Few people realize it, but at $2,700 per gallon, black printer ink is one of the highest-priced liquids on Earth — five times more expensive than an equal volume of Dom Perignon.

Office printing can be a huge expense, especially if many employees have their own desktop printers rather than shared network devices. The initial outlay on hardware is one issue, but the lifetime cost of a printer is far greater than that initial cost.

Printing a single monochrome page typically costs about 2 to 4 cents, and the cost for color can run as high as 60 cents per page, depending on the quantity of ink required to produce the page. These figures might seem small when considering a single document, but few company leaders have an accurate idea of how many pages employees churn out.

When asked, most people grossly underestimate their organizations‘s total annual print volume. We’ve found that companies routinely spend between 1 and 3 percent of their annual revenue on printing, year after year.

Big Potential Savings

In one year, the average employee prints around 6,000 pages, about half of which are not part of business requirements and workflows. That means a business that employs just 200 people could be throwing more than 600,000 pages in the trash — at a cost of $30,000 or more annually.

Often, it’s this kind of waste that drives managers to seek the cheapest solution, which usually involves compromising on the cost of the device. What’s the point in buying an expensive printer when so much of its output is wasted, right? Wrong.

While cheaper initially, these desktop printers actually cost businesses more in the long run. They have higher ink and toner costs and shorter life spans, and they usually require more frequent maintenance. High-quality network printers, on the other hand, print faster, last longer, and use cheaper ink.

In addition to recurring consumables costs, there’s the demand side of the print equation. Many documents are printed as part of required business processes, but a significant percentage of documents sent to a printer are merely the product of habit or convenience. Employees often print without giving it a second thought because it’s convenient and perceived as free — a misconception that’s only magnified when printers are right on people’s desks.

Reducing unnecessary office print volume should be a goal for any business leader looking to save on overhead costs. In reality, office printing is commonly overlooked in a company’s cost-reduction strategy.

The Numbers Make It Clear

Color inkjet printing typically costs between 15 cents and 35 cents per page on a locally connected printer, but that cost drops to as little as 4-5 cents on a shared multifunction device. Simply moving volume away from personal printers saves nickels and dimes on every color page printed. Multiply that by your total organizational print output, and the bigger picture starts to emerge.

Next, you have to factor in the role convenience plays in waste. When employees have their own personal printers, printing is perceived as a free, private, and personal service, rather than the significant cost to the company that it really is. Thus, reams of documents are printed that probably don’t need to be.

Simply put, people are more likely to use a printer that is within arm’s reach, but when they have to walk across the hall or office to collect a document at a shared network printer, they become more discerning. The documents printed this way are usually more relevant to business and valuable to one’s role. And when the number of printed documents goes down, the company’s costs go down with it.

Eliminating Personal Printers: Prep for Battle

Reducing — or, better yet, eliminating — personal printers is a sound business decision, but it’s not as easy as it might appear. Although these devices feed expensive habits, people can become surprisingly attached to them. Many appreciate the perk of having a personal printer, and taking it away can create discontent.

Business leaders need to communicate effectively and help employees understand that the change is ultimately for everyone’s benefit. Here are three steps to help make this process go smoothly:

1. Lead by example. Change must come gradually, and it should start at the top. To get team members to willingly relinquish their personal printers, senior executives should lead the way. When the C-suite gives them up first, it sends a powerful message that the change applies to everyone and that it’s not about a lack of trust in employees.

To convince other company leaders, focus on green metrics, sustainability, cost savings, and the supply chain efficiency gains that shared network printers provide.

2. Educate on security and confidentiality. A complaint often voiced about the removal of personal printers is that they’re required to protect document confidentiality. For example, a CFO doesn’t want company payroll, income, and expenditure records left on a shared printer to be picked up by an employee accidentally.

Fortunately — as paradoxical as it might sound — this problem is best mitigated at shared network printers, provided that a secure pull-printing solution is in place. With this technology, employees print from their computers just as they normally would, but the documents aren’t sent directly to a device and printed. Instead, they’re held in an encrypted virtual queue. The print output doesn’t actually occur until the employee walks up to a device and swipes his or her ID badge or access card. Documents can only be printed when their owner is standing there, ready to collect them. This way, the company can maintain document security while still enjoying the cost savings that shared network printing provides.

3. Employ change management tactics. Again, it’s important to help people understand that it’s not a lack of trust compelling this change; the point is to reduce organizational costs and waste, improve supply chain efficiency, and make the kind of significant sustainability gains that everyone will want to get behind. Change management techniques are an essential part of this process.

C-suite leaders must first get department managers on board as sustaining sponsors of the change. When the value of the change is communicated clearly and effectively — and employees can see how it will take the company to a better place — commitment to the change grows quickly.

Be sure to celebrate successes along the way! If cost savings achievements are only shared within the C-suite, people will be less likely to warm to the change, and you’ll miss out on a powerful way to build a culture of shared responsibility and teamwork.

Once the whole office is on board and the savings start adding up, you might consider treating your team to some of that relatively cheap Dom Perignon.