Paperless offices "a fallacy": HP exec

Paperless offices "a fallacy": HP exec

Printing habits are changing in the office, but few are going paperless

The dream of every environmentally-conscious organisation - the paperless office - has been "somewhat of a fallacy" according to Bruce Dahlgren, HP's senior vice president of managed enterprise solutions, imaging and printing group.

"It's unrealistic to think that printing is just going to go away," he told Computerworld Australia. "However, I think the way people print and copy is changing."

Data collected from HP's 2600 managed print service clients worldwide showed that 84 per cent of print and copy jobs were three pages or less.

"We're able to distribute so much more of the information electronically, and people are printing off what they need," he said.

The trend is likely to continue too, as more information is distributed online rather than printed and mailed. However, Dahlgren said he didn't think companies would reach a completely paperless office anytime soon.

HP's managed print service division is worth $US5.5 billion worldwide, and accounts for 18.5 billion printed pages per year. The market is particularly lucrative in Australia, where HP controls over 40 per cent share, despite increasing clues as to the entry of potential rivals like Dell.

The key behind managed print service is typically to reduce unnecessary infrastructure, particularly the size of the printer fleet, as well as the consumables used and pages printed. While many companies still share one printer or multifunction device between two or three workers, Dahlgren said that HP typically saw this change to a fifteen to twenty people for every device.

However, there are a few who have gotten rid of printers altogether. One company is Kogan Technologies, the online-only store that buys OEM consumer electronics from Chinese manufacturers and sells them at a significant discount over alternatives from better known brands. Founded by Ruslan Kogan, the business employs 25 people in a Melbourne-based head office, and distributes its products through warehouses it does not own.

The company's head office as well as the warehouses it deals with are paperless. Ruslan said that he even made logistics giant DHL implement paperless processes when dealing with the consumer electronics company.

"Our business is all about efficiency," he said. "We have to keep costs down in order to compete in the marketplace."

According to its founder, Kogan Technologies' ability to keep overhead costs down through paperless processes is a key factor in running the business. All pertaining documents - including manuals, sales orders as well as all internal and external customer receipts - are indexed and stored in a mix of Google cloud services and hosted data centres with The Planet.

"I couldn't imagine doing what we do if there was paper involved," he said.

Kogan Technologies and its affiliate furniture delivery company, Milan Direct, have been paperless from the start, eliminating the need for a resource-heavy transition. However, Kogan said that even for larger companies, the initial outlay would be easily made up through the resulting efficiency savings.

Though entirely staffed in Australia, Milan Direct has already begun operating in the UK, and Kogan aims to expand the technology company to both the UK and the US after the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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