative time over three years 2 hours, 32 minutes
  = 2½hrs
Total cost of time over three years €125.00
Printer downtime per incident >2½ minutes
Printer downtime over life >3 hours
Annoyance/frustration factor Undetermined but big!

Note: Cost of time at €50 per hour is based on cost model outlined in article .

Sometimes, clearing paper jams isn’t as easy it seems or should be. I have twice been called upon to resolve an issue for colleagues who have become very frustrated after clearing a paper jam only to find that the printer did not feed paper at all afterwards because a fragment of paper had torn off inside the machine, blocking the paper path. In both of these instances a degree of dismantling was required to remove the fragment of paper, adding a good half hour to whatever time the colleagues had spent fishing around and sending/resending print jobs to see if the paper path was clear.

One stage further, I have just experienced a paper jam in a laser AiO that has resulted in a sheet of paper wrapping itself round the fuser roller. This is requiring an engineer’s visit because the fuser unit cannot be removed by the user. Printer downtime is expected to be 48 to 72 hours – hopefully no more! Thankfully, the unit is under warranty.

Scenario 2 – Hardware failure
Other major faults experienced in the last couple of years have centred around electronic or other hardware failures. The prospects for a rapid resolution under these circumstances depend very much on whether the error occurs during the warranty period or not.

Three serious failures have been experienced recently, resulting in the complete death of each of the three printers concerned. Two failures involved inkjet printers (one AiO and one single-function printer – of different brands!) and one involved a desktop laser MFP.

So, point number one – one print technology is not necessarily any more resilient to failure than any other. We’re talking electronics and systems here and any device that includes an electronic circuit board, motor or other electronic component is susceptible to failure.

In one inkjet instance, the error message, ”Unable to clean – See troubleshooting and routine maintenance chapter in User’s Guide” was returned, with the print head stuck at the wrong end of the carriage. In the other, the message was “A service item inside your printer has reached the end of its life”, while on the laser device the message indicated a complete failure of the imaging laser unit.

Whether the device is under warranty or not seriously affects the processes involved in achieving a resolution, the time involved and the device downtime experienced – regardless of the print technology involved.

To begin with, we consider the ‘under warranty’ position.

Hardware failure – Under warranty
In the event that these errors occur during the warranty period, despite the seriousness of the fault, resolving a total failure under warranty has actually proved to be very straightforward and easily resolved.

Because the printer stopped functioning and gave an error message, it was clear that this was not a fault that could be self-resolved. Nevertheless, I investigated the error, consulted the user manual and cleaned the relevant area of the printer, as directed by the manual, just to be absolutely certain that the fault was not merely dirt or a blockage in the machine.

Having established that fact, resolution was a simple telephone call to the manufacturer and a new device was dispatched immediately without question. Although the new printer actually took 2 days to be delivered (which was quite impressive for a full printer replacement), relatively little time was lost and therefore the cost of the incident was kept to a minimum.

Terminal hardware failure – rudimentary cost
Time to diagnose, with reference to user guide 5 minutes
Time to clean laser window 5 minutes
Time spent with support (telephone) 20 minutes
Total time spent rectifying the fault = 30 minutes
Total cost of time @ €50/hr €25.00
Printer downtime (with 2-day delivery) ~ 48 hours

Note: Cost of time at €50 per hour is based on cost model outlined in article .

However, there is one unfortunate kick-back on this scenario – the new printer has to be unpacked and installed! At least the drivers and software do not need to be reinstalled, so the time involved could potentially be as little as 15 minutes from acceptance of the delivery to being up and running. To be more realistic, we’ll assume that it takes 30 minutes. So, the end cost looks more like:

Terminal hardware failure – realistic cost
Time to diagnose, with reference to user guide 5 minutes
Time to clean laser window 5 minutes
Time spent with support (telephone) 20 minutes
Time to accept delivery and install 30 minutes
Total time spent rectifying the fault = 1 hour
Total cost of time @ €50/hr €50.00
Printer downtime (with 2-day delivery) ~ 48 hours

Note: Cost of time at €50 per hour is based on cost model outlined in article .

Failure under warranty then is not likely to involve a great deal of cost and the greatest inconvenience is due to the downtime suffered and the need to find an alternative source of prints for the duration of the downtime period. Depending on the nature of the business that the printer is serving, and whether there are any other printers available to handle the print jobs in the meantime, the downtime itself may or may not be a cost burden.

In the second half of this article, we’ll look at the cost of resolving hardware issues outside of warranty.

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