How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: Introduction

If your organization provides printed training manuals, booklets, course books, or other educational materials to learners as part of a course or training curriculum, those materials are a critical component of the learning process. They need to be of the highest quality, be cost-efficient to produce, and of course, must be delivered to instructors and learners on time. If any one of these three criteria is no longer being met, it may be time to think about switching your print vendor.

The process of selecting a new print and fulfillment vendor can be time-consuming—time that your team doesn’t have to spare. And these types of changes come with risks—namely, the risk of the unknown. Will a new partner be able to really deliver on all that was promised? Will the transition add work to your plate? Will you have to change some of your long-standing processes to fit into a new vendor’s workflow?

The Print Vendor RFP Process: What it does (and does not) achieve

To help simplify the process, many organizations undergo an RFP process that is meant to level the playing field by gathering standard, objective data from each print vendor being considered. The goal is to make it easier to make an apples-to-apples assessment of costs and capabilities.

Most print and fulfillment RFPs are designed to assess vendors on three criteria:

  1. Capabilities match: do your needs fit within the print vendor’s “sweet spot”

    • Print type & print run size
    • Finishing and binding options
    • Warehousing and inventory management
    • Shipping options
  2. Quality metrics

    • Certifications
    • Turn times
    • Order accuracy rates
    • Quality control procedures
    • Length of time in business/financial stability
  3. Cost alignment – do their costs align with your expectations

    • You provide all specs and requirements
    • They provide a quote, often at multiple quantity breaks

While all these metrics are extremely important, they should be considered a basic “cost of doing business.” Most legitimate print providers with a long-standing history of success will be able to answer questions on capabilities and quality to your satisfaction. This means more of the decision is made based on cost.

But even in doing that, you still haven’t addressed the risk and uncertainty that might prevent you from making a needed change because most standard RFP questions don’t really tell you what it’s going to be like to work with a print provider, day-in and day-out. This could leave too much “gray area” around key details like processes and communication flow—details that create those small, nagging hiccups that can easily derail your day.

Instead, your evaluation process should consist of a two-way conversation designed to answer questions like:

  • Are they transparent?
  • Will there be any hidden or unexpected charges?
  • Are they going to make things easier for me and for other stakeholders in my organization?
  • Are they just going to take my orders, or will they add value?

Going Beyond the RFP: Better Questions for a Better Print Vendor Match

We’ve created a four-part series of articles that highlight some of the most overlooked questions organizations should ask a prospective new print vendor:

Part 1 discusses the importance of digging deeper into the detail behind the estimate provided.

Part 2 addresses a better way to assess true print quality.

Part 3 reveals the insight that can be gained from sample reports and invoices.

Part 4 stresses the importance of knowing who’s on your team, and what you should expect of them.

Including these relatively simple requests as part of your print vendor selection criteria will make it easier to know what level of service you can expect, if they’re going to make things easier for you and your team, and whether they’re going to deliver on what they promised in their RFP response.

Continue to Part 1: The Estimate

How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: The Print Estimate

In the introduction of this blog article series, we discussed the fact that when it comes to vetting potential new vendors to print, warehouse, and ship your training and educational materials, the typical RFP process doesn’t always paint a clear picture of what it’s going to be like to with a new vendor.

Beyond capabilities and cost, RFPs limit the opportunity for a two-way dialogue on the “soft” details of the vendor relationship, like expectations on roles, processes, workflows, and communication. These are the details that can end up creating more work for you and your team if they aren’t addressed early in the process.

The first, and perhaps most important place to dig deeper with a potential new print and fulfillment vendor is to request the detail behind the print estimate they provide.

The Standard Print Estimate Process

The process to secure an estimate for print and print fulfillment services typically goes like this:

  1. You provide all specifications of your printed materials, including:

    • Single or annual print run quantity
    • Page count
    • Paper type and weight
    • Finished size
    • Finishing and binding
    • Proofing requirements
    • Shipping/mailing requirements
  2. Each vendor being considered uses this information to provide a total roll-up of costs that also may include:

    • Price breaks for different quantities
    • Per-piece cost
    • Estimated shipping costs based on a sample destination

If you are looking for costs on a one-time print project only, this process is usually sufficient. But if your training course or publications library consists of multiple titles, each with different specifications, different levels of demand, and are in different phases of their lifecycle, you’re going to want to dig deeper than the top-line number.

Questions Your Print Vendor Should Be Asking

Data your print vendor should request from you before creating an estimate includes:

  • How many titles do you have?
  • How many are your top sellers?
  • What is the annual sales volume of your top sellers?
  • How frequently does your content change? What drives these changes?
  • What are your current print quantities/frequencies, and why?

A More Insightful Way to Provide a Print Estimate

When they provide a quote, ask them for the detail behind the estimate to understand how they arrived at those numbers. A potential print vendor should be able to show you how they calculated:

  • Average print cost per title and/or per course
  • Average number of items in a package
  • Average box weight
  • Average orders a month
  • Average cost of shipping
  • Total cost per class or course and the annual cost per class or course

Requesting this level of detail achieves three important objectives:

  1. Know they understand your needs

    Before you sign on with a new print and fulfillment provider, you want to be sure they truly understand how materials are fulfilled for each course, and how well they know your needs, processes, and workflows. Any print vendor can put ink to paper. But can they work with you in a way that solves problems and adds value? If all they have provided is a top-line estimate without getting to know the ins and outs of your print and fulfillment process, you’ll never know for sure until you start working with them.

  2. Establish transparency

    The more detail a vendor provides on their estimate, the less likely you are to miss any hidden or unexpected expenses, like warehouse location upcharges, so you can prevent any surprises to the budget.

  3. Challenge the status quo with new ideas

    If your vendor has gone through the detailed exercise of calculating not just the cost per quantity but the overall cost per title or cost per course, they will have significantly more visibility into how your training programs run. With this information, they can help to find new ways to save money or create efficiencies. For example, they could use your data to determine the best mix of print run methods for each title in your training library that reduce costs, maximize cash flow, and minimize spoilage.

A truly optimal print solution is about more than securing the lowest price-per-piece. It’s making sure your print and fulfillment services provider understands your true print volume needs based on how each title is used and where it is in its lifecycle. Using this information, a print services partner won’t provide just a quote; they’ll look for ways to help you better manage your costs.

What else should you ask of your prospective new print vendor?
Continue to Part 2: The Print Sample

How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: The Print Sample

Welcome to Part 2 of this 4-part blog series, where we highlight some of the most overlooked questions organizations should ask a prospective new print vendor. The goal is to get beyond the basic criteria of cost and capabilities, and truly understand how well they will work with you on key details like processes and communication flow—details that create those small, nagging hiccups that can easily derail your day.

We started with the Series Introduction that discusses why the typical RFP process doesn’t always paint a clear picture of what it’s going to be like to work with a new vendor.

In Part 1 of the series, we address the importance of digging into the detail behind the estimate, and what calculations you should request from vendors.

In this second part, we’re going to make a bold suggestion for how to validate the print quality promised by a prospective print provider.

Don’t Take Print Quality for Granted – Get a Print Sample

Producing a high-quality product is something you would expect every printer currently in business to have down to a science. But that’s not always the case. Much of it depends on just how close to their “sweet spot” your project is. The further on the fringes, the greater chance of receiving inconsistent print and finishing quality.

Other factors that can affect print quality include:

  • How well-established their quality control processes are to catch pre-production issues, match color, etc.
  • The skill level of their staff, how well they communicate and set expectations to address potential issues
  • What type of print and bindery equipment they have, and whether that equipment is better suited for single-page projects like postcards and pamphlets, or higher page count projects like books and manuals

At some point in your selection process, you may request printed samples from potential vendors that have similar specifications to your piece. And most vendors already have a library of samples they can readily send. The problem with this scenario is twofold:

  1. You don’t have the appropriate context behind the piece to really measure the quality. How does it compare to the proof? How does it compare to customer expectations? How well does the piece hold up with continued use over time?
  2. Prospective vendors are, by nature, only going to send you what they consider to be their highest-quality examples.

A Better Way to Measure Print Quality

Once you have narrowed down your pool of prospective print vendors, but before you have made a final selection, we highly recommend requesting a printed sample of your existing training manual, workbook, or another booklet from their presses so you can compare their print quality to what you’re currently producing—whether that’s from a different print provider or using internal resources.

Even more importantly, taking this additional step establishes a level of trust and transparency. It demonstrates their willingness to work with you and gives you the opportunity to see first-hand how well a project flows through their system, how well they communicate with you, and how well they understand both what you’re looking for and how the piece is going to be used.

If a print vendor is willing to have this level of dialogue with you about your materials, it puts them in a better position to offer improvement ideas that reduce costs, improve usability, and enhance your brand.

What else should you ask of your prospective new print vendor?
Continue to Part 3: Reports & Invoices

How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: Reports & Invoices

We’re pleased to bring you this third installment of our four-part blog series discussing why it’s so important to dig deeper than the standard print services RFP, and what questions you should ask to minimize the risk when making a change to your print and fulfillment vendor.

In this article, we’ll make a compelling case for why you should discuss reports and invoices early in the selection process.

When you’re searching for a new print and fulfillment services provider, you’re probably looking at the reputation of the organization, whether its capabilities match your needs, and if costs are in line with your expectations. Reporting and invoicing have nothing to do with print production, and therefore may be the furthest thing from your mind early in the RFP process.

If you have a need to print and ship training and course materials several times throughout the year, if your printed training library consists of multiple titles, and/or if you need to warehouse materials for ongoing orders, you will want to request sample reports and invoices from prospective vendors as part of your selection process.

Why Request Sample Reports and Invoices from Print Vendors?

This is one of the areas that can cause a significant amount of extra, unplanned work for your team and your internal stakeholders. If you don’t discuss details like what types of reports you can expect, and how data is outlined on invoices, you won’t know it’s a problem until after the fact.

There are likely several stakeholders within your organization who need access to print and fulfillment data. That data not only informs decisions that impact programs and resources, but it also needs to be served up in a way that supports your existing processes so all departments—from operations to accounting—can do their jobs more efficiently.

To establish a successful relationship with a new vendor for your printed training and course materials, it’s important to think beyond their print and fulfillment capabilities. Request information and samples that help you understand every phase of the process, including reporting and invoicing. Use this conversation as an opportunity to establish clear expectations, avoid back-end surprises, and ensure they will provide data in a way that makes your job easier.

What else should you ask of your prospective new print vendor?

Continue to Part 4: The Value of Ideas

Inspiration and Integration: ASAE Annual Meeting 2017 Video Recap

 

A number of Omnipress employees made the trek across the border to participate in this year’s ASAE Annual Meeting in Toronto. As usual, it was an event full of informative sessions and great conversations.

Two members from the Omnipress Print and Fulfillment team that attended the meeting, Tracy Gundert and Janel Savich, talked with Dan Loomis about their takeaways from the week and about two themes that came up repeatedly in their conversations: Inspiration and Integration.

Watch the video below to learn a common challenge that all associations face, and how association staff can use “integrations” to make their jobs easier.

 

ASAE Annual Meeting 2017 Event Recap Video Transcript

Dan: So what was the number one thing that you heard from people stopping by, visiting the booth, or just networking and general sessions. What was everybody concerned about or inspired by?

Tracy: I think they all want to provide, all the different associations, no matter if it’s a trade association, a professional association, they all want to continue to improve the benefits for their members. What more can they give their members? How can they really become part of the value that their members receive from being a part of the association? They want to be sure that they are providing that.

Janel: I think that collaboration, getting together with our clients, hearing how our service fits in to meet the educational goals of their members and the people they serve. It’s inspiring!

Dan: ASAE Annual Meeting always brings people together to talk about innovation, and technology, they always do a good job with that. What types of things did they talk about with integration this year, anything in particular?

Janel: They want that ease to have their systems integrated together so they can talk to one another. Make their jobs easier. Pull the information together; get the reports in one central location.

Tracy: Along with talking about multiple partners, that is certainly one thing we heard, even with print and fulfillment vendors is that they want to have one source. Right now, a lot of them have multiple sources where they are printing at one facility and fulfilling out of another facility and it’s just, you know, its not very integrated in terms of the data. And it also creates a lot more time that they have to spend coordinating it, so they are really looking for that all-in-one type of solution.

 

The Surprisingly Easy Way to Judge your Print Vendor

The Surprisingly Easy Way to Judge your Print VendorDo you want to work with a partner, or an “order taker”?

Seriously, it’s a question you should answer before talking with print vendors about your next project.

If your goal is to re-print the same training materials you’ve used for years, someone that can take your order and do the job may be all you need. But what if you have a new project to tackle? Or want to try incorporating some online material this time? Maybe your content could use a redesign? How do you work with an order taker when you are unsure of what to order?

If you find yourself looking to create a new—or updated—training manual, publication or workbook, you may benefit from partnering with a vendor that is as interested in what you want to achieve as what you want to print.

But how can you tell if the company you are working with is going to add value to your print project? It’s not difficult for a vendor to be accommodating during the bidding stage, but the test comes after you sign a contract.

A true collaborator is one that is asking questions and trying to find solutions that benefit your project, not just their bottom line. Here are three surprisingly easy ways to judge if the company you are speaking with is going to be effective in helping you reach your goal of creating better training materials.

Clue #1: The discussion starts with a question other than “So what do you want?”

The first clue that a vendor won’t be just an order taker is how they approach your project. If the person you are talking with only wants to hear about technical aspects and not your intended outcomes, you could be talking to an order taker. If, instead, you are asked questions like “What are you hoping to achieve?” or “What have users told you worked well?” you are speaking with someone who is interested in finding the best solution for your needs.

Clue #2: Recommendations are offered based on specific industry knowledge.

Another clue that you are working with an invested partner is that they actively make suggestions. A true professional has a grasp on considerations you may not be aware of. These can have a major impact on the success of your project. Industry best practices, new trends, and alternative materials can all play an important role in the success of your project.

Even a seemingly simple task like shipping can benefit by having the help of an expert. A seasoned fulfillment expert, for example, knows how upcoming holidays impact the shipping schedule. This is crucial if, for example, your materials need to be delivered for an in-person training course on a certain day.

Clue #3: Recommendations are the result of clear reasoning

Have you ever asked a question and gotten nothing but technical jargon in response? Not the most reassuring feeling, is it? Try to find someone that is able to help you understand the thought process behind their recommendations. It could be that they’ve worked on projects like yours in the past. Or, maybe their suggestion will better help you reach your desired outcomes. Regardless, look for a vendor that is clear and open about how they have arrived at any suggestions they make for your project.

 

Conclusion

A good partner is one that is willing to work with you to create a project that reaches your goals. Their professional expertise and knowledge of industry best practices can be an important factor in turning your project into a success.

But not all vendors are alike.

As you discuss your project with difference companies, keep an eye out for ones that try to understand the real goals of your project. It should be no surprise that they have as many questions for you as you do for them. This is the kind of information a true partner needs when giving effective suggestions with clear rationale.

Training & Development Talk: Finding the Perfect (Print & Fulfillment) Partner

Finding the right industry partner can be tricky. Don’t you wish there were a Match.com or Tinder for meeting your perfect partner to satisfy your business needs and solve difficult challenges?

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy; you have to do a little shopping. Suppose you’re looking for a new print and fulfillment provider to address ongoing order accuracy issues. You put together an RFP and send it out to the masses to collect information and get pricing.

But finding the right industry partner is more than just completing a checklist. The RFP process doesn’t lend itself to learning about a company’s culture and fit, and that means not every potential match that looks good on an RFP will work out.

Even if a provider produces a quality product and meets your budget requirements, they might not be the right fit. If something unexpected comes up that changes the parameters of your project, will they be willing to adapt? Or will a customer service frustration, like lack of responsiveness, leave you feeling like a small fish in a big pond?

Deciding on a future partnership isn’t just swipe left or swipe right and you’re done. Your provider should give you the kind of service and attention that proves you’re special to them. Ask yourself: Is your organization treated like an important customer with specific needs? Do you get individualized attention? When issues arise, are they resolved in a timely fashion, professionally and with the utmost care for your brand?

Relationships are so important that a whole day this month—February 14th—is dedicated to celebrating them. Business partnerships deserve the same kind of consideration. Think about the long-term potential of a relationship with your print and fulfillment vendor. Take the time upfront to make sure it’s the right fit.

So what do you say? Are you ready to go on a first date with Omnipress? Contact us to make the arrangements. We look forward to getting to know your organization better.

What Does Fulfillment Mean to You?

What does it take for you to feel fulfilled in your life and your career? For some, a sense of purpose leads to fulfillment. With a job in corporate training, though, you probably realize that the work you do matters. Many employees and other professionals are able to move forward in their careers thanks in part to the training courses your company coordinates and provides.

Sometimes fulfillment refers to a process that brings your course books and learning guides from Point A, a warehouse, to Point B, your training site. At Omnipress, we have row upon row of shelves filled with program books for conferences and educational materials for training. Hundreds of organizations count on Omnipress to deliver knowledge each year.

For others, fulfillment is the feeling of pride that comes with a job done well. When a training director sees that a new course earns positive feedback from learners, that person feels fulfilled. That moment and that feeling are deeply rewarding; it represents the reason most training professionals decided to pursue a career in continuing education in the first place.

Does packing and shipping boxes (done by you personally or members of your team) lead to a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment? If I were the betting type, I’d wager not.

You probably didn’t go into continuing education so you could spend your work day sending out course books and learning guides. Moe likely, you got into the business to bring important information to professionals in your field, to help them succeed and grow in their careers and do your part to make the world a better place through sharing this content with people. That’s where fulfillment comes into play for most training professionals we have met.

To improve your personal fulfillment at work, leave the print and fulfillment of your organization’s training materials to Omnipress. Believe it or not, we do get satisfaction from packing and shipping your training materials to learners. It’s the small part we play in the process that leads to your fulfillment and your learners getting the information they need to do a better job. We all fulfill an important function in delivering knowledge to professionals.

Increase your fulfillment, at work and in life, by trusting Omnipress to take care of order fulfillment of your training materials. We are happy to help you fulfill your educational mission while leaving you and your team the time you need to create content, provide instruction and manage courses. We hope you’ll find Omnipress to be more than a fulfillment partner—we want to be your partner in achieving your own vision of fulfillment.

Kitting Your Continuing Education Materials (Apple Not Included)

You work hard to get your association’s continuing education training materials ready for class. You work with vendors to make sure the course books are ready to go to print and set to ship to the correct location. You keep an eye on the inventory and maybe work with another provider to get digital versions of your training materials online.

This is important work; it’s worth paying attention to these things. If you work with a partner that understands your needs and comes to the table ready to help you meet the challenges that your CE training materials can require, all you may need to do is check in to make sure the process continues to move forward. But still—there is a certain burden that comes with offering continuing education courses and the printed materials that come with them.

So you’d be forgiven if, every so often, you’d just rather someone else take the reins. Just for one task. Something tedious, like assembling the printed materials and other items, like office supplies, into kits for course instructors.

Omnipress has you covered. We offer custom kitting of your CE training materials and other items, such as highlighters and pencils. An instructor manual could be included, along with exams and Scantron sheets. And don’t forget other printed and digital materials, like a branded USB, quick reference guides, or a wall chart!

Working with an all-in-one provider like Omnipress gives you peace of mind that all of your continuing education training materials are being taken care of by an experienced, customer-service-focused company, all under one roof.

Take that level of comfort and security one step further by trusting us to assemble your materials into kits, saving you from one more task that takes precious time away from other important issues. Your energies are best spent creating and coordinating your association’s training courses, with an eye to improving and adding to the offerings in the future.

When you leave custom kitting to Omnipress, your time will be freed up to think about the big picture. Leave the details to us.

It’s About Time: Order Fulfillment

Note: Last week, we discussed the issue of time as it relates to inventory management. You can read that article here.

Though on Sunday we turn our calendars to February, it’s not too late to establish some better habits for 2015. Many people resolve to better manage their time. This sometimes takes the shape of work/life balance, but it makes sense to take control of how you spend your time on the job as well.

Eliminating unnecessary or redundant tasks can help streamline your workday. If you work with a printer for your training materials that also handles fulfillment, taking on that work yourself is somewhat redundant.

Sure, you may save a few bucks. But the hoops you’ll need to jump through to teach yourself and your staff how to manage shipping, especially if multiple locations are used or international shipping is required, will make you wonder if it’s worth the savings.

If your years on this earth that taught you anything, it’s that there are experts in every activity you can imagine. Omnipress employs several experts in shipping and fulfillment. In fact, the average number of years with the company of Omnipress production team members is a whopping 20! With that much time invested, most of them certainly qualify as experts.

Your expertise, on the other hand, is likely in a different skill set altogether. To maximize your time in the office, focusing on your strengths is key. If packing boxes and handling shipping is indeed your strong suit, perhaps you’re in the wrong line of work. It’s much more likely, though, that you view order fulfillment as a have-to-do, not a love-to-do.

According to Dr. Rebecca Keller, CEO and Founder of Gravitas Publications, “I didn’t get into the game to get good at fulfillment. Life is short! We really don’t get that much time, so why waste it packing up books?”

Working with Omnipress gave Dr. Keller the time she needed to build her business. “I didn’t have a big enough vision to know what this would look like off my plate and how much it would free me up. Omnipress is really allowing me to see my dreams and my vision fulfilled.”

If that is the kind of fulfillment you’d like to see for your association in 2015, it’s time to think about outsourcing print, fulfillment, and inventory management of your training materials.

For more information on Dr. Keller’s story, read the case study or listen to one of Omnipress’ podcast episodes that feature her as a special guest. (You can enjoy Real-Science-4-Kids Outsourcing Case Study, Print Books Build Better Brains, or both.)

Make 2015 the year you get real about time management! The first step is recognizing how and where your time is not being optimized and take action to correct it. Order fulfillment might not be the best use of your talent and resources, but it’s someone’s specialty, and you’ll find that Omnipress is just the partner you need to make positive changes in your day-to-day life.

Our New Training White Paper Is Available – Download It Now!

Providing learners with continuing education training materials—which can include printing books, fulfilling orders, managing inventory, giving online access to materials, and more—can be a daunting task. Many organizations find it helps to partner with a vendor that can support them along the way, offering suggestions and giving advice as they tackle the complexities that the process brings.

Say, for example, your industry makes a lot of content updates. If you stick with conventional, large print runs, you might end with a lot of outdated books—which translates to a lot of wasted money. A trusted provider might suggest that you switch to print on demand to save hassle and money.

When an organization’s training program moves from a domestic market to include other countries as well, we have found that this is a good time to consider finding a partner to handle order fulfillment. International shipping can be tricky; it can be easier to work with a company that has experience with shipping regulations and tariffs around the globe than to take on these tasks yourself.

To learn more about these issues and many others about providing learners with continuing education training materials, we invite you to download our new white paperSimplify with an All-in-One Partner: Best Practices for Continuing Education Training Materials.

read_now

We are committed to providing you with relevant, compelling content, from posts on this blog to white papers to email newsletters. What would you like to read about? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

“Outsource” Is Not a Four-Letter Word

When you hear the word “outsourcing,” what comes to mind? A call center in another country? Americans losing jobs? Sometimes that’s the case, but not always.

For training companies and small publishers, the purpose of outsourcing is to allow the proper use of internal human resources. If you’re printing books and fulfilling orders in-house, your employees are doing busy work, not business.

Imagine how your organization would grow if you stop printing and shipping out books on your own, and redirected those employees to tasks that help you build your business. Most companies, whether you provide materials for sales training courses or homeschoolers, have more ideas than they have time or resources. Freeing up employees for more meaningful, mission-driven work can help bring more of those ideas to fruition.

Question your assumptions about outsourcing, and you’ll find that this can be a good thing for your organization and its employees. Trusting someone else to manage print and fulfillment doesn’t mean you have to let employees go; no one has to lose a job. This is simply a matter of redistributing staff time.

Skills needed for print and fulfillment are often more complicated than they first appear, especially if kitting, multiple delivery locations, and international shipping are involved. Using a partner with expertise in these areas, like Omnipress, will alleviate the burden on your staff and increase the likelihood that training materials will arrive as your requested, on time, and to the correct location, with the right course books and training manuals.

Outsource is not a four-letter word, unless you work with multiple vendors. The time and frustration you’ll experience trying to juggle more than one fulfillment vendor might make you feel like using a few four-letter words of your own. Instead, turn “outsource” into a productive, cost-saving phrase: S-I-N-G-L-E P-A-R-T-N-E-R.

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