Every four years, the American Society for Civil Engineers releases a “report card” on the condition of various elements of the U.S. infrastructure – roads, dams, bridges, etc. For me, the most shocking part of the 2017 assessment was the report card for the nation’s drinking water systems.

According to the report,

significant new investment and increased efficiencies are needed as filtration plants, pipes, and pumps age past their useful life. Every day, nearly six billion gallons of treated drinking water are lost due to leaking pipes, with an estimated 240,000 water main breaks occurring each year. It is estimated that leaky, aging pipes are wasting 14 to 18% of each day’s treated water…

To paraphrase a famous politician, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.” Six billion wasted gallons may be of interest if you appreciate the occasional bath or are in the habit of drinking water every day. But what’s it got to do with print management?

Hidden infrastructure

In many of the world’s largest organizations, documents created by legacy computing systems drive key business processes. Mainframe printing software helps these companies minimize print cost and ensure reliable document delivery. Once installed, mainframe printing solutions tend to run in the background and become part of the underlying infrastructure. Where they are promptly forgotten.

Quick… when’s the last time you thought about the pipes that bring water to your home? Or the mainframe printing solution that delivers critical data to your company’s stakeholders? It’s been a while, right?

Such systems tend to become “invisible” until they completely stop working — which seldom, if ever, happens. As a result, efforts to reduce the price of printing generally involve high visibility targets. Projects like replacing old printers with workgroup MFPs that offer lower per-page printing costs. This is sort of like saving water by replacing dripping faucets around your house. It’s a worthy project, but only after you’re sure the main water supply buried in your yard isn’t leaking 1,000 times more water right beneath your feet.

Reduce Printing Costs

So how and where can you uncover real print cost savings? The first step is to quantify the size of the problem. Your water meter is a handy tool to help you identify spikes in your water consumption (and potential leaks). Likewise, enterprise print monitoring and auditing software can help you spot trends in document usage that lead to excessive printing costs. You can also identify troubling security “leaks” such as unauthorized access to confidential information. Without tools like these to measure, monitor, and control the flow of documents in your organization, your true printing costs are anyone’s guess.

Another way to reduce costs is to eliminate redundant printing systems. Over time, many organizations have implemented a patchwork of print management solutions, each designed to manage printing from a different platform or application. For example, do you maintain multiple Windows Print Servers for your desktop printing, a separate Unix server to manage printing from your ERP and CRM systems, as well as a mainframe printing solution for your legacy application output? If so, you can greatly reduce the price of printing by establishing a single point of control that can manage all application output, from mobile to mainframe.

Comprehensive Enterprise Output Management (EOM) solutions not only eliminate costly redundancy, but also automate routine administration tasks. For example, if a print job fails due to a hardware malfunction or error condition, EOM software can automatically re-route the document to a nearby device and/or notify administrators of print problems. This makes IT workers more productive, resulting in IT staff productivity benefits of nearly $10,000 for every 100 printers, according to one analysis.

Finally, a comprehensive EOM software solution can help you take full advantage of cost-saving features in your device fleet. Your printers may be able to print duplex (two-sided), but if your applications were not designed with duplex printing in mind, you will not be able to realize this obvious savings without coding changes. Likewise, your printers may support color printing, but you may want to disable this costly option for non-critical types of printing (like user emails, pay stubs, etc.). EOM software lets you leverage the full capabilities and cost-saving features of your device fleet, regardless of where the documents originated.

Waste is an insidious thing: the less you see it, the more likely it is to affect you. Implementing a scalable, multi-platform EOM software solution is a great way to protect your business… and your bottom line.