Raising the Bar for Print Buying
As adoption of digital printing has spread and evolved in the marketplace, it has become a catalyst for changes that extend beyond the way ink (toner) is put on paper. What people buy has been impacted by the short run, on-demand and variable data printing capabilities enabled by the technology. How people buy is also changing as digital printing provides impetus for the development of Web-to-print solutions.
The printing industry saw its share of dotcom startups promising to revolutionize the way business is done, but the concept gained limited traction. Digital printing was one area where e-commerce/e-procurement did gain a foothold, though. Currently, the successes of these early adopters are serving as a model for a second wave of online print buying and procurement solutions, now dubbed Web-to-print.
[The Business Objective]
Jim Beam Brands (JBB) is an operating company of Jim Beam Brands Worldwide, an international distilled spirits and fine wines company that manufactures and markets more than 80 brands in 160 countries. To facilitate promotion of those brands, the firm decided it wanted to make a Web-to-print solution available to its marketing professionals so they could order customized printed materials more easily.
JBB turned to NCL Communications, a division of Consolidated Press located in Elk Grove Village, IL, which it had been using as a printing supplier for more than 20 years. The goal was to create an online ordering system, supplemented by faxes for additional capabilities and services, to support the management of collateral materials and fulfillment of personalized pieces.
[The Proposed Solution]
NCL offers quality sheetfed printing, variable data marketing services and extensive binding/finishing capabilities. Depending on the job, the work it does for JBB may be produced on a Xerox DocuColor 6060 digital color press or an eight-color, 40˝ Komori Lithrone perfector with waterless capabilities and an aqueous tower coater.
The Web-to-print system is intended to support all of JBB's printing needs. It streamlines the ordering process, manages the company's digital assets and provides mechanisms for maintaining print quality control.
To create the system, NCL worked with Azavar Technologies, an e-business consulting firm that integrates Internet-based applications and enterprise systems. Part of what Azavar brought to the table is its On-Demand ToolSet, a set of Web-based modules developed for printers and marketers that enable users to personalize and fulfill print collateral on-demand.
The solution also integrates Xinet WebNative software for digital asset management. This enables staff members in several JBB divisions to access various image assets through the Art Studio and Label Library system components.
Users can also order printed products, such as wine catalogs, that are inventoried and view/distribute marketing materials through the Publishers Gallery segment of the site. Inventory control data is regularly provided to JBB so it can decide when to order new replacement supplies of the printed materials kept on hand.
[Variable Data Elements]
Along with capitalizing on the marketing potential of personalized and/or customized pieces, the combination of a Web-to-print system and digital printing makes it easier for JBB to comply with the regional and international regulations that govern liquor advertising. Individual pieces can be customized as needed and shipped to specific locations in appropriate lots.
After selecting a particular brand within the JBB Worldwide product line, the user can customize fields and select multiple shipping destinations before placing an order. The system then reviews the contents of the order, taking into account the shipping address, to make sure all regulatory requirements will be met. If the content is acceptable, a soft proof is generated for approval by the user and a copy is automatically submitted to JBB's legal department, when necessary.
Fulfillment of all orders—variable or static—can be tracked online.
Going into the development effort, JBB reportedly did not expect its staff to use the online system more than the existing phone and fax ordering mechanisms. In its first quarter of use, however, 67 percent of the print orders produced by NCL were submitted through the Web-to-print interface. The marketer was doing 100 percent of its print ordering online by the end of the second quarter. Yearly volumes soon approached 400,000 pieces.
According to JBB's marketing staff, the system has made it easier to create and generate existing promotional materials. It also makes it practical to print materials on an as-needed basis, which reduces the amount of material that becomes obsolete and gets trashed.
In terms of managing its print buying, interfacing with NCL online has enabled the company to gang production of non-time-sensitive orders into quarterly drop ship dates. JBB gains cumulative price breaks as a result, since NCL is able to create more efficient press runs. The resulting savings totaled more than $100,000 in the system's first full year of operation, with the average quarterly cost reduction due to drop shipping approaching 30 percent.
Over time, the company was able to realize one other benefit (at least from the financial perspective). Since NCL is responsible for maintaining the online system, JBB was able to reduce the size of its staff involved in the print ordering process.
This case study was derived from PODi's annual Best Practices in Digital Print research, the largest collection ever assembled of successful digital printing projects. PODi is an industry initiative with hundreds of member companies including executive board members EFI, HP, IBM, Kodak, Pitney Bowes, Quark and Xerox. Membership in PODi is open to most organizations involved in digital printing. For more information on joining PODi or submitting your own case study, visit www.mypodi.org/pi1.