Unicode Supporting Print Solutions for SAP

Reducing TCO is often a desired goal when reinvigorating business processes and during transformational IT projects. Examining the total cost of ownership (TCO) of printing can reap significant savings. TCO for printing typically includes cost for printers, media such as paper and labels, supplies such as toner and ribbon, warranty, and maintenance. By analyzing how much is being printed, the company might find significant opportunities to save cost by consolidating all devices for printing and copying – fax machines, label printers, standard laser printers, and copiers – into one printer or multi-function product (MFP). Possibilities to save print cost lie in the following areas: Unicode supporting solutions and devices, consolidation of printing devices and forms, the use of electronic forms and labels, as well as a consolidation of vendors.

Save print cost with Unicode

CIOs who want to save printing cost should evaluate the number of existing printer models, copiers, and fax machines, including how many printers are used for multiple languages. They should investigate how many pages are printed and how much help desk or IT support is needed for problems with multiple languages. An analysis should be done on the degree of Unicode infrastructure available and the extent to which SAP solution upgrades support Unicode. The final step should be an estimate of how much can be saved by the consolidation of devices and forms. When using Unicode-capable software and printing solutions, it is no longer necessary to install multiple fonts and code pages in printers and computer systems. With a 16-bit code, Unicode maps the characters of all the world’s scripts used in business trade in a standard form, thereby ensuring smooth communication between different languages and systems. Some 98,000 characters have already been defined in Unicode and space for more than one million characters is available. Currently, the following SAP solutions support Unicode: SAP Web Application Server (SAP WAS) 6.10, SAP R/3 Enterprise, SAP Business Intelligence (SAP BI), mySAP Supply Chain Management, several scenarios of mySAP Customer Relationship Management, and SAP GUI 6.20. SAP solutions support 41 different languages.

Unicode Supporting Printer
Unicode Supporting Printer

The Unicode printer stores a complete Unicode font so that printer resources do not need to be downloaded into the printer before every print job, and additional font modules are not required for every language. Gone are the days when IT staff must deal with confusing font modules or worry about which printer supports which language. One printer model supports all the Unicode languages – up to 41 – and can be used worldwide so that concerns about ordering supplies and supporting devices can be kept to a minimum. The robust, time-tested Lexmark T series printers are capable of supporting Unicode printing with SAP, a feature that only Lexmark provides.

Consolidating several printing devices into one can provide a compelling return on investment (ROI). Let’s take a hypothetical example of a distribution corporation shipping 180,000 packages per day using 200 packing stations. They currently use two dot-matrix (DM) printers and one label printer per station. In this example, total costs for the existing print solution and the consolidated solution differ by over 700,000 US Dollars in the first year alone. The acquisition, warranty, and maintenance cost is only a small portion of the total TCO. The media and supply costs are the largest overall expense. Any reduction in these areas will likely provide substantial savings.

Electronic forms and labels

Expensive preprinted forms, both on plain and carbonless paper, are often used in manufacturing and distribution environments. Preprinted forms have a high initial cost, are expensive to transport and store, and usually must be scrapped when updated. Studies show that scrap cost for obsolete forms is a significant portion of the total form cost. Labels are typically printed on separate printers. Doing so adds expense for more spare parts, different supply items, and additional help desk support. Even worse, mistakes are easily made when labels are printed on unique printers. Packing lists are often included in shipping boxes and a shipping label may easily be mixed with the wrong packing list. By consolidating the shipping label and packing list onto one form and printing on a single printer in one operation mistakes are reduced.

Improvements can also be made by converting the preprinted form into an electronic form to be printed on demand and integrating the form and label media into one page. Electronic forms offer the simplicity of immediate updates and eliminating storage or transportation costs. Electronic forms are commonly printed on plain paper, thus eliminating costly carbonless media. Multiple copies are simply printed at once during a manufacturing or distribution operation. The electronic forms also enable printing a shipping label on the same page as the packing list, invoice, pick list, or other required document. Since all these materials come out of the same machine, errors are less likely to occur.

One vendor for any service

When output is consolidated to one machine type and vendor, all aspects of the process are dramatically streamlined. Purchasing will be more efficient because the firm will negotiate with only one vendor. When consistent devices are purchased, help desk and technical support will be reduced. Documentation and training will be minimized since one printer model, or at most a few, will be used. Calls for help with installation or ongoing technical support need go to only one vendor – and the buck stops there. When a single vendor is used for hardware, device management, software tools and integration, the customer no longer needs to worry about one vendor blaming another for failures. The single vendor will be relied upon to fix all of the problems.

Imagine a scenario in which one printer model is used worldwide. Output from all printers would be consistent throughout the entire enterprise. The same toner cartridge could be purchased for all machines. Volume discounts would be maximized when the same supply item is used company-wide. There would be no more lists of part numbers for supplies or confusion about which cartridge is used in which printer. Consolidation to one vendor often brings additional benefits when the one vendor can provide software as well as hardware for document output. Output management software and fax servers are just one aspect to what a single vendor can do. Lexmark, for example, offers its Document Solution Suite solution so that large enterprises can utilize their printer and MFP hardware to the fullest extent.

Companies using a single printer vendor can use powerful management tools such as Lexmark’s MarkVision Professional to view printer status and usage without time-consuming trips to a printer. Problems may be diagnosed and resolved remotely from an operator console. These tools provide visibility to installed printer features, such as duplex or staple, before a print job is submitted. Print setting can be managed remotely, electronic forms downloaded to printers, and printer firmware can be updated in printers remotely. To utilize electronic forms and a single vendor for printing and output management can create a state-of-the-art system with improved business process efficiency for low cost of operation and significant TCO savings.

Joel DiGirolamo
Joel DiGirolamo