The idea of a paperless office has been bandied about for decades, yet many companies today still find it hard to wean themselves off paper.
According to technology analyst company IDC, the number of printed pages in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, grew by 10 per cent in 2012.
Mr Melvyn Ho, Canon Singapore's senior vice-president of its domestic operations group, said: "While many companies are on track in embracing digital documents in some processes, we find that companies still find high value in print as an effective communication medium."
But managing the growing use of paper can be a challenge for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with limited IT resources.
Take Pigeon Singapore, a maker of mother and baby-care products. Until recently, its sole IT executive, Mr Kevin Chye, had to manage 12 different printers from a variety of vendors, replacing toner cartridges when the ink ran low and dealing with printer problems.
That placed a huge administrative and support burden on Mr Chye, who also looks after the IT needs of 78 employees at Pigeon Singapore.
In June, the company signed up for a managed print service with Fuji Xerox, from which it leased three multifunction printers. As part of the service, Fuji Xerox maintains the printers and supplies toner cartridges based on a cost-per-page rate.
The switch helped Pigeon Singapore, which prints 33,000 pages a month, to slash its monthly printing costs by more than half, from $2,500 to $1,100.
In most organisations, typical cost savings from a managed print service range between 10 and 30 per cent, according to Ms Lam Lai-ling, senior research analyst at Gartner, a technology research firm.
Mr Chye attributed the huge cost savings to a Fuji Xerox pricing option that lets organisations print a small amount of colour pages at a rate of one cent per page.
"An invoice with a letterhead in colour cost us eight cents to print previously, because we had to use an external printing company to print the letterheads in advance," he said.
In addition, Pigeon Singapore can now track its print volumes using a software dashboard. Said Mr Chye: "We couldn't do that previously, so we didn't know how much each staff member was printing," he said.
Keeping track of costs
This lack of insight, according to Quocirca, a Britain-based analyst firm, can lead to spiralling printing costs that often go unchecked.
Unplanned printer downtime can also affect any organisation which relies on printing for business activities.
When the software dashboard indicates that a printer is faulty or when supplies run low, Mr Chye picks up the phone to call for support. Fuji Xerox then responds within four hours, he said.
That has freed him to focus on other areas to help grow the business, including spearheading business intelligence projects and deriving business insights from corporate data.
Most managed print services also include security safeguards to ensure that confidential printouts do not end up in the wrong hands.