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AI in Managed Print Services – ahead of its time

With AI beginning to play a central role in how we work and live, it will be very interesting to see how manufacturers of business printers and multifunctional products (MFP) can enhance the intelligent features that already exist within their products and services. There is an underlying rumble of concern about AI taking over and making sweeping changes within the workplace, but in reality, the advancements introduced by print manufacturers have already been shaping printing technology in businesses and schools for years.

With this in mind, we thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the ways in-house printing systems are already utilising ‘smart’ document management tools to help with improved productivity, greater ease of use and reliability, increased security and predictive maintenance.

Smart Document Management

Analysts are now using this term in connection to AI but, for the moment, at least, it would appear that this is another name for Managed Print Services. Traditionally, printing and copying are centred around the physical act of printing documents. However, the evolution of Managed Print Services has introduced Smart Document Management systems that go beyond mere printing.

Today, MFPs are equipped with intelligent software which enables businesses and schools to manage their documents more efficiently than ever. These systems can organise, store, and retrieve documents in a secure and user-friendly way, reducing the time spent searching for information. Scanning documents and being able to store and email them across a network is now the norm in managed printing.

This not only enhances productivity but also contributes to a more ecologically friendly approach to document management by cutting down on the amount of paper used – through automatic duplexing and preview modes – and less power used with stand-by and economy modes.

Predictive Maintenance

Within Managed Print Services, one of the ground-breaking advancements has been the incorporation of ‘Predictive Maintenance’ and ‘Remote Diagnostics’ in MFPs. Rather than waiting for a printer to breakdown and need urgent attention at critical moments, MFPs use advanced analytics which can predict potential issues before they even happen.

As the machines can also be managed remotely by the supplier, customers can be informed if preventative maintenance needs to be carried out or can be provided with advice, over the phone or by email, how to solve the issue at their end, reducing the need for an on-site visit, which not only saves time but also contributes to significant cost savings for schools and businesses.

Security Enhancements

As organisations are increasingly reliant on digital documents, data security within the printing environment is now more important than ever; especially as printers and MFPs are now integral to the IT infrastructure of businesses and schools, making data, which is stored in their memories, more accessible via the network. Manufacturers have responded to this by implementing robust data security features within MFPs which are also GDPR compliant.

Encryption protocols, secure printing options and user authentication mechanisms all ensure that sensitive information remains confidential and protected. What is more, anti-virus software, such as Bitdefender, can be embedded within devices to stop any malware issues in their tracks in real-time.

This is particularly crucial in healthcare, finance, education and legal services where data privacy and compliance are of the utmost importance. User authentication using biometrics, such as finger-vein recognition and secure printing solutions, such as administrative passwords, PIN codes and proximity cards, to release prints, have been at the forefront of advancements in the world of office printing for over 10 years.

Workflow and Document Management

Another area that Managed Print Services has had a positive impact in has been the integration of workflow management capabilities into MFPs. This allows schools and organisations to streamline and refine their document-related tasks that follow a clear path through a system and to ensure that the flow through the process is smooth and efficient.

Basically, workflow and document management have been designed to simplify complex procedures by speeding up the process and minimising human error. This not only enhances productivity but also allows employees to focus on more valuable tasks. Most manufacturers of multifunctional print systems provide their own workflow management software that enables a workgroup to scan, access, action and send on a document to the next stage of the activity but it is also possible to install third-party systems, such as PaperCut, ScanShare and other highly respected document management software.

Intelligent Functionality for One-off Printing

MFPs, like AI, are programmed to help, improve efficiency and save time. They provide useful features such as the ability to preview documents before printing or scanning, to make sure that the document appears as intended and gives an opportunity to spot any errors before the actual printing process. At the same time, many MFPs provide auto-cropping capabilities which detect unnecessary margins or blank spaces around a document and removes them. Combined these features with the automatic alignment and orientation detection in the MFP’s automatic document feeder (ADF) and it is possible to save time, paper and removes the frustration having to reprint a document to get it right.

Cloud Technology and Mobile Printing

One of the significant transformations in the realm of MPS is the integration of cloud technology and mobile printing capabilities. Traditionally, printing was confined to desktops within an office. However, as businesses have expanded and remote working is now a major consideration, there is now a fundamental need for flexibility in printing solutions.

MPS providers recognised this shift a while ago and have been seamlessly integrated cloud technology into MFPs over the last 6 years, allowing users to access and print documents from anywhere with an internet or WiFi connection. Cloud printing not only enhances accessibility but also promotes team collaboration by enabling the secure sharing of documents and the ability to store documents in virtual environments.

In addition, the rise of the need to print from mobile devices prompted manufacturers of MFPs to develop solutions that enable printing directly from smartphones and tablets giving rise to the now universally recognised acronym in business today, BYOD – Bring Your Own Device.  Mobile printing ensures that employees can be productive on the go, enhancing their overall workflow efficiency and making it easy to print wherever they are – ideal for meetings, classroom lessons and even homework.

Customisation and Personalisation

MPS providers understand that one size does not fit all, with businesses and schools having unique printing needs. To address this, MPS solutions have already evolved to offer a high degree of customisation and personalisation.

By customisation we mean the ability to tailor print settings to specific requirements such as having certain types of media in the trays and setting up rules such as certain departments printing in black only and duplex set up as standard, implement specific security protocols by department, account or user, and configuring workflows according to the organisation’s requirements. This level of flexibility ensures that organisations can make the best use of their printing infrastructure in line with their specific budgets, workflows and preferences.

Personalisation, on the other hand, goes beyond just adjusting settings. MPS solutions can now offer personalised user experiences, such as individualised interfaces on operator touchscreens, address book and one-touch buttons set up for speed of use. This not only enhances user satisfaction but also contributes to increased productivity, generally, by providing a more intuitive and efficient printing experience for each user.

Energy Efficiency

As well as AI, the commitment to protecting the environment has become a key focus for businesses and schools globally. Manufacturers of managed print services have been playing a vital role in developing printing practices with environmental responsibility for over 25 years. In the early years of office printing developed a reputation for being a necessary ‘evil’ because copying was always noisy, not very clean and was certainly a drain on power usage.

Now, though, MFPs have much to be proud of. Most are built to meet and even exceed environmental regulations and criteria, being manufactured using recycled and recyclable materials, their polymerised toners are clean, produce exceptional print quality and fuse to paper at lower temperatures. What is more they are now designed with fewer moving parts, so they operate quietly, there is less to go wrong, and are provided with reliable long-life parts and consumables.

Today, printers and MFPs have been designed with the environment in mind with very high energy efficiency at their core. They feature smart technologies like sleep and economy modes which enable machines to operate with a fraction of the power they used to and, intelligently, with walk-up sensor technology can remain in stand-by mode until a person is standing by the machine. Even then it can detect if a copy or scan is being made and engages sufficient power to carry out that one action.

The possibilities for AI are endless and so are the intelligent features on printers and MFPs today. The evolution of Managed Print Services within MFPs demonstrates a commitment to adaptability, efficiency, and sustainability and have empowered businesses and schools to embrace the flexibility of modern work environments.

About Copybox Document Systems.

Based in Bedford, Copybox Document Systems is built on years of experience within the printer and photocopier industry and are a proud reseller of the Develop range of printers and MFPs all of which feature the most advanced technology. The majority of our customers have been recommended to us and we’re delighted to have built up an excellent reputation for delivering an unparalleled service to our customers and going the extra mile.

Our flexible approach to printers and multi-functional photocopiers allows us to find solutions that fit perfectly into our clients’ businesses, whether they are schools, colleges, small or large businesses, throughout Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. We’re here to help and advice. Contact us to find out more.