Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Paper & Printer Usage Under Review

As part of the GNOME desktop upgrade, a project has been initiated that is near and dear to my heart -- printing. There is a strong culture in many people to fight computerization and continue to work with 10 or 20 year old techniques. The amount of paper and ink used is tremendous and our printing costs are finally coming to light.

CUPs dumps flat files into /var/log/cups/page_log which contains lots of useful information, but is in no way in a format that can be researched. This is especially true when you have multiple servers and operating systems. We have always known that printers are heavily used, because they are a big draw on IT support. However, we have never been able to prove an exact dollar amount nor provide any specifics about poor techniques being used around the City. So I wrote some quick ksh scripts that scan through the page_log each night at midnight and dump the information into a sqlite database. This is yielding very interesting information.

I have done some SQL statements by hand to begin to look at the data, but obviously this isn't going to be the way that the IT Director or analysts will work. So I am writing a quick Glade/Python screen for running the various searches and the current shot is below. This won't be used by end users and won't get much more bling & art. It will serve the purpose of allowing our staff to select a date range, select departments and then include/exclude various desktop functions. The ink coverage is estimated per print job and we will be able punch in the per page cost for HP printers and it will give an estimated cost of the range selected. Initial estimates are that this cost might be north of 150K a year. :\

If we can use the new desktop, portrait LCD monitors and iPads to change peoples work habits, I believe we can increase efficiencies and reduce costs.


Ryan Lovett said...

We face similar issues and I wrote a python script to put the page_log data into sqlite and MySQL databases (for redundant CUPS servers).

Is pykota an option for you? We have thought about using it but there are a few issues that make adoption not trivial.

Dave Richards said...

I had not seen pykota and it's interesting. I'm not sure if we could ever implement a quota or payment accounts. But I sure wish that we did. I'll check out how all of that works for sure. When you talk to users, they just assume that printing is dirt cheap. Ironically, they then complain about the cost of their printer cartridges at home :)

Code0 said...

It is quite surprising how much people actually print. I put together a similar setup and examined the page_log for the past week from our 3 main print servers and saw over 35000 pages were printed. 4000 of those were by one person.

Estimated cost for all of that was ~$180k/yr. OUCH.

Amirul said...

Very interesting what you're doing with ipads to reduce printing costs. I'd like to experiment with something similar at my place of work but with Android devices. I can get a decent Android pad for something like $100, vnc to the ltsp server. It would really help with the fit & finish if I could have a look at your document handling scripts used for the ipads. Are you able to make those available?

Philipp said...

May I refer you to this NPR report on how the University of Wosconsin has saved up to 30% of ink costs switching the default email font to Century Gothic? Would be interesting to investigate a FOSS alternative.