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How to Reduce Your Company's Printing Costs

by Clarke Blacker, Prepress Manager

No one can afford to waste money, especially now. Do not despair, it is easy to reduce your company's printing costs with just a little knowledge and a bit of preparation on your part.

Like all manufacturing processes, printing costs contain a small percentage of waste which is a normal and is a relatively small part of the cost of manufacturing. This is an accepted part of the cost of manufacturing and is figured into the original estimate. These cannot realistically be avoided but with effort they can be kept to an absolute minimum. However, for a variety of reasons many projects still may go over their estimated budget and someone must then absorb these extra costs.

Unfortunately, it is usually the customer who is responsible for the changes that have resulted in these cost overruns. To be absolutely frank, these extra costs in the past have often absorbed by the printer with only a portion ever getting passed on to the customer or print buyer. All businesses are tightening up their processes and printers are less likely to continue to absorb these costs in the future.

Most cost overruns are simply the result of incomplete preparation in advance of putting a project into production. Knowing this, the solution is very straightforward: better preparation is the key. Let's now examine the three major causes of cost overruns.

Incorrect Job Specifications

The first cause of project cost overruns happens when submitted jobs do not match the quote specifications. It should go without saying that a price quote that you receive as a printing project estimate is only as good as the specifications that you have provided for that estimate. The price quoted is based upon the information that is given to the print provider in advance of the job being submitted. This means that the print buyer must be properly trained and they are comfortable discussing and determining print project specifications.

For that quote to be valid all this information needs to be correct. That means that the page size, quantity, stock, delivery date, and any other relevant factors must be accurate. If details such as the page count or the final size are changed between the time the project was quoted and when the files are submitted then it stands to reason that the quote is no longer valid and the project may go over budget.

If you are uncertain or are uncomfortable with any aspect of the specification or file production process you will find that your best asset is your relationship with your print provider. They will be happy to help you with anything that you need to make your project run smoothly. It is in your best interest to develop a long term relationship of trust with your print provider. They are in the best position to help you to reduce your print project costs.

TIP: Small changes in page size can sometimes significantly reduce manufacturing costs. You should always ask your printer for any suggestions they might have about reducing your project's costs before starting work on a project. By reducing the size of your piece by as little as 1/8" to 1/4" you may significantly reduce your stock costs, thus lowering the overall cost of your project with no significant impact on quality. Try changing some of your projects from 8.5" x 11" to 8.375" x 10.875". You may be surprised at what you might save with a small change like this.

Improper or Incomplete File Preparation

Another major reason for cost overruns is improper file preparation. If project files submitted to a printer are incomplete or are not properly constructed, then someone must make the necessary adjustments before proceeding with production. If the printer makes these revisions then you should expect the budget to require adjustments as well, usually upward.

The clear message here is that the print buyer should provide project files that are complete in all respects,  meet accepted industry standard file preparation practices, and that match the specifications that have been agreed upon in the quote. To accomplish this, print buyers need to make certain their designers are properly trained and that they are made aware of the job specifications and requirements before work on any quoted project is started.

Changes Made After Production Has Begun

The biggest reason for project costs rising out of control are changes made by the print buyer after production has begun. This is also the easiest to control. It is always costly to make text and design changes after a job has gone into final production. Some small changes may be inevitable in any large project, but if costs are to be controlled it is important that any changes be kept to an absolute minimum.

To minimize changes it simply means that all copy should be proofread in advance (multiple times) and that the final submitted files are complete, accurate. It would amaze you just how many projects have not been fully proofread prior to file submission and the number of errors that are caught only in the final hard proof stage. This is unquestionably the most expensive time to make changes.

TIP: It is somewhat less costly to make minor changes if initial PDF proofs have been requested before the job goes to hard proofs.

In Conclusion

The ultimate responsibility for controlling print project costs is in the hands of the print buyer. They are in the driver's seat and are directly responsible for setting the project specifications for pricing and supplying the project files for production. The accuracy and quality of both the information and the files provided is the deciding factor. And remember, your print provider is there to help you. Do not hesitate to call on them for project planning advice, if you have any questions, or if you need help resolving any problems. Your bottom line will reflect this with lower production costs and deadlines met. And that can't be bad for anyone.