Procurement methods for common, off-the-shelf items are not built to handle all of the details print projects require before pricing is considered, let alone sought. Management and qualification of vendors, development of intensely detailed specifications and collaboration among key people who are often in very diverse roles are not as critical when sourcing pre-made items or commodities. In these cases many vendors are selling the same items and finding the lowest price is all that matters. When procuring custom print projects these details are extremely critical.
To assure the best possible quality, you need intimate knowledge of the skills and qualifications of your vendors to flawlessly match them with specifications. To assure the best possible service everyone who has a hand in the project; including colleagues, partners and vendors, must be connected and on the same page.
Large, objectively-qualified vendor pools enhance access to capability and capacity. They are beneficial to achieving the highest possible levels of quality and service in custom print projects. Large vendor pools, however, can be burdensome and adding new vendors is often an uncomfortable matter of trial and error. Therefore popular procurement methods often favor smaller vendor pools which limit access to capability and capacity and hinder quality and service. When general procurement methods are used by buyers with little specialized background in custom printing; vendor assistance is often relied upon for specification development. This scenario further limits control and leaves little option where price is concerned.
Unlike pre-made, off-the-shelf and commodity goods, where specifications are basic and standardized, custom printing is always unique. The specifications for each project must be highly detailed to keep the final output true to creative and strategic vision. Specifications need to be complete and consistent. They must include clear expectations of delivery dates, shipping details and quality level. Print specifications can’t be merely copied from a vendor’s catalog or price sheet and they involve much more that entering size, color and quantity into boxes on a form. They must be built and often require work on the part of a diverse group of individuals including, but certainly not limited to, creatives, brand managers, strategic marketers and logistics planners.
Graphic communications are complex. The impact they can have on an organization’s image and its bottom line justifies the astounding number of people, and the variety of roles they play, in each project. It is not uncommon for representatives from the strategic, creative and product areas of marketing to hold stake in a project along with those from legal, finance, accounting and C-level management. If the organization uses outside advertising or public relations partners, the coordination and communication required for each project becomes even more complex. Compared to most other forms of procurement, print often requires a lot more collaboration among many more people and that means keeping everyone on the same page and on-task is critical.
In our next segment we will explore the critical post-pricing details that further set sourcing and managing print apart from ordinary procurement.