We recently wrote about the mayhem caused by having a mixed bag of printer makes and models in your workplace. A big part of that mayhem can be sourcing ink and toner cartridges.
Why is Printer Ink & Toner such a Headache?
Even for small and medium-sized business, the annual cost of ink and toner cartridges can run into the many thousands of dollars. Printer ink is sometimes referred to as “liquid gold” because the printer manufacturers built all of their profits around the consumables.
Where there’s profit, there’s also competition, so a heated battle has been raging for a while now between the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like HP and Lexmark and all the enterprising companies that want to drink from that “liquid gold” fountain, too.Sometimes referred to as “knock-offs” or “recycled”, non-OEM ink and toner cartridges are now widespread in the industry. The typical industry terms used are:
- Compatible – a newly manufactured, third-party unit designed to work with a printer
- Remanufactured – a used OEM unit that has been refurbished in the factory so it’s like new
- Refilled – a used OEM unit that has been refilled, sometimes by drilling a hole in and re-sealing it
Why are Remanufactured or Refilled Ink Cartridges so confusing?
There are a lot of third-party players nowadays that manufacture, re-manufacture, or re-fill, and the sheer range of them is mind-boggling. You might think that the issues have sorted themselves out by now, but here’s what we found from reading posts from IT professionals blogging about their frustrations in 2017:
There’s still a lot of uncertainty about quality.
- “When aftermarket recycled toners work, they're great and print quality is just as good as the original. However, I do run into a bad toner here and there that will just keep leaking and produce horrible prints. The bad toners can potentially damage the printer too.”
- “How many times has this thing been recycled - 1 time or 10? You never really know and each time the cartridge gets worse.”
- “Sometimes, I'll get a streak of bad toners.”
- “In my experience, about 30% of refilled/generic toners die immediately or soon.”
Suspicion about truth in advertising.
- “I’m not sure I’m actually saving money because toners run out faster or break.”
- “ The [printer model] CLAIMS 600 Pages @5% coverage but that's unrealistic. 400 pages is more common.”
Anxiety about warranty and support.
- “If you have to call the manufacturer for support, they usually won’t help until you have one of their new toners in the machine.”
- “For non-contract printers under warranty I only use the OEM cartridges to avoid warranty headaches.”
- “The challenge today is there are tons of companies importing out of Asia and quality control is terrible and there are lots of one-man shows looking to make a buck but leave you hanging when problems happen.”
Pretty sure trading off IT support hours for toner cost is NOT worth it.
- “With all the things that we need to worry about, I don't want spilled toner to be one of them.”
- “We’ve spent hours troubleshooting a printer network issue. [A department] changed to a recycled toner and anytime they printed to it, it would say “printer not found”. We deleted and re-installed printer, but got same error. We tried a "new" recycled toner and same error, then ended up trying a third and it worked. So, two "new" recycled toners caused a printer to go offline.
- “I ordered some remanufactured "premium" quality toner once. It was like 1/4 of the cost. Well, it ended with toner in the printer. Everywhere. I had to pull out all the other toner, clean them off, clean out the inside, take apart parts of the printer, clean it out... I was not happy. Oh, did I mention I needed to come in on a Saturday to do this?”
- “I’ve found that the long-term costs associated with them are not worth it for me. Problems, troubleshooting, and in one case, a ruined printer (that of course no one would fix).”
Why is a Managed Printer Contract a good solution for managing Toner costs & Service Issues?
Positive feedback when someone takes the problem off their hands.
- “We don't have time to mess with toners that don't work. A service contract is the way to go.”
- “We use only OEM products or maintenance and supply contracts for our machines now. With all the things that we need to worry about, I don't want spilled toner to be one of them.”
- “Luckily, now we have an outside firm take care of our printers now.”
- “I have a printer support contract for both toner and maintenance. If one of their provided toner cartridges causes problems, they get to clean it up. “
Based on our own experience, here’s why those IT professionals found a managed contract with SumnerOne was the right way to go:
We love to kick the tires on third-party suppliers to find highly reliable consumables that are also intellectual property compliant and “warranty safe”. We keep track of the highlights-and-lowlights of the non-OEM suppliers and regularly run our own tests to see if these suppliers’ claims of quality (such as failure rates and yield) really prove out. We keep track of these products across a wide range of equipment, print volumes, and business environments, so we can make a solid recommendation on what will work best in your workplace.
Most importantly, we enjoy digging into your workplace and printing needs. Are a lot of users relying on one printer that needs to function flawlessly? Are there smaller-job printers that aren’t under such heavy demand?
With a bit of fact-finding, we can introduce cost-to-quality tradeoffs to you that blend OEM and remanufactured supplies for an optimized environment.
And you bet: it’s on us to make everything work, so you can get around to more pressing IT challenges and forget about those “toner bombs” potentially haunting your resupply cabinet.
Originally published August 7, 2017, updated June 4, 2018