Managed Print Basics – Becoming an MPS Champion …

Supply Fulfillment – Shipping Part 2: Case Study
 
document-feederPart 1 of the series ‘Supply Fulfillment – Shipping’ identified many of the variables business machine dealers and value added resellers (VARs) have to contend with when providing supply fulfillment as part of their MPS offering.  This segment highlights one of the more controllable shipping challenges: early cartridge replacement.
 
Every dealer has had at least one customer toss away a whole set of toner cartridges before they were empty.  At best, partially used cartridges can be recovered and put back in the machine.  At worst discarded toner constitutes shrink in productivity and money as wasted toner coupled with “emergency” replacement shipments impact dealer profitability.  How can VARs control premature cartridge replacement?
 
Most manage print tracking software offerings have modules to help dealers and VARs work with gathered data.  Management utilities help administrators set reporting dates, enable alerts, set alert thresholds and route gathered information to people who can take action.
 
Utilities such as Service Info Viewers let administrators view and manage incoming alert detail.  Meter Viewers show gathered device and fleet information and may include reporting ability as well.  (Be sure to check with your data collection partner to learn how to take advantage of all the software has to offer.)
 
The following case study examines a true-to-life situation where an end-user (a VARs customer) has replaced toner cartridges before they were empty on multiple occasions. 
 
  • NOTE – The diagrams and tables referenced in this article were generated using Print Tracker Administrative MPS software and Print Tracker gathered data.  The detail shown in the accompanying tables has been parsed for brevity.  Customer and business names and other identifying information have been omitted to maintain data security and privacy of the parties involved.
  • Solutions to any challenge rely on gathered and reported information.  Contact your software provider for similar data, reports, charts and tables. For more information, please contact the author by clicking on contact detail at the end of the article.
 
Case Study: Premature Cartridge Replacement (PCR)
 
Recently, we received inquiry on how to go about controlling cartridge shipments; particularly to discover if there was a way to identify when cartridges were replaced early and what supporting documentation could be shared with customers to correct behaviors.  A specific Lexmark device was causing the challenge.
 
Figure 1 above illustrates replacement of several cartridges before they were depleted on multiple occasions (red circles).  Also shown, on three dates cartridges were appropriately replaced (green checks).  The vertical red bars highlight multiple cartridges changed on a single day.  What could have happened?
 
Using the administrative software’s ability to archive past notifications, alert history detail for the Lexmark device was generated.  Table 1 lists all alerts and relevant data points for recent cartridge change events:
Table Alert History.png
Records magnified several potential challenges:
  • Toner alert thresholds may be set too high (25%) for toner to deplete to low levels.
  • Premature cartridge alerts were sent on seven cartridges on three different occasions.
  • Drum Kit alert thresholds appeared to be set very high (80%).
  • On two sets of alert dates, drum kits had completely depleted, but because service alerts for drums had been sent when levels were at 80%, alerts for the immediate need did not trigger.
Figure 2 Alert Settings.png
Toner and service alert thresholds were then verified using the administrative software’s ‘Settings’ function.  Figure 2 shows alert configuration thresholds for the site:
  • ‘Toner’ alert thresholds are set at 25%1.
  • ‘Premature Cartridge Replacement’ alerts are enabled.
  • ‘Service’ alerts are enabled.
  • ‘Maintenance Kit’ alert thresholds are set at 80%2.
  • ‘Meter Upload upon Alert’ is enabled.
1 Because of device reporting ability, a toner alert setting of 10 or even 5% may provide sufficient warning of potential need.
2 In general, maintenance kit alert settings of 5% are typical, with many dealers running service kits as low as 3%.  Still others make settings of 10% to allow ample time to schedule service calls.  A setting of 80% likely caused service alerts to be ignored as Drums, Fusers and Transfer Kits would not normally be replaced until they are empty or nearly empty.
 
Using the administrative software’s Meter Viewer utility, a ‘Device Totals’ report was generated to review historical meter reporting and cartridge levels over time.  Table 2 reveals data points coinciding with cartridge change events obtained from the report:
 
Device Totals Data Points.png
 
The data shows in some instances cartridges were replaced when toner had depleted, but most telling are replacements when the Drum Kits were empty.  A low toner alert rather than a low maintenance kit notice may have triggered the complete cartridge set change-outs.  Alert events occurred as follows:
 
  • 8/24/2016 to 9/1/2016
    • Cyan toner levels went from 24% to 100%
  • 10/1/2016 to 10/8/2016
    • Black toner levels went from 21% to 98%
  • 11/12/2016 to 11/16/2016
    • Black toner levels went from 67% to 100%
    • Cyan toner levels went from 0% to 100%
      • (Did this alert trigger the cartridge changes?)
    • Magenta toner levels went from 47% to 100%
    • Yellow toner levels went from 44% to 100%
    • Drum levels were empty; kits were replaced on or around 11/16/2016
  • 1/4/2017 to 1/5/2017
    • Black went from 69% to 100%
      • (Why was the black cartridge replaced?)
  • 2/6/2017 … Cartridge change-outs were done correctly
    • Cyan, Magenta and Yellow were all at zero (0)
  • 4/10/2017
    • Black was changed at 69%
    • Cyan was changed at 38%
    • Magenta was changed at 42%
    • Yellow was changed at 45%
    • Drum levels were empty (a little over 14,000 pages were printed since last drum change)
      • (Did poor print quality because of empty drums cause cartridge replacements?)
Widely held industry standards allow us to reason when fill ratios between four and six percent are achieved, cartridges are being used efficiently and not being replaced too early.  A ‘Consumables’ report was generated to verify proper cartridge fill percentages were occurring. 
 
Table 3 reveals each time cartridges were replaced early, fill percentages were either significantly over industry standards or in the upper range of what might be considered a good or acceptable average fills:
 
Consumables Report.png
A final review of the cartridge change data for the ‘Lexmark C748’ device shows seven of twelve replacement events were completed early, the bulk of which were likely the result of empty drums:
 
For Black Cartridges:
  • 10/6/2016 – Toner was replaced a second time allowing for comparisons
    • Level at time of replacement was 19%; fill for the previous cartridge was 5.81%
  • 11/14/2016 – Toner was replaced a third time
    • Level at time of replacement was 67%; fill for the previous cartridge was 14.1%
      • (NOTE – Black drum was empty at time of replacement)
  • 1/5/2017 – Toner was replaced a fourth time
    • Level at time of replacement was 69%; fill for the previous cartridge was 15.3%
For Cyan Cartridges:
  • 11/14/2016 – Toner was replaced a second time allowing for comparisons
    • Level at time of replacement was 0%; fill for the previous cartridge was 4.04%
  • 2/6/2017 – Toner was replaced a third time
    • Level at time of replacement was 0%; fill for the previous cartridge was 4.61%
  • 4/10/2017 – Toner was replaced a fourth time
    • Level at time of replacement was 37%; fill for the previous cartridge was 6.48%
      • (NOTE – Cyan drum was empty at time of replacement)
For Magenta Cartridges:
  • 11/14/2016 – Toner was replaced a second time allowing for comparisons
    • Level at time of replacement was 47%; fill for the previous cartridge was 8.13%
      • (NOTE – Magenta drum was empty at time of replacement)
  • 2/6/2017 – Toner was replaced a third time
    • Level at time of replacement was 0%; fill for the previous cartridge was 4.61%
  • 4/10/2017 – Toner was replaced a fourth time
    • Level at time of replacement was 41%; fill for the previous cartridge was 6.48%
      • (NOTE – Magenta drum was empty at time of replacement)
For Yellow Cartridges:
  • 11/14/2016 – Toner was replaced a second time allowing for comparisons
    • Level at time of replacement was 44%; fill for the previous cartridge was 8.13%
      • (NOTE – Yellow drum was empty at time of replacement)
  • 2/6/2017 – Toner was replaced a third time
    • Level at time of replacement was 0%; fill for the previous cartridge was 4.61%
  • 4/10/2017 – Toner was replaced a fourth time
    • Level at time of replacement was 44%; fill for the previous cartridge was 6.48%
      • (NOTE – Yellow drum was empty at time of replacement)
… In Summary
 
So what does it all mean?  Studies like the one above are usually done to expose practices which may be out of step with policies or to reinforce behaviors.  The example also revealed much more can be learned.
 
It is not unreasonable to speculate when print quality is poor or a console message indicates a cartridge is needed, customers may replace all cartridges, followed by drum replacement by a service technician shortly thereafter.  The combination of replacements likely remedies most print quality problems.
 
While behaviors such as these may require correction, it could be suggested a first step would be to lower alert thresholds.  A Toner alert reduction from 25% to 15% or 10% may result in more toner being used before alerts are generated.  When early replacement is detected, behavioral conversations can be initiated.
 
Setting Service alert thresholds at 10% or even 5% would permit the software to notify administrators when maintenance kits are needed.  For the example device, over 14,000 pages were printed between Drum changes.  A 10% warning would provide ample time to replace the Drum kits, or about two weeks or prints.
 
In addition, fill percentages can be representative of what is being printed; numbers or words in a grid require less ink than pictures, charts or other graphics.  Without firsthand knowledge of customers’ printing habits, it would be challenging to complete predictive analysis or have discussions of behavior correction. 
 
Finally, supply providers should be using various tools built into print management software to create high level scrutiny of their customers’ print environments.  Analyzing data in available reports can help to head off future challenges as it is much easier to have conversations with customers when backup data is available.
 
Bottom line, dealers and VARs should be familiar with their print management software and know its capabilities.  Consider consulting with your provider and schedule a training session to learn more about the software your company is using.
 
 
 
Posted by Brian Dawson, Sales and Marketing Director, Print Tracker, LLC
 
Brian is a productivity specialist, sales coach, mentor; offering managed print solutions world-wide with Print Tracker software.

   

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