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Managing your office fleet ...
Digital office equipment broadens the management mandate

by JoAnne Sommers

Ontario’s public service office fleet is officially going digital. The 4,000-piece fleet will make the move this spring when Management Board’s IT procurement services section issues a new National Master Standing Agreement for photocopiers and fax machines for the public service and the broader public sector.

“Our current National Master Standing Agreement, which runs to March 31, makes no provision for digital machines,” says Andre Rampat, a purchasing officer with Management Board. “We’re trying to anticipate the ongoing requirements of the entire Ontario Public Service working in computer environments as we put together a new agreement that will combine digital with analog technology.”

Because of the complexity of the new agreement, Management Board will request an extension of the existing agreement beyond its March 31 expiry date, notes Rampat. The new agreement will be issued sometime in June, he adds.

The management of Ontario’s office fleet is changing as new technologies emerge, according to Eric Smith, manager of the IT procurement services section. “We’re grappling with the issue of multi-functional devices – all-in-one photocopier/fax machine/scanners – and how we will make the transition to them from analog machines over the next few years. Analog machines, which comprise most of our current fleet, are being phased out. At the same time, we have to address concerns on the part of government IT branches about compatibility and performance issues associated with adding digital machines to the existing network,” he says.

In order to ensure that clients have both analog and digital options during the transition period, the government might temporarily put in place a hybrid vendor of record, says Smith, adding, “We’re also studying what the federal government has done recently in terms of developing new vendors of record.”

According to Linda Jellicoe, supply specialist with Public Works and Government Services Canada in Vancouver, the move from analog to digital is creating new options and opportunities for efficiency.

“The arrival of digital requires a complete reassessment of the document flow process,” she notes. “This can be done internally, provided you can interpret the data properly. An alternative is to hire a private firm – one not aligned with a manufacturer – to do the assessment.”

The study must assess the degree of complexity of tasks performed by a machine, as well as the type and frequency of documents and copies produced, she says.

“The client’s principal requirements will determine the most efficient alternative,” says Jellicoe. “When departments look to replace machines they should ask ‘how can we best manage our printing and copying functions? How many digital copiers would it take to replace the ones we have now? Should we buy one very fast, highly featured machine for an entire floor or two machines with fewer features?’”

As government makes the move to digital there will be increased management of office fleet functions on a macro level, Jellicoe predicts. “It may not be organization-wide but there will be more shared services within government. Departments might well share equipment, for instance. There’s a bit of a trend in this direction, particularly with larger, more efficient machines, which are only cost-effective when used a lot.”

Almost all of Ontario’s copiers and two-thirds of its fax machines are rented. Fax machines that cost less than $500 are usually purchased because departments have an adequate budget for it, says Rampat.

“Our practice is to distribute a Request for Proposal on MERX,” he explains. “Bidders are evaluated on the basis of pricing, warranty coverage, maintenance and service costs, service availability, machine speed and capacity, power consumption, complexity of operation, ease of use, training requirements and the life expectancy of the machine. If the machine is being purchased, the disposal cost is another factor.”

At present, there are five vendors of record for copiers and six for fax machines. Ontario has established several categories for the machines, based on the monthly volume each is expected to handle. Each vendor of record identifies one machine per category and the results are posted on the Management Board website.

Individual branches or sections determine their needs and handle them as they see fit, says Smith. “In most cases, the office’s administrative group is responsible for the office fleet. Clients can visit our site to see what’s available and make their selection accordingly.

“Both agreements are optional usage, which means the department can choose from among the listed vendors or conduct a separate competitive process,” he says. “However, we’ve established that vendors of record are used more than 95 percent of the time.”

Under copier rental agreements, the province pays a monthly rental charge plus a per copy charge, says Smith. “The per copy charge depends on the machine and its usage and drops as the number of copies per month rises,” he notes. “Regular preventive maintenance and toner are part of that agreement. Maintenance agreements for rented fax machines are less all-inclusive,” he adds. “We pay a straight monthly charge plus a toner fee. The client sets up a formal maintenance agreement with the vendor, who is also responsible for disposal.”

Purchased fax machines usually come with a one-year warranty. Beyond that the purchaser makes his own maintenance arrangements.

Most rental agreements run three years, after which they are either extended by a year or the machine is returned for replacement. “The decision depends on the level of customer satisfaction,” notes Rampat. “If it’s problem-free they usually keep it because of the cost benefit, which includes a lower base rent and cost per copy.”

Canon Canada Inc., a vendor of record to the Ontario government, has two ways of disposing of used machines, says Oswald Dinis, senior consultant for federal government services in Ottawa.

“We refurbish the machine and put it back in the field when we can,” he says. “Others are scrapped and recycled.” The method of disposal depends on the age and usage of the machines, he adds.

According to Dinis, today’s digital machines are creating unprecedented opportunities for government end users to increase productivity. “From the desktop they can print, copy, fax and scan at high speed. Digital units are also much more reliable because they have fewer moving parts. And prices are dropping quickly. It all makes for a much more efficient future,” he says.

JoAnne Sommers is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and editor whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Report on Business, Onvia.ca and Investment Life Magazine, among others.



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