Any office that runs even one PC needs a printer to create hard copies of electronic documents and files. Despite the promises of paperless offices in the future, that era has not yet arrived. All sorts of business documentation needs to be printed, whether the business is a product- or service-oriented industry. Examples of common office documents include invoices, packing slips, flyers, and letters. Printers can be used not just to generate transfer electronic files to paper but also to create composite documents containing digital information and scanned images.
While the fax machine was once considered an indispensable piece of office equipment, electronic copies of just about any document are now possible. A scanner copies an image of papers that were not created electronically and converts them into digital images so that they can be stored on a computer or emailed. Examples of items that might need to be scanned include photographs, pages from print publications, cash register receipts, drawings, and forms that have been filled out by hand. Even a letter that was created in a computer software program might have been received in hard copy and so would need to be scanned. Before the invention of the scanner, the best that could be done with miscellaneous materials was to photocopy and file them, a practice which is still followed today in some places.
It is difficult to imagine, but there was once a time not too long ago when the only way to make a copy of a document was to replicate it by hand, either by typing it again or actually rewriting it. Offices used to employ special clerks called scribes or scriveners to perform this task. Even though the printing press was popularized in the West as early as the 15th century by Johannes Gutenberg, such presses were not always practicable for everyday office use. Some offices did purchase small printing presses when their business required multiple copies of documents; other firms simply outsourced these tasks to a larger printing press. Eventually, a variety of copying options came into practice, such as letter copying presses, copy pads and books, and roller copiers. Later developments included carbon paper, mimeographs, and the Ditto machine.
Eventually, xerography technology (“dry writing”) was perfected and led to the development of the copiers with which modern consumers are familiar. The first photocopiers produced black and white images, and these are still useful for many basic copying purposes. The choice of whether or not a color copier is needed is up to the office manager or business owner and depends on the types of documents that are copied regularly. Some businesses keep only a black and white copier on hand and send color copies out to an offsite print shop, but color technology is becoming more and more affordable, particularly with the introduction of combination copier/printer/scanner units.
4. Laminating Machines
Laminating machines are generally underutilized in most offices. When someone has gone to the trouble to print or copy a document, that document can be preserved by heat-sealing two thin layers of clear plastic over each side.
Laminators can be used to
- Create signage
- Produce ID badges
- Preserve photos
- Create long-lasting business cards
- Reinforce pages in a flip chart or spiral-bound booklet
Once an office obtains a laminator, the personnel may come up with many more creative uses for this equipment.
5. Label Makers
Like a laminating machine, a label maker might seem more like an extra. It is however a critical piece of equipment. The following list is just a handful of the many wonderful ways in which a business office can be better organized by using a label maker:
- Create file folder labels
- Label three-ring binders
- Assign mail cubbies
- Make “out of order” signage
- Stick an important number on a phone extension
- Identify computer hardware
- Create name tags
- Label cords and wires (“monitor to power,” “tower to monitor,” “router to modem,” and so forth)
Office personnel still tend to perpetuate the habit of printing out full sheets of paper for certain purposes; most of these tasks can easily be done with a label maker instead.
In a world where identity theft runs rampant, shredders are very important. Ironically, this piece of equipment destroys documents that employees work so hard to produce. Tearing papers into bits by hand is time-consuming and tiring. It is not always as effective as it needs to be. Paper shredders cut a sheet of paper into so many pieces that it is extremely difficult to put them back together. A shredder is a necessity in any business where confidentiality is a legal requirement. Industries such as law, medicine, and education are examples.