A time honoured labour saving device and ubiquitous symbol of the modern workplace, photocopiers have continued to evolve, and today are sophisticated tools that are able to carry out a wide range of tasks and often referred to as multi-function printers (MFPs).
Here we will look at how a modern photocopier can improve the efficiency of your business, what features to look for when buying one, and how to choose the right supplier.
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Improve Business Efficiency with a Modern Photocopier
Today, modern photocopiers are mainly digital machines that do the job of reproducing documents faster, more efficiently, more reliably, and more cheaply. Image quality has also been improved significantly. This has all been achieved by replacing the traditional analogue electrostatic copying technologies with the equivalent of integrated digital scanners and laser (or in some cases ink-jet) printers. Many modern photocopiers have more functions too, such as sending documents by email, fax and storing their digital images in secure user folders.
High end digital photocopiers can produce monochrome and high quality full colour A4 documents at staggering speeds and many include sophisticated finishing tools that produce brochures and booklets automatically; speeds of up to 100 pages per minute are now possible.
Although not all businesses require that level of sophistication, even in situations where copying and printing requirements are more modest, photocopying and related functions can still be a major bottleneck that throttles workflow and reduces efficiency. Choosing the right photocopier for the job can have a huge impact on improving business efficiency.
Modern photocopiers offer a way to bypass that office log jam and, by selecting one with the features you need at the right price point; you can find an affordable solution. In the next section we look in detail the main features you should consider when choosing one.
What to Look for When Buying a Photocopier
Almost all modern photocopiers are digital, combining a scanner and laser printer. This versatile set up can come in almost any size with a number of additional features to suit your needs. The most important aspect of choosing a photocopier is therefore working out what you need a copier to do and matching a machine to those requirements.
There is a huge range of photocopiers and MFPs on the market with prices ranging from around £100 through to £17,000 and more, though for most small to medium sized businesses mid-priced machines are the most favoured. Apart from ensuring that the machine will perform the basic functions you require, there are several important features to consider when buying one; these include:
Speed – for many businesses this is the most important feature, generally specified in terms of pages per minute (ppm) for monochrome and colour printing. Typically mid-range machines will provide speeds of between 25 and 50 ppm for A4 paper. Some machines have much faster monochrome speeds than full colour speeds, and these are more appropriate to businesses that mainly use black and white documents with just an occasional requirement for colour.
Print quality – print quality or resolution can be an important issue. If your documents are for internal use or for such items as simple flyers and user manuals, then the lower print quality range could be perfectly adequate; many machines offer print resolutions of 600 or 1200 dpi which is fine for such applications. However if you are printing high quality brochures and other marketing material, then you might need higher resolutions such as 2,400 dpi or higher.
Technology - photocopiers offer two alternative print technologies; ink-jet and laser. Laser machines dominate the high performance end of the market and are generally the optimum choice for large volume requirements where the price per page is an important consideration. Ink-jet machines dominate the low end of the market where low volume colour documents are required; the inks used in ink-jet printers are more expensive than the toners used in laser printers. However in the middle there can be considerable overlap between the relative performance of ink-jet and laser machines, so you might need to consider the options carefully.
Usability – given the multitude of tasks of which a modern MFP is capable, an important concern is how easy such machines are to use. Most if not all manufacturers have taken steps to make their products as user-friendly as possible allowing them to be controlled over a network or from a touch sensitive screen. If using your chosen machine is likely to prove a challenge for your staff, then check whether the manufacturer provides on-site training or at least a help-desk your staff can contact should they encounter problems.
Network capability – many modern offices incorporate a data and information infrastructure where data is passed through many different types of device including desktop computers, mobile devices, servers, faxes and MFPs. For such an environment it is essential that your photocopier or MFP can be easily integrated into this infrastructure, and many of them have this capability and include extensive network capabilities. Some MFPs are designed to function as the hub of an office network, and are worth considering if you are setting up a new data network or remodelling an existing one.
Paper Capacity – if you process large volumes of documents, then it is important to ensure that your photocopier has an adequate paper capacity. If you need to refill its paper tray regularly it will have a large negative impact on your workflow, decrease productivity, and create frustration amongst your workforce. You should consider not just your current needs, but your future needs too; you are more likely to need larger volumes in the future than you do today.
Multiple paper trays – Some photocopiers incorporate multiple paper trays that can be used to hold different kinds and weights of paper. This feature is particularly useful for businesses that produce booklets and reports using different kinds of paper. For instance you might wish to print covers and inserts using heavy paper or card, standard paper for text, and special paper for full colour photographs. With such machines you can specify which pages are to be printed on what kind of paper.
Finishing tools – many photocopiers can be accessorised with a range of finishing tools that include automatic document folders (useful for flyers), staplers, and hole-punches. These can make a huge contribution to your workflow, so if you have that requirement now or you think that you might do so in the future, then it is something you should consider.
Security – today the way in which we handle personal information is subject to a range of legislative controls such as the data protection and freedom of information acts. These apply to all forms of documents including digital and paper. Some high end photocopiers and MFPs offer enhanced security and data management functions. For instance they may include the ability to send data to specific secure user files and allow specific permissions to be set for individual members of your staff.
Price – photocopiers and MFPs range in price from around £100 to over £17,000, so clearly you need to match your requirements with a price-point that is within your budget. However it isn’t just the capital cost you need to consider; if you have high volume requirements the price per page is also an important consideration.
Purchase or lease – as an alternative to investing capital in a photocopier you could choose to lease one instead or purchase one through a hire purchase deal.
Deciding which features you can and can’t live without helps to reduce the number of potential photocopiers to a manageable set of options.
If you’ve no idea what your budget should be, our photocopier prices guide can help you work out what kind of machine is affordable for you.
Just as important as choosing the right machine is choosing the right way to pay for it. Buying a large photocopier can require a substantial investment of capital which might be better employed elsewhere. On the other hand a small or mid-sized copier might not be the kind of thing you want to have to pay for over 4 or 5 years.
The following options are all available:
If you’re struggling to decide between the different options or need a better idea of what each entails and what to look out for, our photocopier hire page can help set you straight.
Once you have decided on the features you need in a photocopier you will need to look at the alternative manufacturers and suppliers including their reputation as a business and the reputation of their products.
The leading photocopier brands in the UK include:
Canon – currently the market leader with an extensive product range including simple home and office MFPs through to high end machines process at over £17,000.
Ricoh – a major manufacturer of photocopiers for many years for both the Ricoh brand and brands such as Pitney-Bowes and Toshiba.
Xerox – the original developer of the technology and one-time market leader though lost its way somewhat when it entered the PC market; still a major player with an excellent reputation.
Brother – a company with a reputation for value and quality that specialises in mid-range and more affordable photocopier solutions.
Konica Minolta – a company with an excellent reputation. Its range of MFPs are built on its Bizhub open platform which provides consistency between the various models.
Sharp – entered the photocopier market in 1972 and has always been an innovator offering a wide range of models ranging from small office solutions through to high end models.
A digital photocopier is a sensitive and sophisticated piece of equipment with finely calibrated moving parts and sensors. As such, there’s a lot of scope for things to go wrong. A good after sales service can be the difference between a smoothly running photocopier heaven and a deadline ruining, toner spattered photocopier hell.
The service contract is usually priced based on your usage of the photocopier (i.e. number of copies per month). Various frequencies of service and call out response times are offered by different suppliers.
However these aren’t the only choices, so it is important to do your research thoroughly; you will find the information and reviews provided on this website a considerable help. We can also provide you with more information tailored to your specific business needs.
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Photocopier FAQs and Misconceptions
Understanding exactly what you might need from your photocopier can be difficult. Fortunately though, hundreds of businesses are going through the same process every week - this means that you can easily find the answer to a number of your questions.
Below you can find a number of FAQs, along with answers that can help you to make a decision. If your question still hasn't been answered then you should complete the form at the top of the page to speak to an expert today.
I only use the copier once in a while, what kind do I need?
Photocopiers come in various sizes and with a number of special features. The most basic form of copier is a combined printer/scanner/copier of the kind you can pick up from a consumer electronics retailer or which are sometimes bundled with PCs. They are suitable for low usage but the costs can quickly escalate if you start using them very frequently or for larger jobs. This is because they use inkjet cartridges which are very expensive (in fact, the printers are usually sold at a loss because the manufacturers expect to make their profits from the sale of brand-specific cartridges). Genuine photocopiers use toner rather than ink. This requires a larger initial outlay – the cheapest desktop copiers are around £200, the cheapest toner refills around £40 – but is much cheaper in the long run.
What’s the difference between a desktop and a free-standing copier?
In very general terms, the larger the copier, the larger the volume of copies it can handle. A desktop machine will serve for small offices with day to day copying needs but if you’re doing a lot of high volume jobs you can expect it start feeling the strain and breaking down. The smaller toner cartridges in desktop machines also need to be replaced more frequently. Free-standing copiers, as well as being able to handle bigger jobs and longer spells of continuous operation, can also be fitted with extra modules for sorting, stapling, folding, binding and even hole-punching your documents. They can also come with an instant warm up feature so that you don’t have to loiter awkwardly next to the machine for three minutes waiting for your document.
Will I be able to use the photocopier as a printer and a scanner?
Most office photocopiers now come with network cards so they can be used as a printer and scanner on your computer network. Some also have the option of various file formats for scanning, and have multiple configurations as a printer.
Will I have to purchase the copier outright?
No – nearly all suppliers will offer the option of leasing a copier. Various leasing options are available where you pay a fixed monthly or quarterly fee for the copier. This can include maintenance and toner refill charges. Lease agreements usually last for a fixed period (at least a year) after which you are able to purchase the machine outright, extend the lease, upgrade to a new machine or return the machine. There are sometimes special lease agreements available for schools and other public sector bodies to fit in with budgeting requirements.
Common Misconceptions: Photocopiers for Business
I need a copier that takes A1 paper. Large format copiers are big pieces of very expensive equipment and are generally only used by printers and other specialist users. You’ll need to go to a special stockist for these as they don’t normally come under the business photocopier category. (NB: Paper sizes run counter intuitively – A0 is the largest size, A4 is a normal piece of writing paper.)
I need a photocopier for my home office. If you’re working from home the chances are that a high end consumer machine will serve your purposes. If you’re not getting much use out of it, a business machine will end up being much more expensive.
I want to lease a coin-operated photocopier. This option is very rare these days. If there are any suppliers that offer this option, we don’t know about them. If you really need a coin operated machine, you’ll probably need to purchase a copier yourself and add a coin-operated controller.
I definitely need a colour copier. While the technology has come a long way in recent years, and quality has improved dramatically, a full set of colour toner cartridges will still set you back around three times as much as the black ones. Are you still sure you need a colour copier?
There’s no such thing as an environmentally friendly photocopier. Granted, photocopier manufacturers weren’t the first to embrace energy saving and waste-reduction principles. But with the rise of eco-conscious purchasing they’ve had to start incorporating environmentally friendly features such as power management. But how you use your copier will still be the single most important factor in determining the environmental cost of your equipment – printing emails and large documents single sided should be avoided where possible.
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