Making Print Procurement Go More Smoothly
Your in-plant has finally been given the right of first refusal. Now all printing and copying done on behalf of your entire organization will be filtered through your hands. You are not only a printer, you are now a print buyer. And who better than you?
Your organization is wise to have entrusted this purchasing power to someone with your wisdom and experience. When the in-house printer is buying the outsourced printing, everybody wins. Your clients can expect better pricing, the convenience of one-stop shopping, and improved turn times. The marketing office can expect better brand control and consistent quality. Your organization will benefit from better decision making, and leaders will have access to all of the handy data you’ll be providing for them. Your in-plant will grow, and communication will improve.
In order to be a successful print buyer, I offer the following tips:
Create a standardized vendor agreement
You will be building relationships with a handful of commercial printers; sales people will be at your door constantly. You will want to make sure your vendors know what you expect from them. Here is a list of things I expect form my vendors:
- A current list of all capabilities and production equipment
- Samples of the work they have completed including — and especially — samples that are specific to your industry (in my case, higher education).
- Estimates provided within 24 hours.
- Free pick-up and delivery. This goes for files, proofs, and final printed materials.
- The vendor must not be providing its services to other clients who produce materials that are deemed pornographic, racist, or defamatory. Don’t do business with people who do that kind of business.
- The vendor must be sensitive and responsive to requests for quick turnaround times. You need to know that your work is a priority.
- The vendor must be willing to accept and utilize paper that you supply. You may not always want to do this, but you need to know they don’t mind when you do.
- Have the vendor produce an environmental statement that summarizes the steps its company takes to reduce its environmental footprint. Additional documents such as certifications or awards relevant to this issue are also acceptable.
- Make the vendor adhere to specific requirements you have regarding the packaging and delivery of proofs and printed materials. For starters, you don’t want to see their company name on anything.
- The vendor must agree to only accept orders and requests for estimates from you. This protects your right of first refusal, and it protects the vendor because it assures payment for every order placed.
- The vendor must stay within industry over/under standards. (Generally plus or minus 10% of requested quantity.) Also, be clear about this: Are these over/unders billable?
- The vendor must agree to the terms and conditions listed on your purchase orders. These should be provided at the placement of each order.
- You will also want your vendor to provide you with a likeable salesperson. If you are not comfortable having lunch with your sales rep, request another sales rep or find another vendor. Relationship building is critical to working with vendors.
Develop a process for requesting and tracking estimates
Always get at least three estimates for very job. Document this work and be prepared to show it to your business office, your direct supervisor, and/or your client. This builds trust and demonstrates accountability.
Develop an order tracking system
I use an Excel spreadsheet. You will need to document the usual purchasing requirements such as: Was the order completed on time? Was the price what you expected? Was the quantity correct? Did the vendor meet your expectations? I also include columns for:
- Our internal job number.
- The purchase order number. (I never pay an invoice that doesn’t show this.)
- The date I outsourced the job.
- The client’s name and a description of the job.
- The name of the vendor I chose.
- The reason I outsourced the job. (This comes in handy for justifying new equipment purchases.)
Assign someone to handle design files and proofs
Do not be surprised by how much back-and-forth communication outsourced work creates. You are the printer and you are used to this. Clients will change their minds, errors will occur, and design files will always have their issues. Assign a person (or people) who will be responsible for handling design files and proofs
Have a fulfillment plan
Be prepared to not only serve as the print buyer, but also the fulfillment warehouse. If a client orders 50,000 brochures, they might only want one or two boxes at a time. Before you know it, you will be managing inventories.
If you are the print buyer for your organization, I hope these tips will help you. This is important work. You and your in-plant employees have core competencies. Your organization is counting on you.
Utilize your experience, your knowledge, and your skills to grow your in-plant and help those you serve prosper in their work.
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Dwayne Magee is now in his 17th year as director of Messiah University Press and Postal Services. His department was recipient of the 2018 IPMA Organizational Impact Award, the 2015 IPMA Innovation Award, the 2017 ACUP Green Service Award, and the 2015 ACUP Collaborative Service Award. Prior to joining Messiah, he worked for 17 years at Alphagraphics as an assistant manager and ISO coordinator. He is president of the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He is currently an English major (part-time) with a concentration in writing at the college where he works. Outside of work, Dwayne enjoys exploring spiritual, environmental and social concerns through creative writing and the arts. He can often be found speaking on the topic of diversity in bookstores, public libraries and elementary schools, where he makes use of his award-winning children’s book “A Blue-Footed Booby Named Solly McBoo.” His travel writing and fictional essays have made appearances in various publications including the Northern Colorado Writers Anthology and the Goose River Anthology published by Goose River Press. Dwayne is the father of two boys and he resides in Mechanicsburg, Pa., with his wife Sue and their two dogs. Contact him at: DMagee@Messiah.edu