Meeting Economic Realities --Morgan
THE DOWNFALL of the economy in 2008 has left the printing industry rattled and searching for ways to protect our companies, and even our own jobs. Print buyers have always had to focus on creating value and demonstrating return on investment—and this has only become more important in this shaky economic climate.
This article will provide you with a glimpse of what vanguard print buyers are doing across the nation to protect their jobs and how they are restructuring to create greater value within their organizations.
Their roles are expanding. In order to add value and generate stability, print buyers need to effortlessly change between consulting with clients, looking at return on investment, determining how to do more with less in print and integrating print with other media. Industry leaders such as Laura Hardy know there is much more to print buying than the actual purchase of print. Hardy serves dual professional roles as VP/production director at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and as director of the Creative Print Management Group of Darnestown, MD.
“Print buying is much more than just a line item within a project cost, as there are so many variables that go into print,” she shared in a recent interview with Print Buyers Online.com. “Our industry now views print buyers as playing larger roles than they did in the past—and this trend will continue. Understanding the design process is key to recommending the best methods of production, getting the most economical price and, ultimately, the best final product.”
To add value to their organizations, Hardy encourages print buyers to insert themselves into all aspects of the design and buying process. This allows them to help make their clients’ visions a reality, while increasing efficiencies by avoiding obstacles that could pop up later in the process.
“A really good print buyer will look beyond the item that is being produced and keep the whole picture in mind,” she says. “Our job is to understand what our clients want to accomplish and offer different ways for them to reach their end goals. Sometimes, we play a pivotal role in a project that doesn’t ever hit the presses.”
They seek progressive partners. Linda Dickinson, print production supervisor at the recently merged Meridian-Chiles in Lexington, KY, shared her thoughts on the current industry climate. “The good ’ole days of printing companies taking print buyers out duck hunting, treating us to lunch and showering us with gifts are gone,” she says. “This is a business, and it needs to be run as a business. What I look for in printers is simple: that they know what their core business is, and they don’t try to go far beyond it.”
Dickinson is open to adding new printers to her approved supplier list, but cautious. “If it takes more than 48 hours for a printer to submit a quote for a print project, I won’t use them—and, I probably won’t give them a second chance. We now live in an electronic world, and I don’t have time to wait for one printer, when another will be able to turn a quote around in less than two hours.”
They are decreasing print spend without cutting back on print. Based in Washington, DC, Kathryn Kelly is a materials management specialist for The Advisory Board Co., a best practice research firm specializing in healthcare and higher education. The research is published in book format, along with a variety of marketing materials. Kelly is excited about the initiatives her organization has taken to help its bottom line. The company reexamined its overall buying practices and unearthed some surprising opportunities, such as:
• Expanding a new in-house print shop that paid for itself in less than a year, including employees, overhead and equipment.
• Making simple changes to its internal shipping procedures that met shipping expectations, while creating tremendous savings.
• Saving 40 percent on large-volume print projects by choosing a more effective supplier.
By moving a majority of its business to a national vendor, the company leveraged better buying power and lower paper costs, and relocated its fulfillment and digital print to a facility in Chicago. The Chicago move allowed The Advisory Board to not only save on postage, but on turnaround time, too.
In 2009, print buyers will be following The Advisory Board’s lead and taking a long, hard look at their finances to see how they will be able to cut print costs, without cutting print quantity or quality.
They are getting everyone on board. Meta Brophy believes it is essential to lay out all of the pieces of the puzzle before getting started. She advises companies to get all of the players together at the initial stage of a project in order to maximize logistics. And, as the director of publishing operations at Consumer Reports in Yonkers, NY, Brophy has experience. She recently shared with Print Buyers Online.com how her organization ensures that everyone is on the same page:
“My department, along with our marketing colleagues, gets together with our merge/purge house, printers, lettershops, commingling and logistics partners at a seasonal kickoff meeting, at which we map out direct mail and newspaper insert campaigns. Sometimes, we work backwards from a drop date and, sometimes, we work from the beginning to set the schedule to see how we will maximize logistics. For instance, since it can be more environmentally efficient to ship things by rail than by truck, do we have the time?”
Brophy’s team also looks at its mailing list to determine the best method of distribution by figuring out what makes the most sense geographically. “We go through all the nuts and bolts, and get everyone onboard. After all, we all share the same goals. Everyone wants a quality product that delivers on time and generates a good strong response rate, while having less of an impact on the environment.”
Our team at Print Buyer Online.com encourages you to find out what ways you can help your print buyer clients to reach their budgetary and environmental goals. To learn more about how print buyers are going beyond surviving and thriving with print in tough times, join us at the Print Oasis 2009 Print Buyers Conference and Exhibit in Phoenix, May 17-19.
At the conference, you will hear case studies presented by leading print buyers and production managers, who will share tangible examples on how they are working with their printers to remain profitable—and what you can do to create stronger relationships with them.
For more information, visit www.printoasis.com. PI
About the Author
Suzanne Morgan is founder and CEO of the annual Print Oasis Print Buyers Conference (www.printoasis.com) and Print Buyers Online.com, a free community of more than 12,000 print buyers whose member companies purchase more than $14 billion a year in printing. PBO conducts research on print buying trends and teaches organizations how to work more effectively with print suppliers. Morgan can be reached at smorgan@ printbuyersonline.com.