One of the most important qualities of a printer/copier is ppm or pages per minute. It’s not the only factor, not by a longshot. But, copy speed is certain to be heavily factored in when deciding on which copier, or multifunction printer (MFP), to lease or buy.

Much like an automobile’s horsepower, top printer speed is not always utilized, but it’s nice to have it when it’s needed. On the other hand, do you really need to lease a Corvette when most of your driving occurs within a radius of 10 miles or less, on city streets?

For now, let’s take an objective look at MFP ppm speed. We’ll start with one question: is faster always better?

Is Faster Always Better?

Not necessarily. There are a wide array of speeds available in the MFP market, generally ranging from about 25 ppm on the low side to over 65 ppm on the high side. Before we get into a discussion of what types of MFPs are best for what purposes, let’s consider some factors other than ppm.

1. Cost

Your budget is a main consideration when deciding on an MFP. And by cost, I don’t just mean bottom-line, dollar outlay. Buy too much MFP and you may be wasting money. However, an under-performing, too slow MFP, for your enterprise, can cost even more money in the long run.

2. Quality

Are your enterprise needs mainly rough draft copies for in house distribution? Will the majority of your prints be simplex or duplex, i.e., one-sided or two? What do you need most, color or black-and-white? Do you print booklets? These are just some of the extenuating factors to consider when buying or leasing an MFP.

3. Monthly Volume

Your workflow may vary from day to day, even week to week. You may need to produce, say, 30,000 copies per month. But are they needed at a steady pace of 3,000 per day, or about 7,500 per week? Or does your business require a huge chunk of that volume, 20,000 for example, during the last week, or even the last day of each month? A lower speed MFP would have no problem with 3,000 copies a day, but it would take a lot longer for the same device to print 20,000 copies than a higher speed MFP.

4. The Print Environment

The overall mix of devices in your enterprise should be taken into account. If you have several MFPs, they don’t necessarily all have to have super-high speed capabilities.

Speed Guidelines – If Speed Were the Only Factor

At the low end of the spectrum — maxing out between 25 and 35 pages per minute (ppm) — there are quite a few high quality copiers and MFPs that can do much of what their higher speed counterparts can. They have options available such as automatic document feeders, finishers, and duplex printing. But their relatively low ppm speed is a drawback if your enterprise prints moderately high volumes of copies, say more than 8,000–10,000 per month.

Above 10,000 copies per month, anywhere from 10,000 up to about 30,000, I would focus on MFPs that promise to deliver at least 40 ppm, and perhaps as high as 50–60 ppm. This speed range gives you a lot of flexibility if your production volume needs fluctuate significantly.

If you are regularly printing more than 40,000 copies a month, then 60 ppm should be your standard. Even if the large print job just occurs occasionally, it is good to have the capacity available when you need it. Not only will running a large print job on a low-speed machine take longer, it will put more wear and tear on the machine than the same job run on a fast device.

Again, these are just basic guidelines. Many factors go into deciding on the right devices for your office’s document output needs. So how do you know how much copier speed you really need?

A good place to start is with an assessment of your entire print environment. This assessment should be performed by a brand-agnostic vendor or managed print services (MPS) provider — one that has no vested interest in selling you a particular brand or line of devices. This assessment will objectively weigh all factors in recommending the best print solution for you.