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Understand the Components that Determine Your Printing Costs

by Terry Willis on July 29

Most businesses only take into account the cost of equipment, service and supplies when first calculating their printing costs. However, these hard costs are only a portion of what makes up your total printing investment. When determining this number you also have to consider several indirect costs that can significantly impact your total investment.

You must take into account all components: equipment, supplies, maintenance, burden rates and equipment life. These make up your total cost of ownership providing the ability to truly manage and reduce your print costs.

Below are the components you will use to determine the total printing costs for your business.

Hard Costs

The hard costs associated with printing include equipment, supplies and service. These are typically the only costs businesses use in analyzing their investment. Although important, they are just the first step in determining your costs.


This simply is the cost of the equipment you acquired. Whether you purchased, leased or agreed to a cost per page contract, equipment costs need to be considered in your total investment calculation.

This information can usually be provided by your accounting department or your print provider.


Supplies include toner, developer, paper, other print media, staples and more. This is an ongoing expense as supplies are consumed. Careful monitoring will help you determine if there are any cost saving options.

As you are collecting this information, be sure you address all purchasing options your business may be using, not just your print provider. Often these supplies are purchased through your office supply company or other vendors that aren’t normally considered in determining printing costs. Also remember to address inventory volume; many businesses often find excess inventory scattered throughout their offices.


It is not uncommon for companies to have multiple devices which have different vendor contracts, warranties and service agreements. Organizing and determining which vendor services are attached to each machine and maintenance contract can be a daunting task.

Trying to manage these agreements can be a time consuming and frustrating process.
Often times, consolidating vendors, equipment makes and models and contracts can result in significant savings. Gathering and understanding these hard costs is a great way to start.

Soft Costs

These are the most overlooked costs for many businesses, but are very important in determining an effective print management strategy. Two of the soft costs associated with printing are your employee burden rate and the life cycle of the equipment selected. Let’s look into these further.

Employee Burden Rate

Printing Costs - Employee Burden RateYour IT manager, office administrator or key operator spends time every week keeping your printer fleet up and running. They may be purchasing supplies, fixing a paper jam or determining who to call for service. The type of equipment, number of vendors and variety of supply sources all add to the time required to take care of these tasks. Estimating the time spent doing these tasks is crucial in understanding your total cost of ownership.

Life Cycle of Equipment

The more you use your equipment, the more your equipment depreciates. If used improperly, it will depreciate even faster. In addition, technology is changing at an ever-increasing rate, continually decreasing the value of your equipment.

One way to side step this unavoidable aging and devaluing is to stop purchasing equipment. Leasing is an option that allows you to use the equipment until the efficiency declines, your business initiatives change or a more effective technology becomes available.


This information can be difficult to gather and calculate without assistance from experts in the industry. Request a print technology assessment from a team of technology experts to determine your true cost of ownership and see where costs savings are available.

Topics: Printing Costs, Copiers & Printers

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