It is interesting how some organisations (I think particularly of GP surgeries and schools here, but it applies to other organisations too) have started to consider printing as an area that is ripe for efficiency cuts.
Because I get to see some of the results of these cuts in terms of the items that are stored in our facilities, I am perhaps better placed than most to say that such drives towards saving money are normally doomed to failure. Worse, they generally end up costing the organisation more, rather than less.
There are two types of approach that these organisations get involved in. One involves reducing the quality of the paper used, the other reducing the amount of ink used. I’ll take them in turn.
The most common type of paper that we print on – the type of paper found in photocopiers and the like – is 80gsm bond. 80gsm is the weight – it means 80 grams per square meter. So if you have a square meter of the stuff it will weight 80 grams. Put in more useful terms, a sheet of A4 of 80gsm bond weighs about 5g.
The word “bond” refers to the paper type. It is high quality, durable and intended for writing paper and takes its name from the fact that it was originally developed as the paper on which government bonds were printed. It can contain rag fibre pulp to give a stronger sheet of paper.
Now what some schools have done is reduced the weight of the paper used in their printers and photocopiers from 80gsm to 70gsm. The saving, giving the amount of print paper that a secondary school of 1500 pupils can get through in a year, can add up to quite a lot. And if one goes down to 65gsm the saving is even bigger.
The only trouble is that as one goes below 80gsm the amount of paper dust created by the printing is even larger – so large in fact that from 70gsm down the level of dust is such that it starts to jam the printers. The resultant printer repair bills are greater than the saving on paper.
Surgeries tend to go for less ink rather than lower quality paper since much of their printing is on medical forms such as prescription sheets which are standardised. So they are not susceptible to the false economy of the lower grade paper. But their problem is that as they reduce the level of ink used in each prescription, medical record report, reviews of chronic diseases and so forth, so the print gets less and less readable.
So a person with good eyesight in good light would have no problem – but doctors, nurses and surgery administrators, not to mention chemists and their assistants, are as susceptible to eyesight problems as the rest of the population. So they have difficulty reading some of the print.
Worse, as the ink runs out in a printer – be it a printer attached to a computer or a photocopier, so the moment comes when it has to be changed. With a normal setting for the amount of ink used that time can be extended to get the maximum use out of a cartridge of ink. With a lighter setting the ink has to be changed more quickly, because it is working at the lowest level of visibility anyway. Any reduction, and those members of the population with less than 20/20 vision find it hard to read.
So both economies end up costing more than they save.
There is no doubt about it – and I speak as one who sees lots of print – if you want to save money, there are many ways of doing it, but trying to cut your ink or paper costs never works.
And there is one more thing. If you have been reading my notes over a period of time you will know that I have written before about how print on paper can fade. If you are storing paper for a while you will know that it may well become less readable over time – so if it starts at anything less than clear print on good paper, you are going to lose what you thought you were preserving.
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