It seems like there is a print shop on every corner these days! While most are categorized as commercial printers, the differentiating factors can be significant and very difficult for you, the client, to discern. Most are small shops that can handle smaller projects in-house but tend to out-source larger or more complicated print jobs…but that’s just the print part of a project. When it comes to bindery and finishing services, the gap can widen even further with in-house capabilities which is why finding a solution provider that is transparent about their production constraints can be difficult but is so important. So, what are some considerations when looking to hire a well-rounded commercial print shop? In part one of this series, we will discuss production capabilities and constraints that should always be considered to ensure your money is well placed and maximizes a return on your investment.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but small print shops don’t always come with small price tags. They may be ok for small jobs, and one-off prints, but they are severely limited on what they can do with the machines that they have. Most of the time, they will offer more services than they can provide themselves because it’s necessary to capture their clients and good for their revenue stream. This is fine, but it also means you very well may be paying two or more companies for the same job. Larger, more fine-tuned operations may in fact save you more time and money because of the efficiencies provided within.
Larger commercial print shops spend hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars on equipment to create necessary efficiencies in their markets or within a certain niche. Some commercial printers specialize in more specific areas of print while others offer a broader approach to an umbrella of print needs and the equipment used usually reflects this. This allows them to do jobs quicker and maintain higher levels of quality control through in-house production capabilities. A robust print shop will have machines for plating, printing, cutting, folding, shaping, binding, and much more! This means that they have control over every aspect of your print job under one roof and can ensure the best quality with the shortest turnaround time you can find…BUT it’s imperative you ask what kind of printing equipment a shop actually has and is capable of producing on. Many commercial printers claim to offer services requiring equipment that their shops aren’t even physically capable of housing and will contract out your work. When speaking to a prospective vendor ask to take a tour of the facilities. If they have nothing to hide, they’ll gladly show you around and back up their claims.
With great machines comes great quality! Great commercial print shops should rarely deliver bad results, such as colors not matching, pages being mis-aligned, and cuts way off the mark. This means that there are dedicated and knowledgeable staff ensuring that every aspect of your deliverables are outstanding. Colors will be richer and truer to brand, there will be more consistency across every piece and every production method, and you will get a product you can be proud to share. There are significant differences in machine qualities though and while what makes a great print can vary by opinion, certain presses inherently aren’t able to stack up for certain types of work. For instance, while digital print capabilities have increased dramatically, a shop that only offers digital solutions will almost never be able to match the quality of an operation offering newer offset print production. It is also important to determine if the technology being used is up to date enough to deliver a quality the customer is paying for and deserves. To add one more layer of complexity, excellent equipment is only as good as the press operators themselves. Printing presses are never simple and there are fewer and fewer journeyman producing these days, so when you ask to go on that plant tour, make sure to check on the experience behind the production. No matter the industry, a business is only as good as its people so make sure your commercial printer is full of quality and experienced individuals from the top down.
As mentioned above, commercial printers invest in some amazing machines, but again the capabilities of one press to another can vary drastically. While a small print shop may have equipment to handle short run projects in a cost-effective manner and turn hundreds to a few thousand prints within a few days, more robust shops can create tens of thousands of prints an hour. This not only can save the customer money, but also means that you will get your project in-hand much quicker! Customers will also find wide variations in shops abilities to process work in efficient manners from start to finish. Some shops may be so limited in customer service that they take days to weeks just to produce quotes for work, whereas a well-run commercial printer should be able to produce quotes within a day or two at the most. Whether through production methods or order intake, determining a company’s efficiencies can make a drastic difference in you getting your work on time and meeting deadlines.
Stay tuned for Part 2!