Written by Deborah Corn
As Print Producers, the bottom line is part of our jobs. We are charged not only with executing final materials, but staying within budget and finding options where needed. Options may be as simple as switching a Premium paper stock to a Value one, converting PMS colors to 4CP, or in some cases opting to print on a Digital Press when the job will work there. But there is still a cost, and while it might not be a financial, one could argue the quality of your final materials pays that price.
I have been working in the Production arena for 20+ years, in many capacities. When I started, layout was done by paste up, no computer programs even existed other than the typesetting machines. A stat camera and an x-acto knife were your best friends. Some of you reading this have no clue what I’m talking about or remember life without a cell phone or a remote control let alone a wax machine. I only mention this to give you a little reference to my experience in this field, and to point out that as it changes, so must you.
The changes these days for Print Producers don’t revolve so much around leaps in technology as much as they do getting the most bang for your buck. The economy has shrunk budgets and staffing and still we are required to produce award-winning materials and keep clients happy, without sacrificing the quality.
I have bid out a few jobs recently that I expressly asked for offset pricing. I received digital quotes. I had asked for PMS colors and Varnish and yet they had been magically removed in the bids. When I questioned more than one vendor about it, I was told - “this will save you money.” I found that a very interesting response first because I have always assumed that if I spend the time with Art Directors and Designers creating specs that they mean something, and second that Vendors quote what I ask for, as they have always done in the past. But this economy seems to have everyone in a freefall. If they quote as I asked they seemed afraid that their bid would be too high so they redesigned my work to make it cheaper… and I say cheaper vs. less expensive purposely.
We multi-bid jobs for numerous reasons whether dictated by Clients, or Agency/Company policy, or just so we have a feel for general price range. With all being equal, yes, the lowest bid is often chosen to execute. We also use specs to make sure our bids are apples to apples and not apples to Gorgonzola cheese. So not bidding what we have asked for really is of no help at all.
Lets assume you received three bids that followed your specs and all three are over your allotted budget. First, I would turn to the Vendor I had the best relationship with and see if they could come down. More often than not they do as long as you don’t abuse them. If that wasn’t possible, or the price reduction still has you over budget, discuss paper with them and make sure they engage their Paper Rep in finding solutions or alternatives. As well, call your Paper Rep. They know of other sources and vendors who may have something comparable to what you have speced in their shop or warehouse to substitute and are always a helpful resource in my experience. Ask for alternative paper samples to be sent to review with your in-house team. Talk to your vendor about other jobs you have or other jobs they are running. See if you can work out ganging up jobs on press and reducing or splitting set-up costs. Ask about a volume discount if you can send a certain amount of business their way in a time frame you agree upon. Question delivery method, question why their bid is so high, or so low based upon others you have received. Develop relationships that expand beyond customer/client and work with them as a partner in your process. The bottom line is always more than just dollars and cents, and you will get what you pay for if you only focus on that aspect.
Deborah Corn is a Print Production and Project Management Professional and owner/manager of the Print Production Professionals Group on LinkedIn with over 6200 members. She was invited to submit an article as an independent contributor and is not associated with Full Circle, Millcraft Paper, or any of their products or opinions.