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Rugged Managed Print Services: Defining A New Market For The Supply Chain

15-May-2018
Rugged Managed Print Services: Defining A New Market For The Supply Chain
It is time to re-define managed print services (MPS) for supply chain users, who have specialist needs that arguably to date have not been met by standard, office-centred MPS.

There is industry demand for a managed print service that specialises in rugged supply chain environments for logistics and distribution, retail and manufacturing companies. Industry experience suggests that 75% of businesses are unaware of their print costs, which for supply chain users can account for up to 20% of their organisation’s total expenditure. When efficiently deployed in a supply chain environment ‘rugged-MPS’ can cut print costs by more than a third and increase productivity by ensuring maximum printer uptime.

Rugged, industrial-strength printers in a manufacturing environment, for example on a production line are more mission-critical than their office equivalents. If one office printer goes down the user can simply print to another, whereas in manufacturing if a printer is at the end of a production line, often that is not possible and the line may have to be closed down, resulting in lost production and order fulfilment delays. One of the key printers in the operation of a major electrical retailer went down the day before Black Friday, with potentially severe consequences.

The biggest change in the rugged-MPS market is the built-in intelligence that allows the MPS provider to not only monitor rugged estate performance via the cloud but also anticipate problems before they arise, through intelligent surveillance (Zebra’s asset visibility system is an example). Say for example a supply chain company has four printers: the rugged-MPS provider can view data revealing that one printer is producing far more labels than the other three and that it is necessary to split the print load more efficiently.

Pre-empting failures in a supply chain estate saves time and money by minimising downtime. Total visibility of assets, from barcode printers on the factory floor to electronic proof of delivery, in-vehicle EPOD devices allows the rugged-MPS provider to anticipate when print heads or scanner batteries need to be replaced. Real time health checks on printers and (optionally) scanners, handheld computers and other electronic assets ensure that the competitive performance of supply chain assets is optimised and customer service levels are maintained. Customers value reliability and, increasingly, expect an uninterrupted supply chain: remote monitoring helps to ensure both.

Depending on need Rugged-MPS can take many forms. An audit will measure the performance of a company’s legacy printers, their estimated end-of-life, and the cost and the quality of the media they currently use. A rugged managed print service will advise on printer replacement (if needed, when needed, what model) and on media price-performance. Some companies choose to restructure or expand their rugged hardware estate using rental, which is viewed as an operational expense or OpEX rather than a capital expense (CapEx). Occasionally, businesses choose to outsource their entire rugged estate - hardware, related software and support.

Rugged-MPS is a specialist area. Industrial printers play a central role in the integrated supply chain and a wider knowledge of their environment is essential for rugged-MPS deployment. At a simpler but no less important level changing a print head on a high performance industrial printer is not a job for an amateur. Using experienced rugged-MPS engineers avoids costly errors.

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