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The Duplex Printing Conundrum

By default, all Ricoh print drivers are configured to print duplex (2-sided). Changing that default setting to single-sided printing is such a common customer request that our Helpdesk team has gotten in the habit of creating custom print drivers for every client during the install prep process. We have reached the point where we assume every client wants single-sided printing, and provide it to avoid client frustration during the initial install.

Historically, HGi has viewed this as an example of the value we provide as the premier service organization in our area. I think we really do mean well, but I am not so sure this particular measure is in the absolute best interest of all customers. Yes, our clients by and large prefer to print single-sided. And yes, our job to is to give them what they need to do their job efficiently. I’m just not sure that if we looked closer we’d find we are making the most informed decision when overriding duplex settings.

I’ll speculate a bit here, because I have been challenged by 2-sided documents myself over the years and I can empathize with the choice most people make. I have personally spent 10 minutes frantically searching for the second page to a document only to find it on the back side of the page I have in my hand. I’ve reprinted a document thinking my original print was missing pages only to find that those pages were just on the backside of the pages that I just printed. I have been inconvenienced by duplexed documents because I did not anticipate that the back side would be printed. I get why people would avoid that problem all together by never printing in duplex.

But, maybe we are wrong in looking at duplex printing solely from a convenience standpoint. Consider the following paper cost analysis:

Costco: Hammermill Tidal Multi-Purpose Paper
10 reams per case (400 reams per pallet)
500 sheets/ream = 200,000 sheets/pallet
1 pallet @ $1499 = $37.47 per case = $0.0075 per sheet

Office Depot: Office Depot Brand Multipurpose Paper
1 case = 10 reams (500 sheets per ream = 5000
sheets total) = $53.99/case = $0.0107/sheet

Halsey & Griffith: Discovery Multi-Purpose Paper
10 reams per case (400 reams per pallet)
500 sheets/ream = 200,000/pallet
1 pallet @ $1480 = $37.00 per case = $0.0074 per sheet
(Shameless plug – our parent company sells this and it’s very good paper. Call customer service for pallet pricing.)

Depending on how much you buy, how much storage space you have, and the quality of paper you choose, paper costs will be somewhere between .$0075 and $.01 per page. Coincidentally, that’s pretty much the exact same range of costs you will find on a full service MFP maintenance contract for black and white printing. Depending on the size of your machine, you will be paying somewhere between $.075 and $.01 per page for toner, parts, supplies, drums and labor.

Ignoring electricity and machine acquisition costs, the cost of a printed page is already somewhere between $.015 and $.02 per page. If your organization prints 100,000 pages a month — which would be typical for a company with 100 employees — you are spending $1500 to $2000 a month on paper and MFP maintenance. Desktop printer output costs even more. These costs are pretty fixed. You can negotiate with your vendors and will probably get some discount, but any reduction in cost from negotiation will probably be offset by inferior service or paper quality.

What if I said you could continue to buy the best paper and experience the best service from your vendor and still knock 15% off that bill starting tomorrow? Studies show that by simply setting your print drivers to print in duplex, or in Ricoh’s case leaving the defaults in place, companies reduce their paper usage by a whopping 30%. In our example, that’s $225 to $300 every month, up to $3,600 every year.

All we have to do to access these savings is to inconvenience ourselves to learn one simple trick. If you print something flip it over and look at the back side of the page.

Note: Environmental ramifications of two-sided printing, though important to me personally, are intentionally omitted from this article. We’ll call them a rather large ancillary benefit.

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