A New Way to Manage Your Thermal Printers | Zebra Blog

Now Available: A New Way to (Have Someone Else) Manage Your Thermal Printers

Want to take the burden of configuring, securing, monitoring and managing your thermal printers off your IT or operations team? Need a better way to replenish supplies inventory? You can now enlist the help of a Managed Print Services provider thanks to Zebra’s recent printer updates.

A pharmacist pulls a label off a Zebra thermal printer
by Mark Zucherman
August 05, 2020

Thermal printers play a critical role in many business operations today. In healthcare facilities, they are essential to managing patient identification and specimen collection. Manufacturers use them for vital track and trace, warehouse management and parts availability applications. And retailers use them for shelf-edge price and product labels, inventory management and to ensure product availability. They need their thermal printers to be available – and reliable – 24/7.

The challenge is that integrating a thermal printer is not as simple as plugging it in to a computer or network, installing the drivers and then configuring a few settings. They have not traditionally behaved like plug-and-play devices. You can’t just “set and forget” about them.

Printer performance also has to be monitored and optimized pretty much around the clock. Can you imagine the consequences if even a single thermal printer goes down for any reason, even for a few minutes?

But, as anyone with a sizeable number of thermal printers knows all too well, maintaining their health and managing their status can be time consuming and taxing. Yet, the impact of not properly managing and maintaining your printer fleet can be just as costly – if not more so.

For example, as my colleague Mike Millman has explained before, printers can be a point of vulnerability in your network. Therefore, printer security has to be maintained as rigorously as a computing device.

The challenge is that most organizations’ IT departments don’t have the bandwidth to monitor their thermal printers’ performance all day, every day. Nor do they have the capacity to monitor the usage of printer supplies, which can also have a costly impact on business operations. So, organizations rely on their front-line workers to help maintain the printers, report issues and request supplies replenishment. The problem is that these workers may not have the tools or the time to manage the printer(s) as proactively as is needed. In fact, printer maintenance or replenishment actions may only be taken once an error message appears on the device, print quality diminishes or the supplies completely run out.

Though on-device troubleshooting or a call to IT may be able to help workers diagnose and resolve the issue in a matter of minutes, it could take days or weeks to get the right labels, wristbands, ribbons, printheads and other critical components on-site and get your printing application back up and running. In the meantime, business losses could be significant.

That is why, for years now, many companies have requested their “Managed Print Services” (MPS) providers to extend their offerings to thermal printers. They need someone with the right solution tools, expertise and resources to handle these complex management and logistics demands, just as MPS providers do for their other (non-thermal) business printers and copiers today.  

It is also why Zebra has been aggressively working with these leading MPS solution providers and partners to enable thermal printers to be managed in the exact same way. We want our customers to have the option to have their thermal printers fully managed by themselves, a third party or as part of the MPS agreement already in place for other printing devices.

We Don’t Just Want to Sell You a Thermal Printer. We Want to Help Your Thermal Printers Become More Manageable (Either by You or a Trusted Third-Party MPS Provider).

Until this year, if you needed to buy a thermal printer, your organization would call Zebra, a Zebra partner or (possibly) one of our competitors to buy the hardware. Once the printer was delivered and installed, it was completely up to you to maintain the reliability and availability of your thermal printing solution. You wouldn’t have had the option to add on a service level agreement (SLA) for MPS support like you would for all of your organization’s other office or desktop printers because thermal printers lacked the same capability needed to gain remote supplies and device management visibility.

Knowing this was a problem, Zebra went to work engineering and integrating our proprietary Print DNA software powered by Link-OS into our thermal printers specifically with device and Supplies visibility in mind. We also established long-term, collaborative relationships with key partners and leading MPS solution providers to develop and integrate additional device management capabilities. We wanted to give you, or whomever you designate, complete visibility into the status and supplies usage of all of your Zebra thermal network-attached printers. As a result of these partnerships, you now have the ability to plug in your thermal printer, connect it to the network and then essentially turn over all “management” and supplies replenishment responsibilities to an MPS provider under an annual SLA.

(A number of Zebra partners are now ready to provide you with Managed Print Services for your thermal printing solutions, and more are being added to the list every day!)

In other words, your entire thermal printing solution can now be procured “as-a-service” versus the traditional transactional sales model. That’s huge!

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of Managed Print Services or want to add your thermal printers onto an existing SLA, contact your Zebra solution provider or visit our website.

If you’re a Zebra partner who would like to expand your MPS offering to cover Zebra thermal printers, please contact your account manager to discuss next steps.

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