14 - 20 March 2001

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Robert Aquilina Interview with Robert Aquilina
Managing the paper mountain

Few business managers realise the cost attributable to printing and paper, as the cost of printing an individual sheet of paper is seemingly negligible. Corex - part of the Avantec group - is a new consultancy venture specialising in paper management that knows better. David Lindsay speaks to Corex general manager, Robert Aquilina, to find out how wasted paper and printing can be cut out of the office routine.

What's the general scope of the company?

Corex specialises in consulting organisations in terms of paper handling and management – regarding printing, faxing, copying – anything that has to do with paper. We consult on how to best optimise an office's paper flow.
Basically, the idea of the company is slightly different from other companies currently on the market. We're not merely trying to sell products, we're here first and foremost to provide solutions.
We don't go into offices and sell our products, what we do is go into an office, observe the set-up and working methodologies and then determine how an organisation can improve their output in order to reduce costs in production and printing. That's where our service differs from most consultancies - we're not selling products, we're only consulting.
In fact, we often recommend keeping the equipment that is already in place and working around the same equipment if the client wishes and we'll consult on how to make the utmost of what the client already has.
Obviously, if one does wish to change equipment, we can offer consultancy in that respect, but it is not the major scope of this consultancy business.

Does the consultancy aim to digitally store documents?

We do also offer that type of equipment, for the paperless office of the future, but in these terms we are more involved in document archiving. That involves having a small unit on your system that basically captures any traffic that moves along without anyone even noticing. That includes, e-mails, faxes, print-outs, creating and saving documents – anything that is going on down the line.
However, consultancy in paper management is our main focus. This consultancy is not an exercise that is carried out over two days, it's a programme that can even take up to three months – depending on the size of the company and what equipment is involved. What emerges at the end of the consultancy is a full report, in which the client can view all the breakdowns, costs, operations – and exactly how one can improve on them while saving a good deal of money.
From data accrued from the US and certain other European countries, in which the system has been in use, it works out that carrying out such an exercise results in company savings of some 33 per cent of the annual costs that they are usually subject to in the sphere.
Many offices don't even realise how much money they actually spend on paper and printing-related activities, as they see a minimal cost in terms of one single sheet of printed matter - but if you had to add them all up, it really becomes a considerable amount.
We don't recommend printing less, we show clients how to print at a lesser cost.

In terms of this type of office management, are you competing with other companies at the moment?

As far as I know, not really. There are many consultancy companies, but none directly related on this stake. We do not intend to teach people how to manage their company. Far from it, what we do is supply a cost-savings exercise.

What are some of the general ways in which companies can cut down on costs attributable to paper management?

Well, the simplest things are normally those that work best. For example, if you have a small printer in one department dealing with a large workload and a larger printer in another department not handling the workload it is capable of - considering the fact that the bigger the printer the lower the running cost the smaller the printer the higher the running cost - through simple mathematics, if you shift the printers around to take workloads suitable for the size of each. By just carrying out that simple exercise, you've already minimised your costs.
From this example, one can see that it does not always require investment in equipment – it can be that you can very well work with the same office equipment that you already have.
The main investment normally required is the consultancy part of it. It does take a lot of effort from our side to collect data, determine the output the client has, whether the client out-sources printed material, what the client requires from his printer, what equipment is used etc.
The collecting of such data takes a good deal of time. Once we have collected this information, we have to input it into the specialised software that we have, which gives us the feedback we require to advise the client.
These services are very much needed. As I said earlier, not many companies actually bother to look at these costings. Even in this company, I tried out the system and when the results came back, I couldn't believe how much we were actually spending.
Apart from that, there are the actual products that we sell, such as those of Nashua – the newest product range that we're handling at the moment. Nashua specialises in digital photocopiers and digital documentation.
Some four years ago, photocopiers were the largest burdens one could have in an office. What with paper jams, having that big piece of furniture in a corner costing loads of money to run and all it does is copy – nothing more, nothing less.
Digital photocopiers, on the other hand, which have been going strong on the market over the last four years, have managed to put photocopiers on an office's network - enabling it to also be used as a printer, fax, and as a scanner for image manipulation.
The ability that these machines have in producing in terms of workflow is impressive. Apart from that, the technologies that are emerging every day are sometimes completely amazing.
At the moment we have the agency for Oki, while we have also managed to get the agency for Nashua – both large groups but who differ in terms of their operations.
There are some areas in which they merge, or rather clash, but on the whole Oki is more business oriented – dealing in data representation, while Nashua is more involved in office equipment as a whole - digital documentation and computers etc.

What aims does Corex have for the future?

Our aim for the future is to be a solutions provider, not a box shifting company. Our clients are not just a number, we have personal contacts with our clients and we try to work on a personal basis, I myself prefer to have that kind of service.
We don't want to go on site and try to sell, we want to be our clients' partners and to improve their businesses. It's a whole chain at the end of the day because, if you just sell an item, its useless. Clients wouldn't be satisfied and they wouldn't return. If you build a certain rapport with a client and gain his trust, you will have dealings with that client for a long period of time.
Furthermore, the most important aspect when one is receiving a service such as this is after sales. Many companies these days are realising the importance of this – that it's not just the price of the contract that matters but it is also the after sales service that is extremely important in satisfying clients.

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