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Manufacturing - Mitsubishi accelerates its output savings with Canon refresh

Mitsubishi to save $250,000 annually through advanced document management

"This deployment has been driven by the commercial benefit to the organisation. It is seen as a key opportunity to take some of the cost out of the business, and to introduce new technologies that will improve our control and produce better information about our output usage." — Ron Graves, Manager of Indirect Purchasing, Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd

As one of Australia's four major automobile manufacturers, Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd (MMAL) has a long history of design innovation that most recently culminated in the launch of its all-new, awardwinning 380 sedan. MMAL also designs and manufactures a range of other models including Colt, Lancer, Pajero, Outlander and Triton. The company's 1700 employees manufacture its vehicles for domestic and overseas markets from its primary facility in Tonsley Park, South Australia. It also maintains regional sales offices to support dealers in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

A strategic review

In supporting a broad range of manufacturing and administrative activities, MMAL is a heavy user of paper. Its sites used over 5 million pages in 2005, including 1 million colour prints, using approximately 90 printers, copiers, faxes and multifunction devices (MFDs) from Canon and other vendors.

During a regular review of its output capabilities that was reinforced by the closure of MMAL's Lonsdale engine factory in 2005, MMAL began working with Canon to identify potential areas of printing inefficiency that could be improved. Particular attention was paid to opportunities for technology convergence, improved management and usage reporting, improved security and driving increased productivity by adding new options for handling documents through the devices.

"Copy cost was the primary driver," said Ron Graves, Manager of Indirect Purchasing, MMAL. "We had long had a strategy of moving off standalone printers to adopt networked MFDs instead. In addition, we owned a lot of printers rather than having them on an operational lease program, and that represented sunk capital for MMAL. We recognised that moving to a centralised output management process would be far more cost effective."

The review audited both the output capabilities installed at MMAL, as well as evaluating the geographic distribution of the units to ensure that every employee had an MFD within a certain distance of their desk. The results of the audit suggested that MMAL could significantly reduce its ongoing management costs and increase productivity by converging the functions of its previous disparate fleet into a smaller number of MFDs that could all be managed using Netspot Accountant for MEAP - a consistent management and reporting interface.

MMAL was also interested in taking advantage of the improved capabilities of modern devices including desktop faxing, confidential delivery of documents and the ability to scan, email and store documents as PDF documents. Easing the transition from paper content to searchable digital documents, supported by the capabilities of the company's new output devices, will dramatically improve the flow of information within the company.

New thinking about printing

Working with Canon, MMAL retired its entire fleet of around 90 devices, selecting as replacements a mix of new colour and black & white Canon MFDs that offered a full spectrum of capabilities. All told, 61 units and 18 different models were installed across MMAL's operations.

A three-year, Canon-organised finance arrangement freed up the capital that MMAL had previously tied up in device ownership. However, Canon's involvement in the upgrade continued throughout the entire duration of the project. As part of Canon's full range of change management services, Canon staff were instrumental in developing hands-on training on the new equipment and spent several weeks delivering this for all MMAL employees. This training included both detailed instruction about the features of the new Canon printing solution, as well as broader advice about using the new technology to improve the company's workflow processes.

"We've had very, very good support from Canon in terms of the total cost of the package," said Graves. "They helped us introduce a different mix of units that was more appropriate to the business, and to implement some strategic software technologies for the maintenance and management of the fleet. Canon were very innovative and worked very closely with us to fully understand the business."

Months of preparation have paid off handsomely for MMAL, which set up its last device under the new rollout in April 2006. Since then, ongoing advice and support from Canon has helped MMAL employees quickly come to appreciate the advanced functionality of the new devices. For example, the ability to scan and email documents straight from the MFD speeds communication with MMAL's many suppliers and dealers, with signed documents able to be quickly produced and sent where they are needed.

Such processes are not only convenient for employees, but are helping MMAL cut the use of paper as an intermediate step in the document production process. Desktop faxing, made possible via Canon drivers loaded onto every MMAL desktop, is one significant example of this: documents no longer have to be printed and then manually faxed, but can be sent from a PC.

As well as enhancing everyday printing, the Canon MFDs are also improving visibility of MMAL's ongoing printing costs, which were previously difficult to quantify because of the wide variety of printing devices installed. Budget managers are now becoming aware of the cost of colour printing and printing in their own areas, allowing them to work with the procurement team to enforce education initiatives that have promoted the intelligent use of colour printing.

Even in its early stages, the new output infrastructure's benefits are becoming quite clear. MMAL expects to save $750,000 in printing and capital costs over the course of its three-year Canon contract, and better monitoring and management of office printing trends has improved overall awareness of printing-related issues.

"We were able to implement maintenance and accounting management software packages across every unit of the company," said Graves, "whereas in parts of the previous fleet we couldn't have done that. This gave us standardisation of the models and enabled us to introduce other technology advances right across the business rather than in pockets. The feedback we are getting on the new technology is quite positive, and the whole implementation has been well integrated into our network with zero problems."

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