Print Buying on the Web
I have a whole series of issues around the notion that print is custom manufacturing. I don't deny that it currently is custom manufacturing; I just don't think that it should be.
I believe that workflow management, PDF, color management and process control—together—can move print out of a custom manufacturing mode. But that, apparently, is in the future. Today, print is just not automated. It is custom manufacturing.
Print buyers have very personal relationships with their printers. They have literally thousands of firms to choose from, but most work with just two or three.
While print buyers, if pressed, will admit that many different printers could potentially satisfy their requirements, they'll swear adamantly that they'd rather fight than switch. It's clear that the relationships they've built, and the clear communications they've established, are an essential part of getting the high-quality print work they require.
The other day, I received a well-designed and informative booklet from International Paper. Called "Via Basics: Estimating," the publication explains the process both of choosing the right printer and of receiving accurate estimates from the printer you choose.
"Via Basics: Estimating" is explicit about the intricacies of choosing the right printer. "One of the basic misconceptions about commercial printing is that every printer has the same skill level," the booklet states. It goes on: "There are many variables that distinguish printers, not the least of which is their mix of equipment and the creativity inherent in the printing process."
And it continues still: "Knowing your printer's capabilities, processes and specialties can make all the difference to a successful project and a fairly priced print job."
"Via Basics: Estimating" recommends to print buyers that they take a plant tour at prospective print suppliers, and that they examine print samples and get to know the best sales reps.