Selecting and working with printers
When managing a print project, you need to know some of the capabilities of many printers. Each project is unique, and based on types of equipment and other factors, certain printers may be better suited for the job than others. Having two to three primary printers in different categories can make your life easier when selecting which could do the best job. This is especially true of routine jobs.
Working with a variety of printers assures maximum control over quality, schedule and price. If you are basing your decision solely on price, you’ll need to shop the job around to several printers with similar equipment and experience capable to handle the job. However, not every job should be sent out to bid. Working with one of your regular printers is often the most convenient and dependable way to get the job done.
So how do you select the right printer for the job? Well, that depends on the job. What I recommend is to select two or three printers for each of the following categories:
1) Quick printer
2) Commercial printer
3) Web offset printer
4) Specialty printer
These categories may be expanded based upon your industry, however, it provides a solid baseline for building a trusted relationship with each printer in each category. Let’s look at each of the four categories a bit closer:
Many print buyers find it very practical to have a quick printer they use regularly for routine work. These printers should be selected based upon the level of satisfactory quality, service and prices that are reasonable. Dependability and convenience are also key factors in this category.
Having a quick printer as one of your regular printers can save time and money with basic quality, one- or two-color jobs, or digital in relatively short run jobs. As a consistent customer of a quick printer you will usually have several advantages over walk-ins, like monthly or delayed billings rather than individual invoices or immediate payment. Priority service, pick-up and delivery are also so added benefits to building a strong relationship with a quick printer.
Although similar, each quick printing house has slightly different services that may be beneficial to you as a customer. This may take some trial and error, but worth the time and energy to learn these special capabilities. Some examples of quick print work might include, business cards, letterhead, envelopes, flyers, postcards, tri-fold brochures or small direct mail pieces.
Commercial printers typically have much larger and faster presses that are designed to handle larger paper sizes, multiple inks and bigger quantities. This type of printer typically has a blend of equipment that can perform various tasks and provide higher quality that the quick printer cannot.
As a consistent customer of a commercial printer, you may get priority press time and delivery scheduling. This is especially helpful when you are on a very tight deadline. Often times, having an ongoing working relationship, usually means the sales staff, pre-press department and pressmen are familiar with your wishes and expectations. Being a regular customer helps you learn how to plan for a press that may be better suited to accomplish the effect you desire. Experience with the shop helps reveal its full abilities.
Some examples of the types of work printed with commercial printers include annual reports, small run catalogs, folders, direct mail pieces, full-color brochures, various shaped and sized pieces, pieces requiring a spot varnish, spot color combined with 4-color process, and a wider array of paper types to choose from.
If your printing requires press runs with larger quantities (25,000 +), you may want to find a few quality web-printing shops to print your job. The main features that differentiates web printing from standard commercial printing is that paper is usually on large spindled rolls and the speed of the press is much higher. These presses can be in various sizes and can print a number of pages all at once. The physical size of the press can be as long as a city block, often with a collator, finisher, binder and even an ink-jet at the end of the processing line.
The advantages of building a relationship with a web printer provides consistency and quality, especially if you regularly produce similar pieces. However, being a regular customer does not always mean you’ll be getting bargain prices. While the pre-press team and pressmen might suggest ways to set up your art to save money on a particular job, with most jobs you will be paying the same as other customers. The savings you’ll be able to cash in on though is the time it will save YOU!
Examples of web printing includes catalogs, books, magazines and large circulation direct mail pieces.
This is a very broad category and encompasses print shops that specialize in die-cutting, embossing, special laminates, odd shaped pieces and other elements of design. If you design a lot of pieces that require specialty type services, locating a handful of companies that can provide these services would be essential to the overall success of the piece.
Many times, specialty printers are sub-contractors for commercial printers. This provides an added layer of services for the commercial printer and they act as a broker between the customer and the specialty printer. This however, makes it extremely difficult to build a relationship with a specialty type printer.
Again, it depends on the level and type of work you are producing, whether or not you should build a relationship with this category of printer. Some examples of specialty services include, die-cutting, printed emboss, blind embossing, UV coatings, textured laminates, foil, raised inks, and metallics, to name just a few.
When selecting a printer, knowing their capabilities helps put them into one of these categories, but where you take a specific job depends more on the key factors of service, quality, and price. For most customers, service is the most important consideration. Gauge the level of service a shop provides on how quickly can they provide an estimate, or how fast can they print your job, are they conveniently located and whether the staff picks-up and delivers. You should also take into account credit terms and any additional services they may be able to offer.
To learn about printers who might suit your specific needs, simply call the likely candidates and ask for information, or visit their websites to learn about the equipment on hand and view samples of their work. Also, as a prospective customer, you may get invited to tour their plant and facility. I encourage you to take them up on this offer… you will learn more about what they can do for you and have a much better understanding of their capabilities when you get the information first hand.