E-Business Fuels Demand for Infoprint 40

Though e-business has been widely touted as a seamless, paperless method of integrating business partners with each other and with their customers, it has also become the driving force behind developments in IBM's Printing Systems Company, located in Boulder, Colo.

The speed of doing business continues to increase incrementally with advances in Web, hardware and software technology. To keep pace with these advancements IBM now offers the Infoprint 40 workgroup printing solution. The Infoprint 40 checks in as the new performance leader of IBM's workgroup printer family and can be integrated with IBM's Infoprint Manager and Network Printer Manager (NPM) to enable a sophisticated level of communication between the user and printer for management and control of print jobs.

The Infoprint 40 is designed to handle a monthly duty cycle of 200,000 pages, with standard 600 x 600 dots per inch (dpi) print quality. The printer features "RePro" copier-like capabilities designed to enable users to send jobs to the printer once and produce multiple, collated, original sets. In addition, the Infoprint 40 has: graphical paper capacity gauges for monitoring the paper capacity in input and output bins; an electronic module in the toner cartridge that tracks the number of pages printed and provides feedback to the user or network administrator for accurate yield monitoring; toner saving mode designed to extend cartridge life by up to 40 percent; and standard 16 MB of memory.

Some may question the need for such a prolific system in workgroup environments, according to Paul Preo, marketing segment manager of distributed printing for IBM's Printing Systems Company. "They question what is driving the need for this new price/performance level product, given that anything you can deliver to us faster at the same price is obviously good. But, where does it end? How fast is fast enough?" he says.

Preo's short answer is that some businesses -- spurred on by the implementation of e-business infrastructures -- simply have to print time-critical documents more quickly, and they need better tools with which to do it. People are recognizing the need for rapid information transfer, he says.

Advances in the systems surrounding printing solutions contribute to the need for faster, higher capacity access to data. "We can direct data to a points all over the globe through Web browsers," Preo points out. "As corporations become more sensitive to the fact that real-time information will differentiate them from their competitors, a lot of the information they were previously getting from centralized applications we now think are going to be spread out into more distributed applications."

Certain information -- such as end-of-month accounting, inventory and customer satisfaction reports -- come in large volumes unsuitable for viewing online. These end-of-cycle reports are typically printed today on large printers and distributed throughout organizations. "What the e-business phenomena is driving is the fact that people are saying, 'Hey, once a month isn't good enough anymore. I need to see this when I need to see it. We can't wait that long to make decisions based on this data,'" Preo says.

The challenge for printing solutions then becomes to provide information at "point of need," according to Preo. Most workgroups are furnished with printers that do a standard 16 or 17 pages per minute. As you start doing higher volume reports, the printers start choking. "The idea of providing a distributed printing solution is great, but you also need provide higher-power printing solutions to make this feasible," he says.

Preo uses the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as an example of how IBM is providing printing solutions that meet both traditional output and newer e-business requirements. The university wanted to consolidate information from different locations -- such as its own databases and the Web -- and make all of this available to students. "They're using the Web to get information faster to the people who need it," Preo says.

The university had four basic needs, according to Preo. First, students had to be able to print from all the university's graduate and undergraduate libraries, as well as all 46 departmental libraries. Second, the university needed a system that would operate on its campuswide Ethernet network. Third, the solution had to support student, faculty and department fee-based printing, essentially providing e-business capabilities. Four, the university wanted to make sure that any system they implemented was scalable, so it could grow as the university's needs grow.

IBM worked with the university to create a system that met all the university's output and e-business needs. InfoPrint Manager was installed and now supports 25 IBM network laser printers. "We found no other vendor that could deal with so many kinds of file formats, handle our accounting functions and still provide the seamless, high-quality output we needed," says Geoff Bant, director of the office of printing services for the University of Illinois.