VDP: Web-to-Print In the Real World
Workflow considerations also play heavily into the mix. Many Web-to-print systems have a high level of flexibility, but none are designed to handle every workflow and type of file. What do printers do when their workflows are a mix of digital and analog orders? In different sizes and formats? Must accommodate high volumes of customized jobs?
For these and other reasons, John Roberds, president of Odyssey Digital Printing, opted to use Web-to-print vendors on the front end, rather than investing in an in-house system.
“Web-to-print vendors want to build what they call ‘print ready’ files, but they seem to think printers only operate in multiples of an 8.5x11˝ format,” he says. “With the exception of my black-and-white laser printing system, all of my machines have something other than that. It took me a while, but I got our two Web-to-print service providers to send me a one-up file with no cut-marks, and we lay out the file to suit the machine that will print it. But I had to pound the table a bit to make it happen.”
Like many printers, Odyssey Digital Printing also weighed the challenges presented by high volumes of custom orders. “My business is point-of-purchase, and our largest Web procurement customer services large consumers of these materials,” he says. “They set up Websites for their customers to order POP, but soon they start selling ad hoc orders. This means custom POP pieces that are going to be used once, so they don’t fit the Web-based ordering scheme. Unless the Web-to-print workflow is set up to handle that kind of job efficiently, that order is not going to be profitable.”
Properly implemented, Web-to-print applications essentially move printers from a short-run sell to a long-term program sell. This is yet another transition printers are having a difficult time making. According to “Digital Printing 2007: A Vendor Perspective” (The Industry Measure, 2007), only 1 percent of commercial printers see “changes in sales compensation models to reflect program selling/business development rather than traditional sales” as a top challenge to their businesses. The extreme disconnect between the critical need for this selling model and printers’ nearly non-existent level of concern about it shows how severe this challenge really is—more severe than printers realize.