printing costs

Do you know how much printing costs in your organization? If you are like most businesses, you do not accurately manage your printing expenses. Unmanaged print expenses can cost a business up to 3% of its annual revenue. In contrast, proper management of print devices can save an organization up to 30% of its current spend.  

Calculating your printing expense may take some work, but the more data you can gather, the better representation you’ll have of what your print environment is costing the organization.  

Follow the steps below to evaluate your printing costs. If you get stuck along the way, a Managed Print Services provider has the tools to help automate the process and give you a quicker and often more accurate calculation.  

Step 1: Calculate the Cost Per Page for each Device 

The first step to discovering your true print costs is to gather a list of printers and copiers in your organization. This will enable you to calculate the cost of each print or copy you make per device. This is called the cost per page. Cost per page (CPP) is determined by dividing the cost of a printer cartridge by the page yield of that cartridge. 

Page Yield 

The page yield refers to the approximate number of pages you can print with one cartridge. This information can be found on the manufacturer’s website and sometimes on the side of an ink cartridge box. The yield will be different for black & white printing versus color printing.  

Example of Toner Yield
Example of Toner Yield from the Manufacturer

It is important to note that page yield is based on pages with 5% coverage, meaning the ink only covers 5% of the page. To visualize this, take a blank 8 ½ x 11 page and divide it into 100 squares, then completely color 5 of the squares. The 5 colored squares represent the amount of ink on a page with 5% coverage. This coverage is equivalent to printing a small paragraph of text. If you typically print text-heavy or image-heavy documents, your true yield will be much less.  

Cartridge Price 

For the cartridge price, you will get the most accurate results if you can track down your exact spend on the cartridges of your devices. However, if you’re have trouble getting this information, you can “price shop” retail prices and use the average. 

Example of Cost Per Page 

For this example, let’s calculate the cost per page for a Lanier SPC842 color printer. The black toner cartridge costs $195 and has a yield of 43,000 pages. In addition, the cyan, magenta, and yellow toner cartridges cost $299 and have a yield of 34,000 pages. 

Cost per page formulas

(Black cartridge price / page yield) + ((Color cartridge price / page yield) x 3) = Color cartridge cost per page 

($195 / 43,000) + (($299 / 34,000) x 3) = 3.1 cents ($0.031) per page  

Repeat this process for each device in your business. 

Step 2: Determine Your Average Monthly Print Volume 

For the second step, you need to understand your organization’s printing habits, such as how many prints and copies your organization runs regularly. This number is known as the print volume.  

You can easily collect print volumes if you have a print monitoring tool, such as FM Audit, installed. However, if you do not, simply print out a usage page or configuration page from your print devices at the beginning of the month and then again in 30 days to get an average number of prints per month.  

Now, multiply the cost per page and your average monthly volume to gauge how much you spend a month on printing. For example, let’s say your organization runs 3,000 pages a month on the color printer from the above calculation.  

(Cost per page x Monthly Volume) = Average Monthly Printing Cost 

($0.031 x 3,000) = $93 a month 

Repeat this process for each device in your business. 

More on how to determine your print volume here.

Black and White vs Color Prints 

When looking at print volume, it’s important to differentiate between black & white prints and color prints. The cost of printing color documents is higher than black & white prints, so this will affect the overall cost.  

Expected Usage of Each Device 

The term for which you plan to own a print device will help you determine the cost of printing throughout the time you own the device. 

For example, if you are leasing a device for 3 years, multiple your monthly average printing cost by 36 months, the term of your lease. This will give you an idea of how much your organization spends on printing. 

(Monthly printing cost x Lease term) = Cost of printing for the life of the device 

($93 x 36 months) = $3,348 

Repeat this process for each device in your business to get the total for all devices.  

Step 3: Include Soft Costs and Hidden Expenses Involved with Printing 

The calculation above provides a general idea of how much your printing costs will be for the life of your devices, however, there are additional costs to consider. 

Internal Resources Spent on Equipment 

Employee productivity and efficiency may be affected when a machine is inoperable. Whether you consider the user’s time for small fixes or IT resources for more complex fixes, internal time and resources should be considered when thinking about the overall cost. 

External Support for Device Repairs 

If your devices are not functioning properly, outside support may be required to fix your device. If not under contract, these support calls add to the cost of ownership on the device. 

Monitoring Software 

Do you pay for monitoring or reporting software for your print environment? If so, remember to add this expense to the costs per device. 

Additional Supplies 

The paper you print on isn’t free. Remember to include the cost of supplies such as paper and staples in the total. 

Step 4: Optimize your Fleet to Reduce Expenses 

Now that you have an idea of your true printing costs and organizational behaviors, do you notice any red flags? Ask yourself the following: 

  • Do I have default settings (like duplexing and black and white printing) turned on for users? 
  • Are all the printers I currently have necessary? 
  • Are all the prints being run necessary or are there ways to reduce these? 
  • Does an individual or department print a surprising number of color prints?  
  • Given the cost per print and volume, are the devices in the most efficient locations? 
  • Are there more cost-effective devices and/or toners on the market? 
  • Are additional funds being spent on replacing devices rather than repairing them? 
  • Can devices be streamlined to avoid stocking multiple types of ink and toner? 
  • Is there wasted toner sitting on the shelf for devices that we no longer have? 

These questions will help you optimize your printing environment and ensure your organization isn’t spending more than necessary on printing.

Download PDF
Download a printable version of this article, above.

If you need help calculating your printing costs and managing your print environment, a Managed Print Services advisor can help. Schedule your free print assessment today to evaluate the true cost of printing at your organization. 

Additionally, ensure your print fleet is fully optimized by partnering with a Managed Print Services advisor who can provide transparency into your print costs and manage your print fleet.