Today, most businesses continue to use a combination of paper-based and digital documents in their day-to-day operations. However, research by IDC shows that, despite the fact more and more businesses having increasingly data intensive processes, only a third of European companies are planning for a digital world. This leaves the remaining two thirds at risk of falling behind the competition and missing out on the potential to make important time and productivity savings as well as leaving them open to ever growing security concerns.
In facilitating the transition away from paper-based processes, smart multifunction printers (MFPs) will have an important role in helping firms towards collaborative, digitised processes that are key to more efficient working practice.
In a recent white paper: ‘Are your business processes stifling your market opportunity? Cost-efficient print and document management through smart MFPs’, IDC points to the fact that many companies would like to digitise documents to reduce physical storage in premium office or offsite spaces.
Here, one of the key benefits of business process automation is in providing the ability to archive documents in one place. By providing access to scanning functionality, users can digitise information for searchable access and scan direct to a specific destination, eliminating the need for a paper trail.
Key features that a smart MFP brings to firms that are actively looking to increase document digitisation include the ability to scan direct to email, to a specified folder that may be on a network or cloud-based for further utilisation or archival. This makes the devices well-suited to the 66 percent of European companies which identify the ability to have archived documents in a single location as a key benefit of automating business processes.
Various document formats can also be scanned for output in PDF or PDF/A format. In this regard, smart MFPs also help meet longer-term, searchable digital archiving requirements.
Supporting the increasingly mobile workforce with ‘anytime, anywhere’ solutions
Another key factor driving forward the digitisation agenda is the continued rise in workplace mobility, which was identified as an important trend in the IDC research. By 2018, the analyst firm has predicted that 75 percent of the Western European workforce will be mobile and require access to accurate information in order to maintain and increase the productivity.
This follows an earlier 2014 study released by Atomik Research on behalf of OKI Europe, which pointed to an increase in the use of smart devices and flexible working among European SMBs. Here, the research showed that, as reliance on digital technology grows, the demand for printed documents is evolving, with nearly half of the businesses surveyed (45 percent) highlighting that they have staff with a requirement to print from a mobile device.
In direct response to market demand for digitisation, the rise in employee mobility and the desire for streamlined document workflows, smart MFPs are rising up the agenda and increasingly being viewed as an important workplace technology. Acting as ‘on ramps and off ramps to the cloud’, IDC makes the case that they are much more powerful and capable than the printing devices of the past.
This extends the role of the smart MFP from printing and copying (or ‘dumb device’) to a customisable digital transformation tool, paving the way for offices that are less cluttered with filing cabinets and making organisations much better equipped to move towards more productive workflows and increased document digitisation.
The deployment of smart MFPs is transforming working practices for the better in many fields, including healthcare, education and retail.
In healthcare, hospitals, laboratories and pharmacies require integrated, patient-focused solutions to improve efficiency and overcome key challenges such as preserving data confidentiality. Smart MFPs enable simple search and secure sharing of patient data with relevant healthcare professionals, cutting out time wasted on paper-based processes and ensuring delivery is not hindered by poor quality printing of medical images, for example. In addition patients can avoid wasting time queuing to see a receptionist to obtain their medical test results, by printing them on demand, with complete confidentiality, using their patient number directly from a smart MFP.
Like the healthcare sector, schools and universities face tough budget constraints. Yet they must also allow teachers and students to adopt new technology. Innovative smart MFP technology involving cloud and mobile solutions has a significant role to play here, enabling the use of cost-effective digital printing and document management, while reducing carbon emissions. Studies have, for instance, shown that colour increases learning and participation. Furthermore, from an administrative perspective the use of OMR (Optical Mark Recognition) enables smart MFPs to process admissions or tests in batches, sharing the output or results directly with the student in the classroom.
For retailers, competition in the move to omnichannel is increasingly tough, requiring operators to constantly refresh and customise what they offer so they stand out from competitors and retain customers tempted by online alternatives. Smart MFPs give retailers amazing flexibility, making high-impact, professional-quality promotional materials, banners, signage, price tags and other promotional items immediately available by printing on demand. Additionally templates can be created centrally and made available via the Smart MFPs customisable user interface enabling retail outlets to render, download and print creative templates, quickly and on-brand, while encouraging digital interactions by drawing attention to QR codes driving customers into stores and into their database.
OKI Europe’s portfolio of smart MFPs combine sophisticated software with advanced technology. These in-built tools provide businesses with a range of capabilities needed improve the way that documents are handled, managed and processed through an organisation and support the growing requirement for space and time-saving document digitisation in busy businesses.
For further information and to receive a copy of a whitepaper and related infographic, visit http://www.okieurope.com/smartmfps/digitalrevolution