Directed-to-Buy Paper Rolls Over Printers

I was asked to share the printer’s perspective in my “Against the Grain” blogs. So here’s my opinion on directed-to-buy paper programs: I hate them.

Given the options of directed-to-buy, customer-furnished stock, and supplying stock from your own vendor, would any printer ever choose the directed-to buy option?

In fact, why does directed-to-buy exist? I bet it exists because some consultant, back in the day, decided that this would be a great way for end-users to ensure consistency of product while skirting the responsibility for buying the stock themselves. Those were probably the same geniuses who prohibited printers from marking up the paper.

Yep, break it out, don’t mark it up, and get paid in 70 days (80 days after you receive the paper, perhaps 100 if the client pushes the schedule back). Do you ever feel like a really underperforming, interest-free bank?

Don’t get me wrong—I’ll work through the necessary channels and follow directions given by end-users. I’ll adapt our processes to serve customers’ needs—up to a point. Heck, some of these programs actually deliver on their promise of ensuring brand standards and consistency; I can get behind that. A few of them are even run well.

The Sprint account, in particular, runs like clockwork. The paper merchant knows who will be calling, what they need, and when they need it; they’ve already done the work before you pick up the phone. They’ve been expecting your call, they have the info, and they just need a confirming PO. That’s real value!

But that’s the exception to the rule, and for many reasons.

How do you like dealing with 15 different merchants in different cities, all for different end-user accounts? Have you developed solid relationships with all of them? How about all the stop-off charges you pay because your orders are no longer ganged together through a common merchant? So much for the efficiency in your supply chain. So much for mutual benefits.

A third-generation printer, Dustin LeFebvre delivers his vision for Specialty Print Communications as EVP, Marketing through strategy, planning and new product development. With a rich background ranging from sales and marketing to operations, quality control and procurement, Dustin takes a wide-angle approach to SPC

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  • Warren Seidel

    This is a train that left the station years ago. Because print is such a fragmented industry, and hard to understand to those outside of our little world, large national print buyers had to find a way around spending hours reconciling data, depending on the level of sophistication of the various printers they did business with. The concept of "strategic sourcing" also became popular as corporate America cut cost to sustain earnings. Technology is the key to making this process more manageable.

  • Chgo paperman

    Merchants have gotten their brains beat in by the "Printers" on cost. Fact is printers have more of a mark-up on paper than the merchant that sold them the paper. For survival the merchant had to change direction, time and time again working on a nice piece of business, samples , dummies , then the printer would change to a competitor or a seconds house and place the order to save .50 cwt.
    End user direct buys lock in the business to the merchant who does the work.

  • guest

    Dude – quit your whining and deal with it, or don’t quote on the business in the first place. You ought to be thrilled that you have jobs lined up to get thru your presses in the first place. Or would you rather they go to your competitors? So you’re not making any money on the paper any more? Get paid for what you’re supposed to be doing – printing and delivering the work. With the state the printing and paper industries are in these days, I suggest you just be thankful you have these customers. Or just close up shop – there’s plenty of capacity out there to absorb the work.

  • Gina Danner

    The goal of this effort was to increase efficiency and consistency for the buyer. This was sold to them as strategic sourcing — great idea, but aside from Sprint I have NEVER seen it work as intended. Mark up on the paper or not, there is so much efficiency lost for the print manufacturers that they no longer have a win/win with the client and their paper merchants.

    The concept of strategic sourcing needs to be revisited in the print world. Companies need to engage their PSPs, along with the consultant they hire. The PSPs understand the reality of doing business with that company and then together they can come up with the right solution — not the standard blueprint of the consultancy.