So, you’ve decided to switch printers. When choosing, experience counts. A proven track record in the publication printing industry is a paramount consideration. Your top candidates should have at least two-years experience working in the format and quantity ranges of your magazine-after all, it’s all about the right fit.
Don’t be afraid to bombard your printer candidates with questions. Since the printer is probably a magazine’s most important partner, you need to know all you can about its business capabilities, practices and policies.
Besides getting a client reference list, here are some other things to do:
ﾕ WHO’S YOUR DADDY? Is the printer a subsidiary of a parent organization? If so, who’s the owner, and how do it and the printer work together?
ﾕ GET A CURRENT EQUIPMENT LIST. And make sure it identifies the age of the equipment and how it relates to the size and run of your magazine. A printer’s equipment should be optimized to your profile, or the job may not be economical. If the printer has any machinery older than five years, check into its maintenance routine until you’re certain that the machines will be there when you need them.
ﾕ THE PAPER CHASE. Does the printer work exclusively with distributors or merchants? Does it buy directly from paper mills? The printer should buy your desired paper stock or equivalent grades in sufficient volume to enable it to pass along discounts to you. Also, be open to equivalent grades that the printer buys in volume.
ﾕ THE PLANT VISIT. After you’ve narrowed your choice to a few finalists, a visit to the plant is a must. Take a tour before signing any contracts. Even if you are down to only one choice, be safe and see what you’re getting into.
Here are some tips on what to look for and what to discuss when you visit the print shop:
1. UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL. Meet the management team, including the plant manager, customer service manager, quality control manager, pressroom and finishing manager and distribution manager. Are they answering your questions or just reciting rote answers? Can you imagine what it would be like to work with them? How do they interact you?
2. YOU GOTTA HAVE A PLAN. You need to have a manufacturing plan that includes equipment, schedules, standards of performance and contract boiler plate requirements, to ensure that there is a clear understanding of your requirements. The more specific you are, the less likely it is that you’ll be met with too many surprises when your first issue with the new printer goes to press. The more minute the detail upfront, the more the printer will understand your magazine’s needs.
3. INSPECT THE EQUIPMENT. Pay attention to the machinery that will be used on your job, taking note of age and condition. Ask if magazines similar in size and quality to yours are produced on that equipment. If the dimensions and thickness of your magazine are different from what the printer is used to, get assurances from the plant manager and quality control manager that the printer’s staff and equipment are up to the task.
4. TALKING THE SAME LANGUAGE. Find out the scheduling issues. Ask questions until you understand how things really work so that you can reduce the chance of confusion later on.
5. CUSTOMER SERVICE IS THE KEY. Make sure to meet with your customer service representatives and see if you are comfortable with their knowledge and ability to get the job done.
6. ESTABLISH POLICIES. Do this upfront for such important matters as when and under what circumstances you must approve extra charges, so that there is no confusion. Be certain that both sides agree about what needs to be approved, what doesn’t, and who makes those decisions.
7. SPECIAL ORDERS DON’T UPSET US. Special requirements, such as unusual paper orders, can disrupt a printer’s schedule. They’ll be more respectful of your schedule if your magazine shows respect for theirs.
8. REACHING AN UNDERSTANDING. Make sure you understand how you and the printer will work with your fulfillment house and newsstand distributor. Check with both about their requirements and how they will coordinate with the printer.