Why a Retail Fleet is Bad for Business

Work from home is here to stay. Despite many states opening for business, many workers who are capable of performing their job from home are doing so. Some of those workers, however, may not have expected to be away from the office for such a lengthy period of time.

Businesses did not anticipate remote work being the standard for what will probably last for as long as a year — and while most office-workers are able to complete their tasks with a mixture of virtual hangouts, cloud services, and laptops, there are some things that cannot be solved with a software license or a smartphone.

Some of those things are printing, scanning, and faxing.

This is where the temptation of retail multi-function printers (MFPs) comes into play — businesses that need to supply a small number of their employees with printers may see off-the-shelf printers from big box stores or online retailers as a viable solution.

While a printer you can buy from an office supply store is perfect for personal use, managing a “retail fleet” of printers can cause serious headaches for any business’ IT team, management team, and even the employees using the printer itself.

Let’s go over some of the problems your business could face if you used a retail printer fleet.

THE USER EXPERIENCE

If you ask someone what they like about anything technological, most of the time, they will provide an answer that amounts to “it’s easy to use.”

Not every printer is easy to use — and neither is every printer reliable. Workers are already facing challenges maintaining their usual productivity levels, and a printer that is unreliable or fights the user will not just simply reduce your employee’s productivity, it will also bring down their morale. What’s worse than a non-functioning printer? Now, add on the stress of having no one to help you fix it — this can create a perfect storm of frustration.

There is also the problem of supply awkwardness — how will your employees supply their printers with toner? Are they to expense them, or will you supply them yourself?

Next comes the problem of installation — do your employees need to install their printer alone? How do they configure the printer to their home network? How do they set up their fax line? And worst of all — what happens if they break it during installation?

THE IT DEPARTMENT’S EXPERIENCE

Now, let’s look at the problems an IT team will face when installing a fleet of retail printers. First, there is the issue of the supply chain — if your business orders fifteen or twenty units of the same printer, does the store you bought them from have them in stock?

If the printers are not in stock, you are faced with two choices: wait to install, or purchase different models of printers. Managing multiple printers can be nightmare however, and waiting to install a fleet can cause a huge reduction in productivity.

After purchasing, your IT team will need to figure out delivery — do they need to bring each printer to each employee’s home? Do the employees need to stop by the office to pick them up?

And then comes installation — does your IT team install every printer themselves? Are they comfortable visiting that many homes during the pandemic? Do they need to provide training on how to use the printer?

There are already so many tasks your IT team is responsible for when managing a remote workforce — manning a fleet of printers should be the last thing your IT department is worried about.

And finally, what about ongoing maintenance? Your IT team is most likely busy managing your business network and applications — do they have the time to drive out to each employee’s home to service malfunctioning printers? This accessibility problem is compounded by the fact that many retail printers lack parts supply — meaning if a roller, drum, or other consumable part wears out, that printer is out of commission.

YOUR BUSINESS’ EXPERIENCE

Last, we’ll go over what a retail fleet means for your business. Let’s start with the most important consideration for your business: cost.

A printer bought online will probably be cheaper than one bought from a dealer, but there is more to account for than just the initial cost — there are warranties, extended warranties, supply cost, and parts maintenance to consider.

Supplying ten printers with toner, and keeping those printers running smoothly requires continuous investment. And just as you want your printers to be reliable, you want your employees to be accountable — print management software, which is used to manage and measure the output of print jobs is not compatible with every printer you can buy — and neither is it easy to set up.

If your print costs rise dramatically, how can you determine where or why this is happening with a disconnected fleet of printers?

RETAIL PRICES DON’T PROVIDE REAL SOLUTIONS

This blog may come across as biased, but over fourteen years of experience in this industry have taught me that nothing but frustration can come from a business using a retail printer fleet.

While it may not be as fast as searching for a printer online, finding a dealer who is willing to supply and service your remote workers with mute-function printers is a much more sound method of increasing your employee’s productivity while still ensuring smooth daily operations.

If you want to help your employees operate at 100% efficiency again, reach out to your dealer, and see if they offer remote-print supply and support options.

Fred Harlan
Fred is a business improvement specialist with over 14 years of imaging industry experience, all with Cobb Technologies. When Fred isn't helping business reduce their expenses and boost their productivity via office hardware and software solutions, he's woodcrafting, fishing, or spending time with his friends and family.