• This Printing Innovation Could Save Employees' Sanity

Some printers seem to detect when you're printing your most important document of the month. What else could explain their tendency to run out of toner at just that moment?

We've all probably experienced that sinking feeling when there's no replacement in the cupboard and we're up against an important deadline. Some printers feature a toner continue mode which allows you to continue printing even when the printer toner cartridge is on its last legs. This wrings out the last dregs of toner but means long documents might not print completely. Even when documents do print, their quality might be patchy.

If this is a problem for your staff, then perhaps it's time to consider a toner-as-a-service program. These contracts, also known as automatic toner replenishment, interrogate the printer directly to check its status. It's like giving the service provider a window into your printer fleet. You'll often find this kind of service on its own or as part of a broader managed print services offering.

In some more advanced units, a connected printer signals that it's low on toner, which alerts the toner replacement service that it needs a replacement. Other models make that assessment based on the number of pages that have been printed. The system will automatically generate an order for the toner, which you can either approve manually or have sent through automatically. Then, the toner is shipped and your employee replace the spent cartridge themselves.

Some services go beyond merely shipping new toner to your office. They'll enable you to order more metered supplies such as waste toner bottles, and will also enable you to update key data such as your shipping address.

The benefits of toner-as-a-service

Toner-as-a-service contracts bring several benefits. They reduce the amount of time that staff must spend re-ordering toner cartridges. These can mount up over time, especially in high-volume environments or across multiple offices.

Having enough toner on hand also helps avoid missed deadlines by ensuring that staff can print their documents at short notice. When those documents are customer-facing, that can be the difference between a satisfied customer and a grumpy call to an account manager.

Finally, these contracts can also help manage inventory costs. In environments with large printer fleets, paying in advance for lots of cartridges becomes a serious financial consideration. Just-in-time cartridge replenishment removes that burden from the balance sheet.

How to make toner-as-a-service work for you

Get the most from your toner-as-a-service contract with a little advance planning. First, consider the toner replacement component as part of your overall printing model. Does it make sense to buy the printers and then arrange the toner replenishment separately, or can you factor the toner-as-a-service component into a printer leasing agreement?

Second, take the time to set an appropriate low-toner threshold for each device based on its usage. Some automated toner replenishment users have complained that replacement cartridges don't arrive in time, leaving them scurrying for alternatives at the stores.

Configuring the low-toner threshold so that it signals the vendor earlier enables the company to send toner in plenty of time. That's especially useful during a pandemic where delivery times might be unreliable.

If printers are reporting their status back to vendors, then check that devices are properly connected and always powered on. Devices will enter power-saving mode when not in use, which minimises your power overhead.

Thanks to modern device connectivity, your printer can take care of its own needs in the background, leaving your employees with little more to do than take the toner cartridge out of the box and plug it in. In busy environments where staff already have multiple plates spinning at any given time, that's one less thing to worry about - and one more thing to help keep your business running smoothly.

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