Ask These 6 Questions For A Better Print and Fulfillment Quote

If you print, warehouse, and ship training manuals or other materials as part of your educational programs and plan to go out for bid for those services, include these six questions in your print and fulfillment estimate request to ensure you’re getting accurate, transparent pricing.

The process of selecting a new print and fulfillment vendor can be time-consuming, resource-intensive, and feel risky. Will a new partner really deliver on all that was promised? Will it be disruptive to your organization or your end-users? And will there be any hidden or unanticipated costs?

Most organizations provide a formal request for proposal or request for estimate to prospective print vendors to gather standardized and objective data to minimize uncertainties about costs and capabilities.

Where Print and Fulfillment Estimates Usually Fall Short

 The most logical place to start when requesting a quote is by providing all print and mailing specifications to prospective vendors, including print quantity, page count, paper type, size, etc.

With this information, print providers typically calculate a roll-up of total costs that may include:

  • Price break quantities
  • Per-piece cost, and
  • Estimated shipping costs based on a sample destination

While this roll-up of pricing is usually sufficient for a one-time or less frequent print run that is shipped all at once or in bulk, it does not provide the level of detail necessary to truly understand all annual costs to print, warehouse, and ship materials on an ongoing basis.

Six Costs That Should Be Included on Your Estimate

In addition to understanding the overall cost-per-piece for each title in your training library, you’ll want to be sure any print and fulfillment estimate clearly outlines the following:

  1. Average print cost per title and/or per course
  2. Average number of items in a package
  3. Average box weight
  4. Average orders per month
  5. Average cost per shipment
  6. Total cost per class/course and the annual cost per class/course

Including these six calculations on your estimate request forces your proposal writing team to include the right amount of detail in the RFP so prospective vendors can better understand your current processes, workflows, and requirements early on. This helps to ensure you find someone who is truly a best fit for your organization.

It also results in more accurate and transparent pricing because it helps to eliminate any assumptions that may be unknowingly included in the vendor’s calculations.

And by having this level of detail early on, the best prospective partners may be able provide new ideas that could save you money and create efficiencies.

A New Approach to Print-on-Demand for Training Programs

Training organizations are looking at print-on-demand solutions to manage the financial risk of printing course materials. But print-on-demand does have a major downside—namely, increased cost.

In response, organizations like Omnipress have developed a new print-on-demand model known as micro-inventory, which combines a low-risk print model with a better cost-per-piece.

Pandemic-induced challenges have increased the need to print course materials on-demand

Data gathered in our 2021 Training Trends Report highlights several of the challenges that training professionals are facing as a result of changes in program performance and delivery in 2020, including:

• Budget shortfalls, as a majority of organizations, reported a decrease in training revenue in 2020
• Less predictable enrollment, as more in-person courses will remain virtual moving forward

Meanwhile, more than half of organizations still plan to provide printed training materials to both in-person and virtual course participants.

Less predictable print runs combined with a need to manage costs have caused more organizations to consider print-on-demand in addition to or instead of traditional print and fulfillment.

A traditional print and fulfillment model works best with well-established, flagship courses where demand is both large and predictable enough to print and warehouse a higher quantity of training materials that can be ordered and shipped quickly throughout the year.

But when organizations introduce a new course, or the delivery model of that course changes, enrollment is more difficult to forecast. Longer print runs become riskier.

The benefits of printing training course materials on-demand

Printing educational materials on-demand allows an organization to order a smaller quantity of course books or training manuals on an as-needed basis, which provides several benefits:

Improves cash flow

Smaller print runs mean reduced up-front costs, which equates to potentially improved cash flow for the organization.

Reduces overhead

A print-on-demand model often minimizes or reduces the need to inventory materials in a warehouse and the related fees.

Minimizes waste

By reducing the print run quantity, you can more easily make content updates while minimizing the financial risk of tossing books already on the shelf due to the need to make content changes.

Supports a positive customer experience

Because books are printed as they are ordered, the risk of running out of stock is significantly reduced, which means you can feel confident your materials will be delivered to learners on time.

The downside to print-on-demand

While printing materials on-demand offers more flexibility and decreased risk, it does come with a higher price tag. The same 500 course books will cost substantially less if you print them all at once, versus printing them in ten separate runs of 50.

MicroInventory: All the benefits of print-on-demand, at a better cost

Recognizing that organizations need a better way to achieve both an optimal print run quantity with a better price-per-piece, print providers like Omnipress have established a new print-on-demand model known as MicroInventory

Omnipress Director of Market Development, Dan Loomis, explains how MicroInventory works.

“Using data provided by the customer, we estimate the timing and quantity of each shipment. But instead of printing for each shipment, we run a slightly larger quantity based on our mid-term forecast of demand.”

In this scenario, Omnipress assumes the risk on behalf of the organization, making sure they don’t over or under-print.

Adds Loomis, “Another very lucrative benefit is that we don’t invoice our customers until the books actually ship. If the customer needs ten books at a time, and we print 100 because that’s our estimated mid-term demand, the customer is only invoiced for ten at a time as they ship.”

This MicroInventory model provides a better cost-per-piece than true print-on-demand, while reducing the financial risk of maintaining a large inventory.

When should you consider using the MicroInventory model to print course materials?

MicroInventory is an optimal solution when:

  • The volume and timing of course demand are difficult to predict (like when a new course is introduced)
  • The content changes frequently or will be changing but the timeline for those changes is in flux

As Loomis points out, “MicroInventory isn’t an all-or-nothing solution.” Many organizations offer multiple educational programs, each with unique levels of demand. “We look at all materials in your training library and determine the best print and fulfillment model for each title.”

As you’re evaluating the best way to print and deliver printed training materials to both in-person and virtual learners at a time when some of your programs may be experiencing a transition period, consider using micro-inventory as part of your overall print and fulfillment strategy, and as a more cost-effective alternative to the true print-on-demand model.

6 Reasons You Should Print Training Manuals on Demand

When you prepare to print training manuals for your association’s continuing education courses, do you struggle with choosing the number of initial copies to print? All the historical data in the world can’t ensure that you won’t waste time, money, or paper on books that no one will use. Choosing to print training manuals on demand, however, can solve these problems.

When you print training manuals on demand, you can rest assured that amount of that waste will be kept to a minimum. Here are six reasons to choose print-on-demand for your organization’s continuing education materials:

Update content easily

How long does content in your industry remain current? Some organizations can effectively use large print runs because the content in their training materials doesn’t change much year-to-year. For other organizations, particularly those in highly-regulated industries and in STEM, content is updated more frequently, meaning the potential for material waste increases.

Lower overhead costs

Start-up costs for large print runs can be prohibitive or, at the very least, frightfully expensive for some organizations. Print-on-demand requires a smaller initial investment, keeping overhead low. Having less of your budget tied up in printed materials also leaves you free to spend capital on other projects to improve your continuing education programs.

Reduce guesswork

Inventory management becomes easier when you keep a smaller number of books on the shelf. Print-on-demand solutions often create a micro-inventory that feeds orders as they come in, and more books are printed as needed. You’ll know exactly how many books you have in-stock, removing the guesswork from the process.

Minimize waste

When you keep a micro-inventory instead of a large quantity of books on the shelf, you reduce the risk of having to toss out hundreds of materials when content is updated or a class is canceled. And, even better, your organization is only charged for the number of books that were sold from your micro-inventory, saving you extra money.

Eliminate back-orders

Learners can get frustrated when they are unable to order materials they need for a class because you ordered too small of a print run initially. Using a print-on-demand model eliminates this scenario entirely, saving you from the trouble of dealing with back-ordered books.

Improve turnaround time

Even when dealing with the most experienced print vendors, large print runs require a certain amount of lead-time to complete. Print-on-demand requires less set up and fewer resources, making turnaround much faster.

No two organizations are the same—your reasons to print training manuals on demand may differ greatly from another organization’s. What is clear, however, is that print-on-demand works well for many organizations offering continuing education courses, and it might by the right choice for you, as well.

Opportunity Cost: One of the Most Important Factors in Comparing Outsourced Fulfillment

When comparing the cost of in-house fulfillment to the cost of using an outsourced fulfillment provider, companies will often fixate on the hard costs associated with outsourcing. The most frequently analyzed costs seem to be related to order fulfillment, storage and shipping.

In some cases, fulfillment companies can show monthly savings over in-house operations; this is largely due to shipping discounts that fulfillment providers receive coupled with costs savings due to aggregation of labor and space over multiple clients. However, in other cases, the hard costs of outsourcing alone don’t produce cost savings, leaving a company thinking that outsourcing warehouse operations isn’t justified. But when an analysis of outsourced fulfillment costs results in little to no cost savings over in-house fulfillment costs, there’s still one widely overlooked cost that has the potential to sway the analysis in the favor of outsourcing. This cost is the opportunity cost associated with performing fulfillment with in-house staff.

What is Opportunity Cost of In-House Fulfillment?

According to Investopedia, opportunity cost is “the cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. Put another way, the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action.” In terms of fulfillment solutions, the opportunity cost of choosing to keep warehouse and order fulfillment in-house is that your staff will be strapped with performing these activities instead of other functions. In some cases, the employees charged with handling in-house fulfillment are warehouse personnel. But in other cases, it’s administrative employees. Regardless of who processes the actual work, there’s almost no doubt that company management, to some extent, will be involved in the process.

The baseline question that needs to be asked by management is, “What is the best use of in-house labor resources?” If the greatest amount of value can be derived from charging staff with managing inventory and shipping activities, then outsourcing will likely not achieve greater return on investment. However, most frequently, companies can achieve a significantly higher ROI through outsourcing instead of processing this work in-house, especially when factoring for administrative labor and management time.

Opportunity Cost of Fulfillment in Action

Perhaps the best way to see the effects of opportunity cost is to take a look at a concrete example. Let’s assume that in addition to some warehouse staff, an organization also utilizes 20 hours of service time from administrative staff and 10 hours of management time to handle in-house fulfillment operations. Typically, these costs are ignored in making an in-house versus outsourced fulfillment analysis. At a baseline minimum, these hard costs should be factored into the analysis. Assuming that the average hourly rate of an administrative staff is $16.09, and the average hourly rate of a general manager is $24.41, the total cost of administrative and management time of managing

Assuming that the average hourly rate of an administrative staff is $16.09, and the average hourly rate of a general manager is $24.41, the total cost of administrative and management time of managing in-house fulfillment would be $565.90 (Statistics courtesy of Statistic Brain). But that’s not opportunity cost. Opportunity cost in this scenario would be the revenue that could be generated by these 30 hours if the company outsourced with a fulfillment company. If this time could generate more than $565.90, then perhaps there’s a better way to utilize these employees’ time each month.

What are You Giving up by Doing Fulfillment In-House?

Utilizing an opportunity cost perspective when comparing fulfillment options helps companies truly understand the significance and importance of labor resources. In fact, a good question to ask when making this decision is, “What is our company giving up by doing fulfillment in-house?” This will help companies factor for other mission-critical or revenue-producing work that might get sidelined. What types of things might produce more value than processing customers’ orders? Just a few examples include:

  • Sales and marketing functions that bring revenue in to the company
  • Strategic planning that helps the company save money or increase revenue
  • Mission-centric work that has enormous intrinsic value

So by all means, go ahead and crunch the numbers for in-house versus outsourced fulfillment costs. But don’t make the same mistake most companies make when performing this analysis—remember to include the opportunity cost of having your in-house staff perform warehouse and shipping duties. Chances are, you’ll have an eye-opening experience by finding out that your internal group can produce quite a bit more value by spending their precious time on functions that have a greater potential for return on investment.

Skip to content Top