Why is the number of printers decreasing?

Michał Gembal, CMO Arcus S.A.

By Michał Gembal, CMO Arcus S.A.

According to data from Context, deliveries of printing devices throughout the EMEA region (Europe, ME and Africa) decreased by 8 percent in Q1 2015 compared to Q1 2014. The Western European market has entered a period of stagnation (sales are not growing), while  demand in the Middle East has decreased considerably.
Such data may suggest that digital document flow has ousted printing devices from offices, just as electronic mail and SMSs marginalized traditional mail. Are printers obsolete? No, but other data must be analyzed to see the bigger picture.

The numbers are not growing for two reasons. First, multi-function devices (MFDs) are more widely used. MFDs incorporate the functionalities of a printer, scanner, fax and a photocopier. Consequently, the number of devices is not growing – instead of a separate copier and printer, one device is often used. Secondly, companies are increasingly cost-conscious. Rather than buying many small printers, which are expensive to use due to the their low quality, they choose larger devices. Although more expensive to buy, they are much faster, more efficient, and offer advanced functionalities, such as secure or follow-me print. The initial investment soon pays off due to lower expenditures on consumables and lower servicing costs. Designed to produce numerous printouts, large devices are less prone to developing faults.arcus pic
How do we know that the volume of printouts in companies is not decreasing? According to Convergence Consulting, an average office worker uses about 10,000 sheets (about 20 reams) annually. And according to Gartner, printout volume is growing by 11 percent annually (B/W – 9 percent, color – 19 percent). A growing number of our customers outsource printing, paying us per each printed page. Therefore, we know their print volume is not decreasing. But why, since office digitalisation and new means of communication are progressing?
A growing volume of data is collected and processed electronically. However, the total number of data collection systems is also growing. And although many analysis processes are done digitally, at a certain stage printouts are required, e.g. corporate reports to the board.
Public administration requirements add to printing more documents. Although regulations allow for a larger variety of documents to be submitted electronically, the option of having a piece of paper stamped is still very important to individuals long accustomed to it.
Another reason for the growing number of printouts is… their growing quality. While color laser printouts used to be very expensive due to the high prices of both printers and consumables, nowadays, even small businesses can afford high quality color printing. Hence the popularity of attractive color offers.
Does the decrease in the number of printing devices mean that we no longer need print? Paraphrasing Mark Twain’s famous quote, “Reports of print’s death have been greatly exaggerated.” u

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