Managing Depart IDs (Pin Codes) on a fleet of MFDs \ Copiers

October 6, 2012

Canon calls them Department IDs, you may hear them called Pin Codes. But a rose by any other name…

Depart IDs have been used to control and track copy usage long before the copier became the MFD, when we connected them to the network. They were the most basic way to track what users copied. Department IDs also evolved so you could also use them to track printing as well. When Color MFDs came into the Office the biggest concern customers had who were switching from B&W to a Color MFD was “How do I control color cost”? Pin codes were the answer, they could be used to lock down JUST COLOR COPIES & PRINTS. Where you could copy or print in B&W without entering a code, but if you tried to copy or print in color it would give you a pop up and you had to enter a valid pin code that was set up on the copier or it would deny your job. The fact that users knew that they were being tracked REALLY helped control color usage & cost. Because they knew if the monthly report showed that they had done 5,000 color copies \ prints that the would have to defend that number to their boss.

Dept. IDs could also be set up to only lock down certain functions. If you wanted to track ALL copies & prints, but wanted to leave Fax & Scanning open you could set your Dept IDs to lock down just copy & print, but fax & scan could be used without entering a pin code.

The best thing about Department IDs is that they are a standard feature on the Canons, and most MFDs have something similar. They are turned off by default but can be easily turned on and set up by your technician or even your sales person. They work great on a single device but they have their limitations. The first being that they are copier centric which is fine when you have one MFD, and OK when you have two, and maybe three MFDs,  but they do not scale well. Since they have not been designed to be centrally managed, managing & tracking a number of MFDs that have Dept IDs has proven to be labor intensive. As the number of MFDs scales up the labor required to manage their Dept. IDs increases exponentially! But like a lobster in a pot, if the heat gets turned up slowly over time, the customer may not notice until they are boiling, and then they are so married to the system changing it to a centrally managed system is hard to justify the ROI, because the Dept. IDs kinda work, if you do a lot of work.

There has never been an easy way to manage Pin codes across multiple machines. They have also traditionally had very limited reporting. But that was done on purpose (IMHO), they call it “a Marketing decision”. The manufacturers wanted to sell you something that was NOT a standard feature (like eQuitrac for example). The problem with eQuitrac or similar optional equipment has been the cost, and often they would require hardware terminals (affectionately know as the brick). I will say that Equitrac and others have written embedded software that runs within the copier and is accessed through the copier’s touch screen. This embedded software is cheaper then the hardware terminal but there is still a licensing fee, that on a fleet of MFDs drives up the price of the solution. Customers were often left with the choice of the cheaper less functional solution (Pin Codes) or the much more expensive eQuitrac type solution. .

But I may have found the middle ground. I recently used Canon UniFLOW solution to push out a standard list of Department IDs to 165 Canons. and automate the monthly allocation report by having the previous months totals emailed to the finance department on the first day of each month. Not only will the UniFLOW report give a break down of copies, prints, color, B&W, Faxes, and even scans, but it will calculate the cost for each Dept ID so that all the Finance department needs to do is bill it.

You may say that sounds a lot like an eQuitrac style solution, but the difference is I didn’t need to touch any of the 165 Canon MFDs. I was able to import an Excel spread sheet of standard (numeric) cost centers with Alphanumeric Descriptions into UniFLOW as Cost Centers. Then we pushed out these cost centers as department IDs. This all happened without the end users even being aware it was being done. No client needed to be loaded on the copier, no hardware had to be attached, we didn’t even need to reboot the copier. Now, only 165 out of 300 Canons at this account uses Dept IDs (Pin Codes) to track the MFD usage. the other 135 are wide open with no Dept IDs to use the Canon. For these Canons we simply assign a default cost center in UniFLOW and then set up the report that will track the copy & print activity by cost center for all 300 Canon MFDs and we never touched a single Canon!

DEPT IDs are a simple yet elegant solution. I come not to bury Dept IDs but to praise them (my apologies to Shakespeare) . Using UniFLOW to centrally manage and track Dept IDs overcomes their greatest weakness. But you may say UniFLOW supports Pin Codes on their embedded MEAP app, why not just use the UniFLOW MEAP App. The simple answer is costs. Just like the embedded Equitrac software there is a licensing cost per MFD. That doesn’t mean the customer may not eventually migrate to the embedded UniFLOW software, but it doesn’t have to be an ALL OR NOTHING proposition. This can be an evolution rather than a revolution. The upgrade path can happen over the period of the lease or the next level of functionality can be added with the next lease.

The reason that this customer decided to add UniFLOW was a clear ROI. It use to take them 3 months to gather and allocate the cost of their copiers so they could charge back the respective departments. And to be honest they knew that they were not accurately tracking all the usage. Now with UniFLOW they get this process automated and an email shows up on the first day of every month with an Excel or PDF file attached. The lesser cost of UniFLOW using Dept IDs over a full fledge version of UniFLOW with MFD clients or Equitrac was an easy sell. There is also a clear upgrade path with features that the customer has already indicated that they want such as tracking ALL NETWORK PRINTING by adding UniFLOW RPS software to their 8 Print Servers, Secure Printing tied to their companies security access cards, which would also give them Secure Mobile Printing. On a side note they have already rolled out a small test group or 12 MFDs that are using the UniFLOW Advanced Scanning Module to scan into a back end system. UniFLOW is modular and scalable so we can install it to meet their current need and then leverage that investment to add additional functionality without having to re purchase the core server. UniFLOW helps me add value, and show an excellent ROI, without making my customers choose all or nothing.

That’s my $0.02
Vince McHugh


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