Reverse Auctions -- Sold to the Lowest Bidder
There are always at least two sides to every story, and sometimes more. Paul Beyer, vice president of product marketing at Servador Inc. in New York City, says there is a middle ground in the reverse auction debate. Servador enables print buyers to use this procurement tool, but Beyer stresses that it is just one component of a full-blown, Internet-enabled sourcing solution.
"Not all auctions are created equally, and not all print jobs are suited to an auction environment," he says. "Once a client is online with a qualified pool of suppliers, sealed bidding becomes the standard practice 95 percent of the time.
"Successfully managing an electronic marketplace—so it equitably services both the buyer and the seller—requires extensive domain knowledge and market expertise," Beyer continues. "When put in the context of a company-wide print management solution that supports, and often enhances, printer-buyer communication, printers have a lot to gain."
Cost containment, spending visibility and process efficiency are key drivers motivating companies to adopt integrated, online sourcing technology and services for their print purchasing, Beyer says. The use of Web-based RFQs, sealed bids, online estimating, job tracking, project logistics and reverse auctions are emerging as powerful tools for print buyers to centralize and better manage suppliers and the procurement process, he explains.
"The main benefit for printers that participate in managed, online environments are low-cost access to corporate customers, the potential for larger aggregated contracts and predictable work volumes," the Servador exec continues.
Beyer concedes that print still is largely a custom manufacturing process, but he believes technology advances and widespread understanding of the process have increased production stability, minimized the need for customer hand holding and made many types of printing highly repeatable or simply on-demand.
"Four-color separation and offset printing are not the black arts they were 20 years ago," he says. "A sizable portion of print work can be managed easily through an online sourcing solution, as long as a detailed job specification is established and a knowledgeable facilitator is involved in planning and managing the process."