Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

A Pathway to Paperless: They're Not There Yet, but Print Management Software Has Helped Administrators Make Deep Cuts in Faculty and Student Paper Use, Trimming Costs While Protecting the Environment

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

A Pathway to Paperless: They're Not There Yet, but Print Management Software Has Helped Administrators Make Deep Cuts in Faculty and Student Paper Use, Trimming Costs While Protecting the Environment

Article excerpt

IT MAY ALWAYS RANK behind cost savings on the list of intended benefits of a K-12 paper conservation initiative, but performing an environmental good is still an important outcome of the effort schools and districts can make to reduce the amount of printing they do. "We tend to forget that manufacturing one ton of paper takes about 84 gallons of oil," says Neil O'Dwyer, vice president of marketing and strategic alliances for Equitrac, a provider of print and cost management software. "It also uses about 16,000 pounds of carbon."

At Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati, the school's information technology director, Jeff Gaier, acknowledges that the motivation for implementing print reduction measures was to save money, but the environmental gain was an effective lure. "We used it as a little bit of leverage to get people to buy in," be says. "It definitely helped. I had teachers whose goal really was to go paperless."

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That target hasn't yet been reached, but the school's use of Equitrac's Equitrac Express has at least made it plausible. Gaier introduced the software in 2008 in an attempt to cut printing costs after the school's photocopier output had reached 2.2 million pages in a single year. The school's five-year lease on its copiers was up, so the time was ripe for a major initiative. Leasing new printers, the school chose to downsize the model the students would use and put those savings toward purchasing a print management tool.

"We were ready for a new system," Gaier says. "We knew we could save money by printing less.

The first solution was clear: Eliminate banner pages. Gaier and his team did some research and found that banner pages--pages that identify the person who is printing--were responsible for a good portion of the excess. For example, the data showed that most student print jobs were three pages, including a banner page. "Just by eliminating the banner page we could reduce the amount of student printouts by a third," Gaier says.

The new software erases the need for a banner page by requiring users--students, faculty, and staff--to enter a unique ID number into the printer in order to release a print job. "We preinstall the software on all the users' machines, and everything is tied to their network account," Gaier explains. "Our current user names were already created. The only thing we did was put into the Equitrac database the student ID of the faculty ID."

Faculty waste was really its own problem, bur the software's use of personal ID numbers took care of it as well. Gaier says that teachers would often print the same document more than once because they couldn't find it the first time. "We'd have 300 pages of test material that would be printed twice," he says. Separate print jobs would collide in the copier's finishing tray, so some teachers would mistakenly pick up others' paperwork.

Doing away with instant printing, as Gaier calls it, put a stop to this carelessness. Holding printouts in the copier until teachers punch in their ID number or run their ID card by an infrared barcode reader means no more "lost" print jobs.

Another crucial step Gaier took was the establishment of print quotas. In the 2008-2009 school year, the first year with the new system, Gaier gave each faculty member a limit of 5,000 printed pages; the student quota was set at 500. Though leniency was afforded to faculty who went over their limit, students paid 10 cents for each surplus page. Transgressions were minor, however. "I bet the student who paid the most paid probably $5," Gaier says, adding that eventually faculty will also be penalized for exceeding their allowance.

The measures Gaier took worked, as the school's print output was cut by more than half in that first year, from 2.2 million pages to 1 million pages. He credits one key feature of the new system: a pop-up window that alerts users to how many pages they have left in their account each time they go to print. …

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