Getting a return on investment into printing kit
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By Laurel Brunner
24 April 2012
HP SmartStream Director includes the Ultimate Impostrip technology that can feed data to an MIS. Data is the foundation of any ROI
Buying an expensive printing engine has never been simple. The surge of electronic enhancements that provide considerable boom for the print engine buck have accelerated new kit turnover, so much so that machines get replaced with quite alarming frequency. The manufacturers are of course thrilled with this because it enhances year-on-year sales figures and increases revenues. This is why manufacturers drive their research and development (R&D) teams hard to come up with new innovations. Innovation leads to new hardware and software products, giving manufacturers frequent new releases for the market.
The idea is to make machines more efficient and productive, both for hardware and software. So upgrade and service contracts abound in the sign and display market in order to guarantee that a system is always up and running. These contracts tie the machine owner to the supplier, but they also provide peace of mind and recourse if a machine or front end falls over. The cost is generally worth it for the business owner, and these contracts essentially provide an annuity for manufacturers so they can fund the R&D that creates new stuff for printers to buy. Tidy. Financing deals generally brokered by the system supplier also encourage frequent upgrades to both. But how can a printing company be sure that technology investments generate a proper return?
Traditional accounting conventions dictate various means of amortising capital equipment, but a return on investment is a more complicated calculation. For a start, it isn't just about money, it's about indirect cost savings and business development, much of which for most sign and display printers is intangible. Small businesses living hand to mouth might have a clear sense of how to value these intangibles. However, unless the control over workflow is tight and job management properly costed, putting a number on the cost of jobs, beyond their consumables and an estimate for operator time, depends on some sort of manual monitoring. Far better to invest in an MIS that can provide detailed costing information, including capital equipment and premises allocations.
Calculating a return on investment into kit depends on data. It is fine to trust to intuition, but at some stage in the business development hard numbers will have to be established. Only with real data is it possible to calculate an ROI. How one gathers the data depends on the company culture, but without it returns just can't be measured accurately.
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