Case Study: Connected Technologies at Beacon Academy Trust
Beacon Multi-Academy Trust knows that there is much more to education than just lessons and qualifications. The trust uses the latest office technology - sophisticated multifunctional printers (MFPs), high resolution digital signage, powerful production-class printers and interactive flat panel displays - right across its campus, making its operation second nature to the students by the time that they leave.
As part of a recent review, the trust, which is responsible for around 3,500 students and 470 staff, conducted a room-by-room audit and discovered an opportunity to refresh its equipment fleet, gaining the efficiency and convenience of modern technology as well as substantial savings.
The audit reviewed not only the 600 printers owned by the trust, but their ages and reliability; ink stocks; running costs, and fitness for purpose. Perhaps for the first time, the trust knew exactly how much it was spending on printing.
“Printers – especially inexpensive desktop machines - aren’t something that you spend much time thinking about, but they can be surprisingly expensive to operate without some sort of centralised control,” said Kathryn Burns, the trust’s Managing Director.
One brand with many benefits
Following an invitation to tender, the trust decided to standardise on Sharp printers. As it turned out, a reduction in costs was just one of the benefits.
“When we looked at Sharp we realised that printing has changed a lot in the last few years,” said Burns. “For a start, the equipment is more reliable. What’s more, in our case, Sharp continuously monitors everything over a remote network connection. If there’s an issue, Sharp can usually fix it before it becomes a problem.”
The staff also benefit from a feature called ‘Follow Me’ printing. Instead of being printed immediately, documents are held in a secure print queue. When a teacher wants to collect the documents, he or she can walk up to any convenient printer, enter an identification code, and start the print run.
Not only does Follow Me printing eliminate reliance on a single printer, but it reduces the need to carry bundles of documents around. It also brings an end to the possibility of confidential documents being left in a printer’s output tray.
Cost and efficiency benefits
The trust has also implemented PaperCut software, to keep track of costs. “PaperCut tells us exactly how each machine is being used and produces a powerful audit tool,” said Burns. “If a department is printing or copying more than we expect, we can sometimes suggest a different way of working such as scanning documents directly to email addresses.”
“PaperCut can also translate the number of pages into how many trees have been consumed.
Another benefit from standardising on the Sharp brand is that every printer has a similar user interface and is controlled from a touchscreen display.
“We’ve got quite a few different models but they all work in the same intuitive way” said Burns. “In fact, we’ve bought two of Sharp’s big production printers (Polaris Pro) for our reprographics room and they are so easy to use that we’ve given the staff direct access. They are now incredibly adept at creating professional standard products”.
Beyond interactive whiteboards
The trust also took the opportunity to replace its interactive whiteboards with BIG PADs, Sharp’s latest interactive flat panel displays.
Tina Jacobs, who teaches Maths at Beal High School is a keen proponent of BIG PAD. “One of the joys is that I can use whatever software I want, when I want, however I want,” she said. “I use it for every single lesson.”
“With BIG PAD, you can take things from a PDF and from the web and annotate on top of it. You don’t even need a pen – you can use your fingers. The clarity is excellent, the colour is sensational and the kids love it. It’s also bright enough to be used in full daylight.”
“BIG PAD is very versatile, too. You can use it in one lesson and transmit everything to BIG PADs in other rooms. In other words, you can teach the same lesson in multiple classes simultaneously without moving people to a huge lecture hall.”
The case for reform
Kathryn Burns is in no doubt that every school and trust should consider moving to a centralised fleet of faster, more capable networked printers.
“The first step is to complete an audit. That will give you the facts you need to start making effective decisions. Look at the numbers, set your goals, and go out to tender. Look for a supplier who really understands the education sector. In our case, it was Sharp.”
“Our relationship with Sharp is very collaborative and has brought additional benefits that we simply didn’t envisage before we started. There is a flow of ideas and information that goes both ways. Sharp not only understands our ethos, they share it.”
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