Implementing artificial intelligence (AI) solutions usually comes with two core business goals: Increasing efficiencies for both staff and customers, and cost cutting
Printing and document management aren’t usually front of mind when attempting to reduce outgoings but, with the right AI technology in place, you’d be surprised by how much you could save.
In this article, we’ll be looking at how AI technology works with printing and document management, and five key ways that you can use it to your organisation’s financial benefit.
How does AI printing and document management software work?
There’s a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to AI in business contexts. For example, AI and machine learning are often used interchangeably, despite the fact that the latter is just one subsection of the former.
Rather than getting bogged down in definitions of AI, we’re going to show you how it can apply to printing and document management in practical terms. Generally, there are three ways that AI can apply here:
1. Analysing data to inform decision making
Data is at the heart of nearly every key business decision, and can also play an important part in improving day-to-day systems such as printing.
AI has the capacity to extract and analyse monumental quantities of data far faster than a human could. For printers, this could be information on how a particular product is performing compared to what’s expected – enabling you to engage in proactive maintenance as opposed to waiting for total breakdown.
2. Process automation
This is perhaps the concept that everyone thinks of when the letters A and I are put together. Here, we’re talking about taking typically repetitive and physical tasks away from human operators and handing them over to technology.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools are the most common iterations of AI in this setting, and while they’re commonly seen as the least smart element of the technology umbrella, they often deliver significant ROI quickly. When it comes to printing, optical character recognition (OCR) is a classic example of how process automation works – an idea we’ll return to below.
3. Natural language processing
Think chat bots and virtual assistants. This facet of AI involves humans engaging with digital interfaces and communicating as if that technology were another person. According to the Harvard Business Review, organisations are already using natural language-based AI in training and problem-solving capacities.
To take a potential printing example, imagine you have a new employee who needs to know the correct format for printing a specific PDF. Instead of wasting time asking other members of staff, such information could be learnt by AI software, through the analysis of data, and given to the staff member by a chatbot.
Saving money with AI printing and document management software
With this fundamental understanding of how AI printing and document management software works in mind, let’s look at some more specific examples of where it can save you money:
1. Reduced downtime
It’s incredibly frustrating when you need a document and the printer simply won’t work. In reality, this could be for a number of reasons, including:
- Maintenance issues that mean the printer can’t operate
- Depleted consumables such as ink and paper
- Too many users trying to print at the same time
Let’s look at how AI technology could solve these issues:
High quality printers will last years, but every so often will require a little TLC in order to stay on top of their game. As with many digital assets, the key is picking up on potential maintenance issues when they’re in their early stages of development, not when they’re already causing time and resource wastage.
The problem is, to the untrained eye, a printer may appear to be performing normally even when it isn’t. When this is happening, the device could well be using greater amounts of electricity to carry out standard jobs – resulting in higher overheads for your company. AI printing software enables your machines to self-assess using data to pick up performance abnormalities. This information can then be flagged with your IT technician, who can go in and make any necessary fixes proactively.
Similarly, instead of waiting for your ink and paper stocks to run low or be entirely depleted, AI printing software can learn when to tell you to buy more, and automatically place an order for the consumables that would best suit your printing usage trends. This is especially important from a savings point of view, as it’s often cheaper to buy these consumables in bulk, rather than as and when you need them.
c). Simultaneous use
Your AI software can also assess which devices are in use, and which are free to use. This means instead of your documents going into the back of the ‘pending’ queue for the device you’ve selected, they will automatically reroute to somewhere where they can be printed instantly.
2. Decreasing wastage
Cutting down on how much you spend on consumables means reducing wastage wherever possible. In addition to the frustration and lost time, regular misprints will soon eat into your consumables, and end up costing the business significant amounts in replacements.
However, AI algorithms can learn specifications such as image quality and paper alignment, and make adjustments to ensure the finished document is of the quality you require. Crucially, the software can implement such changes in real time while a print job is in-process, not just as a blanket algorithm rule. All of this is possible without any human intervention.
3. Optical character recognition
One of the best ways to save money with regards to printing, is to only print when it’s necessary. Optical character recognition (OCR) enables exactly this by using machine learning to convert images of handwritten, printed or typed words into text that can be digitally edited and searched.
Optical character recognition (OCR) uses machine learning to allow images of words to be digitally searchable.
Traditionally, an employee would have to scan a document – for example, a contract – into a computer, print a copy and then physically store this in a filing cabinet. Every time this document needed to be sent somewhere, the process would need to be repeated. However, with OCR a file can be scanned once and the extracted data stored on cloud-based platforms. This means that anyone with the required security clearance can access the information they need from remote locations.
On top of the consumables saved through fewer print jobs, this paperless approach means businesses can do away with space-consuming filing cabinets.
4. Security protection
Security breaches can be incredibly costly. Take healthcare facilities, for example. In November 2018, Parliament passed legislation that strengthened privacy protections for My Health Record data. As a result, unauthorised or inappropriate use of My Health Record information can result in fines of up to $315,000, as well as potential jail time for those responsible.
Many predict that AI will feature prominently in future malware attacks, as cyber criminals may be able to deploy the technology to impersonate human users when trying to bypass security systems. However, the answer to such threats is likely to be AI itself. This will manifest itself in two ways:
- Detection – Machine learning, alongside other AI techniques could be used to provide behaviour analytics and anomalies. Importantly, this would be at a holistic network level, rather than device by device
- Response – AI printers may also be able to self-heal, speeding up the response to any malware attacks that do make it past frontline defences.
5. Freeing up human agents
In addition to the tangible savings we’ve discussed, don’t underestimate the employee productivity benefits that AI printer software can bring to your business.
According to ImageOne, nearly a quarter of all IT helpdesk calls refer to printer related issues. Think about this for a minute. Not only are the staff making the calls having to put off other tasks in order to make these calls, your IT team is spending almost 25% of every single day dealing with specifically printer-related issues.
Of course, AI isn’t a silver bullet that will instantly solve all printer issues from here until eternity. However, if your devices have functionality such as self-monitoring, assessing the stocks of their own consumables and supporting driverless mobile access, this will go a long way to minimising this huge time suck.
This means you can free up human agents from these repetitive but time consuming tasks and allow them to focus on higher value jobs that AI isn’t yet equipped to complete.
The uptake and scope of AI software in the workplace is only going to increase as the technology behind it continues to improve. To find out more about how Brother can help you ready your printing and document management capabilities for the office of the future, contact our team today.