e-Tools for e-Printers
Internet companies are exploding onto the commercial printing scene, which means new ways for printers to purchase products, communicate with customers and improve efficiency.
BY CAROLINE MILLER
(Editor's Note: This is the first in a continuing series that profiles real-life examples of printers and their usage of various e-commerce services.)
You would have to be living in a cave not to have noticed the explosion of Internet companies springing up to provide every kind of imaginable service. Actually, living in a cave is no longer an excuse—even caves seem to come equipped with Web browsers these days. So it's no surprise that the commercial printing industry is also riding the e-wave. You can purchase paper and equipment over the Net, send proofs around the world, vie for jobs over the Internet and much, much more.
Still, old habits die hard. You may be apprehensive about integrating e-commerce solutions into your business. However, the Internet-age is here and, once you get over your initial unease, you may find that Internet-based tools can be beneficial to your business. Printing Impressions recently spoke with three industry executives, who are implementing Internet-based solutions in their day-to-day business lives, in order to get a glimpse into who is using Internet technology and what their experiences have been.
Saving Time and Money
David Midler, co-owner of Atlanta-based Presentech, is always looking for a bargain. Which is what he discovered when he logged onto PrintNation.com: a veritable e-commerce superstore for commercial printers. "It's the Amazon.com for printers," Midler remarks. The site offers users access to more than 1,300 manufacturers with more than 100,000 graphic arts products available to customers. "Their prices were significantly less than where we buy from now," he claims.
Midler placed his order and three days later, it arrived at his door. "It came really fast," he reports. Now seven orders later, Midler says he has found a new place to purchase supplies and equipment. "Which is kind of amazing, because I don't switch [vendors] very often," he remarks. The low prices and fast delivery are great, but Midler sings the praises of PrintNation due to the wide variety of in-stock products.
A majority of the business Midler's digital printing company handles is presentation work for corporations. So when an order for color overheads came in, Midler turned to PrintNation. He needed a large quantity of protective sleeves, which can be nearly impossible to find in any quantity, he explains. PrintNation had them in stock and shipped to Midler within three days. "It's just amazing," he says.
Midler uses PrintNation not only to purchase every-day supplies, but large ticket items, as well, including a $10,000 poster printer. "It came faster than my local vendor would have delivered it. It was truck delivered to our front door within two days," he reports.
While price is Midler's main motivator for purchasing over the Internet, PrintNation's live, online customer service also helped clinch Midler's decision to purchase from the site. Before finalizing his purchase, Midler had some questions about the product. So, he signed on and had a PrintNation representative do the research for him.
"Frankly, they knew more than the local dealer," he admits. "I have access to them 24 hours a day, which is more than you can say for a local sales representative who you can't get on the phone for three days."
Executives at Petersen Graphics in South Bend, IN, began using Impresse.com after one of their customers suggested that they integrate Impresse into their workflow. "She wanted a better way to communicate with her suppliers than the method they were currently using," explains Regional Sales Manager Stuart Welham.
The Impresse solution automates all business interactions between print buyers and print vendors. Print buyers can access the Website, select from a set of approved commercial printers and request, receive and compare a variety of estimates and quotes (RFQs).
Once a job has been procured, print buyers and commercial printers can then use a host of features to ensure a smooth job flow, such as relevant communication between all parties and online job tracking.
Although hesitant at first to use the Impresse service, Welham says he has been happy with the convenience and privacy that Impresse offers. "People in our industry are looking for convenience. Everyone wants things done faster," he reports.
Impresse enables everyone involved in the project to communicate in a quick and convenient way, according to Welham. "Impresse allows you to have a conference call, but no one needs to be on the other end. Everyone can communicate, but it doesn't have to be at the same time."
With Impresse, gone are the simple and more complex problems that come with procuring a job, he says.
Welham no longer worries about whether he is able to open a document sent via e-mail from a print buyer, because Impresse supports multiple platforms. Impresse's format enforces consistency and helps reduce errors while streamlining the process. "Now it's apples to apples, where before it was up to someone's interpretation," he says. "It's more personalized and more specific."
Like David Midler, Welham also says that good customer service has been an important aspect of his experience. Although the print buyer is Impresse's primary customer, Welham reports he has had nothing but good experiences with Impresse's customer service.
Speed of Remote Proofing
When Nick Vetter's clients are looking for a faster turnaround, he recommends they use WAM!PROOF for remote proofing. Vetter is the general manager of Rezervoir in Minneapolis, a digital asset management and digital service provider for the printing and video industries. Vetter has seen the WAM!PROOF service save his customers time, money and a few embarrassing mistakes.
One of Vetter's customers is the Minnesota Timberwolves basketball team, he reveals. WAM!PROOF is essential for the Timberwolves' graphic design team, which often must make quick, last-minute changes to schedules and programs. "It allows them to work as if they are in the next office," he says.
So how does WAM!PROOF enable a printer and a client to work as if they are sitting side-by-side, when they are really sitting in two different time zones? It's actually very simple, according to Mitch Prust, technology strategist for WAM!NET.
The file is spooled over to WAM!NET's purple box, which then frees up the workstation, Prust explains. WAM!PROOF then shoots the file, point-to-point, through the network to the destination site, where it is placed in the print queue on the network access device. Finally, the client can monitor the entire transaction through WAM!PROOF's infocenter. "You can actually see if the proof gets there, check on the transaction and run reports," he explains.
The benefits of WAM!PROOF are a fast turnaround, fewer iterations and more time for collaboration between the design and preflight teams. "With remote proofing, your proof isn't sitting in the belly of an airplane," Prust says.
Nick Vetter reports his customers are living proof that WAM!PROOF saves money and time for those publishers and clients who have consistent relationships. "It's freeing up the courier. We no longer have that five o'clock time crunch," he explains. "We are able to catch mistakes, thanks to the proofreading we do from the WAM!PROOF output, and literally ship the Quark layout file back to them using WAM!NET, allowing the client to make the changes desired very quickly."
The Bottom Line
The experiences of David Midler, Stuart Welham and Nick Vetter provide only a peek into how the printing industry is using Internet-based tools. There is no doubt that the World Wide Web is going to greatly impact how printers conduct business—it probably already has. Logging onto the Internet and exploring what the e-realm offers can mean savings of both time and money.
It can also mean improving the services you provide your clients. In an industry that demands quick turnaround, cost efficiencies and reliable service, it's becoming necessary for printers to take a hard look at how they can integrate Internet-based tools into their operations.