What is MPS Compliance?
The Managed Print Service Association defines Managed Print Services as “the active management and optimization of document output devices and related business processes.” To this, we would like to introduce the concept of MPS compliance, which is the ability for a document output device to be fully serviced by a service provider remotely with zero intervention from the end-user, enabling the MPS provider to offer better service with fewer expenses. Usually, each device within the fleet is at a different MPS compliance level, which can be determined according to the following criteria:
- Non-compliant: A device that does not provide relevant data that will allow remote and automatic management of the device. This device cannot be part of an MPS solution. This includes all devices that are not network-connected.
- Low MPS compliance: the device has limitations to the extent that it produces a severe impact on cost control and therefore on the profitability of an MPS program covering such a device. MPS full automation of the workload is not possible if the MPS provider is restricted to working only with device model data.
- Medium MPS compliance: the device has limitations to the extent that it has an impact on cost control, although the impact on the profitability can be limited. Again, MPS workload automation is only partially possible if the MPS provider is restricted to working only with device model data.
- High MPS compliance: the device has limitations to the extent that it prevents the MPS provider from providing certain MPS services. But still most of the MPS workload can be managed automatically.
- Full MPS compliance: the document output device model can be fully managed in an automated way for MPS. Costs and profitability are under control. Workload is fully removed (all tasks can be automated).
Modern imaging devices are capable of reporting toner levels down to 1% accuracy. But still many only offer 5, 10, 20, 25% accuracy rate or even “OK” versus “Low” levels. In other words, they fail to provide precise feedback information that is crucial to maintaining a successful MPS program. The MPS technology vendors know about this. Yet most of them are not informing their dealers about how low MPS compliance may affect the dealers’ bottom line.
Common MPS Solutions
Experts in the market propose different solutions to handle the risks in taking on an MPS client. Following are some that can be found in blogs dedicated to MPS, along with the holes in these solutions:
1) The dealer must evaluate the fleet before enabling low level supply alerting. For example, a printer with the lowest toner level shown as 25% will have its threshold manually defined by the dealer at 25% or more, making sure that an alert is generated when the printer reaches this critical level. This proposal raises the following questions:
- How does the dealer know that a certain printer has a level indicator that is limited to 25%, and not, say, 10%?
- Does he have to do it every time he has a printer of this kind?
- How much is it then going to cost the dealer to implement an MPS contract?
- Is the dealer responsible for the fact that the printer is low MPS compliant and that his MPS tool is not able to cope with these limitations?
- Is this task really the responsibility of the dealer? Does the dealer have the knowledge necessary to make these calls?
2) Leave the devices that are low MPS compliant out of the contract. The variety of models and manufacturers present in an MPS contract is such that the MPS compliance overall in the contract is not homogenous.
- Would this mean that the dealer will tell its customer that it only manages part of the fleet?
- Would the customer accept it or would he just look for someone that would kindly accept managing the whole inventory?
3) Replace the low MPS compliant printers and copiers with higher MPS compliant devices. This proposition consists of basically telling the customer, “Listen, I’ll replace your printer that has 12,000 copies on it (even though its potential is for 300,000 copies) with a new one because I do not know how to manage it, and, by the way, you’ll pay for the new one.” This solution seems ludicrous since companies found out, thanks to the recent financial crisis, that profit is the result of sales minus expenses, and that controlling and reducing expenses is a great investment.
4) Separate the “good” devices from the low MPS compliant printers and manage them separately. As a result the dealer is then putting in place two procedures in parallel–one automatic and one manual.
- Isn’t this expensive for the dealer?
- But even worse, you are asking the customer to manage two procedures as well. Depending on what the printer is, will the customer have to call for a toner or just wait for its automatic shipment?
The reality is that the customer will just keep managing everything manually, with big expenses both for him and for the dealer in terms of infrastructure needed (such as call center, warehouse, and duplicated deliveries), resulting in lack of control and lack of satisfaction.
Transparency in Compliance Levels
If we were in the automotive business, the software vendors would be required to clearly identify and publish the risks and limitations of their tools. Questions such as, “What printer models is your MPS software tool managing and for which specific supplies,” as well as, “What degree of accuracy does your consumable replacement alerts meet,” must be part of the public documentation of any MPS software.
Most of the MPS software vendors present their product as a solution to the problems of the dealers providing MPS. The reality is it can be the source of several problems a dealer may face, such as
- Increasing back office costs
- Increasing delivery costs
- Loss of control
- Lack of profit
Some may argue that MPS software vendors are not aware of the consequences that their software is causing to their customers. This is hard to believe. What kind of criteria are they using when building a professional solution tool? We first published our Nubeprint Report in July 2011 about MPS Compliance to give these issues public attention.
Others may say that MPS software vendors are not responsible for the problems that are caused by a low MPS compliant printer or copier. That is partially true. A software vendor can only do so much with limited data. Highly MPS compliant printers produce a much better result for MPS dealers than low compliant printers. Indeed, it is the combination of a low MPS compliant device and lack of an effective MPS monitoring tool that creates difficulties for the dealer. Manufacturers must take part of the responsibility and strive to implement better tools in their devices to achieve full MPS compliance.
We may keep discussing who is responsible for controlling this risk: the software vendor, the dealer providing MPS or the device manufacturer. To me, the dealer should be exonerated from this responsibility. He is just delivering a service using what is available in the market. Of course the dealer has to assume the initial risk since the dealer delivers the product and service to the customer, but the dealer should not be the only one who bears the risk if he is being misinformed or uninformed about the capabilities of the products the dealer gets from other players. Quite often the dealer is offered software that only works for a few printer models and nobody tells him what these printer models are and its limitations. The dealer does not get a guarantee that when the software prompts him to deliver a $200 cartridge, that the printer really needs it. This is not what I would call business-friendly software, but rather a gambling game all financed out of the dealer’s pocket. Dealers need better information from their suppliers in order to understand the limitations of those products. Then dealers can tailor their arrangements with their customers accordingly.
Countdown of the MPS Basics
The device manufacturer is, to my understanding, the party with the biggest influence when it comes to talk about minimizing the risks around MPS. The MPS compliance of printers and copiers is the third most important MPS basic. The lack of accuracy in providing levels or any other relevant information causes the dealer thousands to hundreds of thousands of losses in toner waste. But the trend in the market is not clear. While we have seen some companies moving towards more MPS compliant products (like OKI), we have also seen the opposite trend (like in HP products). This is a myth that we see quite often: newer products are more MPS compliant and solve the risks around MPS.
The belief that the dealer can reduce the risks in the short term by replacing products with new ones is a very expensive illusion.
The MPS software vendor has the obligation to know to what extent its product is useful for the dealer in solving the dealer’s MPS problems. And this information must be made clear to the dealer. The second MPS Basic is to have a clear understanding of the extent to which an MPS solution has limited results when managing certain printers or type of printers, and the consequences for both the dealer providing the service and the end-customer. Dealers need to ask the right questions of their MPS software vendor. Nubeprint’s report on MPS compliance is an index, a reference that anyone can use to say if its application solves this hardware built-in limitation, or not. Now it is up to the different software vendors to be transparent and share with their customers how much they actually help their MPS business.
It is a fact that even today most of the parties hide the risks of MPS. Only a few companies or individuals have the courage to reveal and lead open discussions about this subject. The first MPS basic then is to promote the values of honesty and fairness at all product and service levels, including manufacturers, software vendors, and dealers. If we really want the MPS industry to succeed, all parties must collaborate on identifying and reducing the risks.
The parties involved in the MPS business have the responsibility to make things right. We have to think long term and add value to this great opportunity called MPS, instead of just adding short term value to our selling numbers. If we do not do that, we will lose the opportunity to make great contributions such as:
- Reducing CO2 emissions by reducing the toner wasted and the number of times a technician visits each printer
- Using the printer economically by adapting the resources available to the actual needs of the customer
- Eliminating the “kleptomania” of toner cartridges through accurate monitoring
- Improving efficiency in stocking cartridges by more than 50% by stocking based on future needs and not based on what was sold a year ago
At Nubeprint, the premise has always been to actively participate on a global deployment of MPS, not only for the largest end-customers, but for one-printer customers too. Small companies and SOHO (Small Office Home Office) have no internal controls established other than the spontaneous need for printing. As a result, the dealer works quite often as their consultant for printing, and plays a critical role in the distribution chain. By providing the dealer with the tools and know-how, the dealer can shift from transactional to service in a solid way. This should be the goal that all parties, including hardware manufacturers, supplies re-manufacturers and software vendors, must have in common.
The success of MPS business strongly depends on the capacity of the printer or copier to be remotely monitored, combined with the capabilities of the service provider to deliver supplies and service supported by the right technology. Some MPS dealers experience significant limitations and inefficiencies identifying their customers’ needs in advance with accuracy and the amount of resources to manage them. The negative consequences have a direct impact on the end-customer as well as the dealer. By using awareness of different levels of MPS compliance within the printer fleet, dealers can stay more profitable by making more informed choices.