This Is What Keeps Dilbert in Business

A reader we’ll call J.G., an environmental engineer for a consulting firm, tells us what happened in his office lately:

Our office recently purchased two new copy/printing machines and the powers that be have asked that all the employees start using these copiers for the bulk of their copying/printing needs. They have asked this because apparently it is the cheaper copier to use, as the office had a study done on the price per page on many of the other copiers, and we would be saving roughly 8-13 cents per page (depending on which printer we used). I can see this adding up over time for sure, but the new copier is 2-3 times the distance (60-80 feet as opposed to 20-30 feet) as the normal copier/printer me and many of my co-workers would normally use. Not to mention the bog down that happens on occasion when the copier/printer is being swamped by multiple employees.

I’ll assume (perhaps wrongly) that we’re talking fairly high-end or specialized copying/printing if there’s a potential savings of 8 to 13 cents per page (of course, that number may be wildly inaccurate). In any case:

  1. Do we think the powers that be may need a lesson in opportunity cost?
  2. Do we think the powers that be should consider splurging for more of these new, cheaper machines?
  3. Do we think that J.G. or others may sabotage these new, distant machines?
  4. What would Dilbert do?

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  1. ScottK says:

    I’m going to guess their consulting firm doesn’t have any Industrial Engineers that were involved in the decision.
    How fast are the new machines? If they halve the processing time, it may be worth the extra walking time.
    Or pehaps the engineers using the printers should use more electronic documents and not print as much.
    Or they should print more efficiently, more jobs at a time and gather them all in one trip.
    How many times a day does an engineer print something?
    Need more info.
    I’ve done workflows for 20 years and an extra 60-80 feet is only going to add up if you make many, many trips a day.

    As far a Dilbert… He’d have Asok get his print outs for him.

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  2. gary says:

    take a page from wally’s book. send all pringt jobs to the new remote machine. then stop working until the print job comes out. You might join the queue of people waiting for their print jobs to grind thru. if you’re lucky it will take time. time for which you are being paid to produce nothing. If your hourly rate is $20. then every minute of your time is worth .33 cents. When the powers that be look for cost savings and find none maybe they will look at a bigger picture than than the cost per page.

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  3. Nerf says:

    There was a recent segment on either NPR Planet Money or This American Life about a guy who goes into businesses and helps them save money by being more efficient. He said one of the things he nearly always does is move the printers around to save people time.

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  4. Mark Levison says:

    The real question is where is the organizations bottleneck right now? I suspect its the work of the humans and not the printers. If that’s case reducing the costs of the printers will save money and slow the system as a whole down. Its a case of local optimization at the expense of the system as a whole.

    On the upside this office might see weight loss and a reduction in obesity.

    Mark Levison

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  5. Tonia says:

    Is 60-80ft REALLY that big a deal?
    I think the powers that be should get rid of the inefficient printer altogether or put it where the new is.
    In fact, are you sure you need to printing all that much anyway?

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  6. ScottK says:

    Then again perhaps the company leadership wants people to walk more as a fitness effort.

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  7. tim says:

    If they put in new printers that are cheaper to use – why didn’t they remove the old printers?

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  8. MikeM says:

    The increased blood circulation will increase your alertness and productivity when you sit back down at your desk again.

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