Brother kicks off 2016 with a massive revamp of its monochrome laser printer portfolio and new research showing that despite efforts to purge paper from the workplace, printouts are still a common sight at the office. First, here's a look at how printers have cemented themselves as a part of the business technology scene.
According to new data released by Brother, based on studies conducted by Wakefield Research and InfoTrends, the paperless office is more of a dream than a reality for most small businesses. Seventy-three percent of owners and managers at firms with 500 or fewer employees use their printers at least four times a day, Wakefield found. Fifty-one percent prefer to read hardcopy documents over other methods.
InfoTrends discovered that paper use was particularly high in the human resources, accounting and legal departments at most businesses. And the cost of printing so many documents adds up quickly. Companies that handle 5,000 printed pages per month can expect to pay $27,000 on document management.
Although smartphones, tablets, and cloud-based file sync-and-share services may reduce the need for paper documents, don't count printers out yet, according to InfoTrends group director Randy Dazo.
"We're still a long way from the 'paperless office,' and given the long-term reality of a combination of printing and scanning, multi-function printing devices will be crucial to companies for years to come," Dazo said in prepared remarks. "Too many people think the printer is the device in the corner collecting dust; in reality, it's crucial to office productivity and is a significant operations expense."
In short, those stacks of toner cartridges and reams of paper are here to stay. "Printing is not going away," Steven Feldstein, director of marketing for small business laser and scanner products at Brother, told Small Business Computing.
But that doesn't mean printers can't evolve to meet the demands of the modern workplace. With that belief, Brother embarked on a sweeping new product launch for 2016.
Brother Overhauls Monochrome Laser Printers
"This is a huge announcement for us," Feldstein said. "It's the largest and strongest lineup in our history on the monochrome laser side."
More than an incremental update, Brother practically went back to the drawing board for its new line of L5000 and L6000 series printers, which include 16 models spanning printers, all-in-ones (print, copy, scan and fax), and multi-function copiers. Reliability was a major focus during the project, said Feldstein.
"We've increased duty cycles across the board," he reported. This includes changing and enhancing the internal gearing, and new motors for faster, more reliable printing and scanning. Though cloaked in plastic and unseen by users, even the printers' engine frames are new. "We used different alloys, including steel, to make [the engines] very sturdy," said Feldstein.
Independent testing by Buyers Laboratory (BLI), "the de facto testing agency for commercial printer and all-in-ones in the industry," according to Feldstein, revealed that Brother's effort paid off. "BLI actually ran a million pages' worth of testing without a jam," he said.
Small businesses with substantial print volumes can expect brisk print speeds. For example, in the new HL-L6300DW printer and the MFC-L6800DW all-in-one can print at speeds of up to 48 pages per minute. Single-pass, dual-sided monochrome scans proceed at a rate of 100 images per minute on the MFC-L6800DW. High-yield, super 12,000-page replacement toner cartridges and up to a 1,610-sheet capacity with additional paper trays help keep maintenance and replacement duties to a minimum on both models.
Printers Built for Today's Mobile Small Business
The printers also support the near-field communication (NFC) standard, and not just for printing from compatible smartphones, but also for requiring workers to tap their NFC-enabled ID cards for secure printing in environments that handle sensitive or confidential information. If an error message appears, built-in NFC can automatically forward the error messages to Brother's Solution Center website. This lets IT pros use their smartphones to track down the cause of the problem.
Brother's L5000 and L6000 series printers accept both the AirPrint and Mopria standards, which allow printing from a wide range of iPhone, iPad, and Android mobile devices. On the cloud productivity front, L5000 and L6000 now support Google Cloud Print 2.0.
Both the HL-L6300DW printer ($399 ) and MFC-L6800DW ($699) go on sale in March. Prices start at $199 for the 42-page-per-minute HL-L5000D laser printer, also expected to hit shelves in March.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of IT-related websites and as the Green IT curator for GigaOM Pro. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE
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