It’s safe to say printers are ubiquitous in most enterprises, but they can also become an IT management headache.

AGF Management Ltd. had that very pain: years of growth through expansion and acquisition had left it with a plethora of output devices throughout its five offices in Toronto — printers,

fax machines and copiers, including analogue copiers.

“”Not unlike a huge number of companies out there, AGF had grown very quickly and had technologies that had not quite grown with it,”” says Monty Spivak, vice-president of information systems at Unisen Inc., AGF’s wholly-owned IT services provider. “”We had a bunch of analogue copiers. You can’t attach them to your network and you can’t use them for other things. And meanwhile, sitting next to these photocopiers, you would have printers, fax machines…you would have all kinds of related output devices.””

A year and half ago, AGF decided to take a hard look at what it was doing in terms of output management, says Spivak, with an aim to look at more multi-function units. “”Copiers by their nature tend to be very high volume units. If you look at a lot of the printers that are typical in most offices, they tend to be smaller, eight page a minute type devices — more personal — and we discovered that in fact we had highly personalized services that we had an opportunity to generalize.””

If AGF could generalize these services, says Spivak, it could drive down costs and improve services.

“”If you have a shared device, you have fewer service calls,”” he says. “”If you have 300 print devices, you have a lot of people running around making sure they’re working properly. If you only have 150, not only do you deploy half the number doing that, you redeploy those people to improve services in other spaces.””

And by simplifying the devices, AGF was also able to reduce the consumables required, such as toner cartridges. The first step for AGF was to take an inventory of what is already it had, says Spivak.

“”Not only did we have analogue copiers, we had all kinds of them. Copiers historically have fallen under office service-type departments — stationery and copiers go together, as opposed to IT.””

Office services is not designed to service hardware, he adds. “”They were very eager to partner with us and figure out a way for the technology group to integrate it.””

Canon already had devices on the ground at AGF, as did many other vendors. “”We sat down and worked out an arrangement where it was a much fuller service package than some other offerings,”” says Spivak. “”They helped us assess our environment, and reduce the diversity of machines and models and technologies, as well as to integrate it on to our network so that (our environment) would be multi-function devices instead of single-function devices.””

The output device consolidation has been done in a phased approach, says Spivak. “”We incrementally rolled it out over about four months. The result was we had an opportunity to trai

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