Thursday, 29 January 2015

Tulips from Amsterdam

Let me tell you a story. For anyone who remembers Max Bygraves, he was an entertainer of dubious merit in my opinion, but he was also infamous for being a bit tight with his money. Hence using his trade mark act-opening line is most appropriate. The following is a hypothetical lesson in why you cannot do what we do for free.

Let’s just say you are a multi-site operation with one big head office, a regional centre and a lot of satellites. All in all you have 200 printers and you are going to replace all of them from a new supplier. But that leaves you with 200 problems at the very least.

These 200 printers are not new. You do not know what condition they are in but you talk to those nice people at eReco, amongst others as this a well proper procurement job, and they point out that each one of those printers is a possible data nightmare. I must confess to sometimes being the bringer of sad tidings and this is one of those moments. Data safe means data safe.

Just about every printing device retains the last couple of jobs. Not all of them have a memory as such, in terms of a wipable or removable hard drive, but a reflection of the last jobs it did that can only be removed by a sort of tricky factory reset operation.

So, as this is a proper procurement job, with risk assessments and careers on the line, we are not going to risk any data breaches, therefore the job has to be done securely. And the satellite operations are quite literally all over the place. The logistics are a potential nightmare.

Pricing such a job takes about a day in all. The 200 printers are all different makes and models and we need to know how much they weigh, for transport purposes. We need to assess their remarketing value if they are in good condition. We need to know where they are. There are good reasons why I often fall asleep in front of the TV, the next instalment of this blog half-finished on my laptop...

And let me tell you something ladies and gentlemen, this job is not flipping FREE. You may have noticed that I don’t like that term when applied to offering our services. I have blogged about it several times before and I shall blog about it again. But in this instance, let me take you through some rule of thumb costing and see what you think.

Each one of our vehicles goes out with two men on board. Well, people if I am in a politically correct mood, which I rarely am, but I am making a special effort for everyone today. So the cost of running the van based on mileage and two salaries, because damn it all, we all expect to get paid. And our collections are always secure, so CRB checked personnel and experienced people, not minimum wage by any means. So basic costs of the van, the two people and the stuff needed to run all day is somewhere north of £500, but I will settle on that for the moment.

Having wrestled with the logistics, I work out that we have 6 van days. So there you have £3000 and we have not man-handled a printer yet...or is that people-handled? We are then going to do several thousands of miles getting round to all these offices, so there is a per mile charge to cover diesel and tolls and parking and maintenance and bacon rolls. Our people will not go anywhere without the promise of a spectacular bacon roll.

Then we have the weight of all these machines, which have to be loaded and unloaded, and tracked into our system, and be processed, cleaned, tested and, if possible, resold. Let me tell you that the final quotation is going to be about £12,000 or £60 a printer.

I have to say that is on the dear side. Our scenario is unusual in its multi-site nature and the geographic spread, but to get back to my point, how can anyone cover that for free? Even by cutting the corners on process, security and bacon rolls, you still have to do the mileage and move upwards of 4500 kilograms of kit.

If every printer is in good order, we reckon we could get £3,500 for them. That is £17.50 each. Scrap value would be barely £500, so the final figure will be somewhere in between. And still people are surprised that we want to charge them for our recycling services?

Yes this is an extreme case but we get one of these a month to quote on average. You cannot do things properly for free, as the actress said to the bishop.

Old Max was quite fond of the ladies too, as I remember.