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Fulfillment Services -- Delivering Value-added

March 2003
By Erik Cagle


Of all the value-added services that printers offer their customers today, either as a generator of increased press work or as a cog in a one-stop service machine, fulfillment is one of the most economical—and popular—options.

According to the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL) "State-of-the-Industry Report," 58.6 percent of printers currently offer fulfillment services, while 12 percent say they will offer it by the year 2004, bringing the total to just under 71 percent. It is among the top non-printing services sought by commercial printers.

K/P Corp. of San Ramon, CA, which generated $86 million in sales last year, is celebrating its 10th year of providing fulfillment services, making it a grizzled veteran relative to the industry. Those early years, according to Dan Plunkett, senior vice president of operations, were particularly challenging, as K/P found many of its clients weren't prepared to buy into the single-source mentality.

No Bundling

"We definitely came into fulfillment with the strategy of keeping our printing presses going," Plunkett states. "In retrospect, that strategy didn't work very well. Back in the 1994 to 1996 period, people who controlled fulfillment had nothing to do with the procurement of print. So when you tried to tie it all together, the (print buyers) really didn't want to consider the benefits of sourcing fulfillment and direct mail along with printing. K/P made many attempts to present a more holistic, overall cost approach, which included printing, and ended up losing opportunities. Clients wanted a company that was 100 percent focused on fulfillment; they believed those suppliers would do a better job for them."

K/P learned some tough lessons early on. During the ramping-up process, the printer chose to grow knowledge and abilities within its organization as opposed to bringing in experts in the fulfillment realm. The first eight months were particularly challenging, Plunkett admits.

K/P then imported talent with fulfillment experience in other industries, which helped steer it in the right direction. Plunkett believes the environment was a lot more forgiving in those days than it is now.

"Whether we were smart or just lucky, the time period in which we developed fulfillment expertise was much easier than now," he says. "The industry was much more immature 10 years ago. Today, there is some really good competition. If we were breaking into it now, we'd need to take a much more aggressive stance as far as bringing top-notch expertise into the organization early on.
 

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