What does he DO all day?



It’s lunch. I’ve eaten my sandwich. There are a few minutes of my break left;

YouTube beckons…

Oh, what’s this? Someone has attached a GoPro camera to their dog’s collar, to see what happens when they leave the house. What fun; ‘A Day in The Life of Our Dog’…

I get on pretty well with my colleagues here at Code Print. Most days. But I wouldn’t put it past one of them to consider the possibility of doing the same to me.

So, before they get any ideas, here it is –

A Day in The (working) Life of A Professional Print Procurer.

16 print enquiries today – not unusual, but testing enough, given their tight deadlines.

Let’s consider just three of them;

The first is a collection of posters, flyers and booklets for a local charity. Small quantities (just a few hundred), needed in a hurry, and as cheaply as possible.

Well, I’m not going to trouble any of my 16 lithographic printers (even the ones with smaller presses), as the initial set up costs required to produce the four printing plates and the additional make-ready run required to get all the colours up to strength will mean that the prices will just be too high from the start. A shame, as typically litho print delivers a little better print quality. But given the transient nature of the posters and booklets (they’re for a concert), digital printing will be perfectly fine.

So, now, I have 9 digital print firms on my books, some local, some not so local (in fact one is in Dusseldorf…). Which one has the right equipment? I need A3 print, saddle stitching and lamination, all in house and ready to go. That narrows it down to 5. Timing is tight, so I’d prefer a local outfit, so I can collect personally, if the deadline is looming. That leaves just 2 printers. A quick email to both, supplying accurate, detailed specifications and requesting costings and delivery timings. As luck would have it, both have capacity, so it’s down to cost. Looking at the two submissions, it’s clear that one of the printers has more capacity that they want to fill than the other, as their price is 30% lower. Bingo!

The second job is a different beast altogether; a bespoke, oversized A4 folder on a rewardingly heavy paper stock, with a glued pocket on the back page, a 4 page A4 insert stapled inside the folder, soft touch lamination to the outside of the folder, blind embossing to the front, and a set of A4 double sided inserts for the pocket. With an individual specification like this and a print run of 5000, this is clearly a litho job, as digital printers would struggle to match the economies of scale they offer, and most digital printers wouldn’t have large enough printers to print a folder economically.

Because of the importance of delivering a top quality product in this case, I’m not going to consider going off-shore with this one, even if the prices I get are the best; I want to be able to control the print process very closely here, even making a ‘press pass’, where I physically visit the printers involved to personally approve the pull sheets on the press as they run the colours up to strength. Labour intensive, sure, but the only way I can be satisfied of the required quality.

So, I select all my local, larger format printers and request costings. Again, there seems to be one of them that is keener than the others to make sure they fill their presses during the time I need my client’s job printed, but I know from experience that, while they have the capability to produce folders, they do not undertake the lamination in-house, farming it out to a local specialist. Once more, it’s a balance between quality, cost and control, and on reflection I select the second lowest cost from a local firm who handle all the elements in-house, ensuring I have the best chance of delivering what the client has requested.

The last print job of the day is simple, but large; a 2 page A5 flyer, promoting a large regional festival. My client needs 220,000 of them, and they need them in under ten days…

Filtering time again; no point in going digital; the costs would be prohibitive. Smaller format lithographic printers (B2) would struggle to match those with the larger, B1 format presses, so that narrows my research down to 5 of the larger printers.

However, the industry is constantly evolving to offer ever greater options; I have an account with 3 European based printers, whose business model is exclusively based around volume printing, collating multiple jobs from various clients, and printing them all at the same time on absolutely MASSIVE A0 or B0 presses (even sometimes using offset web lithography – the process used for printing newspapers).

These companies have refined their operations so well in recent years, that it is no longer a case of sacrificing quality for price; if you choose both the print job and the supplier carefully, you can achieve excellent quality, at a jaw-droppingly keen price, all delivered to your office from literally thousands of kilometres away, within a week. A few calls and emails, and the order is placed, with a guarantee of delivery within 6 working days.

There you have it; a day (or at least part of it) in the life of a print buyer. 17 phone calls, 11 emails, an hour or so on the Internet, and 25+ years of print experience, all resulting in the very best possible prices for 3 happy clients.

And all they had to do was send me their requirements…


Posted by Richard Pettinger