10 Common Print Buying Errors

10-common-print-buying-errorsTen Common Print Buying Errors And What To Do About Them
By Matthew Parker | Print & Procurement Ltd.

ERROR #1
CHOOSING THE WRONG SUPPLIER

There is a huge number of print buyers who are using the wrong suppliers for their products. Printers with large presses suited to magazines and brochures are never going to produce small runs of in-house stationery cost effectively. Equally, smaller printers may not be able to physically produce larger products. Whether the printer
prints litho or digital, or sheetfed or web, will also have an effect on the way your product looks. However, a plant list is only one issue to consider when selecting a supplier. For more issues to consider, turn to the article on page 18 of this booklet.

ACTION POINTS

  • Review the press sizes at your printers. Consider how your products fit on those presses.
  • Is the sheet size you are using appropriate for your product?
  • Are your products producing economic run lengths for your printer’s presses?
  • Can your printers fulfill all other service and quality needs? Do they understand
    your types of products and the culture of your organization? Do they produce
    similar jobs to that which you require?
  • If you have a lot of printers, consider running a supplier evaluation exercise to
    check that they are all meeting the minimum criteria that you need.

ERROR #2
NOT TALKING TO YOUR PRINTER (AND NOT ADMITTING YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY ARE SAYING)

E-mail is a wonderful thing. It has transformed our way of communicating. However, there are times when it is much better to pick up the phone! If you are not quite sure how to specify your product, then talk to your printer. They should be able to guide you to define exactly what you want, as well as coming up with great ideas on alternative methods of production. If they can’t then you should consider changing supplier. Many people are scared of talking to a printer because of the amount of jargon that is used in the printing trade. I am still learning many new phrases and many new techniques! If you don’t understand what the printer is saying, ask them to explain in plain English! It
is far better that you admit that you are unsure than that you end up with some expensive mistake.

ACTION POINTS

  • Pick up the phone!
  • Learn some new printing phrases (and consider creating some rhyming phrases to help you remember them!).
  • Ask your printer to come and visit you with some inspiring samples of their work.

ERROR #3
NOT SPECIFYING CORRECTLY

It is vital that your printer has every detail of a job if they are to produce an accurate price. I have a quote template with eighteen fields to be filled in before
it should be sent to the printer. Areas such as delivery (overnight or direct?), post (first or second class, pre-sorted or not, Royal Mail or another provider?) and packing (in bulk or in boxes?) can all make a big difference to the final price. Equally, it is vital to specify and final finishing, such as varnishes or laminates correctly, ensuring that you receive the look and feel that you had envisaged for a finished item. When you are happy with the technical specification and are satisfied that you have included all the details, don’t forget to think about the paper – see the next point.

ACTION POINTS

  • Try to envisage a product as you are specifying it.
  • Create a physical sample from the correct paper stock.
  • Calculate the savings if you run to a smaller size of product where you can print more to a sheet size.
  • Check that you have ALL the details on your request for a quotation and that your printer has quoted exactly what you have requested, so that extra costs do not creep in at the last minute.

ERROR #4
NOT USING THE RIGHT PAPER GRADE

Paper is an important part of both the look and feel and the cost of a product. Understanding the different grades of paper is important, especially in the current climate of rising paper prices. Reducing a 100gsm stock to a 90gsm stock on a brochure will typically save 10% of paper costs, and potentially reduce postal costs as well. However, you also need to consider how this will affect the feel of the brochure. Could you replace your standard grade with a bulkier paper (which could also be cheaper)? Could you add a heavier cover and reduce the weight of the text stock?

ACTION POINTS

  • Request different paper samples. How do they look and feel to you?
  • Ask your printer or paper merchant how they will affect the look and cost of your product.
  • Discuss the implications within your company.

ERROR #4
NOT USING THE RIGHT PAPER GRADE
Paper is an important part of both the look and feel and the cost of a product. Understanding the different grades of paper is important, especially in the current climate of rising paper prices. Reducing a 100gsm stock to a 90gsm stock on a brochure will typically save 10% of paper costs, and potentially reduce postal costs as well. However, you also need to consider how this will affect the feel of the brochure. Could you replace your standard grade with a bulkier paper (which could also be cheaper)? Could you add a heavier cover and reduce the weight of the text stock?

ACTION POINTS

  • Request different paper samples. How do they look and feel to you?
  • Ask your printer or paper merchant how they will affect the look and cost of your product.
  • Discuss the implications within your company.

ERROR #5
SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME CHASING QUOTES

Writing out quotes for printers, chasing up the responses and comparing prices can be a time-consuming business, especially if print buying is not a core part of your job. If you have regular jobs, consider creating a price matrix with your printer. For each product have a price for a base quantity and then a run-on price (this is a price, typically
per 1,000 items, that can be added to the base price if you require more copies
printed). And don’t forget to ensure you have negotiated reduced prices if
you are printing up more than one version of an item at the same time! A good
matrix will work out a price for you automatically if you enter the quantity you
need. This is also a good time to review your pricing with your printer if you
are committing to more work with them.

ACTION POINTS

  • Sit down with your printer and discuss the products you are printing and how
    you might set up a price matrix.

ERROR #6
NOT TELLING A PRINTER WHAT YOU WANT

I often see or hear of issues that have arisen because the buyer assumed that a printer would do something, even though they had not told the printer what they wanted. When an order is placed with a printer, it needs much more than the technical specification. What quality levels and service standards are you expecting from your printer? Do they understand your deadline requirements? If the printer has not been told what you expect, how will they know about any special issues that you consider important?! If you place work regularly with a supplier you should consider implementing an SLA (service level agreement). This should clearly outline what you expect from your supplier and what your supplier should expect from you.

ACTION POINTS

  • Map out the processes that you undertake with your printer.
  • List the responsibilities of each party and the key quality and service level issues.
  • Turn this into a written agreement between you and your printer.

ERROR #7
NOT SENDING A WRITTEN ORDER (AND NOT CHECKING THE ORDER ACKNOWLEDGEMENT)

I once met a printer who had usually met his clients in the pub at the end of the month to agree the charges for the jobs that he had produced for them in
the last four weeks! This is not the best way for either side to manage budgets! Although you may have agreed terms verbally with a printer, it is essential that this is backed up with a written order. Details that have been agreed in good faith on the phone can be forgotten or misinterpreted. Your order forms your contract with the printer and it is important that there is a clear written statement of work. Many printers will send back an order acknowledgement. If there is a dispute, the order acknowledgement will be the legal agreement, not your order (unless you have a very clear written agreement to the contrary). Therefore you must check any paperwork that the printer sends you, as mistakes can creep in at this point when details are manually re-keyed.

ACTION POINTS

    • Review your order processes. Is everything clear and straightforward?
    • Do you include your organisation’s terms and conditions of purchase with an order? Read these through and check that these cover relevant issues for you.

ERROR #8
NOT MANAGING EXTRA COSTS ON THE INVOICE

Inevitably, things can change on a job midway though production. Some printers often try to put things right and then tell the client afterwards. Whilst they may
have the best of intentions, it is important that you have control over your job and your budget at all times. So you, rather than the printer, should have the say on any changes in production. Only you can truly grade the seriousness of the issue. However, in order for this to work effectively, you need to make sure that you, or someone in your team, is available at any time when the printer may be producing your work. So you must be prepared for the odd call at anti-social hours!

ACTION POINTS

    • Ensure that your orders and service level agreements have a clear statement that prevents the printer from issuing extra charges without your prior approval. If this is a new requirement for your company, talk to your printers to make this clear to them.

ERROR #9
NOT KEEPING UP A GOOD DIALOGUE BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR PRINTER

It is vital to talk to your printer on a regular basis. This enables you to review how well they (and you!) have been performing, tell each other how your businesses are evolving and discuss how you might do things better together. Your printer will realize that you take them seriously and that you are keeping a watch on what they are doing. This in turn will motivate them to provide exactly what you want. This dialogue is also a chance for them to make suggestions about your products that you may not have thought of.

ACTION POINTS

    • Set out a list of issues that it would be worth discussing with your printer. Go and visit your printer to discuss them.
    • Are there any KPIs (key performance indicators) that you would like to review as part of this exercise? Make sure that you then follow up on the meeting every few months.

ERROR #10
NOT REVIEWING PRICE REGULARLY

It is easy to get into an easy relationship with your supplier where things progress easily from month to month. However, you should never be afraid to challenge you supplier! It is useful to talk to other suppliers every few months; just to make sure that everything is as it should be. As part of this process you should make sure that you obtain a price check and a review of specification and process. If you do discover that that there are savings to be made and you have a good relationship with your current printer, then it is fair to give them the right to respond. Also, consider the cost of moving supplier.

ACTION POINTS

  • Look at the trade print press and the internet. Find some new suppliers to challenge your current supplier (but make sure that you choose the right type of
    supplier as in step 1, and the article on page 18!).

Download your copy of “10 Common Print Buying Errors and What to Do About Them” – by Matthew Parker.


Mid-State Litho, Inc.
5459 Fenton Rd.
Flint, MI 48507
www.midstatelitho.net