Multi-Function Printers (“MFP’s”) also known as digital copiers combine printing, scanning, copying, Faxing, and other document processing functions to help improve workplace efficiency. A host of additional functionality can be added with MFP-based software and other apps. Many devices can also be accessorized with finishing options like punching, folding, stapling, and booklet-making. Modern MFP’s are engineered to meet the business printing needs of organizations at increasingly lower costs and higher productivity.
Selecting the best copier for your business can be challenging. We understand this challenge and have assembled this handy guide to help make the decision-making process simpler and easier for you!
What Kind of MFP?
One of the major decision points in a potential MFP purchase is whether the device should be a monochrome (Black and White) unit or a color unit. Another key consideration is the environment and the amount of space that will be required for your MFP. Do you have room in your office for a floor standing device, or will it need to sit on a desk or table? There are other important considerations that we will cover in this discussion. Ultimately, your business requirements and budget will be the chief drivers of the MFP that you will need.
1.) Monochrome or Color?
As a general rule, monochrome MFP’s will be less expense to purchase and operate than a similarly configured color MFP. Monochrome output is best for applications that tend to be text and data-intensive and are to be used internally. Color MFP’s are almost always more expensive to purchase and operate. Color copiers are more complicated and have higher consumable costs. However, color output is a must for sales and marketing materials, graphically intensive documents like financial charts and graphs, and other customer-facing applications.
2.) Office Space or Home Office?
What kind of environment do you have in your work area? Are you in a traditional office space, or do you have a home-based location? What about the physical space where the MFP will be located? Do you have plenty of floor space or will the device have to sit on a desk, a table, or on a counter? Another important consideration is how many people will be using the MFP during the course of a typical day. Will there be one or two people using the MFP, a small workgroup (3 to 15 people), or a large department (more than 15 users)?
In most instances, a single tabletop unit will be sufficient for the needs of a small one or two-person home-based operation. If the device will be used by a workgroup or department in an office building, consider a larger floor standing copier with the speed, durability, and paper capacity to handle the needs of a 3 to 15-person workgroup.
3.) Monthly Print and Copy Volume
One of the trickiest decisions is matching the right MFP to your monthly volume requirements. A home office copier may only run 1000 or fewer prints per month. A device that services a workgroup or department may run 10,000 or more prints per month. Placing a smaller device designed for light use in an environment where monthly volumes will outpace the capacity the MFP was designed for will likely lead to lots of copier service calls, copier repairs, a short device lifespan, and frustrated users.
4.) Print speed
Print speed is another important criterion to consider when selecting an MFP. Print speed is often expressed as “ppm” or pages per minute. Higher ppm usually equates to higher price but not always. Another important speed-related spec is “first copy out time” or “FCOT”. This is the time it takes for an MFP to wake up, warm up, and print or copy a page. The less time the better. We would suggest print speeds of 25 to 40 ppm for a small home office, and 45 to 60 ppm for larger workgroups or departmental needs.
5.) Paper Capacity and Paper Handling
Paper capacity of an MFP is simply the number of sheets of paper it can hold. The larger the paper capacity, the longer the device can run without having to reload the paper trays. The most important aspect of paper handling relates to the size of paper the device can print on. This is usually expressed as either an A4 or A3 class device. A3 machines can use paper of up to 11 x 17 inches, and A4 machines can use paper up to 8.5 x 14 inches. If you need to print on glossy or heavier weight papers, be sure to check the paper handling specifications of the MFP to ensure that it can work with those types of paper.
Almost all MFP’s have built-in scanners, but not all of them have an automatic document feeder or duplex scanning abilities. If you must scan or copy large volumes of documents, then an automatic document feeder (“ADF”) is a must-have. The duplex feature enables double-sided scanning of documents. Also be sure to check the capacity of the ADF. A large capacity ADF (200 pages or more) will allow for large stacks of paper to be inserted for document scanning which will improve efficiency for scanning-intensive environments.
If you have unusually large volumes of documents to scan, and don’t want to tie up your copier all day with scanning tasks, consider a dedicated document scanner. You may also want to look at a document management system to facilitate the conversion of paper documents to easily accessed electronic documents.
Best MFP Brands
Here are the top MFP brands for your consideration:
Brother – Brother may be best known for its small home office inkjet devices and high-end sewing machines. Brother also makes MFP’s, copiers, and printers for SMBs and larger businesses.
Canon – Canon has been making copiers and printers for a number of years Canon markets a full line of devices from small desktop color printers, departmental class MFP’s, and production print devices.
Epson – Epson is well known for its home office inkjet printers and wide format inkjet devices. However, Epson makes and sells some of the most cost-effective printers and MFP’s for business use.
HP – HP is the leader in the IT support market with its no-nonsense LaserJet printer line along with the HP Blade line of server devices. . HP’s new Page Wide line of printers and copiers provide reliability and low operating costs.
Konica Minolta – Konica Minolta manufactures a full line of MFP’s for business use and has a well-earned reputation for ruggedness and reliability.
Ricoh – Ricoh is the largest copier manufacturer in the world. Ricoh makes a variety of devices from MFP’s to production printers to wide format printers that use latex-based inks.
Sharp – Sharp may be best known for TV’s and other home consumer technologies, but they are also well-known for their MFP’s and printers. Sharp devices are known for being reliable, easy to use, and a good value. Sharp is also a major manufacturer of digital whiteboard systems for presentations.
Xerox – Xerox is best-known name in the copier and printer business. Xerox continues to be one of the leaders in the industry with a full line of office technologies from consumer-level personal printers and copiers to a full line of business-class MFP’s. .