‘Pay Per Use’ (PPU) is a comprehensive and customised programme, created by Midcomp, which supports the HP Latex 300 and 500 series printers, and ensures that users pay a fixed ‘per square metre’ charge for the square metres they print. Midcomp have chosen to limit the programme to this printer series, but will ultimately expand to other printers.
Midcomp’s primary motivation behind the research into and eventual introduction of the PPU programme, is that nobody likes unexpected, and inevitably unbudgeted, surprises – jobs costed incorrectly, bad assumptions on ink usage for a job and breakdowns. ‘These are real life scenarios played out every day inside a print shop and PPU eliminates all of this guesswork and pain,’ said Midcomp Group CEO Rob Makinson.
In the unlikely event of a printer breaking down, Midcomp offers a Disaster Recovery service that ensures the customer’s prints will get done. For customers with appropriate consumption, Midcomp will consign consumable stock on the customer’s premises. Through the PPU programme, the customer has the additional benefit of taking jobs to Midcomp’s Innovation Hub should they be running over capacity.
Makinson expanded on the programme: ‘When a customer buys or rents a printer and chooses to be part of PPU, they sign a contract with Midcomp whereby we charge a fixed rate per square metre for everything that they print.’
Except for the media, or substrate, the fixed rate will cover all the consumables needed by the machine:
• Ink, print heads and cleaning cartridges.
• Spare parts.
• Service repair kit.
‘We know what square metres the customer is printing because we are very fortunate that HP, in all of their digital printers going back to the DesignJets from the early 2000s, have embedded web servers in the printer,’ said Makinson.
When connected to the internet, production data is uploaded onto an HP server. The data – which gets placed on a cloud – is transparent to the customer as well, as they have access to that server. The data can then be summarised on a spreadsheet, and used to determine a particular customer’s pay per use. Rates will change from customer to customer because of factors like geographic location (travel costs – Polokwane versus Benoni), and the kind of work customers do.
Midcomp has done extensive testing in its Innovation Hub with different jobs and media to verify that the data is 100% accurate. ‘We can’t possibly fabricate the numbers, it is 100% accurate and transparent,’ added Makinson.
‘While it is easy to assess existing customers, new customers are more complex, so we sit down with a new customer, assess their various jobs and determine their PPU. However, after an initial period we can pull the production data off their machines, get a better understanding of what the actual figures are, and adjust the PPU accordingly – up or down,’ he added.
This kind of transparency that HP can offer is another factor that motivated Midcomp to roll out the PPU programme. ‘We found that when asked, the majority of customers did not know exactly how much their printers actually cost them per square metre, they usually could only guess. Interestingly, we had feedback at Sign Africa and FESPA Africa two years ago from three customers (independent of each other), all asking if there was a way to tell if there had been jobs printed outside normal working hours to highlight print activity that might not have been properly sanctioned or authorised. So the production data provided to the customer every month can be used analytically to help the customer streamline their operation.’
With PPU, only one invoice per month gets generated versus the normal situation of multiple invoices for supplies and service. This simplifies the accounting processes tremendously for both Midcomp and the customer.
Currently, the production data is downloaded through a mobile phone app developed by HP some years ago, called HP Latex Mobile. In parallel, HP have a cloud based Operating System called HP Print OS. Initially introduced for HP Indigo and HP digital web presses, Print OS gives HP, the reseller and the customer visibility of all activity and status of all the printers in a country, region or individual account. So customers can access real-time production and status across their print shop, the reseller can see the activity and status of all printers under their management and HP can see a global picture of the entire install base. Primarily, this is used for service related issues and the visibility is such that potential service issues can be pre-empted and resolved before they cause downtime.
‘We have worked closely with HP to extend the functionality of Print OS to include live and historic print production data. This will simplify our process and allow us to extend the programme to additional printer series,’ added Makinson.