The false economy

The false economy

08:30 18 November in Industry news
1 Comment

CMYK ink droplets sign isolated on white background

As an industry, printing vendors have been waxing lyrical about the benefits of using original equipment manufacturer (OEM) cartridges for years. The reason why is seemingly obvious to outsiders: it’s a simple sales message born out of the fact that if more people buy genuine toner from the manufacturer, then the manufacturer makes more money. And of course, there is a natural reluctance in parts of the dealer community to always provide genuine toner to customers. Take a look at almost any compatible toner advert, and you will find words like ‘cheap’, ‘cost effective’, and ‘unbeatable price’.

Compatible toner, more than likely, comes at a lower cost, which means that by switching from genuine to compatible products, your profit margin increases. We understand that – we really do. Ultimately, it’s the cost that matters. Just like resellers, us vendors have bottom lines too. And ours is the same as yours – to make a good mark up and fund our business. That’s why we know that you need to choose the solution which offers you the best long-term cost effectiveness rather than just the cheapest. The amount of time and design efforts that go into each and every genuine toner we design, including valuable research and development, means that these are an investment. We can’t undercut compatible competitors, because we have substantial research and development costs that logically come hand-in-hand with developing innovative devices that do things differently.

But what if we were to tell you that actually, there’s a key part of the message from vendors which often gets lost, and it’s not just a self-serving sales message to be easily dismissed? The truth of the matter is that sometimes, selling compatible, cheaper toners to your clients is a false economy. Yes, in the short-term you may save money. You might even save a lot of money. But what you save on toner more often than not, in my experience, ends up, in the long-term, being offset by the cost of spare parts and engineering that is incurred by using compatible toner in high-rate machines. And in the long-term, this cost may well outweigh the savings you counted up at the beginning. This is because compatible toner damages good-quality printing products. With toner, it’s even more critical than inkjet ink to use a quality consumable, as the product is more easily damaged.

OEM toner often contains cleaning beads, which are essential to ensuring the printer drum is kept clean and particle free. In the past, we’ve heard of some resellers recommending that customers use genuine toner every three to four cycles in order to keep the drums clean. While this may be good advice for those customers set on using compatible toner, the only way you can guarantee to your clients that the drums will meet their potential and last several hundred thousand copies, as vendors claim, is by making sure they’re using the real deal. Otherwise, there’s no guarantee that compatible toner isn’t just harming the device, but is actually shortening the product’s life.

However, as always, it’s not just about the money. It’s not only money you can save – it’s your reputation you can safeguard, too. By sidestepping genuine toner, not only may you end up spending a lot of time and money on engineering visits, replacing spare parts and breakdowns, but crucially, your customers may start to feel unhappy with the level of service they’re experiencing. Compatible toner particles are often the incorrect size – which leads to poor print quality. We’re talking repeat offenders such as streaky grey backgrounds, toner dropping onto pages, an uneven print quality and ghosting on the page – of course, the end quality differs greatly between third party producers, but these are complaints we hear again and again from our end-users. While for end-users of the product, promises of a better finish or higher reliability often successfully encourage them to purchase the genuine toner, we know that for dealers, that’s not your top priority. But customer satisfaction, loyalty and repeat sales are one of your priorities.

Your customers might feel short-changed when it comes to product quality. If you’ve sold a device to your user based on superiority, then they may feel that they have made a high-end printing investment. Compatible toner can mean that users don’t get the high quality finish they expect, and your customers will soon start to realise that all is not as it seems. Furthermore, if your customers want the peace of mind that their product meets the various industry standards for quality, reliability and sustainability, such as the Blue Angel certification, then using genuine toner is key to ensuring that the certification is valid. By using compatible toner, the product will no longer be meeting these stringent environmental standards, which could spell problems for your end-user. To compound this, print volumes are also affected by compatible toner.

By not using genuine products, you might fail to meet the printer manufacturer’s guaranteed print volumes – meaning that the end-user gets far less than they were expecting. And for large organisations, this will be a problem and will in some cases get noticed. Plenty of downtime and poor print quality isn’t the customer’s idea of the stress-free printing experience they thought they were buying into when they invested in their printing infrastructure. And what does that lead to? It tarnishes your name, and leads your customers to complain that the quality wasn’t as good as they’d hoped for. And unhappy customers mean markedly less customer loyalty and fewer repeat orders. At the end of the day, cutting costs shouldn’t damage your reputation and create spiralling long-term rolling costs. Ensure both you and your customers don’t get less than you bargained for by recommending and rolling out genuine toner – because you might be surprised to find out that the lasting damage of compatible toner can be felt in machines and your pocket for years to come.




  • Tracey Rawling Church 13:56h, 18 November Reply

    The other point about compatible toner is that you don’t know what’s in it. Kyocera has a very high proportion of products with Blue Angel certificates – a demanding and comprehensive environmental label that assesses not just large scale environmental impacts but also user-level impacts like noise and emission of volatile organic compounds created when the toner undergoes the electrostatic process of fusing it to the paper. Emissions are tested using original manufacturer toner, which is carefully manufactured to perform well at the product’s fusing temperature without causing harmful VOC emissions. If a third party toner is substituted, the test results won’t apply as the composition of the toner is unknown. There’s no point specifying products based on an environmental label and then using toner that has not been tested by the labelling authority – you simply have no idea what chemicals it might contain.

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