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What is a Print Audit?

By Carol Francois
Updated May 17, 2024
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A print audit is typically conducted by large organizations in anticipation of a print services request for proposal or contract renewal. The primary purpose of a print audit is to collect metrics on current printer use, different methods of accessing printing resources, and determine the total operational costs associated with printing activities. The term audit is typically associated with a detailed financial review. However, the main purpose of any audit is for impartial professionals to collect information and provide a formal report to assist in decision making at the executive level.

The scope of a print audit must be clearly defined at the beginning of the process to ensure a viable response. The definition of a print function or related job is critical, as assumptions can result in faulty conclusions. For example, a print audit may include photocopies, electronic document scanning, and print jobs or a mix of these options. In other firms or industries, printing can include all external printing suppliers or contracts for items like brochures, pamphlets, and related items.

The first step in any print audit is to collect usage metrics. All printers have a copy counter, and digital units store this information electronically. Some printers are known as multi-function units and have the ability to print, scan, and photocopy. The metrics for each of these tasks is stored separately. Units that have both color and black and white options also separate these two tasks for greater accuracy.

A comprehensive print audit must include information on how printing resources are accessed. There are often multiple processes within the same organization, and this can be based on the types of services being accessed. For example, a modern office has a fully networked printer that is usually shared by a group of people. Other facilities may have individual printers located at each workstation. Large print jobs or special requests can be sent to a select list of vendors or one randomly selected from the phone book.

The total operating cost for all print-related activity is an essential part of any print audit. This information must include the fixed equipment costs, consumables, repair services, external printing costs, electricity, and space requirements. For most firms, the total cost of printing activity is quite high and is a great place to introduce cost-saving measures. When measuring the total operating costs, staff time dedicated to the maintenance and support of these units must also be included.

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