The Art of Business: Print Buying Made Simpler
If you ever get a chance, don't pass up the opportunity to attend a seminar or talk given by Dick Gorelick, president of Gorelick and Associates. Dick is a 25 year veteran of the industry both as a buyer and seller, and his firm surveys some 25,000 print buyers a year, so he's got a pulse on the print market like few others.
I had a chance to hear Dick speak recently on tips for buying printing services, and you could almost hear the "amens" muttered in the crowd. He has some tips worth passing on, though these thoughts are but a sampling of what he offers in his talks.
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That said, here are some thoughts from Gorelick:
Standards? What standards? There may be trade customs for mailing and fulfillment houses, but don't expect to see any industry-wide standards written up for the printing business, despite the fact that it's a multi-billion industry. "There just aren't any," said Gorelick. It's up to you to understand the terms and conditions set by each individual printer for such critical possibilities as an under print, delayed print, errors, and more. By taking the time to understand terms and conditions, you can save yourself headaches later.
Understanding overs and unders. There's no way that a printer can print the exact number of pieces you need, but does that mean you should pay for the overs? And how many overs are excessive? The answers depend on the quantity and complexity of a job. "If you're doing a piece in large quantities with simple text and line art, overs of even one percent may be excessive. But if you're printing 500 copies of a six-color brochure with metallic inks, deckle edge and folds, then overs of 20 percent or more are not unusual," said Gorelick. The more complex the job, the more pieces the printer has to run to get it right, hence the greater chance of overs.
Now to the persnickety question of who should pay. The answer generally is you, but there are ways to keep your over prices down. "Make sure that your price quotation for overs is based on the "additional thousandths not the average thousandth price." If you're feeling like the number of overs is excessive or that you're being billed continually for overs, talk to your printer or find a new one.
Where's that file? When printers primarily used film, law courts ruled that unless otherwise specified, film and plates were intermediate manufacturing products and therefore the property of the printer. So when a film or plate got lost or destroyed, it was the printer's responsibility. What happens today when an electronic file gets lost or destroyed? The onus, in most cases, is on the print buyer because many printers now specify in their Terms and Conditions that the buyer should provide a duplicate of an electronic original and the buyer bears responsibility for maintaining the original artwork. "If you want a supplier to store electronic files and guarantee the integrity of those files, be prepared to pay an annual fee for that service, and then demand that the files be insured and backed up at a secure off-site location. If you expect uncorrected files to be returned, then make sure to specify in that writing, and if you want corrected files to be returned, be ready to pay for any prepress corrections that you authorized."
Avoiding invoice surprises. "Who authorized this charge?" That's a question asked all too often in the printing business. To stop asking it, "consider a provision in your purchase order that says you must be informed of all extra charges and that all charges must be approved before production can continue," Gorelick says. Pretty strong language, but it works to knock down charges.
There's another invoice surprise that print buyers often face -- the late invoice. Most of the time you can be happy when an invoice is late, but if you need that invoice to bill a client, you want that invoice sooner than later. The answer to the problem? "Demand one," says Gorelick. "Buyers should never accept the explanation that the printer is waiting for invoices from outside suppliers, like prepress shops or binderies. Most times it's pure laziness or bad business practices that delays an invoice."
Communicating well. Ah, yes, we're all communications professionals, but how well do we communicate, especially with printers? At the beginning of every relationship spend a moment talking about methods of communication. Be explicit about the printing issues that concern you most. Don't forget to indicate how you like to be contacted and the frequency of sales call you prefer. "Some print buyers and specifiers love voice mail, others hate it. Some love e-mail, others hate it," Gorelick notes. "Indicate your preferences as part of your job specifications and you'll make it easier for printers to satisfy your needs."
Price is an important aspect of every print job, but there's no substitute for quality, value and dependability. We'd like to think that these desirable results come from our design acumen, but just as often they are negotiated in the fine print of that contract we love to ignore.
Read more by Eric J. Adams.