Top Tips for Better Print Management

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Expenditure on printed marketing materials may have reduced since the growth of the Internet and digital marketing.  However, print remains an important part of the marketing mix for many organisations and, due to its specialised nature, it can be one of the most complex categories to manage.  The sheer range of printed products, combined with a fragmented buying approach by stakeholders who deal with multiple local suppliers, has led to the introduction of a print management function by an increasing number of procurement teams, or the establishment of in-house print buying units, to apply more control and improve spend management.

Although not new, print management remains a popular topic of discussion between delegates at CASME RoundTables.  We share some of the different strategies and experiences from CASME’s membership community of procurement professionals.


Reducing risk and optimising spend

Contracting a print management company (PMC) to handle an organisation’s entire print production needs, which can vary from marketing collateral, in-store promotions, direct mail packs, to transactional print, significantly reduces the number of print suppliers that require engagement by Procurement.  The designated PMC will accurately match the client's print specifications to the capabilities of different printers.  This reduces risk, optimises efficiencies, and achieves lower overall costs due to the high volumes that PMCs are placing with individual print suppliers.

Using a single PMC enables Procurement to implement one master service agreement (MSA), which will include agreed key performance indicators (KPIs) and other service requirements.  The PMC becomes responsible for monitoring the quality and delivery of the printed materials provided by the suppliers, and will deal with any issues that may occur, leaving Procurement to concentrate on the many other elements of the marketing services category.

Depending on the organisation’s marketing and brand strategy, printed marketing materials are often designed at a global level to ensure brand consistency and alignment, and subsequently adapted to local needs.  Printing may be performed at a local level by country-specific suppliers, or managed by the local hubs of global printing service providers.


Sourcing strategies

Although some CASME organisations are outsourcing their print management through PMCs, a CASME study revealed that 31% are managing their print requirements internally and contracting directly with a network of printers.  Procurement usually implements a preferred supplier list (PSL), in order to establish and maintain direct relationships with the supply base.  One approach is to use this set of preferred printers for the organisation’s main print production requirements, and to employ another company for the fulfilment of items such as direct mail and promotional packs.  These fulfilment companies can potentially serve multiple printers for distribution and transportation of printed marketing materials.


Controlling costs

CASME members report that the accurate forecasting of print requirements can be challenging.  Printed marketing materials tend to be used for a limited time, which can result in high levels of waste due to over-ordering.  Once a supplier has accepted a print job, internal stakeholders may make changes to the scope, specifications and/or print volumes.  These changes can often incur higher prices from suppliers; therefore, to manage spend, restrictions should be placed on the number of change requests that can be made.  Procurement should also educate internal stakeholders so they are aware of the costs incurred by any specification changes and encourage internal teams to provide better briefing instructions.


Adding value to the print management process

Procurement can add value to the contracting and implementation of the print management process by considering the following top ten tips (taken from CASME’s Good Practice Guide):

  1. Source your own print management technologies; this includes digital asset management solutions which, when integrated within the creative production workflow process, will encourage efficient copy approval and enable consistent brand image quality.
  2. Consider using a PMC to aggregate your print requirements and optimise cost savings. The financial impact of engaging a PMC should be quickly visible and bring increased cost efficiencies and bottom-line savings. If volumes permit, allow PMC employees to work on-site, at no charge, alongside the marketing or procurement team.  This reduces the company’s internal headcount while providing access to specialist print knowledge.
  3. Encourage the PMC to be proactive and to regularly present new and interesting creative options and paper types, which will result in greater levels of innovation.
  4. Disclose print volumes, but do not make volume commitments.  Include sustainability requirements in contracts and statements of work.
  5. Request full transparency of the supplied bids to assess the cost of paper, production, finishing, shipping, mailing, overheads and profit.  Rarely does it make sense to source paper directly from manufacturers; unless you are buying large volumes, e.g. for retail catalogues.
  6. Decouple print buying from creative agency contracts by either using print management or via a contract.  CASME members reported that introducing transparency into the print buying process can eliminate agency mark-ups of up to 40%.
  7. Include contractual rights to retain ownership of data and digital assets; thereby making it easier to switch suppliers.
  8. Apply gain-share models to incentivise print suppliers to achieve greater cost savings.
  9. Implement rebates, typically up to 15% with panel printers, ensuring prices are not inflated to recoup such a rebate.
  10. Evaluate digital printing as an option for smaller volumes.  Digital print quality has significantly improved in recent years as the technology has matured.  On-demand printing reduces both paper waste and storage/warehousing costs.


Managing the change

The transition to using a PMC, from buying print directly, can sometimes create internal resistance; especially when stakeholders have developed long-term relationships with print suppliers.  Additionally, Procurement has a responsibility to ensure that the transition does not result in the failure of the current suppliers' businesses.  One solution is for the PMC to on-board the organisation's current print suppliers and gradually support them in building their business by providing additional work under the new arrangement.


This article was originally published in March 2019 in Inside Supply Management Weekly, the digital newsletter of the Institute for Supply Management®.




Get in touch

Join CASME today to instantly access and benefit from market insights, benchmarking, good practice procurement solutions and networking opportunities with other procurement professionals.

Contact us today to book a demonstration.