."Proper Planning Includes a Detailed Purchase Order"
[Column #47, 11/98]
The work that goes into a given job should begin long before it ever hits the bindery at least that's what we prefer (but not always what happens). I have discussed the importance of proper planning in several past issues. This article will focus on purchase orders, a subject whose value is often underestimated yet whose very existence is key to a successful job.
While we all find excessive paperwork both loathsome and wasteful, accurate and complete purchase orders are essential for everyone involved. A purchase order spells out the specifics of a job including who, what, when, where, why, and how. The information on this document is passed on to everyone who works on a project (that number can be staggering depending on the complexity of the order!) and is a critical communications link between the customer and the bindery. Any slight error or omission can create havoc.
Perhaps one the best pieces of advice I can offer is to provide us with as much detail as possible. We can never have too much information. Although there are many variables for every job depending on the work necessary to complete it, the following should always be included on a purchase order sent to the bindery (and, unless you have beautiful handwriting, send it in typewritten format):
Company Name, Address, Phone and Fax Numbers
Vendor Name and Contact
Vendor Quote Number
Company Job Number
Brief Job Description
Number of Overs Allowed
Specific Job Instructions
Type of Binding/Finishing
Number of Pages
Number of Pages
Stock Information (color, weight, etc.)
Incoming Sheet Size
Shipping Instructions/Shipping Address
Other Notes Pertaining to the Job
A purchase order should always be matched against the quotation originally provided by the binder. Check for any price or scheduling discrepancies (and your customer sales representative at the bindery should do the same). Typically, a price quotation is good for a limited period ranging anywhere from a few days to six months. Scheduling estimates, on the other hand, are extremely volatile and can only be guaranteed for a few days if you're lucky. It's always a good practice to talk with your bindery about scheduling during the quotation process. They can tell you what their current situation is and how they can best meet your delivery needs.
Quantity is another sticky issue. Be clear about how many of each signature we can expect to receive, how many finished books are required, and how many overs you are willing to buy. As I've mentioned in past articles, planning accurate counts can save money down the line where we can avoid wasting costly custom materials and do not need to toss out thousands of signatures because we don't have enough to make complete books.
Keep in mind that important decisions are made at the bindery based on your purchase order specifications. We use those details to determine what equipment we will need, to arrange a schedule for your job based on the equipment necessary, and to procure the type and quantity of materials required for the work. (These materials often need to be ordered ahead of time.)
Many projects demand specialty finishing techniques that can be fairly complex. Unless you are an expert in the field, discuss these details thoroughly with your binder before completing your purchase order. There are certain things we must know depending on the work being done. For example, if we are foil stamping, we need to know the size of the area that will be stamped, whether or not it registers to the print, and the color of the foil. For a diecutting job, we must determine the type of die we will need. How complex is it? Should we special order the die or can we produce it in-house? Is it a standard shape or a custom design? Do we need to run samples prior to its actual arrival? If we are running an ink jet job, we must know how many lines we are printing, the location and direction of the images, and mailing information such as how it will mail (bulk, standard A, etc.) and how the data will be supplied (e.g., mag tape, zip drive).
Finally, be sure to give us any extra information pertinent to the job. If it's a repeat job, put that on the purchase order. There may be materials or files existing from the previous run that can save time and money. Also, tell us what you'd like to do with any extra materials leftover. If there are special packing instructions, be very clear about them. Explicit details regarding packing and shipping are extremely important and can prevent costly errors once the work is completed. Give us every bit of information we need to do your job exactly the way you want it done.
Purchase orders not only provide us with the necessary information to accurately complete a job, they provide a binding contract between the customer and the vendor. When questions and problems arise, the purchase order is referenced and can serve as legal documentation should the need occur. Use it as a safeguard in your business dealings. Also be sure to include a copy of the P.O. with your shipment to the bindery.
I'll close by mentioning that purchase orders are the catalyst in getting your job moving. We cannot schedule any work without a purchase order (or collect payment) nor can we order any special materials (wire, cartons, d-tape, foil, dies). By taking that first critical step without delay, you can be certain the work will be done on time and to your specifications. At least we hope so.