If your business processes rely on industrial, desktop or mobile label printers, you probably have an idea what they cost to operate. From the cost of the printer itself, to the cost of ribbons, labels, and other supplies, your budget undoubtedly covers all of the hard costs of owning and operating your printer fleet. You may even have accounted for the cost of maintenance.

But what about the unknown costs that you didn’t budget for?

Downtime is a problem that virtually every printer user is familiar with, but how many managers really know the cost of lost productivity that results when printers fail?

How many decision makers have quantified the downstream costs associated poor quality printing or the potential costs of dealing with security issues that might result if hackers use printers to access your network?

Often, it’s these hidden or unknown costs that have the biggest impact on the total cost of ownership. So, let’s take a look at four ways choosing the wrong printer can hurt your bottom line.

Durability and Reliability

Of all the hidden costs associated with printer usage, downtime is the one that users are most familiar with. In fact, it’s fair to say the costs of printer downtime aren’t really hidden, because it’s pretty obvious when a printer-dependent workflow grinds to a halt due to a printer malfunction. Whether it’s a simple jam at the feeder or a complete printhead failure, your productivity is going to suffer if your printers aren’t up to the task.

Evaluating printers for durability and long-lasting reliability is critical. A warehouse, loading dock, or fulfillment center are much more demanding environments than an office; that’s why industrial printers are built with durable components that can withstand years of abuse in these challenging environments.

Print Quality

Quality output is essential whenever you’re printing barcodes. Whether you’re labeling parts in a manufacturing plant or samples in a medical lab, if the labels are difficult to read due to poor print quality, downstream workflows will suffer.

Poor registration, streaking, or voids can cause defective labels that slow or stop work further down the line. And the costs can be even greater in applications such as food packaging or pharmaceuticals, where compliance with strict label quality standards is required.

The best way to mitigate quality control issues is to start with a printer that is engineered for consistent, high-quality output in your specific application. Zebra’s ZT600 Series Industrial Printers offer a great example of a printer lineup that’s engineered for high-quality output. They offer precise registration with up to 600 DPI printing that produces consistent, readable results for labels as small as 3 mm for applications like circuit boards, micro-chips and other miniature components.

Printer Supplies

Labels and supplies are a significant part of the overall cost of your barcode label printer. Obviously, you’re going to monitor the up-front cost of labels and supplies very closely; but what about the hidden cost of poor performance if you choose the wrong supplies for your application?

Using the wrong labels can lead to all sorts of problems, from costly downtime due to printer jams (see above) to production bottlenecks if your labels don’t allow you to print at maximum speed. And, of course, there’s the lost productivity and expense if your labels require rework or replacement further downstream.

Choosing the right labels and supplies will increase your efficiency and minimize time-consuming workarounds. Inferior supplies and printheads can end up costing you more in the long run.


With all the devices connected to your computer systems — laptop computers, mobile devices, tablets, etc. — printers are often overlooked as an entry point for unauthorized access. In fact, any device that’s connected to your data systems is a potential vulnerability: just like a compromised laptop, an unsecured printer can be used to launch an attack on other connected devices. It only takes a brief review of the latest ransomware headlines to understand that this can be a very expensive.

The first step toward making sure your printers don’t serve as an unauthorized access point to your data systems is to choose a printer that has robust built-in security capabilities right out of the box. And it shouldn’t require a PhD in device security to manage security settings. One of the reasons we recommend Zebra printers is that they feature highly effective, built-in security tools that are easy to integrate, easy to manage remotely and — most important — are fully capable of shielding you from dangerous IoT attacks.

If your business is searching for ways to reduce the total cost of ownership of your printer fleet, MSM and Zebra can help. Contact MSM today to get a handle on all the costs associated with printer ownership, including the costs that you can’t see.