Managed print services combined with remote maintenance of devices can help CIOs save money by reducing downtime, streamlining workflows and reducing the amount of consumables used across the business, says Iain Maxwell, services & support director of Canon Business Solutions.

Speaking at the launch of Canon's range of ImageRunner Advance series of business and enterprise printers, Maxwell said that the devices' new two-way remote management features would relieve IT staff of the burden of fielding complaints from colleagues about poor print quality, unexpected breakdowns and idle time while waiting for an engineer to call with the correct parts.

When a quality problem is reported, he explained, tweaks can be made to system settings from Canon's support centres. The remote management also encourage preventative maintenance by pre-empting when a part will fail and scheduling the visit of an on-site engineer.

The budgeted cost of a maintenance contract, Maxwell explains, is far preferable to IT chiefs than the unexpected outlay of sudden breakdowns and the costs to business productivity of the resulting downtime.

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"If there’s a problem with a car it has to be taken to a garage where it can be plugged in and repaired - at a cost," he says.

"The new platform takes us closer to the airline industry; it continually communicates and interacts with people round the world,” Maxwell added. “We can now monitor maintenance, pre-empt problems and eliminate them before they happen.

"We can take control of a device and guide the customer through a repair, or we can also we can go down to the service level and take preventative steps remotely to make sure the machine continues to deliver what's required of it until such time that we need to do some physical preventative maintenance.

"If we identify a component failure, we can schedule that in so the customer knows when the engineer is arriving and that the device isn't going to be available until that time.

"By knowing what the issue is we can also increase the number of first-time fixes. If an engineer is an expert in colour management, for instance, we can make sure we send him with the right knowledge and the right parts. This comes down to greater uptime for the customer."

Canon's previous services and support platform could only receive data from their machines, and Maxwell believes the new two-way support will add to the value of its service offering.

"There were security concerns, but the key thing is that we're using a known technology - WebEx sessions are very much commonplace. It's up to the customer to allow that access, but even in financial institutions IT people are happy for remote support - they know they can take control of the firewalls and so on."

"We need to demonstrate the value add, so if they can see the benefits - that waiting for an engineer to call results in downtime - they're going to recognise the value of it.

"In daily life, they interact with people through email, the web and phone, and if they can add that interaction to device management, it makes life easier.

"It's getting us up to the level of the IT world of today. To say we offer remote services on MFDs can surprise them."

Canon's services and support offering can also encourage savings by using the uniFlow output manager to analyse print usage and give customers visibility of the print output within their organisation.

"We can partner with them and help them to understand what we can do to improve workflows and make printing more efficient, more effective and more cost-effective," says Maxwell.

"The default could be to print everything in colour, but is this the requirement? By giving people visibility and education them it enables them to be more effective. If you're printing every email in full colour and there's only one dot of colour on it, it's not very effective.

"Then you can route print jobs to be more cost-effective - if you need to print large volumes or need them stapling, you can divert them to the relevant printers. The key thing for us is making sure the customer can see and understand what's going on, and by partnering with us they can take the necessary steps towards reducing those costs."

The new ImageRunner devices offer OneTouch process automation and IW360 document management to optimise document jobs, saving on printing consumables by encouraging users to use electronic documents wherever possible and also saving their own time by allowing complex tasks, which could include copying, emailing, faxing and filing a document to be completed with one touch of a button.

Canon's services team also helps organisations make the most of these technologies to streamline their working processes. Maxwell offers one example of an insurance firm that reduced its paper consumption by analysing its business process.

"In insurance paper is everywhere but through looking at the process, we helped them identify when things were printed and why. We asked whether someone actually needed a printed copy and why amendments couldn't be made on electronic copies, and only the final copy printed for signing off. So we took a step of printing out of the business process.

"We get in, understand the workflow and help them set it up within their devices and solutions. We're going to be looking at different verticals and designing specific approaches within different industries so we can streamline services much more quickly.

"This is a long-term investment: companies will continue to review business processes after the recession using these systems."

Canon's ImageRunner Advance series comprises three hardware solutions. The compact C5000 series, aimed at SMEs, offers 51ppm print speeds at up to 1200dpi, and 5000 sheet capacity with booklet finishing capabilities.

The C7000 is suited to corporate networks of up to 50 users, offers 65 pages-per-minute, supports media up to 300gsm and holds up to 6900 sheets.

Finally, the high-end C9000 series is aimed at dedicated printing departments within organisations, and can produce professional-quality booklets and large-scale posters.

A touch-activated card reader for user authentication is available for all units. Alongside the UniFlow software, this provides a customisable user interface for individual users based on their profile.

All the devices are modular so buyers can add features as required, and all will be available in the UK from November.