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How to Evaluate a Commercial Printer

Author: Tom Hoganson
January, 2013 Issue

Commercial printing encompasses a vast and ever-changing array of activities. New technology and market trends put constant pressure on the industry to evolve. And when an industry with this many facets begins evolving at a rapid pace, misunderstanding and confusion will certainly ensue. Working with an experienced commercial printer can greatly reduce these negative effects. That’s why choosing the right partner for your printing is an important task.
There are many areas in which to evaluate a commercial printer. The most basic are quality, speed and price. Other, less-quantifiable criteria are experience, helpfulness and reputation. Last, a company should evaluate the “value factor” and the printer’s terms and conditions for the sale. As with any business decision, certain companies or industries will apply different weights to any and all evaluation criteria.
Quality, speed and price are obvious areas of evaluation and factor into almost every business decision. New technology and industry trends are putting downward pressure on price and upward pressure on speed and quality. It could be argued the most pressure is being applied to price and the least to quality. Further, it’s important to evaluate printed samples for quality, always get turnaround times and compare quotes with competitors. A commercial printer with newer technology and equipment, along with know-how, will be most suited to satisfy its customers on these basic aspects.
Know-how and experience are extremely important in choosing a commercial printer. In addition to experience, a company should evaluate helpfulness and reputation. Printing is a trade that requires skill, often resulting from experience. Choose a commercial printer that’s been in business for a set period of time and that you feel comfortable with, or a company with key staff that have been in the industry for some time. Using an inexperienced printer can result in ruined projects. Look for warning signs of inexperience, such as errors in the proofing process, not being able to answer questions and not following through. A commercial printer should be as helpful as possible with your projects, addressing all questions and concerns. Additionally, it should provide assistance in obtaining quotes and answering questions about future projects, even if it may not be receiving the actual work. In today’s business environment, a printer should be willing to go above and beyond for customers. Attempt to find out about a printer’s reputation from other print buyers (not competitor printers).
All this criteria can be blended together to form a “value factor.” All these aspects need to be compared to price. Identify what’s a necessity and where you can sacrifice. Determining value will be different for every company. All companies will apply different weights in forming a decision. Finally, evaluate a printer’s terms and conditions for the sale. Some may have more lenient terms or additional discounts, which may prove useful.
Choosing a commercial printer is an important decision for print buyers. Choosing correctly can increase profits and reduce stress. It’s a complex industry with many facets, and choosing a print supplier is not an easy task. As in all business decisions, diligence is required.


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