Clover Imaging Blog

Auto Toner Fulfillment Process Improvement For Imaging Dealers

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Making sure office equipment and managed print service (MPS) providers fulfill constant customer orders for consumables is more than a full-time job – it's the very crux of the industry. Most companies in this field have some sort of auto toner fulfillment process in place, but logistic hiccups and product backorders are common.

Auto toner fulfillment, available through Just-in-Time (JIT) service, is one of the most important produc- tivity boosters in the modern office workspace. The ability to detect, predict, and fulfill orders for printing consumables like toner is something corporate executives find extremely valuable.

The problem with the JIT promise is that it is much harder to fulfill then it seems at first. Imaging dealers need to rely on a broad range of average performance indicators that may change due to the specifics of day-to-day use at a particular office. How can dealers improve their processes to accommodate these changes?

DEVICE CONNECTION IS KEY

Auto toner fulfillment can't function without connected devices programmed to send requests for new printer consumables reliably and on time. The biggest problem imaging dealers typically run into is making sure that all devices are connected and benefit from some kind of central management.

Without central management of the JIT process, each device needs to be programmed individually – which can quickly become a challenging and time-consuming process. Fortunately, an MPS ready network can help alleviate some of that challenge by certifying certain printer models for automatic fulfillment compatibility.

If a printer in your office is not MPS certified, you might find that establishing a reliable connection to your imaging dealer is more difficult than expected.

On one hand, locally connected devices tend not to effectively report their status over a network. When they do, they are often hardwired to bypass imaging dealers and order straight from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). This is good for OEMs, but doesn't give enterprises the kind of cost reduction benefits they expect from imaging dealers and MPS providers.

On the other hand, locally connected devices also typically force enterprises to manually program each device in order to generate auto-orders. This is not a major obstacle for small and medium-sized companies, but can be a prohibitively expensive for large-scale enterprises.

 

USE DEVICES THAT REPORT GRANULAR INCREMENTS

Granular increments are incredibly important for auto toner fulfillment processes. Not all devices report their toner levels the same way. Some devices either report their toner levels in 25% increments or only report when toner levels are "low."

This is not ideal for a JIT service program, even if you were to find a way to accurately predict toner usage levels. The fact that the device is hardwired only to recognize levels according to a limited spectrum practically ensures that at some point you will be left without toner.

The best report in 1% increments, from completely full to completely empty. Ideally, an enterprise user would replace all non-compatible devices with ones that are – although MPS providers are able to workaround situations where non-compatible devices need to be accounted for.

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ELIMINATE WAREHOUSE PROBLEMS

Nothing hurts profitability more than warehouse issues for auto fulfillment processes. Mistakes that work their way into automated systems tend to be harder to resolve than nearly any other. The entire system needs to be thoroughly examined before it can be allowed to operate independently again.

When it comes to auto toner fulfillment, warehouse issues can make or break the value proposition of the process. Even warehouses that do the job right can fail in the face of better equipped competitors who simply process automatically generated orders faster or more efficiently.

Communication is key to eliminating these issues. For instance, consider the bar code verification process – in an ideal warehouse system, an operator would scan a product SKU label, and then the pallet SKU label, to ensure 100% accuracy. However, it is very common for operators to simply scan the pallet SKU label twice.

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This saves time, but completely defeats the purpose of double scanning. Operators themselves may not even know why they were told to scan outgoing items in this manner. This is where successful warehouse communication can produce improvements in automated fulfillment processes.

Ideally, warehouses should also be automating their order and documentation matching processes. As Integrated Systems Design points out, the number one source of fulfillment errors is counting small items manually. If ordering the toner is automated, the backend environment responsible for fulfilling that order should be as automated as possible as well.

Incorporate these productivity elements into your business, and look out for unnecessary inefficiencies. You'll be well-suited to maximizing the effectiveness of your auto toner fulfillment processes.