"Speeding up the Outsourcing Process"
[Column #76, 4/01]
Last month, I discussed the outsourcing process and why it is beneficial to our industry. Not surprisingly, the graphic arts world has been slow to adopt this practice into its day-to-day business practices. One lesson I’ve learned over the years is the necessity of staying focused and capitalizing on what we do best—binding and finishing. Finding a niche in this highly competitive environment allows us to provide quality products and services at competitive prices. All too often, printers have mistakenly tried to handle everything (from design to finishing to shipping) in house, regardless of the end result. If you’ve ever had to turn away work because you could not provide the necessary services or because you simply couldn’t get the job done on time, or if you wish your company could squeeze more jobs out on a day-to-day basis, read on. This article provides practical advice for implementing and speeding up the outsourcing process.
Choose Your Allies
Choosing who to partner with is the most critical of all decisions when it comes to outsourcing. You are, after all, selecting companies that essentially handle any number of services that ultimately play an important role in the final product you will provide to the customer. Not unlike the way you select friends in your personal life, base your decision on the companies you can most likely count on—day in and day out—not just for great prices or consistent products, but for superior service and committed staff. And remember, the best time to make a friend is not when you need one.
Consult the Experts
When you’re out of your league, admit it and solicit the advice you need. We can’t all be experts on everything and it’s best to admit that up front. When a customer comes to you with an unusual piece or a finishing job that requires complex techniques, call your favorite finishing experts and have them give you the lowdown on how to handle the job. They should be able to look at the customer’s requests, determine if they’re feasible, offer suggestions for completing the job in the most streamlined manner possible, and provide alternative solutions to an otherwise impossible design. (Which happens quite often!) Never commit anything to paper without first consulting your resource. It’s better to be safe than sorry and there are many issues to consider when planning the finishing end of a printing job. We can offer a full range of advice all the way from alternative binding and finishing methods that may be cheaper or easier to implement and provide comparable results to optimal paper choice for various finishing processes to important layout considerations for cost savings and maximum throughput.
Additionally, it is usually not advantageous to try to become an expert in a service that would not traditionally be done under your roof. I’ve seen many printers land a large order for a specialized job, purchase expensive equipment to handle it in house, and lose the job three months later. Not only have they lost the income, they are saddled with heavy equipment costs and are making no return on their investment.
Streamline the Process
One way to save big money and (even more importantly sometimes) precious time, is to choose outsourcing companies that provide multiple services under one roof. If the job you’re sending out requires multiple services, find someone who can handle all those needs without having to send the project out once again. It’s not uncommon for us to receive work that moves from folding to cutting to binding to finishing to mailing and distribution. Such a system saves time, money, and headaches. It also limits the potential for error and finger-pointing down the line.
Mailing jobs, in particular, can often be done cheaper and faster with good advice. The United States Postal Service has stringent guidelines that can save big bucks for those who follow them. We’ve recovered sizable chunks of money by simply changing paper weight or slightly altering mailing size or polybagging rather than using envelopes.
Send More Than a Purchase Order
Many printers mistakenly believe that providing us with a purchase order is adequate information for us to complete the job. (And some don’t even provide that!) To properly complete your order—especially if it requires multiple services—supply us with an extra set of bluelines, bulking dummies, and rule-ups as soon as possible. (When it comes to bluelines, however, do not release the original copy to any bindery—inside or outside—if they contain AA’s sent back from the customer. Those bluelines are often necessary for billing purposes and are used to justify additional charges made by the printer. It can be impossible for printers to recover costs incurred after alterations are made when the bluelines are no longer available for documentation.) Not only are we better equipped to handle the job, we can order necessary supplies such as wire, foil, and adhesives. It also enables us to produce samples that ensure the work can actually be produced as planned and provide the end-customer with an early glimpse of the final product. There is no such thing as too much information.
Also, when planning for any job, be sure to consult your vendor regarding the necessary overs to successfully complete it. They don’t want to end up running short because inadequate waste was factored in nor do you want to be billed for pieces that you do not need.
Understand the Big Picture
By adopting an attitude among your staff (the sales team in particular) that allows them to think outside the box, you open yourself up to a huge number of opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable. Train your staff to sell products and services that satisfy all their customers’ needs, not just those that your company can handle.
Selling unfamiliar services can be both frustrating and intimidating so count on your resources to help in this area. They have some responsibility to ensure those salespeople are equipped to communicate with their customers. At Bindagraphics, we offer various seminars on binding and finishing (called Binda University) designed to teach the basics in the many services that we offer. Participants receive classroom instruction from experts in each of the individual services, tour the plant and witness hands-on demonstrations, and receive a handbook to take home with easy-to-use reference materials for their day-to-day use.
PIA’s recent future-forward study (called Vision 21) summed up this article perfectly by predicting that profit leaders in the printing industry in the years ahead will have a “tightly focused business strategy.” That means those who succeed will specialize in what they do best. There is a world of opportunities out there—together we’re more likely to take advantage of them.