HOW TO SELECT A PRINTER

Selecting the right printer for your printing can be a daunting feat. Many printers are selected based solely on price. That is usually a mistake.

There is always a printer out there who is having a “fire sale”. They quote ridiculously low prices in order to get a job and get cash flow. Even if it’s not profitable for them when you only look at that one job, it gives them the liquidity to pay the electric bill and employee paychecks until things get better. Every business gets into cashflow jams. It happens. But some seem to always be in this mode. Printers in this type of operational squeeze can’t be fully trusted to produce your printing to the best quality and on time. That financial squeeze of operating with little or no profit will at some point really affect the operation.

Get a lot of print quotes and you’ll find a tremendous range of pricing for the same job with the same specifications. I’ve seem some quotes twice as high, or higher, than others. The fires sales may be part of the reason for this.

Every printer has different overhead costs. The employees may be paid better and have more fringes. The rent, bank loan on a building, or even having a facility that is totally paid off all change that overhead cost dramatically. On top of this, economies of scale allow some printers buy paper and other supplies at a lower price due to their volume. All these are the costs of doing business. Add to this the amount of profit the owner feels he needs to make. Some may want a six figure lifestyle while others are content to make a much leaner amount.

What else can affect printing prices?

Equipment.

Printing equipment is big and pricey. A large web press can cost in excess of a million dollars. And that doesn’t account for all the other equipment needed to prepare a job and then to finish it in the bindery. Every piece of printing equipment is best suited for a certain type of printing job and a certain quantity of that job. It is most cost-effective in that narrow range of job type and quantity. Change the type of job or the quantity, even the paper, and that printer’s equipment may no longer be cost-effective for your particular job. Printers simply can’t have enough equipment to be cost-effective on all jobs. That’s why you get quotes from more than one printer.

It seems wisest to get quotes from at least half a dozen printers. You may know that many. If not, they can be located by looking for them online. Finding a website which connects printers and publishers for price quotes is best. You go down their form, click onto the specifications you are seeking, and then you wait for the bids to come in. With this type of quoting, many printers see your job and send a quote. Not all these printers will have the most cost-effective equipment for your particular job. Some will even be the fire-sale bids. Evenso, with everyone bidding on the same specifications, you receive apples-to-apples quotes for the best evaluation of pricing.

Some of these printers may give you options for a better pricing. For example, you may specify a 70# matte finish stock for the inside. The printer will lower his price on your project by so much if you switch to his standard in-house 60# matte, the one he uses the most. This stock is normally a bit less expensive, but if it’s a printer’s normal go-to stock, he’ll be getting getter pricing because of quanitity purchases and there’ll be less setup time as his equipment is already adjusted for it most of the time. This may be the way you want to go. It depends on the price versus the look you are seeking. It’s decision time, but it is part of the process of hooking up with the right printer.

Always get quotes on delivery prices with the printing quotes. If you save $1,000 on the printing by using a printer from across the continent but it cost $1,200 more to have the job shipped to you, overall it cost you more. It’s all money out of the pocket whether it is called printing price or shipping.

Okay, you have a number of bids in hand. Some look really attractive. After the total cost of printing and shipping, look at turn-around time. Depending upon your needs, some printers may not be able to produce your product by the time you need it – and again, don’t forget shipping. That takes time as well.

An evaluation of price and time-frame will result in a certain number of printers making the first cut. Now contact these printers and request samples of their printing that best fits your specs. When received, take a hard look at the samples. Is the ink good, or light, or blotty? How’s the registration – crisp photos or colors not lined up with each other? What’s the binding like? Is it sloppy, loose or subpar in some other respect? Look at everything. If the sample they send to showcase their work is B-grade, I wouldn’t expect an A-grade quality on my job. Once the quotes are in and the samples viewed, you have the basis with which to select who will be YOUR printer.

Once the ink hits the paper, the printer’s supplies are committed. They can no longer be used for another project. It’s not like a table or chest of drawers that can still be sold to someone else. For this reason, it is pretty well standardized in the print trade to have 50% of the job’s price down, the balance upon delivery. The terms should be discussed with the printer so there are no surprises and the job runs smoothly from the signed contract to the final delivery. •

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