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How to Select the Best Office Equipment

how to buy the best office equipmentSet your priorities straight for buying office machines

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For Greatest Satisfaction – Put the Manufacturers Brand Last to Select the Best office Equipment

It sounds counter intuitive to make the brand name a last consideration, doesn’t it?  We have been programmed to believe the Label means everything.  So, why not structure your shopping around the “best” brand name equipment?   Even if you assume there is a best make and model of any given piece of equipment, your experience with that specific model will be highly effected by your service experience.  I’ve had first hand experience with this as a copier dealer over the past twenty two years.   In countless cases, customers have expressed widely varying opinions of satisfaction on the same exact model of copier.  Yet, their equipment usage was similar as was page volume and environment.

When deciding How to Select the Best Office Equipment –  Consider Service First

Manufacturing is performed with such precision as to give a certain homogeneity to any given product.  This is absolutely true in the office equipment industry. Every plastic part is injection molded, each circuit board is printed, each metal casing stamped with precision.  Given high manufacturing standards, the lengthy history of modern manufacturing and fierce competition, you’re pretty safe with any mainstream office equipment. Rarely, do I ever see modern digital office copiers or printers that don’t exhibit quality manufacture. Products are so generic, its remarkable.  I carry products from five different manufacturers in my office warehouse.  I have virtually no preference from one brand to the next, provided the individual piece does what I want it to.  That’s because I know the equipment well and recognize there isn’t a best brand.

I look for similarities in products to see how closely it matches its competitors, expecting that maybe one is a “knock off” of the other. Bear in mind, I’ve been so exposed to this as a dealer, I’ve come to expect it.  Private labeling and technology “sharing” from one copier to the next is insanely high.  You can open up the back of a Konica Minolta copier and you will likely find Toshiba, Ricoh or Nec components. On the other hand, you can open up the back of a Lanier copier and see that it is in fact a Ricoh, exact in every way.  There are many less factory manufacturers than there are private labeled OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).   That contributes to the generic aspect of equipment and further supports my premise that equipment is of similar quality.

Four Truths about Copier Service and Related Perceptions of Manufacturer Quality

  1. When  service is “great” the equipment is also “great” – Positive service experience causes customers to view the equipment positively
  2. Poor service quality tends to place doubt in the quality of the equipment – This can be seen in virtually every model of copier
  3. Virtually each and every make and model has the full spectrum range of low opinions to extremely high opinions of quality – This can be adequately explained by the service variable.
  4. People who buy used equipment report the quality of the manufacturer based on their experience with that equipment.  Oddly, they don’t often recognize that maybe they bought a poorly serviced machine. Most I’ve seen as a follow up, require maintenance to one degree or another.

Consider the four statements above for a moment.  Each one points to service as the key to one’s experience with their equipment. If you look for surveys or other research about office equipment ratings on the web, you’ll find sales propaganda.  It should be no surprise that everyone says they sell the best equipment.

Independent Testing and Recommendations

For as long as I can remember, BLI (Buyers Laboratory) has been, and still is the independent testing lab for office equipment.   You can view their 2016 results here and search their site for archives of prior tests and recommendations. Buyers Laboratory (aka http://Bertl.com ) has been providing testing services to the copier industry for more than 40 years. As such, Bli is the only independent copier testing and rating company the industry has relied on.    Earlier in this post, I alluded to the fact that all mainstream companies make a good copier – MFP.   If you’re looking to buy or lease a refurbished copier or printer, you might consider reading about some of the older BLI awards.  For instance, you could go back to 2008 and check out this award page in order to determine which products had received favor from BLI.   Note, their archives go back to 2005.

Pricing as important as ever for Small businesses shopping Office Equipment

You probably won’t experience too many dealers suggesting you shop price over quality.   I don’t either.  However, there has never been a better time for being a price shopper than right now, for three important reasons:

  1. Decreased demand and reduction in sales has put tremendous pricing pressure on copier manufacturers – that means more flexible negotiations
  2. copier printer products have never been so reliable and so generic to each other
  3. Technology has improved so that smaller less expensive products often perform the needed tasks

The copier market is diminishing with expectations of pulling back further. This article points to the reduction of copier sales volume.  I wrote this for another blog, but it seems relevant here.  Private labeling, manufacturer consolidations and technology sharing reduce concerns of product reliability. You should compare features of lower priced models. You may find a better value proposition depending on your own needs.

Summary – How to Select the Best Office Equipment

  1. Rank quality service ahead of brand concerns always for copier and other service intense equipment
  2. Compare features and prices for each machine that you compare – don’t automatically dismiss a low price if the equipment and service seem strong
  3. Recognize that you need local service and don’t buy used service intense equipment (like a copier) from Ebay unless you’ve really considered the downside
  4. Don’t get hung up on which Brand is better.  Instead, choose a mainstream brand and a reputable dealer to support your purchase or lease.

If you’ve got comments, an example of your own or follow up questions or concerns, please provide that below.   Other members of the community can benefit from your suggestions and I welcome additional ideas and experiences to ad value to the post.

 

About the author

Eric Klee

My name is Eric Klee. I've been in the equipment leasing and service business since my first professional job in 1984, in Saginaw Michigan. I've owned several small businesses, including two copier companies. I presently own Digicor, inc., an independent copier sales, service and leasing compay I began in 2000. I call Tampa Bay, Florida home, having moved here from Flushing Michigan in 1989.

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