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Setting printer defaults unintelligently wastes money

Issue #0811/2 – TCPglobal has repeatedly suggested that organisations should consider setting duplex as the default in the office to force duplex printing for all print jobs except those for which the user knows duplex is not appropriate. The assumption would be that this principle would be applied intelligently! An example has come to light of unintelligent application of the principle in a production environment – an action that wastes money!

In the office, few PC/printer users are prepared to take the time to think closely about exactly how they print – quite understandably. It is for this reason that it may be recommended that organisations set features such as duplex printing as their printer defaults. It means that users have to think about turning it off, rather than turning it on.

Applied intelligently, and with a little initial experimentation, this can be an effective way of reducing paper costs in the office (see TCPglobal articles: , and for further information).

However, what happens when a large organisation such as a bank, with production level equipment, takes the principle too far and applies duplex as a blanket default?

In this type of environment, it is unlikely that an actual human user is preparing and sending many of the individual print jobs that pass through the printer and on into the mail system to be sent to the customer. Most correspondence is computer generated without any human input.

I recently received a letter from my bank, including a form that I needed to verify, add some information to, sign and return to the bank.

I noticed that the letter had the text “Page 1 of 4” on the bottom and the form had “Page 3 of 4”, along with a customer, or correspondence, code. Turning the pages over, I then found the words “THIS PAGE IS LEFT BLANK INTENTIONALLY” printed on the back, together with the usual page numbering reference at the bottom of the page.

Letter from bankBank letter (blurred to protect the innocent!)
Reverse of bank letterReverse side of bank letter

Why is this a problem? Surely it lets the customer know that nothing has been missed from the correspondence received?

Yes and no. The customer can be reassured that nothing is missing as long as the page reference (e.g. Page 1 of 2) is contained at the bottom of each page. In this way the reader knows how many pages to expect and which of those pages is being read at the time. So, there is no need for a covering statement on the back of each sheet.

In this instance, it would appear that a decision has been made that, because some print jobs will save paper by duplexing, all jobs will be printed duplex regardless. Probably for technical reasons rather than reasons of customer clarity, the decision has then been made to make sure that something is printed on the back of every single sheet of paper.

In terms of Total Cost of Printing, this has three main impacts.
– Reduces print speed by half, thus wasting time and production capacity
– Reduces life of printer parts such as rollers and OPC drum
– Reduces life of printer through unnecessary wear and tear

This all increases effective cost. In addition, there is a small increase in toner usage from the text printed on the reverse side of the paper.

As sent to me, the reverse side of the letter page contained text to a coverage representing about 5% of the actual letter coverage itself, thus costing the bank an extra 5% on its print costs just in toner alone – a cost that I, as a customer, have to carry. By the time the reduced life expectancy of the printer mechanics and supplies are also taken into account, printing double the number of pages, the extra cost for these pages would be much higher than 5% above the normal cost for a single-sided page (double the wear on the OPC drum; double the wear on some paper feed rollers).

While not in any sense changing the recommendation to set duplex as a default printer setting for the office environment, it must not be activated without due care and attention to the nature of the print environment, the capabilities and printing characteristics of the printer in question and the degree of human involvement in the printing process. Xerox’s Smart Duplexing (see article Xerox again targets productivity on office printing – Smart Duplexing) is one of the most guaranteed means of achieving a sensible result.