The Next Generation of Print-on-Demand for Training Materials

omnipress print on demand micro inventory model

More organizations are looking at print-on-demand as a way to manage the expense and financial risk of printing training materials. But with a significantly higher cost-per-piece, printing books as they’re ordered instead of in-bulk may not be economically feasible in the long run.  Micro-inventory may be a worthwhile alternative.

The benefits of printing training course materials on-demand

Associations, corporations, and other training organizations are facing increased costs, with little to no increase in budget, according to the 2023 Training Industry Report. One way to manage expenses and reduce up-front costs is to re-think large print runs.

Additionally, as the demand for training and professional development continues to grow, organizations are introducing more new programs. Due to rapid industry changes, emergence of new industries, and labor shortages, companies are looking to re-skill and upskill their employees. Demand for new programs can be more difficult to predict in the short-term, making longer print runs risker.

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 of 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 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 Micro-Inventory 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 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 (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, “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 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.