Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Call 847-398-5212, Service Contracts - Part I, Copiers

Welcome to our three part series on service contracts.  Service contracts can vary for copiers, fax machines and laser printers, so in this series I will cover them individually in three separate articles.  Just for clarification the type of machines that I am covering in these articles are the commercial types. Inkjet copiers, inkjet fax machines and inkjet printers are not covered in this article.  The need for contracts on equipment such as these may not be cost effective.  The equipment that I believe you should cover on a service contract are high volume copy machines that are designed to make thousands of copies, prints, scans or faxes per month.

Service contracts are similar to an insurance policy.  They may or may not save you money.  Your costs are fixed so you will know how much per year you will spend instead of hoping that it won't break down too much or have a serious or expensive repair during the year.  There are many ways of paying for a service contract.  Most service companies will bill you monthly, quarterly or annually.
If you choose to be billed monthly, your service company will call at the end of each month and gather your meter reading.  Then they will multiply the amount of copies by your cost per copy.  Some copiers can also be equipped with a device that can send in the meter reading automatically each month and eliminate this part of the procedure.  If you don't make many copies I would choose either an annual or quarterly billing or none at all.  This is because most service companies charge a monthly billing minimum and you might end up paying more.  Another reason to choose quarterly or annually would be the job of having to write a check each month and deal with getting the meter readings.  On an annual contract make sure that you keep an eye on how many copies you produce or you will be paying for copies that you don't use or you may have to renew too soon.

Cost per copy
Cost per copy is the most common way of determining the price for service contracts.  Each time you make a copy the meter clicks just like the odometer on your car.  Many shoppers buy their machine according to the price of the cost per copy, since the service contract costs can often exceed the price of the copier.  An average cost per copy is around 1.5 cents per copy.  This could be lower or higher depending upon some variables.

o How many copies you make per month.
o What type and age of machine that is being covered.
o Environment plays a part because if it is in a dirty environment it will need twice as much service than a machine that is in a clean environment.

Figuring copies per month or per year
Determining the amount of copies per month is the most important information you will need when shopping for a service contract.  If you have an existing copier that has been on a contract for awhile then this will be easy.  Just look at your history.  You need to also take in account for any slow downs or increases in copying that your company is experiencing. If you do not have a history there is a way of estimating.  If you know how many reams of paper that you use per month you can multiply by 500 because there are 500 sheets of paper in a ream of paper.  This will get you in the ball park.
Understanding what is covered and what is not covered is very important to find out before you purchase a service contract.  Many service contracts do not cover Staples, Paper and document feeder belts and there may be some others, so check with your service provider.  Does the contract include supplies?  Some supply items are toner, developer, heat rollers and drums.  Find out what the hours they are available and days of the week that they operate.  Which holidays do they take off?  What is the response time?  Is their four hour response time more expensive than their next day service?  Most service contracts do not cover abuse or neglect.  So be cautious with those paper clips and staples as they can cause an expensive repair and it probably won't be covered.  Get all of this in writing then there will not be any surprises.

Some companies charge extra for each individual accessory.  Such as, an automatic document feeder, finisher, and large capacity cassettes.  Some may still be charging a flat rate for each unit but I don't see this too often.

We live in a new age and with digital copiers you can now scan to your computers.  Using the scanner puts wear and tear on the automatic document feeder but the parts in the copier are not being used. Digital copier machines can count scan only images, so there may be an additional cost for this.  I know that service companies in our industry are kind of scratching their heads on this one because it may be hard to charge for this type of service.

Color Copiers
Service contracts for full color copiers and MFP's are essentially the same as black and white service contracts except that you will be paying for a color copy or a black and white copy.  Some average pricing will be around 1.5cents per copy for black and white and 7.5-10 cents per copy for color.  If you have ever purchased toner for a color unit you know that color toner is always more expensive.

Some service companies will set up your newly installed copier to your network free of charge.  You should always have your IT person on-site at the time of installation, so they can answer questions about your particular network.  Installing drivers and connecting equipment to your network is fairly easy depending on your system.  Existing network problems or additions, will most likely not be covered on the copier service contract unless you make an agreement with your service company ahead of time. 

Most network issues can be handled with your Computer specialist anyway.
You will have to decide for yourself or your company if you will purchase a service contract for your copy machine.  Many companies do pretty well without one.  They always have the machine serviced and parts and supplies replaced as needed.   The only problem is when you have a circuit board or a time consuming problem to repair.  This can sometimes cost you a hefty amount of money and a service contract can really pay off then.  Remember a service contract is like an insurance policy.  It can create peace of mind and you will know in advance what your costs will be.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Call 847-398-5212, Should I Buy My New Copier From an Office Supply Superstore Or Not?

It depends.  You have a few options, but, first you have to figure a few things out.
The last time you visited one of the office supply superstores like Staples, Office Max, or Office Depot, I'm sure you saw row after row of desktop units that copy, print, scan and/or fax.  When I was an Account Executive and Sales Manager at a leading copier manufacturer, I spent a lot of my time fielding questions from small business owners asking if they really needed to go to a big copier company to purchase a new copier.  

As I told them, here are a few things you should consider:

1. What is your total monthly copy and/or print volume?  If you don't know the answer to this question, go and pull your invoices for your last paper purchase.  Estimate what percentage of paper was used for which function.  For instance: 60% used for print jobs, 30% for copy jobs and 10% for faxing.  You bought 10 reams of paper at 500 sheets of paper per ream.  You used it all up within a two-month time frame. Therefore, you copy and print approximately 2,000 images per month (90% of 5,000 sheets=4,000/2months, scans don't use up paper).  If your volume is well below 1,000 per month, your needs are probably best served by the office supply superstore.  Don’t stop there, but, read on...

2. Do you make any color prints or color copies?  If so, how important is image quality to you?  Generally speaking, the image quality on the desktop units is fairly basic and not conducive to the creation of impressive marketing materials or photo quality printing.  The "big boys" do a better job at this.

3. Are you outsourcing any copy or print volume (black/white and color)?  If so, have you considered bringing those jobs in-house?  Oftentimes, it is cheaper to do these kinds of jobs on your own system, but, this increased volume should be computed into the final monthly volume for your new copy system.

4. Is your volume fairly even throughout the year, or do you have wide ranging spikes in volume during certain times of the year?  For example, an accountant might see volume quadruple during tax time and would want to select a system that is able to withstand this level of seasonal wear and tear.

5. Once you find a model you are interested in at the office supply store, ask what the price is for the toner cartridge.  Ask what the toner yield is and what the fill ratio is for that toner yield.  Ask if the drum cartridge is a separate unit and if so, what the drum yield on that part is.  Use this information to figure out what is your cost per copy/print for this model.  The equation is: toner cost/toner yield + drum cost/drum yield= total consumable costs.  The fill ratio is an important detail to ask about.

Usually, these figures are quoted on an industry wide standard of a 6% fill ratio. This means you take a blank piece of paper and transfer toner ink to only 6% of coverage on the page.  Effectively, this is the equivalent of a two sentence letter.  How often do you copy or print a page with much more ink on the page?  I would imagine the answer is....a lot.  You must account for this disparity by assuming the toner yield will truly only is about 25% of what was quoted to you.  Compare this figure to the quote you receive from the copy manufacturer.  Usually, you will pay much more for an equivalent copier purchased from a copy manufacturer, but, the cost to operate it,  is often much less because the toner costs are much cheaper.  It is well worth your time to make these comparisons to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck.

6. Do you want to be able to call a service technician and have him come straight to your office to repair the system?  Usually an office supply superstore requires you to bring the system into the store for repairs or even ship it back to the manufacturer yourself, if there are any problems.  Make no mistake about it, the system will need repairs.

7. Do you want the option of leasing the equipment through a capital lease?  There are many tax advantages as well as cash flow considerations in favor of leasing.  A manufacturer of multifunctional devices can provide you with many leasing options that an office supply superstore cannot.

You have a lot to consider before you acquire the multifunctional device that keeps your business running like clockwork.

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Call 847-398-5212, Selecting the Best Pouch Laminator For Your Needs

A pouch laminator can make a great addition to your home, office, school, or professional print shop, but with all of the outstanding laminating machines on the market, knowing which machine will fill your unique needs can be difficult.  Below we will break down the differences between the various styles of pouch laminators to help you make an informed decision about which laminating machine to purchase.

The Basics
Nearly all pouch laminators are thermal machines, which mean that they utilize heat to seal the pouch and fuse the layers together.  Depending on the machine, the heat is applied by either heated plates or heated rollers.  All machines utilize rollers to help ensure secure adhesion, eliminate air bubbles and move the laminated documents through the machine.  Low volume machines (primarily for home use) are equipped with two rollers, mid-level laminators (for offices or schools) contain 2-6 rollers and professional laminating machines (for high volume users or copy shops) include between four and ten rollers.

Most machines offer variable temperature control to allow users to adjust the heat level based on the thickness of the laminating pouch.  Many pouch laminators also include a reverse feature, which makes it easier to clear jammed or mis-fed documents.  Other popular features include a stand-by mode (preserves power while the machine is not laminating), the ability to laminate without a carrier sheet (used to prevent adhesive from oozing out from the edges of the laminating pouch and onto the rollers), cool rollers (help to reduce curling of laminated documents), and the ability to laminate photos.
When selecting a pouch laminator, you'll need to evaluate the features that are the most important to your specific needs. If you will be producing a high volume of laminated documents, you may want to look for a machine that has a high maximum laminating speed.  If you regularly use thick laminating pouches (7 mil or 10 mil), then you'll need to ensure that your selected machine can handle thick pouches.  Those who only laminate IDs or badges may be content with a model that has a maximum document width of 4", while those looking to laminate signs or displays will likely want a machine that offers a larger width.  Taking the time to review the features of the available pouch laminating machines will help to ensure that you get the best laminator for your purposes.

Home Pouch Laminators (for Low Volume Usage)

Pouch laminating machines for home use offer the most basic features, without many of the advanced options that are used in office or professional settings.  These laminators are most commonly available in 9" and 13" widths, and can laminate 3 mil and 5 mil pouches only.
Among the most popular models of home pouch laminators are the SircleLam HQ-230 and HQ-330.  Both versions offer the following features:
- Maximum laminating speed of 9.85" per minute
- Laminates photos
- No carrier sheet required
- Adjustable temperature
- Cold setting (for use with self-adhesive "cold" laminating pouches)
- Reverse (for releasing jams)
- Six minute warm-up time
- One-year warranty

The only difference between these two models is the maximum width - the HQ-230 laminates documents up to 9" wide, while the HQ-330 allows users to laminate documents up to 13" wide.  If you only laminate infrequently, and do not use pouches thicker than 5 mil, then a home pouch laminating machine may be the perfect choice for you. If you are looking for something a bit more robust, then read on to learn about office pouch laminators.

Office Pouch Laminators (for Moderate Usage)
Pouch laminating machines for office use offer a greater range of features than those designed for home use, and can handle a medium-to-high volume of usage. These laminators are available in widths ranging from 4" to 13.5", and can laminate pouches from 3 mil and 10 mil thick.  In addition to being able to stand up to more frequent usage than home laminators, office pouch laminators also laminate much more quickly (in some cases, more than three times as fast as the home machines).
Two the most popular models of office pouch laminators are the Akiles APL-320 and the SircleLam LA-7020E. Below is a comparison of their features:

Akiles APL-320
- Max. Laminating Speed: 24" per minute
- Carrier sheet not required when laminating 5, 7 or 10 mil pouches        
- Max. Width: 12 1/2"    
- Four Rollers    
- Independent Heat & Motor Switches
- Variable, Electronic Heat Control
- Heating Element: Heated Rollers
- Warm-Up Time: 3 minutes
- Cold setting
- One year warranty

SircleLam LA-7020E
- Max. Laminating Speed: 33" per minute
- No carrier sheet required (recommended when laminating 10 mil pouches)
- Max. Width: 11 13/16"
- Four Rollers
- Independent Heat & Motor Switches
- Variable, Electronic Heat Control
- Heating Element: Aluminum Heat Plates
- Warm-Up Time: 3 minutes
- Cold setting
- Five year warranty

Both of these machines are equipped to handle daily use, however they differ in a few key areas. The Akiles APL-320 has a larger maximum width, but a slower laminating speed than the SircleLam LA-7020E. Independent heat and motor switches and variable, electronic heat control are included on both laminators, but the types of heating elements differ.  Depending on your requirements, either of these machines would be a productive and beneficial addition to an office setting. If you need a machine that is even more powerful, then read on to learn about professional pouch laminators.

Professional Pouch Laminators (for High Volume Usage)
Pouch laminating machines for professional settings are the most robust machines on the market, and offer the most features.  These laminators are available in widths ranging from 4" to 44", and can laminate pouches from 3 mil and 10 mil thick (with select machines having the ability to mount and laminate simultaneously). Professional pouch laminators also have the highest maximum laminating speed, with some machines laminating 12' per minute. Nearly all industrial machines come housed within metal casings for added durability.
Though already discussed in the office pouch laminators section, the SircleLam LA-7020E is also popular in professional settings.  Other well-liked professional pouch laminators include the SpeedyLam 330R-10 from James Burn International and the Akiles Pro-Lam Photo, which are detailed below:

SpeedyLam 330R-10
- Max. Laminating Speed: 12' per minute
- No carrier sheet required
- Max. Width: 13"
- Ten Rollers
- Independent Heat & Motor Switches
- Variable, Electronic Heat Control
- Heating Element: Six Heated Rollers
- Warm-Up Time: 5 minutes
- Cold setting
- Max. Pouch Thickness: 14 mil

Akiles Pro-Lam Photo
- Max. Laminating Speed: 38" per minute
- No carrier sheet required
- Max. Width: 13"
- Six Rollers
- Independent Heat & Motor Switches
- Variable, Electronic Heat Control
- Heating Element: Four Heated Rollers
- Warm-Up Time: 5 minutes
- Cold setting
- Max. Pouch Thickness: 10 mil

Both of these machines are equipped to handle high-volume, professional use, with the primary differences relating to the number of rollers and overall speed.  The SpeedyLam 330R-10 from James Burn International laminates nearly four times as fast as the Akiles Pro-Lam Photo and has two four additional rollers, but the Akiles Pro-Lam Photo costs less than half of the price.  Depending on your requirements and resources, either of these machines are capable of producing a high volume of laminated documents.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Call 847-398-5212, Office Laminating Supplies - The Key to Versatility

Different manufacturers offer laminating supplies for all your laminating needs.  However, if you are not a professional laminator, it may be difficult on your part to choose the correct materials you will need.  All you want is the best lamination materials, for all your lamination projects, so you need to get the best supplies from the right manufacturers.  If you are new to lamination, here are the laminating supplies you will need to purchase to have the versatility in your work.

Laminating Machine
The most important laminating supplies are the laminating machines themselves.  The machine is the most expensive part of the whole lamination process; therefore, it is important that you choose the best one of them for your needs.  The machine comes in all different sizes.  It can accommodate any size - from the largest poster to the smallest piece of paper.  Before you purchase the laminating supplies, determine the need for your office.  If you laminate only small materials, an average-sized machine is more practical, as it is far less costly than the larger ones.  Another choice for laminators is the hot and cold types.  The two differences are in the temperature requirement.  The hot laminating machine uses mainly heat to laminate materials.  Of the two, this is the most common type because it allows permanent lamination of most materials.

Laminating Pouches
Laminating pouches are plastic lamination supplies that hold the material for lamination.  All you need to do is, just insert the document inside the pouch and feed it into the laminator.  Once it passes thru the hot laminator and pressure rollers, the layers of the pouches adhere together and seal the document.  You can trim the excess parts of the pouch using scissors or cutters.  Laminating pouches come in different sizes and thicknesses.  Although you would expect to pay a higher price for the thicker laminating supplies, the price is reasonable for the amount of protection they provide.

Laminating Films
Laminating films are an alternative to lamination supplies for the pouches.  Like the laminating pouches, you just have to insert the document in between the film and feed it into the laminator.  These films come in varying sizes and thicknesses. You will need to determine your preference before buying your laminating supplies.  Generally, the thicker and bigger the film, the higher the price will be.

Self-Laminating Sheets
Self-laminating sheets are lamination supplies for people on the go.  If you find you are constantly laminating things while you are out in the field, you can bring with you self-laminating sheets.  With these types of laminating supplies, you do not need a laminator to protect your documents.  All you need is to insert the document and the self-adhesive will keep the document safe.

ID Card Supplies
The most common type of ID cards today is of the laminated type.  There are many types of laminating supplies that will fit your ID cards.  They include the hologram type ID cards, magnetic type strips and barcode types.  Other materials are the attachable pins, clips, badge reels, luggage straps and protective carriers.  Using all these laminating type supplies, you can keep all your cards protected.

The knowledge of the different kind of laminating materials, and their uses, as well as, your alternative options; helps you make wiser decisions in purchasing your specific equipment type needs.  With the right laminating materials, you can protect all your documents for a longer period of time.

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