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November 24, 2006 • Vol.28 Issue 47
Page(s) 30 in print issue

Your Employee-To-Printer Ratio
Take A Look At Your Equipment Setup Needs
The first step toward saving printing costs is having the appropriate number of printers match the number of workers in an office. There is no reason to over-buy printers or scanners. On the other hand, having too few units stifles productivity. A good rule of thumb, company-wide, is to have five to eight employees per printer. This generalization varies by department depending on the work done.

According to a report from Konica Minolta (, a firm with 1,000 workers can expect to have 80 to 85 printers in the office. That works out to about 12 workers to one printer. But that will vary all over the lot, depending on the industry.

One way to find out just what is running in your company is to do a site audit. Netaphor Software ( sees a lot of data on printer usage. Its SiteAudit product discovers printers and analyzes usage, performing 30-day assessments or ongoing printer fleet management.

“From our case studies, we find an average ratio of 2.8 employees to one printer,” says Brian Anderson, vice president of marketing at Netaphor. The company targets 500- to 1,000-seat businesses. “Total printers equals directly connected and networked printers,” Anderson continues. The company’s software finds both types. “This ratio is easier to apply to the office environment,” he says. “The average is predicated on the environment. For an office, a ratio of between five to one and eight to one is considered optimal.”

Anderson continues, “The objective is to achieve adequate utilization to justify the printer lease/purchase. That is to avoid print penalties or in cases of purchased printers a minimum of 20% of their duty cycle.”

Then, identify which printers are critical to the business. A printer utilization and placement count gives this figure. You can selectively provide key printers with maintenance coverage to avoid downtime.

Types Of Printers

What kind of printer you choose can vary by company size, budgets, and usage. According to Lexmark (, inkjets are suitable for smaller workgroups or individuals who do not print much. Lasers are geared toward larger workgroups with greater and more diverse printing needs. An administrative assistant who types mainly correspondence does not need a color printer at the deskside. But the marketing department, often sending out fancy promotional material, does need a color printer.

Laser printers offer advanced features that inkjets do not, including duplexing, additional paper drawers, and networking. Adding a duplex unit to a laser printer allows pages to be printed front and back automatically, cutting paper usage in half. Duplexing pages also gives the user capabilities that increase document format options, such as offering the ability to create booklets and professional brochures. Users find that units with duplex capacity reduce paper consumption and paper costs. Another tip is to assign different paper trays for draft and high-quality paper to help simplify the office.

Most small to midsized enterprises network printers. That is as simple as adding an Ethernet or wireless network card to the printer. Often the purchase of multifunction equipment that can print, fax, copy, and scanand that is Energy Star-compliantcan save hidden expenses such as energy costs.

Printer Specifics

Another factor is determining which employees or departments get how many printers. Anderson notes there are several parts to the answer. “First, you want to balance employee productivity with your printer investment so as to achieve capacity optimization. You can achieve this by looking at historical data (three to six months) on utilization and printer placement. You want to track (count) features of an MFP [that] get used, e.g. copy, fax, print, scan.”

Just as important as knowing how many printers to buy is to identify underused printers or scanners. A machine that is idle, or only occasionally used, can be networked into a busier group and eliminate the need to purchase another unit. An SME should go through a regular rebalancing process, which can be done quarterly.

There can be variation by print application. For example, secure documents may require a dedicated printer, or an executive may need a dedicated printer.

In general, printers last longer than people would believe. An aging and service analysis will assist with replacement decisions.

Undocumented printers also add cost. The number of undocumented printers in an SME can run over 30%, Anderson says. “The number is even higher for organizations that have a lot of directly connected printers.”

Combine unused and underutilized printers, and the figure can run 50% and above, he says. “Some may have a special application where print volume is not important, but they are the exception.”

Anderson says, “Since most organizations do not have visibility into the utilization of underutilized printers, they are rarely redeployed or returned. They tend to become a fixture, and as organizations grow, more printers are procured without consideration to redeployment.”

by Curt Harler

Users Per Printer

While some small to midsized enterprises provide close to a one-to-one ratio of employees to printers, the industry average is more than double that. It is possible, however, to be effective at much lower printer densities. Here are the user-per-printer averages in different sectors.

High density 1.2

Average density 2.8

Medium density 8

Low density 12

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