Properly executing a copier/MFD fleet refresh or a new acquisition is a major decision for most firms. Moreover, there are a lot of solid copier equipment choices out there today, with some major factors having recently stirred up the copier manufacturing and distribution world. A copier/MFD (for multi-functional device) is also a choice that needs to involve various different stakeholders at the law firm, not just operations/procurement, but also IT, Litigation Support Services and other legal representatives at the Firm. For these devices are truly multi-functional, not one-dimensional; they are used for copying and printing and scanning for both a centralized and decentralized (convenience) standpoint.
How each copier manufacturer’s devices interface with your firm’s computer network, cost recovery devices, decentralized scanning applications and litigation support services application software is also critical to the decision-making and is the reason why you must involve a broad-based spectrum of firm participants in procurement, technology, accounting, operations and legal staff in the sourcing process.
The copier/MFD choices today are also much more abundant. In the past, Xerox and then later Canon dominated the copier/MFD market, particularly in legal. But now, both Ricoh and Konica Minolta represent virtually the same if not a larger market share than Xerox or Canon in the domestic copier/MFD market space. The reason? All of these manufacturer’s devices virtually provide the same comprehensive and quality features and output capabilities and both Ricoh and Konica Minolta have grown significantly in the US market in the past several years while Xerox and Canon have flatlined their growth.
What distinguishes these copier devices and their manufacturers, again, are the individual nuances we mentioned earlier in terms of the integration with your network and other third party firm hardware/software. Bottom line is, you’ve got to be able to measure and quantitatively analyze these distinctions to arrive at the best copier/MFD solution for your Firm, and it isn’t easy; it takes a trained, experienced eye.
There’s another piece to the puzzle as well, and that is the service and maintenance that you contract for on your eventual copier/MFD equipment. You will lease your copier/MFD equipment (fair market lease; recommended time frame is 48 months in RAS’ view). But you will pay a per click or per impression fee for your service and maintenance. There are 2 things you should never do re: service and maintenance: 1) Never include it in your lease so you’re paying interest on it. 2) don’t let your copier dealer talk you into “including copies” in your copier lease, usually in advance. This will almost always lead to you paying for copies/prints you never make.
Only pay for what you use for service and maintenance (the clicks you actually generate); structure a service and maintenance deal that has no included copies and where you pay your click costs each month after your monthly volumes are established. However, IF the copier dealer is trying to entice you to include copies in the monthly lease by offering you a lower cost per click rate than by paying for your actual volume after the fact (after you tell him “shame on you”), if you do decide to include some monthly copies, try to avoid going beyond 50% of your total monthly aggregate copy + print volume. This way, you’ll still likely exceed the included monthly copy/print figure every month anyway so you won’t wind up paying for unused copies. The copier reseller will try to incentivize you to include copies/prints in the monthly bill because it looks better on a balance sheet for him for the sale that a variable, non-included pay per copy fee will. So make he/she earn it ! (by lowering your per click fee).
How do you evaluate copiers/MFDs effectively to qualify the answers to which device overall is the best choice for your Firm? By tapping into your stakeholder group and embracing their assistance. The best first step, of course, is to put together an RFP or RFQ for your copier equipment where you can ask all the salient questions regarding the equipment regarding integration, security (how well protected is the device against hacking against file; how quickly does it erase temporary files of scanned documents or prints, etc.), functionality, productivity and of course cost.
Of course, RAS Consulting can help you with that as this is one of our core business functions. RAS recommends you bid out your copy equipment both to the manufacturer directly (e.g., Canon, Ricoh, Xerox, etc.) as well as VARs (value-added resellers). VARs often provide better service than the manufacturer themselves, who are often slaves to service metrics that are focused more on minimizing service costs that providing good service (VARs make their name on service) and VARs also sometimes have access to better discounting due to the fluky nature of the reseller business.
Once you have your RFP response results in, you want to arrive at a short list of maybe 2 or 3 finalists. Again, your decision-making criteria is going to be integration, cost, security, reliability, features, market share, etc. Once you have your vendor/solution short list, the perhaps most invaluable stage of the evaluation now begins–getting loaner equipment from each of your vendor finalists to deploy fully configured in your environment for trial testing. Ask each vendor finalist to loan you a model that they’ve specified in your solution, for 30 days, BOTH a convenience device and a central copy center, duplicating class device and test it in your environment.
The devices should also be fully configured the way you want and the way they would have been in in full operation in your firm, for scanning, cost recovery equipment, lit support application software, etc. For the convenience devices, get stakeholders involved to use the devices and put them to the test. Get pilot test users to record their feed back on usability, ease of use, features, productivity, concurrency, etc. Same for your copy center; let them put all the loaner devices through their paces on normal copy/print/scan as well as more complex lit support jobs.
What are some of the key distinctions you’ll look for? For Copy Center equipment; do the devices require separate print servers to do large blow back printing, which can result in delays? Do the devices scan at the same rated speeds as they copy/print? How about duplexing? How do these devices comparatively produce the nature of the copy/lit support work your center and firm generates? What is its’ footprint? Paper capacity? What is the paper path (how efficient) and how does this relate to paper jams? Is the equipment licensed to operate LAW or IPRO lit support application software? (not all are; if so, for how long?). What are the punching options? How much extra does it cost? What comes standard with the unit? A lot of questions!
On the convenience side, does it have it’s own embedded decentralized scanning solution that mitigates the need for eCopy/AccuRoute, or if you have either of those solutions, can it run embedded or on external devices? What is the scanning compression rate on documents? Document formats it scans to? Do the black & white devices scan in color? Does it have a place for a keyboard; offer secure print;what is that work flow? Some of the same questions you’ll need to ask on the copy center equipment also apply.
Finally, what is the quality of the customer service response from each vendor in responding to questions, setup issues, bugs and the inevitable performance issues that will crop up? Are they responsive? Informed? Tireless? Regarding third party integrations, do they offload the responsibility on those partners or do they take responsibility for this part as well?
Again, major copier/MFD decisions are not for the faint of heart; they require research, proper sourcing techniques and the buy in and participation of many stakeholders at a firm in order to make an informed decision.
And on top of that, it’s a buyer’s market today with at least four major players now vying for the overall domestic copier market and each providing award-winning equipment, Xerox, Canon, Ricoh and Konica Minolta. There are other second tier vendors like Sharp, Toshiba and others that provide fine equipment as well, though they just don’t have the market share in legal nor offer the same level of integration. In addition, most copier/MFDs now own major Office Support Services outsourcing companies, which they use as a distribution channel for their copier/MFD equipment. Ricoh owns IKON, Canon, OCE Business Solutions and Xerox has always had it’s own outsourcing division.
As always, take whatever time it takes to make an informed decision. And write us with any questions you may have.