Based on my experience with both direct manufacturers and independent dealerships, here are four areas that will help you measure a production print vendor's capabilities, and their value-add, beyond the "box" itself.
In my 35+ years in the office equipment/print industry (20+ as a production solutions specialist), it’s a question I get asked often, in one shape or form: “How can you demonstrate real value to my production print business?”
In other words, “How can you help me be more successful with digital printing?" "Why should I do business with you?" or “What do you really even KNOW about production print?”
These are all fair questions.
Many commercial printers or CRDs are understandably fearful that a potential vendor is just selling a "box," that they're about to be inundated with the added expense of click charges, and that they'll be left to fend for themselves when it comes to workflow optimization opportunities that maximize their print potential.
The word "value" is a moving target — it can be demonstrated in different ways for different printers — which means your vendor better be listening. The truth is, not all direct manufacturers or copier dealers are created equal when it comes to capabilities beyond "the box." Gleaning value from a print vendor essentially begins with a two-part question:
- How deeply does that entity understand the production print business,
- And how willing they are to better understand the intricacies of your specific business?
Is your production print vendor adding actual value to your business? Based on my experience with both direct manufacturers and independent dealerships, here are four areas that will help you measure their capabilities, and their value-add, beyond the box itself.
4 Areas to Help Measure the Value your Production print Vendor Delivers to You:
1. Variable Data Printing.
If properly executed, commercial printers can increase profit margins by utilizing variable data strategies with their clients. In-plants can offer new variable data products for internal customers.
Variable data can be as simple as a Microsoft Word mail merge, or as complex as personalizing documents with variable images and barcodes. The question becomes: What conversations are you having with your print vendor about planning for and implementing these types of solutions?
Your account representative should begin asking questions during the initial discovery to find out:
- how comfortable you are with variable data, and,
- how aware you are of both advanced software, and the free applications (like EFI’s Fiery FreeForm Create) that can help you implement Variable Data Printing.
In short, they should be introducing such solutions, and if you’re not already, helping you become more comfortable with implementing them.
2. Production workflow software solutions.
Often, a commercial printer's biggest expense is his or her people. The right software application can boost productivity greatly and eliminate the need for more hands. So why are they not talked about more often?
Many printers shy away from fully utilizing automation and other software-related solutions already at their disposal because, frankly, they’re just not trained.
Likewise, many vendors shy away from talking about software solutions, as they do not have the support personnel to help clients implement software workflow solutions. Some vendors are cutting staff, and unfortunately, they typically start with service and software support engineers. Salespeople often do not invest the time to educating themselves about software workflow solutions.
It’s crucial for any production print specialist to keep up with advanced level training (such as a Fiery Professional Certification) and to understand workflow solutions designed to increase productivity and profits for customers.
3. A production-dedicated service team.
Those click charges seem less cumbersome quickly when your systems are down for 24 (or 48!) hours. Suddenly, such an expense to maximize uptime is more than valued.
Your vendor might have production technicians, but do they have an entire section of their department dedicated specifically to technicians? In other words, are these techs working on copiers four days out of the week? When you work on the same products day in and day out, your expertise naturally broadens.
Have you experienced extended downtime - with resolution still in waiting? Do technicians fail to have the right parts on hand, pushing resolution to the next day? It begs a few questions:
- Are your technicians dedicated to production print and sufficiently trained?
- Are they local and able to respond swiftly and resolve issues the first time?
- Do they have the right part on hand? Or is it going to need to be overnighted?
- What advanced level certifications can they bear claim to?
4. Client reviews.
Ongoing client reviews are a critical tool. The key here is repetition and really listening.
By really getting to know a customer, a production print vendor can understand where their bottlenecks are, where their frustrations lie, and how they can collaboratively solve these issues. On the other hand, a shotgun approach to training and client review sessions fails miserably in discovering what’s important to the client.
Whether you're acquiring a Digital Press Solution or evaluating your current one, realizing peak efficiency, reliability, and profitability is a must. From our award-winning, production dedicated service team, to our commitment to discovering (and continually reviewing) what's relevant for your business, we invite you to consider Datamax. Click below to get started with a Production Print Workflow Assessment!