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