What Print Buyers Want -- Delivering on Promises
WHILE ALMOST everyone has heard of Merriam-Webster, the dictionary, most people may not be familiar with Merriam-Webster Inc., the publishing company. It publishes millions of dictionaries each year in a variety of styles, including hard cover, soft cover (trade size) and mass-market paperback editions. David E. Pelkey is director of manufacturing at the Springfield, MA-based company, where he’s in charge of buying printed materials for all Merriam-Webster dictionaries. Not only does he work with words (as a dictionary publisher), but he also has a way with words when it comes to detailing what he requires from his print suppliers.
When asked the hypothetical question: “What is your idea of the perfect print provider?” Pelkey describes it as “a place where I can receive service, quality and cost in perfect balance. The old adage is ‘you get what you pay for,’ but you still need to receive the best possible product and service that relates to the price.”
Furthermore, Pelkey wants a printer-partner that provides him with the best possible product and customer service available. He doesn’t want “just a supplier,” but a printer that provides the abstracts that can’t be put in a quote or agreed upon in a contract.
What do you look for when considering a new print provider?
I always look for quality, cost and service. But, beyond that, I need to see what intangibles a new printer will provide me that I may not get from my current suppliers. Am I really better off here than where I came from, and do they really want my work or are they looking for a temporary fill in?
What are the top three things that you expect from a print provider?
I need open communication and honesty. I want information when I ask for it, whether it is good news or bad. I like to see printers that are proactive as opposed to reactive. Look for better ways to service my product without me asking, and always have solutions available when problems arise. I also expect every print run to be treated the same, no matter the run size or complexity.
What are some things that turn you off about a print provider?
Not being able to deliver what you promise and offering services that are not really a good fit are definitely two turnoffs. Some printers will do or say anything to get work, and then are not able to deliver.
I respect a printer more if they come back and say this is not a good fit for us, but we appreciate the chance to bid the job. I would be more inclined to return to them in the future, as opposed to rewarding the former. Also, I do not like being pressured to place an order.
When meeting potential print providers, what determines whether they get your business?
I like to see how efficiently work moves through the facility, from prepress to press to the bindery. I also like to witness how the plant managers and the plant personnel interact. I believe that if the people in the plant interact well, there is a sense of pride in the work they produce and the quality of that work.
What causes the “disconnect” between print buyer and print provider? How do you resolve this?
Disconnects would be not listening to what I am saying or not hearing what I actually want. Trying to sell me an idea or a concept that I don’t need is another. And, yes, not communicating with me is a big disconnect.
Cite examples of a print provider going the extra mile for you. Why is this important?
There have been a few instances where I have had plant managers get involved directly with issues regarding schedules, quality, downtime or related issues that impacted critical products. The plant managers were in contact with me late at night and on weekends, providing me with updates and laying out their action plans to rectify the situations.
In the short term, this gave me piece of mind. In the long term, it helps cultivate partnerships between printers and our company. We have, on occasion, provided our printers with relief on schedules and minor quality issues, which we worked through without costly repercussions to the printer. PI