The ritual smashing of an office printer has re-emerged as a popular pastime among some knowledge workers, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. Inspired by a scene in the 1999 movie, “Office Space,” white-collar employees in the U.S. and Canada have taken out their frustrations on the offending hardware with tools ranging from baseball bats to pipes, and even their feet.
There’s no doubt that the omnipresent office printer can upset even the most patient and well-mannered worker, given its capacity for paper jams, toner spills and obscure error messages about miscellaneous malfunctions. But if, in the heat of the moment, you find yourself tempted to dish out some frontier justice to your own printer, please stop for a moment and consider its redeeming qualities. The accused (the printer) has some useful capabilities that you may have overlooked, which could warrant a stay of execution and even a chance to prove its ongoing value.
More like a computer than a printer
For starters, today’s generation of office printers is vastly more capable than the vintage-1999 printer/facsimile that bit the dust in “Office Space.” As the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has pointed out, networked multi-function printers (MFPs) incorporate hard drives, embedded firmware and network connections, and thus function – in effect – as PCs.
That’s nice, you may be thinking, my printer can do more than print documents. But what can it do that’s of real tangible value to me? Here are five frequently overlooked but powerful functions that can directly benefit you and your coworkers:
1. Scan documents to digital form: Documents that are only available as paper likely take a huge toll on your productivity, as well as your workgroup’s and your organization’s. Every time someone manually enters data, re-keys handwritten comments from an existing document, or searches laboriously through paper files, efficiency and accuracy suffer – needlessly. The built-in scanning function in today’s MFPs lets you capture the content of paper documents, and transform them into electronic files that can be sent directly to your desktop, document management system, cloud storage provider, business process or coworkers via email.
2. Use PDF for workflows that work better: Many of the electronic files created via scanning are in the PDF format. PDFs are essential for document collaboration, as PDF is compatible across various platforms and operating systems. With the right scanning software – an integrated capture and workflow solution – your MFP will create PDF files that you and your coworkers can not just view, but also search, edit, modify and store securely in a document repository.
3. Take advantage of mobile printing: If you work remotely, you know how important it is to access essential documents and files on-the-go, from your smartphone, tablet or notebook computer. But once you have worked with those documents or files, you may need to print them – including sensitive material – from your mobile device, to any convenient networked printer. “Follow-You” Printing gives you the flexibility to have that printer serve up your prints on-demand, securely, after you identify yourself.
4. Keep your documents secure: “Orphaned print jobs” are potentially confidential printouts that are left sitting on an output tray, waiting forlornly to be picked up. They are a substantial risk to privacy and compliance for you, your coworkers and your organization. Fortunately, your MFP has the potential to implement a variety of rule-based printing procedures that minimize these risks … such as requiring each employee to identify himself/herself when collecting documents at the printer.
5. Make your office greener: Today’s printers can, of course, be a contributor to waste and inefficiency in the workplace, when used unthinkingly or out of sheer habit. It’s appropriate, then, that MFPs can also serve as engines for reducing waste and promoting thoughtful use of resources (including space, electricity, paper, toner, parts, etc.). Today’s printers can play a constructive role by converting paper documents to digital form, changing paper-based processes to electronic ones, and implementing rules-based printing procedures.
To reap the full benefit of these capabilities, your MFP needs to take advantage of advanced capture and workflow, print management, and PDF software. Together, they provide a constructive alternative to demolishing your office hardware.