The business landscape today is about optimizing experience and efficiency — and even something as commonplace as office printing is no exception. Printing and documenting can add considerable costs to a budget’s operation column.
As a result, companies are looking for better printing solutions. Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and connected technologies, one of the biggest commercial printing industry trends has been the rise of managed print services (MPS), when companies outsource their printing needs to printer manufacturers through print-as-a-service.
MPS has reduced operational hassle and created a better experience for the end user. Multifunction printers and networked devices provide data on a variety of metrics, including output quality, printed formats, toner consumption, ink levels, paper jams, and more. AI algorithms can use this data to make printing smarter, more efficient, and safer. In fact, here are some ways AI can help printer manufacturers provide better experiences to their customers:
- Fix it before it’s broken: Predictive maintenance can improve the usability and reliability of printers, ultimately reducing upkeep costs. AI can analyze data from the printers in real time, predicting failures or breakdowns for timely interventions. In the case of a breakdown or long queues, jobs can be automatically rerouted to other connected printers, saving considerable time. AI can also make decisions about relevant software upgrades and execute them to prevent bug issues.
- Safer data: AI provides rich insights using data and network activity to detect threats to print security in real time, including activation protocols for remediation. This is key, considering that 60% of enterprise companies experience security breaches that result in data loss through their printers. On average, these breaches cost companies $400,000. This goes farther than data points, though. AI-enabled printers can ensure confidential data is protected across networks and various access points. For instance, an HR representative might have access to print employees’ personal information, but the system would not allow an engineer to access and print that information.
- Improved print outcomes: Through automation, AI can remove bottlenecks in the printing process by enabling higher-quality jobs and reducing print waste and misprints. The technology can make recommendations for image quality, frame, paper alignment, sizing, etc. The software can introduce these changes without human intervention while the print job is ongoing. In addition, AI can minimize energy usage in idle time by automatically shifting to standby mode. When paired with other technologies such as augmented reality, AI can also help users solve issues themselves by offering guidance to perform specific functions or resolve errors.
- The ultimate printing convenience: AI-enabled devices can detect connected printers and configure them directly, allowing users to print from mobile devices, tablets, and more without having to go download and install drivers. This is agility in its true sense. AI can help convert complex unstructured documents — such as handwritten information — to legible, categorized digital files, reducing the use of resources such as ink and paper. In addition, AI voice assistants can start up a job when the user simply talks to the machine — be it printing, copying, scanning, or initiating maintenance work.
In short, AI presents one of the key business opportunities in the printing industry. The technology can offer insights that help companies predict user behavior, optimize print infrastructure, and make better print decisions, even at a user level.
Solving Printing Industry Challenges With AI
The convergence of emerging technologies and changing customer preferences have created difficult (but not impossible) situations for the printing industry. For instance, while AI has driven some improvements in threat-detection strata, cloud-enabled printer solutions are vulnerable to cyberattacks. This is especially true in the case of a mixed fleet of old and new printers. When embracing AI as one of the biggest commercial printing industry trends, companies need to invest more in understanding these risks and following up with a remediation plan.
With the constant improvement in AI, the uptake and the scope for the printer industry keeps increasing. As AI gains momentum, companies will need to consider applying the benefits of these technologies to their products and services.
A good starting point for AI-enabled print strategy is assessing vulnerabilities and complementing it with cost-effective, high-quality print outputs. Experienced partners can help reimagine the printing system, redefine operations, and hyper-automate processes through financially viable, seamlessly connected AI and cognitive computing-based solutions. When these solutions are tightly integrated with wider suites of technologies such as IoT, they can transform enterprise business operations. A service provider can also help build a comprehensive set of capabilities that can be used on top of the current transaction systems such as natural language processing, algorithmic intelligence, self-learning, and reasoning.
The next generations of printers are evolving to capture data and leverage AI, IoT, and cloud platforms. These insights provide elevated levels of customer experiences, save costs, and provide higher-quality services. The printer of the near future will go beyond a seamless fail-over to providing an entirely no-fail experience.