The South African printing and document management market remains resilient, with few signs that digital technology will displace paper from business processes any time soon. However, the market is evolving and resellers need to shift towards a more solutions-based sale to reap the maximum revenues.

That’s according to Nicole Anderson, product manager for Epson Hardware at Tarsus Distribution, who says that the shift towards digital workflows and collaboration is changing what businesses look for in their document management solutions.

“The cloud has transformed the workplace by enabling us to store, share and access documents from anywhere,” says Anderson.

“But the side effect is that we have more information to process than ever, so print volumes remain high. The difference is that people are changing how they think about printing, partly because of its environmental impact, while businesses are looking at ways to impose more cost-discipline on their document management environments.”

Anderson says the rise of mobile and remote working, coupled with the use of digital communications tools, is helping to reshape workplace behaviour by encouraging people to work and share documents online. Where they may have distributed a pack of documents for every meeting in the past, many people are now printing only the documents that matter most.

“People are increasingly printing when they want to make an impact and break through the noise of the digital world,” Anderson says. “Rather than printing in high volumes, many office workers are now needing to print fewer documents, but they will be looking for better quality and will print in colour more often than they used to.”


Managed print services on the rise

Organisations, meanwhile, have begun to see the document management environment as an opportunity to streamline business processes and achieve operational savings, Anderson adds.

This, in turn, is helping to drive a range of other trends, including the ascendance of managed print services, the growing popularity of business inkjets, and innovation in green printing.

“Managed print services are already popular among large enterprises, and we are seeing growth in the small and medium sectors, too,” Anderson says. “Companies are looking to resellers and vendors to help them audit, optimise and manage their document management environments in a way that drives down costs.”

Grand View Research forecasts the global managed print services market will grow from $26,72-billion in 2016 to nearly $50-billion by 2025.

“Businesses like the managed print service model because it brings transparency to printing costs.” Anderson says “They can pay per page and ask a vendor to manage all devices, support and consumables, rather than needing to manage the costs of printer hardware, consumables and support themselves.”

Organisations are also starting to open their minds to replacing laser printers with inkjets, which were once regarded as consumer products that did not meet enterprise requirements in terms of performance and reliability. Most of the leading vendors have invested in improving the quality of their business inkjets; at the same time, inkjets remain a cheaper and more energy-efficient alternative to lasers.

Gartner forecasts that inkjet will grow to account for 15% of office print volumes by 2020, up from 8% in 2016.


Inkjet makes a difference

“Inkjet will be the technology to really make a difference when it comes to greener printing in businesses,” Anderson says. “Laser is no longer the obvious choice, since business inkjet products now deliver speeds of up to 100 pages per minute with a low cost per page, reduced energy consumption, and less need for maintenance and support.”

With organisations seeking to consolidate their printing fleets and improve workflows, Tarsus also sees growing demand for multifunction printers (or MFPs). With functionality including printing, copying, scanning and faxing, MFPs need less office space than discrete devices for each function and help to simplify management of the office automation environment.

“MFPs make sense with mixed digital and print workflows becoming the norm,” Anderson says. “They provide a single device where employees can print digital documents, as well as scan paper documents so that they can be fed into the digital workflow.”