Insights for Copier Technicians Making the Switch to Printers


Over the last few years it has become obvious that being only a copier technician is not enough. More and more service companies are requiring that their copier technicians work on printers, too. In this article, I will discuss why this has become the new trend and what I believe copier technicians can do to make this transition as smooth as possible. I went from being a computer, printer, typewriter, fax, and plotter technician to a copier tech and I’ve trained computer and copier techs to work on printers. I’m not saying I’m an expert in this field but I have noticed several things that copier techs tend to do and things that they have been able to implement to ease the transition into their new role.

Why are Copier Technicians now Becoming Printer Technicians?
Analog copiers used to break with pretty regular frequency. While copiers still tend to require repair more often than printers, new digital copiers tend to break less often. Copier dealerships in the past few years have either been forced to downsize their technicians because they don’t have enough work load or they explore new opportunities in printers and try to set upMPSprograms to handle all of their customers’ equipment needs.

Times are changing and dealerships that aren’t on board with expanding their service opportunities are falling by the wayside. If a technician is not open to working on a variety of makes and models they will soon find themselves replaced by someone willing to take on the new work load. I’ve seen it happen both ways. I’ve seen a dealership die because they refused to work on anything but Toshiba’s and I’ve seen a dealership grow quickly when they expanded from just working on Konica’s to working on everything. We’ve had technicians willing to work on anything and they grew with the company and were very profitable.

Others went through the steps and didn’t really take the time to learn the new trade. Unfortunately, in this situation, this causes disappointment in the long term for everyone when work dries up and the technician gets less hours and, ultimately, needs to move on to something else.

What Does a Copier Technician Need to Know to Get Started in Printer Repairs?

Using the Internet
For reasons I’ll never understand, copier technicians have a different mind-set than printer techs when it comes to sharing information. Unless you’re friends with them, well, good luck getting a copier tech to help you with a problem! And finding a free service manual or locating error codes and troubleshooting information on the internet is nearly impossible for copiers. In most cases, in order to get a service manual or support you have to purchasing the service manual or a set of Intravia Manuals.

Getting help with printers is a lot different. Just about any HP, Lexmark, or Brother service manual can be found and downloaded for free online. If you need help with an error code just type the make and model of the printer plus the error code or description into Google. Many of the large parts vendors have a lot of this information on their websites and usually offer free tech support, if needed.

There are also several online forums to ask questions and get a more specific response from somebody who has already experienced the same problem. So, unlike with copiers, the internet is one of your main sources for finding basic, or even hard to find, printer answers.

Visit Market Point’s technical resources page, review the Open Forum: Tech Questions on this blog and scroll through the archives of this blog for all kinds of helpful printer related troubleshooting tips and tricks.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
Probably the best thing my high school electronics teacher ever taught me is this acronym. Copiers, in my opinion, are a lot more complicated than printers; more moving parts, more replaceable parts, and tons of service simulations to diagnose and fine tune.

In copiers, rebuilding a drum, developer or fuser is an everyday thing. With printers the drum and toner are usually all one piece. While printer fusers can be torn down and rebuilt, they are relatively cheap so replacing them is many times more cost effective than rebuilding. Most parts inside printers are modular; so replacing a small part is not usually an option like on a copier.

Most HP printers have a service mode but it’s only used for restoring page counts, formatter info, or cold resets and preventive maintenance (PM) resets. Most service routines are run in the diagnostics menu. However, they generally are only used for running print test, or to check sensors and motor operations.

The main thing I’ve noticed when a copier tech asks me questions about printers is that they usually make the problem more complicated than what it really is. They are used to dealing with faulty clutches, dirty charge grids, worn developer seals, and other various copier issues so they can become blinded by the easier fixes. Whenever I find myself frustrated and confused I always think back to K-I-S-S. I go back and start isolating various parts of the machine till I find the answer. The best thing I can tell a copier tech is, “Before you get too involved in tearing apart the machine, keep in mind that lots of parts are modular so taking an assembly like a fuser apart to remove a broken piece of plastic could just be creating more work when you most likely will have to replace the whole fuser anyway.”

Market Point NOTE:  When replacing a printer’s fuser, there are many factors to consider that will impact the overall cost to both the service company and the customer. We recommend using OEM fusers. OEM fusers have a less than 1% failure rate, while the failure rate of industry standard refurbished fusers is 4% – 10%. A higher failure rate translates to more call backs, reduced profits and low customer satisfaction.  

Repair vs. Replace
Another thing a lot of copier technicians don’t realize is the relatively lower cost of printers. While copiers can cost between $2,000 and $10,000 and sometimes more, the majority of the printers in today’s market are under $1,000.

Performing a $300 to $500 PM every year or two on a copier is no big deal.  Whereas, on most printers, with any service bill over $300 the customer is ready to throw the machine away and buy another.

Again, unlike with copiers, with printers there is no room for mark up when selling a printer. In most cases you’re lucky to make $50 to $75 on a new machine sale and then you probably won’t see any repair business on the new machine for another year or two because they don’t break like copiers do.

At one of our locations a certain technician was constantly selling new printers rather than fixing them. Eventually, that location had sold so many new printers that they ran out of service business because the new machines didn’t require very much service. So keep in mind that it is important to keep the repair cost down and you need to be able to justify the benefits of repairing the machine rather replacing it; because, in most cases, it’s more profitable to the service company to fix a printer rather than replace it and it generally is more cost effective for the customer, as well. Obviously, use your best judgement; if the machine is shot or needs several, higher cost parts replaced, then a new printer might be the right choice.

Understand, unless printers get lots of usage it’s not common to see them for maintenance and/or repair more than once or twice a year. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had customers tell me the copier technician is there all the time and their HP printer never needs service. If you find yourself working on the same printer 3 to 4 times in a year it might be time to upgrade or replace.

Training
Several printer parts vendors have scheduled training programs to which an employer can send their techs. The majority of these classes cover a variety of machines from a certain manufacture. I personally haven’t been to one of these classes by a parts vendor, but I have been to Brother, HP, and Sharp classes. The main thing I can say that I got out of the experience is more confidence on the machines. And, in my opinion, one of the best qualities of a technician is confidence. I’d rather have a tech come back and tell me what he did even if it didn’t fix the problem instead of not doing anything because they weren’t sure what to do. Then I have to go out and look at it myself.  That’s costly to my business.

If you are an authorized service provider, I highly recommend taking advantage of the online training material that will be available to you. While it may not be as good as having the machines right in front of you, most have videos and guides that show part removal, part locations, machine specifications, theory of operation, troubleshooting tips, and most training guides.  The tests require techs to search through the service manuals so if you do run into problems on the machine you’re servicing you know where to look for possible solutions to properly repair the equipment.

I know Brother, Sharp, Kyocera, Okidata, Xerox, and HP all have their training and authorization test online so I would image most other manufactures work the same way.

Conclusion
Yes, once I get started it seems I could go on forever. The main thing I can say as a conclusion is to become familiar with the online resources. They will be your best friend.  Like copiers, printer manufactures tend to use the same error codes throughout their different models, so find a cheat sheet for the different manufactures and carry it around with you. You’ll be able to easily find out what the error code means.

And remember, keep it simple, stupid.  Don’t over think it. If you have to start tearing apart an assembly like a transport unit or pick up assembly, you might want to stop and find out if you can even get the part. Don’t create more work for yourself.

Next, know the value of the machine you are servicing. With printers it’s typically more profitable to fix than replace. So make sure repair costs don’t exceed the value of the machine.

Finally, I realize most techs hate to sit down and do training but in the long run you will be doing yourself a huge favor and most employers like the fact that you’re taking the time to do more than the average person would do.

Here are some helpful links to get your started:

Lexmark Printer Error Codes

General Lexmark Troubleshooting

HP Printer Error Codes

Easy Parts Finder

Good luck!

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Kevin Gumpp is a certified printer technician and freelance writer for Market Point. If you have a question regarding this topic or have any other printer repair related questions or topics for which you would like more information, please send an email to maryp@marketpoint.com.

One thought on “Insights for Copier Technicians Making the Switch to Printers

  1. Very good article. As the owner of a five year old quickly growing copier and MPS Dealer we have found MPS to be a great on-ramp for future copier techs. They gain great troubleshooting experience working on our MPS fleet. I couldn’t agree more about copier techs not wanting to change, they will be out of a job if they don’t but will have lots of opportunity if they are willing to adapt.

    Like this

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