A New Approach to Print-on-Demand: What Every Training Org Should Know

Coming out of the pandemic, more training organizations are looking at print-on-demand solutions to manage the financial risk of printing course materials at a time when enrollment is less predictable. 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 more tightly manage costs and overhead has caused more organizations to consider using a print-on-demand model, either in addition to or instead of the traditional print and fulfillment model.

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 a new course is introduced, or the delivery model of that course changes, enrollment is more difficult to forecast, so 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.

Micro-inventory: 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 “micro-inventory.”

Omnipress Director of Market Development, Dan Loomis, explains how micro-inventory works.

“Using data provided by the customer, we estimate the timing and quantity of each shipment. But rather than printing specifically for each shipment, we run a slightly larger quantity based on a more 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. So, if the customer needs ten books at a time, and we end up printing 100 course books at once because we have estimated that to be the total demand in the mid-term, the customer is only invoiced for ten at a time as they ship.”

By using a micro-inventory model organizations receive a better cost-per-piece than true print-on-demand can offer, while mitigating the financial risk of maintaining a large inventory of materials.

When should you consider using a micro-inventory model to print course materials?

Micro-inventory is an optimal solution when the volume and timing of course demand are difficult to predict, such as when a new course is being introduced or is transitioning from being delivered in-person to online. If the content changes frequently or will be changing but the timeline for those changes is in flux, micro-inventory also becomes an optimal solution.

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

“Right-Size” Your Print Runs Using a Micro-Inventory Solution

Nothing about this past year has been predictable, including enrollment in instructor-led courses that were forced to migrate from in-person to online. For those organizations whose printed training materials are a cornerstone of the course, these changes in enrollment have made planning print run quantities and shipping materials to virtual learners significantly more difficult—and potentially carry more financial risk. In response, many organizations have migrated away from their legacy print and delivery model to a micro-inventory solution.

The effects of virtual delivery on course enrollment

Due to gathering restrictions and health and safety concerns, many in-person, instructor-led courses were moved from the classroom to an online environment. This change in delivery model presents several pros and cons. On the one hand, virtual instructor-led training sessions provide increased access to a wider audience who are no longer restricted by room capacity, time away from the office, or travel expenses. On the other hand, replicating the intimate, interactive, and hands-on environment of the classroom can be challenging, and in some cases, may decrease the perceived value of the course.

This dichotomy has produced changes in course enrollment, but the effects for organizations are all over the board.

We just closed our annual survey of training and education professionals. While we’re compiling the data for release in our 2021 Training Trends Report, here’s a preview of one important statistic.

When it comes to the impact of the pandemic on course enrollment:

  • 33% of respondents report a slight to significant decrease in participation
  • 34% of respondents report a slight to significant increase in participation
  • 27% have not seen any changes to course enrollment numbers

Maintaining “right-sized” print runs becomes more challenging

This lack of consistency and predictability within the training industry has made planning print runs for training materials being sent to virtual learners more difficult. Without the ability to anticipate how learners will respond to changes in course delivery, it’s harder to ensure you have the right materials for the course, and therefore run the risk of over-printing and throwing books away, or under-printing and not having them delivered to the learner on time.

It may be the perfect time to consider a micro-inventory solution.

How micro-inventory works

A micro-inventory solution provides a perfect balance between having just the right amount of inventory with the best cost-per-piece print costs.

We work with customers to produce smaller quantities of your educational materials that can satisfy a few months’ worth of demand, instead of anticipating your annual order volume. You only pay for the materials you sell, giving you volume pricing without paying for excess inventory, which ultimately frees up cash flow for your organization.

It also gives you more flexibility to monitor and manage changes in demand as the year progresses, making it a perfect solution during this time of extreme uncertainty—particularly as restrictions are eased and in-person learning becomes a reality again.

Outside of the pandemic, micro-inventory is an effective solution for any situation where course demand is not well-established, such as with the introduction of a new course or program.

The measurable impact of micro-inventory on print runs

One organization in particular, (ISC)2, switched to a micro-inventory model, which eliminated the need to print, ship and store large print inventories around the globe and resulted in a 60% cost savings. Read the (ISC)2 Customer Profile to learn more about the benefits they experienced by switching to a micro-inventory print and delivery model.

Education, Training Pros: Weigh in on the Future of CE

For the sixth year, Omnipress launched our annual Training Trends survey and we need your input!

Each year, we collect data from continuing education and training professionals to understand trends surrounding educational content, including how learners want it delivered, how organizations provide it, and what changes lie ahead as new technologies are introduced and preferences change.

In March, we compile this data into insights that are published in our annual Training Trends Report.

The goal of this report is to use benchmarks and trend data to provide ideas as you set priorities and plan for 2020 and beyond.

Here is some of what we learned from the 2019 Training Trends Report:

  • Education professionals, who were already offering at least 11 different courses or programs, expected that number to increase in the coming year
  • These same professionals were also delivering content for each of these programs in a variety of formats
  • While educational programs have the potential to deliver significant value to the organization, there is was a self-reported gap between this opportunity and program effectiveness
  • Although widely discussed, many of the “hot button” learning trends like AI, VR, and mobile were only being put into practice on a limited scale
  • Organizations had not made significant advancements in preparing for Generation Z

What does 2020 look like for training professionals and what new challenges and opportunities will arise? We need your help to determine that.

The survey takes just 9 minutes to complete. All responses remain confidential for the report. As a thank you for your time, you can choose to be entered into a drawing to receive a $100 Visa Gift Card!

Please take a moment to complete the 2020 Training Trends survey. Feel free to pass it along to your colleagues too. We look forward to sharing the results with you in March/April.

A Lesson on Innovation for Continuing Education Pros

 

Innovation is a concept that is often tossed around a little too freely without much definition of what it really means, or even how to achieve it. In almost every industry, organizations are tasked with finding ways to continually innovate and transform—in the continuing education and training industry, this means continuing to produce innovative educational programming. Without a clear understanding of how to apply such an abstract concept, however, most of us tend to default to focusing improvements on the very concrete, daily tasks in front of us. The opening keynote session at this year’s ICE (Institute for Credentialing Excellence) Exchange Conference led by Dr. Megan Alrutz, encouraged attendees to experiment with the notion of innovation, even if it meant going beyond our comfort zone.

Innovation and Continuing Education Programs: 2018 ICE Exchange Opening Session

The format of Dr. Alrutz’s 2018 ICE Exchange opening session was anything but traditional. Dr. Alrutz directed a group of several hundred continuing education professionals, sitting at tables of 6-10 participants, to discuss thought provoking questions such as:

  • Can you innovate without risk?
  • Can you have safety with innovation?
  • Think about a time in your life when you stepped into the unknown.

She encouraged us to “play in the space that is uncomfortable” and challenge ourselves to grow during these discussions. She compared this “uncomfortable space” or “threshold” to that where the ocean meets the cliffs. This space is not the calm found in the middle of the ocean, nor the solid foundation of cliff formations. The threshold is the place where the energy of the waves challenges the sturdy and majestic cliffside. This is where innovation happens.

As the groups engaged in lively discussion, a very distinguishable buzz and energy permeated the room. This energy continued as everyone came back together for the full-group discussions. As the conversation started to dissipate, a sense of calm washed over the room. It was at this moment that Dr. Alrutz would throw out another question for group discussion, bringing with it the same buzz, followed by calm; buzz, then calm, again and again. The room became a tangible illustration of the very threshold where the ocean meets the cliffs that Dr. Alrutz described earlier. I believe this was her way of demonstrating how innovation is supposed to feel: moments of buzz and chaos, followed by brief moments of calm.

With a clearer understanding of what innovation looks like, the next challenge is how to make it happen. What do you need to do to step into the threshold of innovation? According to Dr. Alrutz, there are two simple commitments each of us needs to make:

  1. Bring yourself fully
  2. Challenge yourself to take a risk

If you can find small moments throughout your day to incorporate these two commitments, even while tackling your daily to-do list, you’ll be on a path to innovation without even realizing it.

Walking in a Customer’s Shoes…30,000 Steps at a Time

 

Last week I spent some time in our order fulfillment warehouse, just as I do every week, observing and listening. It’s incredible to watch the team manage an order—from picking, kitting, packing and shipping—with such smooth coordination, like a symphony of movement. And then it dawned on me: our staff is in a state of near constant motion. How many steps do we take each day on behalf of customers? Thanks to the miracle of wearable technology, I was able to calculate the answer.

Our team of fulfillment professionals accumulates an average of 30,000 steps per day. That equates to 7.5 million steps over the course of a year, or approximately 3,750 miles! We are essentially walking from New York to Los Angeles (with over 1,000 miles to spare) each year so our customers don’t have to.

If you’re a Training and Education professional who is tasked with handling your own order fulfillment, how far are you (or your team) “traveling” each year, in an effort to serve your members and learners? How much energy are you expending on non-mission centric tasks such as packing student handbooks, tent cards, pens, and supplement study materials into boxes, and then having to track all the shipments? Not to mention the continuous process of managing the remaining inventory. What if you could re-allocate your time and resources to initiatives that grow your programs, elevate your brand and improve the experience for your learners?

Our customers know that we’ll travel to the moon and back to make sure their course materials are delivered accurately and on time. And now we have the data to prove that we truly will.

How Printing Training Materials On-Demand Can Lead to Big Savings

Our latest Training Trends report highlights the fact that continuing education professionals expect the number of training programs they offer to increase over the next year. At the same time, budgets are projected to remain flat. Organizations are increasingly looking for ways to deliver their programs more efficiently, without sacrificing the overall experience for their learners. Switching to a print-on-demand (POD) model for course materials is one strategy that is often overlooked.

Many organizations assume they don’t produce enough volume for POD to be economically feasible. It is true that in general, POD can potentially be more expensive on a per-piece basis than opting for a longer print run. But that all depends upon how your POD strategy is executed, and what your ultimate goals are.

Rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach (large volume print runs vs. one-at-a-time), it may make sense to think about printing a micro-inventory—smaller quantities of your educational materials that can satisfy a few months’ worth of demand, instead of anticipating your annual order volume. In doing this, you only pay for the materials you sell, giving you volume pricing without paying for excess inventory, which ultimately frees up cash flow for your organization. At the same time, it minimizes spoilage should your content need to change during this time, while giving you more flexibility to monitor and manage changes in demand as the year progresses.

One organization in particular, (ISC)2, switched to a POD model, eliminating the need to print, ship and store large print inventories around the globe, resulting in a 60% cost savings. Read the (ISC)2 Customer Profile to learn more about the benefits they experienced by switching to a print-on-demand model.

POD isn’t the right fit for every organization, but don’t be too quick to rule it out until you’ve run the numbers. It could lead to some significant savings while, at the same time, making it easier to manage your content.

Get Back to the “Fun Stuff”

 

Think about your typical workday over the past month. How many of the items on your to-do list were truly focused on creating educational value for your learners? Odds are this number is smaller than you’d like. All those must-do tasks for your organization, like packing boxes, are necessary, but perhaps you wish someone else could take care of them so you could get back to doing the things you enjoy. After all, you joined your organization to do the “fun stuff”: brainstorming new courses, recruiting knowledgeable and engaging instructors and creating course content.

Fulfilling training materials takes up valuable time

For many training professionals, kitting training materials is one of those must-do tasks. Your instructors need these items put together, but actually doing it eats up a lot of your time and energy. A typical kit might include one instructor manual, 20 course books, 20 study guides, 20 exams, 25 Scantron sheets and 30 #2 pencils. If you have to pack up 30 of these kits and coordinate each shipment to a different location, your day is pretty well spoken for.

There are many reasons to outsource your fulfillment, and maybe custom kitting isn’t chief among them for you. But maybe it is. Maybe taking this necessary, yet time-consuming task off your plate would change how your organization thinks about handling print and fulfillment internally. Whatever it is that changes your mind, there will likely come a point when you realize that any money you might save by fulfilling training materials in-house just isn’t worth it anymore.

Your time is valuable. There are few (if any) organizations that have enough human resources to implement all of the ideas and goals the team can dream up. With time at a premium, who wants to spend that precious resource packing and shipping boxes?

Work with a reliable vendor that understands associations

The solution to your problem is finding a partner you can trust to handle these tasks on your behalf. If you have to babysit them, checking at every step that the correct materials have been shipped to the right place, you won’t be saving much time—or frustration.

Working with a talented team of professionals that understands how important your training program is to you—and the necessity of getting things done right the first time—is the best way to ensure that outsourcing your print and fulfillment will lead to the results you desire: less hassle for you and more time to spend improving your training program. You know, the fun stuff.

It’s Time for the 2018 Continuing Education Industry Survey

Click here to take the survey!

I’m excited to announce that we are conducting ‘The State of Continuing Education Content’ survey again this year. If you are responsible for training or continuing education programs for an association, we want to hear from you! Please take just a couple of minutes and complete the short survey.

This is the 4th year in a row that we will be using your survey responses to compile ‘The State of Continuing Education Industry’ report, which will be released in January. The report provides a glimpse into how your colleagues are developing and implementing educational programs.

But before we can produce the report, we need your input! Please do so today!

 

Video Transcription

Do you ever wonder what other associations are doing for their continuing education programs? Me too!

 

I’m Dan Loomis, I’m the Director of Training and Publications here at Omnipress. We’re conducting a survey and would love to have some of your input. This is our fourth year of doing it, so we ask questions like, What’s happening with your instructor-led training? What about the printed materials? What about online? How are things changing, how do you see things changing in the future?

 

And at the end, we put together a great comprehensive report that you can have access to and you can see what your colleagues are doing.

 

I think it’s fantastic, so we’d really appreciate it if you could just grab a cup of coffee, take a few minutes and help your colleagues out to give everyone an idea of what’s happening in the association continuing education realm. And then we’ll send you the results when we’re done. Thank you!

 

Changing Role, Same Focus

 

Changes are something we talk about a lot on this blog. Sometimes it’s how generational changes are affecting associations, or how changing your mindset can help your organization find a new solution to an old problem.

Changes often make people nervous. Unsure. Maybe it breaks them out of a comfortable routine.

Change to me means opportunity. A chance to re-evaluate and reinvigorate. That’s exactly how I feel about this change: The change in responsibility that comes with my new role as Director of Training and Publications.

Playing a new role in this organization is nothing new to me. Over the 29 years that I’ve been a part of this company, I’ve been involved in just about every part of the business. While the role I play may have changed over the years, my commitment to helping our customers create better course materials for their learners and print, pack and ship their publications has remained.

From the point of view of our customers, it’ll be business as usual. But, behind the scenes, know that we are working hard to continually do what is necessary to remain the partner you turn to as a collaborative resource.

Focus on making our customers successful

All of our efforts really focus on one thing: Day in, day out, how can we help make our customers successful. That’s what we’re here to do. Knowing what associations do to better our community is a great motivator. We’re invested in seeing our customers remain competitive in their markets. That’s why we are always reviewing the solutions we offer and making recommendations that will help our customers reach their goals.

Focus on technology through integrations

One of the things we pride ourselves on is making our customers’ lives easier when it comes to system integrations. Associations are continually embracing new technology to help manage their financials and processes. This means opportunities for integrations between new systems are emerging all the time. We’ll continue to be proactive with recommendations that provide insight into your data and make your staff more efficient.

Focus on finding efficiencies

Developing efficient processes isn’t just important for us as a company, but is something that we pass on to our customers, as well. For example, we recently re-organized our warehouse to shorten the turn time it takes for an incoming order to be packed and prepped for delivery to your customer. Improvements like these help us ensure that our high-level of expectations translate into world-class service for our customers.

So what’s the bottom line to you? In my role as Director of Training and Publications, I’ll make sure we continue to stay focused on what really matters: Supporting our customers and making sure we offer them the solutions that support their mission and make them successful.

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.

 

Bringing Unintended Benefits to Your Association

Some of my favorite stories to tell are the ones about positive, unintended consequences. You know, those unexpected benefits that come about after making a decision based on a different, well-thought-out reason.

When I talk to associations about making a change to their training fulfillment workflow, the business case usually revolves around re-allocating resources and using in-house staff more efficiently. These are tangible effects of outsourcing and are easily quantifiable. On a recent customer visit, however, I learned about an unintended benefit to their members and staff that was a direct result of their action.

The State Bar of Wisconsin recently made the decision to outsource their longstanding inventory warehouse and fulfillment service. The business case for their decision revolved around the cost savings and staff resource efficiencies as usual. But what they found once they no longer needed to store all of their materials in-house, was that they had a large portion of their building that was now freed up for another use. This unintended result led them to question how this space could be used to benefit their employees and members.

To date, The State Bar of Wisconsin has remodeled a portion of their now-unused warehouse and mailroom to serve two new roles: a multi-purpose conference room and an employee lounge. Dubbed “The War Room” and “The Peace Room”, respectively, these areas are available to staff to use throughout the day. In addition, the multi-purpose conference room is available for members to reserve for neutral-site meetings and to use as a location for videotaping interviews. The association continues to explore innovative ways to use the additional remaining warehouse space in the future.

“But Dan,” you may be saying, “my members are from all over the country. How does this story apply to me?” Good question! The goal of sharing this story with you is to spark a thought. To create one of those “I never thought about it in that way” moments.

As your association begins to make budgeting decisions for next year, keep in mind that not every decision’s impact is strictly dollars and cents. Perhaps your current space limitations are prohibiting your goal for next year of adding extra staff. Or, maybe you are looking for ways to move your staff to a smaller building and need to reduce your square footage needs. Including some of these unintended benefits into your planning process can provide you with the results you need to make your organization operate more effectively.

If you’ve outsourced your warehouse or fulfillment services in the past, what did your organization do with the extra space? Did you find any other unexpected benefits of moving those services out-of-house? Please share your experiences in the comments!

Custom Kitting: Delegation at Its Finest

Managing your association’s continuing education (CE) program is a huge job and it takes an enormous amount of time and energy to pull it off. There are always more tasks to be done than time to do them. It’s tempting to try to do it all, but there simply isn’t enough time to focus on high-value activities like curriculum development and all of the details that come along running a CE program. The best way to conserve your energy for meaningful work is to delegate tasks that are important, but lower-value, in the grand scheme of your duties.

Accept the help you need to get your CE materials and other items to your instructors by working custom kitting into your fulfillment process. Many providers will take on the task of hunting down office supplies as well as course books, instructor manuals, and learning guides. Surely you would rather spend that time doing work that’s more mission-critical and interesting.

A typical kit, sent to the site of a CE course, might include the following:

  • 25 course books
  • 1 instructors manual
  • 25 learning guides
  • 25 exams
  • 25 highlighters
  • 25 packs of sticky notes
  • 25 pencils
  • 1 wall chart for the classroom
  • 25 completion certification

Save time and hassle while giving your instructors a useful, prepackaged kit they can use to move on to the business of teaching. Custom kitting gives you the option to take the smaller tasks off your plate so you can focus on what you do best.

What would your custom kit include? Leave a comment!

 

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