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Selecting a colour copier

Colour Copiers Buyer's Guide

Choosing a colour copier for the office is not just a matter of talking to a reseller. The first thing to do is to sort out what you really need. The following three questions will help to do just that.

What do you need the colour photocopier to do?
Today's photocopiers have a variety of functions built in. Most if not all can not only copy, but also print, fax and scan. And once you connect one of these multifunctional copiers to your office network, then your employees can use the copier directly from their computers.

This means staff can get collated or stapled copies directly from their computers. In a digital context, more and more functions can be added reliably to a photocopier. The only drawback is that if your machine becomes unavailable, then you lose access to all of the functions at the same time.

Colour photocopying is becoming more and more accessible as well, although you may need to budget about 20% more than the cost of a black and white photocopier. Another possibility if you need copying and modest quantities of colour printing, is to choose a hybrid colour/back and white model. This allows you to switch between colour and black and white modes according to what you are copying.

The big advantage of a hybrid copier is in the savings of the more expensive colour copier consumables. Unless you have a particular need for a high quality graphic colour machine, the hybrid machine is likely to be a more suitable choice. Recent models will automatically detect which mode is to be used.

How much do you want to photocopy?
After deciding tasks your photocopier has to perform, the next step is understanding how much photocopying you need to do.

The easiest way of determining your current copy volume is to check the counter on an existing machine. If you don't have one currently, check your bills for outsourced copying to see how many copies you have been ordering per month. Do remember that having a networked copier makes it easier for people to photocopy, and volume may go up as much as 50 percent when you install a machine in your office.

From your approximate current volume, factor in future growth and a safety margin. A minimum of 15% more is probably a good idea and will help you to avoid breakages and downtime from trying to push an underpowered photocopier too hard.

For fewer than 700 copies per month, a small office copier from one of the office supply chains may well be all you need. Have a look at the functionality on these machines and compare with the list that you made above to make sure that you are getting what you need.

How fast do you need your copies?
There are different definitions for measuring the speed of photocopiers, but it all comes down to how many pages the machine can produce at maximum capacity within one minute. Manufacturer and market research companies have defined six segments for this. Segment one machines will produce up to 20 pages per minute (ppm), whereas segment six machines will produce in excess of 90 ppm. Most offices are best equipped with machines in segments two to four (up to 50 ppm).

This assumes that you are doing simple, one-sided copying. A multifunction machine that lets you do double sided copies, sorting or copying to larger sized paper will have a lower "ppm" because of the extra paper-handling time. Remember also that in many cases, the key criterion is not just how many pages per minute the photocopier will do, but how long you have to wait to get the first photocopy.

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