This is an update on the proposed arrangements for staff and student printing across the Campus from August. Some time ago, I wrote a post to outline our new strategy, and another one about the suggested choice of paper.

As a reminder, over the past couple of years we have been moving towards a new print strategy based around using the Canon multi function devices (MFD’s) across the Campus, and the “print@RGU” facility. By the end of August, we will also have moved all student printing across to Canon so that for the first time all staff and students are using the same print fleet.

As part of this move, we have been looking at the type of paper being used. Since staff and students are sharing the same print fleet and can print from any printer, we need to standardise on a single grade of paper to be used across the Campus to avoid confusion and additional costs. A recycled grade of paper has been trialled for a while and is currently in use by staff across a number of Schools and Departments. However, feedback from students was that for various (good) reasons they wished to have a grade of paper that was white and it is not therefore possible to use the current choice of recycled grade as standard grade of paper across the institution.

The Print Strategy Steering Group has considered this at length and has concluded that the best choice of paper in the first instance is not a recycled grade but a grade of “everyday” white paper which is sourced from sustainable forests. This still ensures that we are taking into account environmental considerations with regard to our paper choice, but will allow us to move to a shared fleet of staff and student printers without the added complications of trying to finalise a choice of recycled paper at the same time. It is also a grade of paper which can be used by the Gatehouse (our central printing department) and therefore means that all standard printing across the University will be using the same grade of paper.

Once the operation of the new print fleet has settled down, it will still be our intention to revisit the paper choice and evaluate in a more measured way the potential to use a recycled grade of paper as our core standard across the University.

A user group has been set up to look at the operation of the new print fleet, and arrangements for replenishment of toner and paper, and any updated guidance / procedures will be advised to staff as soon as they are finalised.

What kind of paper should we use in our printers?

Last summer, I wrote a post about our planned print strategy. This is now well underway – most staff areas now have multifunction devices (i.e. MFD’s, i.e. combined photocopiers/printers/scanners) which are networked and which they can now access using the “PrintAtRGU” print queue. Students at the moment use a separate fleet of printers, but largely the same system. Over the summer the University will move to a single fleet of printers for both staff and students – anyone will be able to print to any printer anywhere on the campus. We are just now at the point of looking at how this print fleet will be supported across the organisation.

One issue that has come up is our choice of paper. Throughout 2012 and into 2013 the Waste Management Group has worked with Departments to trial the use of 100% recycled paper.  As well as being 100% recycled, the paper is not bleached, nor does it contain optical brightening. This means that its natural colour is off-white (similar to paperback books) which makes a visual statement that the University is making a commitment to the environment.

This paper is being promoted throughout the public sector for its environmental credentials and other users include the NHS and some Scottish Government departments. Feedback during the trial was both positive and negative but in overall terms concluded that the grade of paper trialled was suitable for internal use but might not be suitable for official documents, some external correspondence, or colour prints where high quality colour definition is important. Documents printed on this paper are reported to be easier to read for those with, for example, Dyslexia.

Some of the feedback also raised interesting questions. One person observed that “Tipp-ex” correcting fluid showed up starkly on the off white paper. Others found that when photocopying the paper, because it is off-white the photocopier tries to copy the darker background copy of the paper as well as the text – using more toner. I have no idea why we are still using “Tipp-ex” or photocopying documents that can more easily be reprinted from the electronic original (or better, not printed at all!) but that’s for another day.

This recycled paper is already widely used across the University and as we are now moving to one shared printer fleet across all staff and students, it will be important to minimise the different types of paper in use across the organisation. At present, some staff areas use the recycled paper but student printers still use regular white paper. It will be confusing in future if staff or students have to think which printer or printer tray to use in order to get which type of paper. There will always be a need to keep stocks of regular white and headed paper, but it will be less confusing if other than that the paper choice can be standardised as much as possible across the University. That discussion is about to start and any comments or suggestions would be very welcome!



RGU Business Travel Processes

I mentioned last year that we were planning to look at the University’s business travel processes and how these could be “e-enabled”. The Lean Kaizen event took place in December, and my thanks to the team for a great job. Here are some of their key findings and suggestions:

We currently process about 3,000 forms every year through the paper process. Some get lost, many are not correctly filled in or are incomplete. Visit reports are prepared but are often filed and never used to help future travellers. It can take up to 3 weeks to authorise travel in some instances. The team looked at flight bookings in particular and found that many of these were booked very close to the time of travel – 20% less than two weeks before travel. The team reckons that if a more efficient booking process allowed flights to be booked at least 4 weeks in advance we could save up to £30k per annum.

The team looked in depth at how a new electronic process might work and came up with 4 key objectives.

1)   It will be simple, paperless, and completed within 1 week. The electronic process will be smart enough to know where you are travelling, and particularly for local travel will present a much simpler form.

2)   It will provide useful information to management and travellers. For management, the system will provide information on current and future travellers by destination and analyse travel patterns. For travellers, the team have suggested some kind of internal “Trip Advisor” capability so that travellers can share information on different destinations.

3)   It will allow the University to keep in contact with travellers where required. We do have many staff travelling to a whole range of international destinations. Situations can change quickly and for some destinations we will want regular contact to ensure that staff are safe and well.

4)   It will assist the University to meet its strategic objectives. We want to make sure that the system helps to encourage staff to avoid travel where possible, and to use more sustainable travel in preference to high carbon modes of travel.

Next stage is to start the detailed work of putting together the electronic system. We would hope to have something up and running by the Summer and will keep you posted as this develops.

Members of the Lean Kaizen team were:

Professor David Gray (Images Research Institute), Amy Jones (Aberdeen Business School), Ally Flett & Claire Murray (Research and Enterprise Services), Debbie Teperek (Exec Support), Julie Deighton (International Office), Karen Henderson (Pharmacy and Life Sciences), Laurie Power, Petrena Morrison & Ros Shanks (School of Engineering). Renee Raper from HR facilitated the week.

My Slender Friend

Often, when I discuss with a friend or colleague “thin client” I get (understandably) a completely blank look. Most desktop computers in use at RGU today are what we in the trade call “fat client”. That means that the box that sits on your desk (or under it) is a fully fledged personal computer, usually running Microsoft Windows or Apple OSX, with software installed on it to meet your needs – just like the one you probably have at home. So you’ve learned something – your home computer is a “fat client”.

And if your home computer is anything like the norm, it’s a bit of work to keep it up to date. There are always new versions of software to load, updates being downloaded, things go wrong, and it has to be backed up so that you don’t lose any of your files and settings (you do backup your home computer . . . don’t you?). When you get a new computer, there is all the pain of transferring across all your software and files and of course always some software that stubbornly refuses to work on the new computer.

If that’s a battle at home, try managing 3000 of these things in an environment like the University. They also consume a lot of energy and output a lot of heat – particularly where you have lots of PC’s in an IT Lab.

So, if that’s “fat client”, what’s “thin?”. With “thin client”, all your software, settings and data are run on central servers. At RGU, you access these through our “MyApps” service which I have mentioned in a previous post. The box that sits on your desk has just about nothing in it – it just has to connect you to MyApps. That’s why it is called “thin”. That means it’s dead simple, uses little energy and it’s a piece of cake to install it. If it goes wrong – just get another one.

We are shortly going to start installing these across the University to replace traditional PC’s. This will substantially reduce our energy bills and simplify our IT support. What does a “thin client” look like? It looks just like a “fat client” except it’s thinner and totally silent. You still have a keyboard, you still have a mouse, you still have a monitor, and the software you use is still the same.

I’ve just received one, and I will use it from now on as my main University computer. I am writing this blog entry on it – it’s just the same as using Microsoft Word on any computer.

We won’t be putting thin client everywhere – some specialist software applications run better with a “fat client” computer so we will keep these where they are required. Wherever possible, however, we will over the next few years be buying “thin client” computers instead.

Andy McCreath

Green ICT

Hopefully you will have read the recent edition of RGU’s “Green Times” – if not you can read it here.

It includes an article which shows the environmental impact of PC’s being left switched on and what you can do to help – by turning your PC off when it is not in use. What is less obvious to our staff and students is the impact of “behind the scenes” ICT. Way back in 2007, the Gartner Group estimated that globally information and communications technology contributes to some 2% of total carbon emissions.

That’s about the same as the aviation industry. A quarter of the ICT related emissions come from data centres running servers, which then require further energy to keep them cool. . .

We have many servers running in our server rooms on Campus, and the rooms themselves are nothing like as efficient as modern datacentre standards. We expend much more energy on cooling than we need to. Aberdeen University is in a similar situation, so are Aberdeen College and Banff and Buchan College (although they have recently upgraded their server room), and at the moment we all run our data centres independently from each other. Over the past 3 years we have been working hard to see how we could collaborate to reduce all our costs and carbon emissions.

This culminated in an agreement earlier this year to move into a shared datacentre by upgrading space in the University of Aberdeen. It’s currently under construction, and will be ready by the Spring of 2013. Initially, it will become the primary datacentre for Aberdeen University, Robert Gordon University and Aberdeen College, with Banff and Buchan using the facility at a later date.

The environmental impact of this will be substantial. We estimate that the total power consumption of all the servers from the 3 institutions is 220kWh. In our own separate, old, data centres at the moment we probably use the same amount of power again just to keep the servers cool (220 kWh is roughly 22 electric cookers, with everything switched on, running all the time – just picture it). CO2 emissions from all that will come to 2030 metric tonnes per annum.

By packing all these servers into one modern datacentre we will slash the energy required for cooling. We estimate that our total power consumption will drop from 441kWh to about 264kWh. As an added bonus, much of the electricity will be generated by Aberdeen University’s combined heat and power plant with lower associated carbon emissions. In total, we anticipate saving 1061 tonnes per annum.

And into the bargain, the institutions will save £2.6m collectively over the next 10 years.