What is a Print Management company and is it right for you?

Firstly, let’s start by defining what print management is and what it’s not.

Print management is the process of outsourcing your print work to a company that will project manage your printing from proofing to print, finishing to stocking, distribution and everything in-between. Print management sometimes get confused with printer management or document management, which is focused on desktop printers and is therefore completely different.

Assuming you are interested in print management, here are a few questions to help establish whether it could be right for you.

  • Do you have the expertise to know which type of printing press and/or process is best for each job?

  • Are you confident that you have the buying power and expertise to get the best print costs?

  • Do you have the resource and infrastructure to manage your artwork e.g. proofed, print ready, amends, hosting your digital assets etc?

  • If you print a large volume of diverse material, how will you manage your print stock?

  • Do you have the print project management tools to ensure that complex projects are delivered on time?

  • Do you have the appropriate budget to invest in the ever changing print software and associated technologies?

If the answer to any of the questions above is NO, you might want to consider working with a print management expert, so read on.

It’s important to understand that there are different types of business that might call themselves a print management company and each has its own benefits and disadvantages. The three main types are:

 

1. Traditional printers

These are basically printers with their own presses and often, their main priority is to push as much work as they can through their presses to keep them busy and profitable. If your print requirement perfectly fits the solution they offer, this can often be the cheapest way to get a good job done. However, the danger is that if they don’t have the range of equipment and expertise to carry out an array of different print jobs, you may end up with a solution that could have been printed more cost effectively using a different technique or printed with a better quality finish.

Although they may offer to outsource specialist print work they can’t do in-house, unless they are large enough to be doing lots of external print buying, they won’t have the buying power to reduce costs and you may even end up paying more once they have added their markup.

 

2. Print managers or brokers

These don’t normally have presses in-house and pride themselves on their independence. This is good if you are trying to constantly drive down prices but you need to make sure that the print manager has the expertise to offer the right advice as well. For example, do they have in-depth knowledge of different production methods, materials, reasons for digital vs. litho, design expertise, digital asset management, the list could go on!

A good print manager or broker should be able to offer and demonstrate project management expertise, however, you should establish what kind of relationship they have with the printers they are outsourcing to. It would be good to establish how involved they are with the the workflow if required and their proximity to the printer. There is no substitute to physically being able to examine a job as it’s progressing. If they are a key partner, they will have more power to influence the printer, offer cost savings (because they are buying at scale) and ensure the project runs smoothly, even if issues crop up. However, if they have driven the printer hard on price alone, the printer may not be as willing to go the extra mile if and when needed.

 

3. Print management company

If your print requirements are large, complex or diverse, you could benefit from using a print management company. However, you should aim to find a provider who has the size, capability, experience and buying power to match and handle ALL of your print requirements. It is important that they have invested in a wide range of printing presses, equipment and technology so that most solutions can be printed in-house. This could span operational print, business critical print, marketing collateral, retail print or point of sale solutions. Larger, more established print management companies are also able to extend the range of in-house print services to include specialist items such as foil blocking, data personalisation, promotional items, corporate merchandise or even exhibition stands. It’s not crucial to have these additional services available but if you have a wide range of needs, it’s good to have a single point of contact. Plus, a single supplier with the buying power combined with in-house expertise, could maximise your return on investment, contributing to an average saving of between 10-30%.

 Here are a few of the additional benefits a print management company can provide.

 

Web2Print

Web2Print software is a fully integrated solution designed to bridge the gap between online catalogues and commercial printing. It can allow you to create a library of templates that can be used for creating items such as business cards, flyers, brochures and catalogues. Templates can be created to adhere to your brand guidelines (font, size, colours and pantones, image availability, re-sizing, and ability to create QR codes) and can be configured to mirror your procurement business rules and authorisation levels. Data fields can also be defined by you, allowing you to create standard and bespoke templates.

 

Storing and delivering print work

A print management business will see your work through from start to finish, and this doesn't just mean delivery to your door; it could also mean delivery to your customer's door. Even if you only have small print jobs to be outsourced, more often than not a certain level of print stock management, storage and distribution will be required and you won't always have the facilities to handle this. They will take this pressure away as part of the project management by offering solutions that provide storage and flexibility whilst minimising wastage.

 

In-house design teams

Some printing companies will have designers within the team able to create artwork ready for print with ease, however not everyone will. Sometimes you'll have the artwork ready but final touches or amendments will need to be made for it to be print ready. Or, you may even know what you want designed but don't want the expense of using a separate design agency. Outsourced print experts with design capabilities can handle these aspects for you, taking on the responsibility to manage the creative process and help avoid any minor mistakes that could have previously gone unnoticed. This in-house expertise could allow you to save money and still create something that will fit your brand and look highly professional.

 

Industry standard

Finally, a quality company will be certified to show that it is operating within the standards that form the basis of global best practice. ISO 14001 certification will demonstrate the commitment to minimising the negative effect on the environment and  ISO 9001 provides further reassurance of a company's commitment to strict quality management process.

If you think that a print management company is right for you then we would be happy to discuss your requirements further. We have local print experts in Bristol, Somerset, Wiltshire and Surrey. If however, you are just looking for a printer, why not read our article Important questions to ask when choosing a print supplier to help you decide.