The photocopier remains a modern convenience that we take for granted until we need more ink or a part for our machine. And the situation where a machine breaks down in an office is not uncommon. The evolution of these machines and the quest to obtain the right parts and supplies has gone on for decades, and continues to change. Where we are today and where we’re going is shaping up to be full of potential as it becomes cheaper and easier to get what you need.
The history of photocopiers begins in the first half of the 20th century, when patent attorney Chester Carlson developed an early prototype of what would become the common photocopier as a means of making his job easier. As his technology developed and various businesses offered to work with him, the product became more sophisticated. He eventually joined with Haloid Corporation to create the “Xerox Machine” and would change the name of the company to Xerox Corporation.
As with many dominant products, the brand name quickly became the name of the process itself, and “Xeroxing” was the lingo used to describe photocopying. As competitors began to pop up in the early second half of the century, photocopiers were only beginning to appear in offices around the country. Similarly, further features would be implemented into the devices, including the ability to print on both sides of a piece of paper, automatically scan multiple pages, and even sort and staple copies. This also meant the parts and supplies became more complicated.
The technology developed further in the coming decades. Color photocopiers made the tools even more powerful, although the threat of counterfeit currency required the government create more sophisticated watermarks on legal tender to ensure that such a feat would be more difficult. As photocopiers became more common devices with the move into consumer electronics, the next big wave was taking place: the move to digital technology.
Digital technology enhanced the photocopying process in numerous ways. The copying process could be sped up with technology such as “automatic digital collation,” which allowed for photocopied images to be saved digitally rather than re-scanned when making multiple copies. The most straightforward benefit to digital photocopying was the ability to convert documents to digital files that could be transferred over the Internet, allowing any document to be printed at any location.
All of these developments led to lower prices for the technology that helped photocopiers become a common sight both in the workplace and in consumers’ homes. While that led to a great democratization for printing things at reasonable prices in the convenience of your own home, this also led to a profusion of different copiers, each with their own proprietary parts and inks. Technology and office supply stores were soon saddled with stocking up on a wide variety of parts if they were going to keep their customers supplied.
Just as it had changed the photocopier business before, so would digital technology change things once again. The ability to order parts and inks online came to the rescue of the diffuse items consumers were looking for in their specific printers. One of the leaders in purchasing parts and supplies online today is the Copier Supply Store, which owns multiple warehouses totaling tens of thousands of square feet of inventory for the express purpose of providing quick shipping times for their 8,000+ units of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) products. Bruce Cooperman, CEO of Copier Supply Store, has witnessed this shift in the industry. Where once a company would purchase a lease for a copier that would include free supplies, it became cheaper and more convenient to get parts and suppliers from online retailers.
Cooperman attributes the continued growth of Copier Supply Store and companies like it to the Internet. Online ordering makes it easy for customers to purchase the machine parts and supplies they’re looking for regardless of the manufacturer or what’s in stock at the local office supply store. With enough warehouses across the country, delivery times can be made quicker and cheaper. Copier Supply Store recently added warehouses in Reno, NV and Philadelphia, PA, totaling 30,000 additional square feet of inventory. The company is also moving its south Florida warehouse in order to cover more of the southeast at ground rate. Smart placement of these warehouses has created a network with ideal shipping conditions regardless of where you’re ordering from.
But the photocopying industry is one that is ever evolving, and those looking to take advantage of that fact have their eyes on the horizon. When asked about the future of the industry, Cooperman sees the next few years as the beginning of a move into the 3D printing world. For the time being, he sees toner-based machines as a necessity for businesses, but when the world is ready for that next evolution of photocopying, he’ll be prepared.