Fulfillment Services -- Delivering Value-added
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.
"The technology we were using back then was nothing compared to today. Fulfillment has evolved into a complex digital process. It's impossible to do any kind of major fulfillment work without advanced Internet capabilities. At the very least you must have the ability to take digital files from your customers' Websites and download them into your system. When we started, it was a telephone and fax world. If you had software that could manage your inventory and orders, you could play in the game."
K/P has come into its own, fulfillment-wise, in the last three years, according to Plunkett, making it a 50-50 split with printing. A sizeable portion of K/P's printing work, in fact, is now being driven by the fulfillment business.
For Penn Litho of Cerritos, CA, fulfillment represented a graduation in degree of service. The company had always offered small-scale mailing and fulfillment projects, according to President Carol Geddes, which occasionally entailed outsourcing work to another vendor.
Penn Litho didn't actively market these capabilities initially. That has changed.
"Our clients were asking us for an end-to-end solution," she says. "It put us in a better position to understand and address their marketing needs, rather than offering just the commodity of print. We are just beginning to see the positive results. Not only does it bring in value-added sales—fulfillment, mailing and digital printing—but it increases the client loyalty in terms of print buying."