FULFILLMENT SERVICES -- Printers Getting Their Fill
Interest Is Growing
While NAPL has taken steps to make its survey sample representative of the industry and not just its membership, the argument sometime is made that association members tend to be industry leaders. The findings of a broader industry survey conducted last year by the TrendWatch Graphic Arts research firm seems to give some credence to that notion. It found that only 24 percent of printers saw "broadening fulfillment, shipping and mailing services" as a business opportunity in the next 12 months. However, the firm also noted that percentage was up sharply compared to past surveys.
The investment barrier to getting into fulfillment services is relatively low, even if it does take more than clearing out some space and throwing up a few shelves. This can make it tempting to adopt the "build it, and they will come" business model. Nevertheless, there is a learning curve and challenges to be overcome in building a successful fulfillment operation, so the first step should be to identify a volume of potential business that justifies the effort.
Printers often are lead into fulfillment work by the needs of a current customer. One of the classic reasons is getting caught between the client and an independent fulfillment house when there were problems with product delivery.
Particularly in the case of digital printing, a client may demand that all work be done in-house because the material contains sensitive information. Also, handling variable data printing jobs entirely in-house facilitates the process control required to validate that the right pieces were delivered to the correct people.
Kennickell Print and Communications, in Savannah, GA, discovered outsourcing wasn't an option for a completely different reason when one of its clients expressed a need for fulfillment services. "There weren't any fulfillment houses in our local market," reports Al Kennickell, president.