Approaching multi-functional device reviews

Mark Coates

When Oculus are engaged by a client, typically they will have a good idea on the areas of spend they want to be reviewed; these areas of focus may represent a significant cost to their operating budget; or, they may have arrangements in place which are just not fit for purpose. During the first few weeks of any engagement, gaining an understanding of our client’s business culture, their stakeholders and of course establishing very clear objectives is essential.

Taking this into account, at Oculus we feel that a focussed and data-driven approach to agreeing a ‘wave-plan’ of reviews is essential, considering;

  • Savings opportunities;
  • Service issues;
  • Supplier consolidation opportunities;
  • Ease of implementation;
  • Contract renewal dates

Within these initial client discussions one category that is always raised by the clients for consideration of review is their MFD’s (multi-functional devices). Our experience is such that clients are rarely comfortable with their current arrangements and are concerned that they are not receiving good value for money. So why is this the case?

Well, to the un-initiated, the category can seem to be complex! Market information is vast, readily available, but often contradictory and entangled with various deals, discounts and offers. Acronyms, abbreviations, technical mumbo-jumbo are often the order of the day here, and we haven’t even got to the more fundamental choices that a buyer has to consider….

  • Finance – Do we lease or do we buy? What’s the difference between a rental and a lease?
  • Reseller or Manufacturer – Who do I buy from? How can I be reassured that a reseller can offer the same level of service as a manufacturer?
  • Inclusions/exclusions in the current costs – What exactly am I paying for? How can I ensure I can get the same deal consistently?

Our experience in this market is such that there are opportunities to make significant savings, reduce wider operating costs. Most importantly however, our experience within this market allows us to ensure that the equipment and support being purchased is appropriate, and competitive!

How to Review MFD’s

So, how would we do it?

The first starting point is to understand ‘The today’.

Working with a pre-selected MFD provider, the first step in the procurement process is to undertake a ‘print investigation’. This category is almost totally reliant on a deep and intricate understanding of a businesses printing behaviours, practices and an appreciation of future scalability needs. Whilst clients may understand the P&L aspect of a supplier, rarely do we come across clients whom have such an intricate understanding of their print/MFD needs.

In selecting a partner to understand the investigation, it is essential that a supplier has demonstrable capabilities in the print investigation specifically, and, the partner selected will allow you to utilise the findings presented in their print investigation and subsequent recommendation as part of a tender process.

So why would a supplier invest time, money and resource into doing the work for you?

Suppliers view this stage as an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of your business, outside of receiving a ‘cold’ tender. In this respect, it is valuable pre-sale work for them and may offer them a level of advantage over the other.

In short, it is in their interest to help you as much as possible, as it may help them in a future tender!

So what is the investigation?

The investigation would focus on three key areas, across two distinct stages.

Stage 1 (Investigation)

  • What is the current solution considering location of equipment, the make, model, age and specification of the equipment including speed and capability, the satisfaction of the employees with the equipment and who the current service providers are.
  • What are the current costs of running the MFD’s taking into account finance costs, depreciation and of course running costs including toners/ink jet cartridges and/or cost per copy (‘click’) charges.

Stage 2

  • What is the suppliers initial proposal to demonstrate value of money for a client in terms of location of equipment, specification of equipment and what the associated costs/savings would be subject to implementing the recommendations.


So at this point, we now possess an intricate understanding of your print estate, plus an initial technical and commercial proposal which would indicate where the value of the project resides (supporting a business case), and, represent the future requirements for your business.

From here, using the findings of the print investigation, we would approach the market at large in a competitive tender situation. From an outright effectiveness perspective, Oculus would always endorse engaging a wider supplier market as at this stage the client now has a firm specification, engaging with manufacturers and resellers.

What about matters other than equipment specification? What are the key components/considerations of the tender?

  • Be manufacturer agnostic, to encourage more creative technical solutions, but me mindful of your own IT constraints and wider IT strategy.
  • Explore all avenues of financing and compare this to your own cost of capital. Purchase, leasing and rental should be considered.
  • Separate the cost of financing or funding the equipment away from maintaining and supporting them. This removes any ‘smoke and mirrors’ around what is a fixed cost, versus what is volume or behaviour driven.
  • Ensure you are able to transfer equipment through sale and leaseback or similar, giving you maximum flexibility in future.
  • Ensure you understand what is and isn’t included in the cost per copy charge and if there are any associated volume commitments. Oculus would only advocate a supplier whom is willing to partner with a client by way of transparency and fairness.
  • Finally, and often the most overlooked, ensure there is a robust contract. Many providers will simply ask you to send over a purchase order or sign a lease. A finance lease (or similar) is NOT a service contract. They do completely different things and are there to manage a funding transaction, not manage a service.

Agreeing a service contract with clear and unambiguous SLA’s, KPI’s and break-fix response times are critical.

Lastly, make sure how you measure your supplier is relevant and appropriate…what do we mean by that?

Well, (with tongue firmly in cheek), don’t not measure your MFD provider with trivial standards, for example ‘how many rings until they answer the phone’!

Measure them to the core service they are providing! As with any technical solution, there will always be technical problems. A mature approach to supplier management, backed by a clear contract, will start your partnership on the right footing and ensure both organisations know what is expected from each other.

Our Top Tips When Reviewing MFD’s

  1. Always be clear on the terms of reference and objectives of the review.
  2. Engage a market leading provider who can clearly demonstrate a print investigation process as part of their core competencies.
  3. When engaging a provider to undertake the investigation ensure that you are clear on the outbound and time deliverable expectations. In addition ensure that you have agreement that the report is owned by yourself and you can use the information within a potential tender process. Be upfront with the supplier about your intentions.
  4. Within a tender process engage a range of manufacturers and manufacturer re-sellers and explore varying finance options.
  5. Avoid including cost per copies (‘click charges’) in lease obligations and this should form a separate service contract which could be transferred to an alternative provider if ever appropriate at a future point.
  6. Ensure you are very clear on what is and what isn’t included in the cost per copy charges.
  7. Following due diligence and appointment ensure that a contract is in place which clearly articulates the services provided, the service levels and key performance indicators. As part of this process ensure that all KPI’s are relevant and measurable.

If you would like to speak to Oculus Procurement about your MFD spend or wider procurement support, please do not hesitate to make contact for a no obligation discussion on we can help you.


Mark Coates

Mark Coates

Mark is a mature and highly-experienced procurement leader who has an impressive track record of leading and managing procurement transformation programmes; leading strategic sourcing initiatives; and developing and improving the performance of existing procurement teams in a coaching capacity, applying category management principles.

Mark is one of the founders of Oculus and has led many procurement programmes across key industry sectors over a career which spans over 25 years.  He has a reputation for leading teams in conducting opportunity assessments; assessing the maturity and capability of existing procurement teams; and delivering significant and measurable cost savings at speed.

In addition, Mark also has a track record of embedding key procurement skills within organisations: to ensure these companies see a sizeable improvement in how they conduct their strategic sourcing and supplier management activity.