Internet--The Evolving Print Community
Internet companies are changing print buyer to printer (and printer to printer) interaction. Beyond e-procurement and equipment auctions, the Internet is targeting the very core of the printing industry—the printing community itself.
BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO
John Cooley Jr., vice president of sales at his family's business, Philadelphia-based, $25 million Innovation Printing & Litho, does not oversee a company the size and scope of R.R. Donnelley & Sons. Cooley does not buy consumables with the same purchase power as do print consolidators the likes of Nationwide Graphics. Cooley does not push Innovation Printing, founded by Cooley's father, to compete against the billion dollar printing giants—the Mail-Wells of the print world—that command the respect, and rebates, of the industry's elite supply community.
Or does he?
Recently, Innovation Printing & Litho signed onto a new Internet community offering, which unites independent printers, to give this family owned and operated printing company some buying leverage with the supply community.
PrinterAlliance.com is a group of more than 60 (and counting!) independent commercial printers, joined together via the Internet, with the goal of remaining profitable and independent in a time of consolidation. PrinterAlliance.com is the embodiment of independent printers, banded as one buying community to ensure collective rebates from the supply sector.
"PrinterAlliance.com is about making money, making profit," reports Cooley. "The service allows us, the smaller, independent printer, to be profitable by empowering us to purchase supplies as one huge buying group. It's a fabulous and progressive concept that rewards us independent, family owned printing companies, by enabling us to make the same consumables and supply purchases we would normally make, but with the buying leverage of the big boys."
PrinterAlliance.com negotiates the purchase for the independent printer. Printers, like Innovation Printing, submit invoices to PrinterAlliance.com, and the Internet service takes it from there—negotiating national rebate programs, while purchasing their products from local distributors of choice. PrinterAlliance.com compiles information submitted by independent printers and, based on usage figures, calculates a bi-annual rebate for each printer.
"It's almost like a union for the independent commercial printer, a buying union," Innovation's Cooley states. "We join together, buy our products as a whole and get rewarded for it—no more paperwork for us."
Outside of PrinterAlliance.com, positioning itself as a portal service for the graphic arts industry is GraphicsResourceCenter.com. The site offers commercial printers, publishers, industry associations and manufacturers, as well as educational institutions, a platform to communicate, shop and promote new business opportunities.
The service is similar to PrinterAlliance.com in the way it puts the commercial printing community, as a whole, on the Internet to facilitate both information sharing and business gains.
As PrinterAlliance.com and GraphicsResourceCenter.com push to change the way the printing community communicates with itself and its supply community, other Internet services are changing the way the entire printing community interacts with the print buying sector.
Impresse.com, a private company founded in 1997, is one Internet-based service targeting commercial printing. Impresse.com automates all business interactions between print buyers and print vendors—reducing the time required in most bid-to-print processes. Print buyers can access Impresse.com from any Internet browser, select from a set of approved commercial printers and request, receive and compare a variety of estimates and quotes.
Printers pay a nominal fee to be linked to the e-procurement network, which features, for both print buyers and commercial printers, new project specifications, reprint ordering, quote requests, quote comparisons, quote negotiations and—key for the actual print production process—job tracking.
The service automates all business interactions between print buyers and print vendors. But this automation is not the only mission of Impresse.com; it is simply the technological route Impresse.com employs to facilitate better corporate dealings between the print buyer and printer.
The benefit of Impresse.com—and comparable e-procurement services, such as Noosh.com—is found in the more immediate, online printer buyer/printer interaction Internet print procurement affords. What does this mean for the commercial printing community?
In a word: Change.
"The Internet is definitely going to play an important role for the future of printing," reports Sheryl Sharp, sales representative at San Francisco-based ColorGraphics. "We are currently using Impresse.com as an additional means of communicating with our clients and, although we are still in the evaluation stage, we have noticed that this Internet service does, in fact, reduce the common quote confusion between printer and print buyer. Impresse.com uses fields that force print buyers to complete all necessary information, from a printer's standpoint."
Is the Internet the logical evolution path for the print buyer/printer relationship? It would appear that, for purposes of streamlining communication and facilitating more effective quote management, moving the print buyer/printer relationship onto the Internet is only a matter of time—and the time, evidently, is now.
Noosh's offering, Noosh.com, is a business-to-business print management network. On Noosh.com, print jobs can be created, submitted by buyers and quoted via the Internet. Print buyers can use the Noosh system to decide which printer—or how many printers—to review for a print order.
PrintNation.com is a type of e-commerce superstore that serves as a one-stop shop for buyers of graphic arts equipment and supplies. PrintNation.com allows commercial printers to use the Internet as the platform for purchasing prepress devices, consumables, even service contracts. The site has more than 1,300 manufacturers represented, with more than 100,000 graphic arts products featured.
MediaFlex.com boasts an offering of e-commerce front- and back-end solutions for the on-demand digital printer. MediaFlex.com features an online print center that handles many of the daily tasks required by print-on-demand customers. The service allows on-demand print buyers to place their orders online, and specify job requirements from media selections to finishing options.
58k.com is an Internet-auction site designed to serve the U.S. commercial printing market by opening up all print jobs to all commercial printers. A standardized electronic spec sheet on 58k.com allows print buyers to post quote requests for public consumption.
PrintLynxx.com is a fully integrated print procurement Internet site, designed for the print buyer. Print buyers can establish and control their own print vendor pools and use the Internet site to communicate directly with select, pre-qualified printers to issue solicitation bids and to receive confidential estimates.
iMark.com, an Internet marketplace for used industrial equipment, is targeting commercial printing, with a buyer's platform featuring prepress, pressroom and bindery systems, for sale on the Web.
Printable.com provides a full range of e-commerce services for commercial printers, including Website hosting. The site is positioning to supply industry information and online supply shopping.
Innovation Printing & Litho is a good example of a family owned printer that is not afraid to embrace such dynamic, new services. The firm does not fear change.
"If you do not seek out new ways to employ new technologies to grow your profits, you're done," Cooley states.
"The Internet is the direction for the printing community, like it or not—and it's wiser just to like it."
Harbinger of a New Age: Noosh & Print Buying
If the future of printing is Internet-based collaboration and streamlined communication, then Internet services such as Noosh are the harbingers of a new age. The Noosh.com service, powered by Live Jobs collaborative technology, provides a way to develop a standard and efficient information workflow utilizing one centralized database to store, retrieve and push information.
With Noosh.com, users communicate more accurately and effectively with their internal and external customers throughout the whole print process—from conception to delivery. The result: reduced costs, better on-time delivery and performance, enhanced productivity, and a superior quality of life for all participants. Instead of sending 10 different faxes or e-mails to make one small change in an order, a user now only has to send one message to communicate with everyone on the job.
Wondering what enriched collaboration will do for your company? A good place to start investigating is to visit www.noosh.com. Feel your way around, investigate how other companies are using the system and view the demo tour. Then you can choose whether or not to sign up for the service.
Noosh members are assigned a dedicated account manager who, in most cases, will come to your company for an implementation visit. Because there is no software to buy or hardware to upgrade, the account manager will simply investigate your Internet access and help determine who in your company should be involved and using the service.
Noosh has regional training centers in most metropolitan areas and will set up training for you and your staff. If a question ever arises, the Noosh call center is available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (PST) to guide you. The next logical step is to involve your customers in the process.
E-solution providers like Noosh are intent on serving their communities. If you have a customer that would benefit from increased communication and collaboration—and really, who doesn't?—Noosh will work with them, just like they helped you, and enable you both to reap the advantages of Noosh. What printers most desire, and Noosh delivers, is an environment where everyone is accountable. From job creation to completion, a step-by-step record of the entire process is documented.
Enabling the Noosh.com service is its exclusive technology called Live Jobs. This technology empowers the application to manage current information about every aspect of a print job—specifications, estimates, change orders, multiple job components and real-time status—from design to delivery. Your project can be accessed simultaneously by everyone involved in the job, allowing each person to view and control only the information appropriate to his or her role.
But what about security?
Fortunately, Noosh uses the same secure messaging protocol that banks and investment houses use to transmit account and credit card information. Privacy is just as important. Successful e-solution providers enforce a rigid, physical separation of information between users and accounts. The Noosh.com application resides at a facility featuring the absolute best in fault-tolerant equipment—all protected from power outages by a backup system.
Noosh allows printers and their customers to incorporate new tools simply and seamlessly into their own tried-and-true methods. Recent partnerships with Logic and other print management systems ensure that job information in one system will be reflected and recorded immediately in the other.
If it seems like a no-brainer for progressive-minded printers—lower administrative costs, more efficient use of time, a faster approval process and an increasingly loyal customer base—it is.
Information provided by Noosh.