About nine years ago, a potential client Googled 'print management' and found us in a listing. We were invited to visit their offices in Robertsbridge and talk over their print requirements and the problems they had been having with their incumbent print management company.

Print buying and management is a service Navig8 provides and is grounded on years of experience and a very deep and broad knowledge of managing print work for clients. It certainly isn't just buying and selling. To provide an excellent service to your client, there are a number of areas in which you must be an expert.

I have previously posted an article on press passing, but that is only one part of the service.

One of the printers that I work with has been working with me for over 18 years. That's before I founded Navig8. I know how she works, she knows how I work. Our relationship is invaluable.

Despite the massive amount and the huge variety of products we produce, from an annual report to a lanyard, we have few suppliers for each type of project. The reason is, we only work with the best and companies that provide value. I say value, that does not mean the cheapest.

We build long-term relationships, so we deliver the best service to our clients. We know the global, note global, landscape and price framework. We have no more than three printers that 'fit' a particular project. If anybody is 'spread estimating' the results are likely to be very dodgy. Yes somebody will always do it cheaper. I've had clients place work with a saving of £13 rather than use a reliable supplier. Good luck with that.

The right printer for the job
Printers will most likely tell you that they can do 'almost anything' but that isn't true. They all have their 'sweet spot', the job that fits their plant list. IBM know what they are doing with computers but they won't pop down and fix viruses.

Our preferred supplier list has a range of suppliers that we only use when a project meets their 'sweet spot'. That way, we get the best price and service. I'll detail below how these companies fit into the various projects.

Estimates and specifications
Almost every enquiry from a client does not specify in enough detail what their print requirements are. That's OK, it is our job to guide and advise. We not only query a print estimate, we actively look for ways to save money in production. For instance, what's the mailing weight? Should we PUR or perfect bind? At what weight does the job need a litho score or an inline aqua seal?

To start with, if a client lis looking for us to print manage, these are the basic parameters we would question so we understand your needs and can get you the best price and the best result. 

Size of document: The finished size, A4, A5 etc
Number of pages: a flyer is usually a two sided sheet, that's two pages (a page being a printed area), so that would be for instance A5, 2pp (pp meaning printed pages)
Process: Full colour (CMYK), spot colour (a number for Pantone numbers) or perhaps just black. Then there is screen printing, foil blocking and digital print. We advise on the best process against cost.
Finishing: This can be a huge list but for example, die cut, matt lamination, stitching and binding.
Quantity: How many copies do you want? Are they all the same? 
Paper: Your designer should advise on this – we do. He or she will need to advise on these factors; finish, bulk, see through and weight.
Proofing: What sort of proofing do you need? Just a PDF? Hard copy digital proof or wet proof? All have cost implications.
Delivery: Where do you need the job to be delivered/ is it to just one place or multiple locations? Most print prices do not include delivery. Delivery is calculated on a number of factors, these include address, weight of the final job, often not know until it is printed.

Buying power
Navig8 buys a huge amount of print. This gives us buying power. Suppliers know that in a given year we might spend £XX with them so they give us better prices and priority print slots.

We have excellent credit, built up over years of working together. This trust and relationship is between Navig8 and our supplier but the benefits are passed down to our clients.

Cost saving opportunities
Our job is to advise on possible cost savings when print buying. It is not in our interests to delivery you most expensive job, that does not create more profits for us or a better experience for our clients. The areas wether we can save you money, and there are more, include:

Paper type
Paper weight
Provision of artwork
The use of standing dies
Splitting printing technics, for instance litho cover and web printed text.

Every job is assessed, consulted with the client and the supplier, and the cost saving option presented wherever they are possible.

Proofing technique
Every job is different. But you can be 100% sure that the PDF you signed off will not look exactly like the final printed document. Proofing can be expensive or even free. We review the artwork (and this includes anything we have produced ourselves) and assess what needs a high level of proofing and what does not.

Briefly these are the types of pre-press proofing, when you might need them and a cost framework:

Ripped PDF. The PDF the designers supply is not the PDF artwork that goes to make the plates and produce the print. It gets converted into an 'image' and things can go wrong, seriously wrong. These proofs are often delivered on a proprietary system, which is not always ideal. The printer is managing the proofing to their advantage and not necessarily to the clients'.
Cost: Little or nothing

Ozalid proofs: This is an age old proofing technique and provides very little detail or representation to the final product. Publishers still use it. This process does not turn up so much these days, but when we publish books, these types of proof are used for the text pages
Cost: Cheap but not very useful in most commercial situations

High quality digital hardcopy proofs / chromalin:. Chromalin proofs don't really exist anymore, they were made from the films that made the plates. New presses skip this process and go straight to plate (CPT). The substitute is a high-quality digital print. These days they are excellent. But it should be noted that they do not represent how the print will look on the particular stock (paper) and they do not have the screen that will feature on the final print. But they are almost the closest you can get to the real thing. The closest is below.

Wet proof: This costs a lot, but it is the Rolls Royce of proofing. Essentially this is a one-off print, printed on the machine the final job will be printed on, using the actual stock. So you pay for machine set up, plates and machine minder, the whole kit and caboodle. It has been a long while since I have been asked for one of these.

What a difference a paper makes: Paper is a big subject. I'm thinking of writing a little book just on understanding paper for graphic designers. So, all i will do here is explain what the implications of choosing certain paper will have to the print job that you are managing or want to manage.

Weight: You paper weight will effect the cost, the feel, to some extent the show through and of course the final weight of the printed item, which will effect the postal cost.

Bulk: Bulk is not weight although it is linked. It is the feel of the density of the stock. Two papers may be 130 gsm (grammes per square meter) but one may feel heavier. And 99% percent of the time a bulkier stock will have less see through.

Finish: Generally there are four types of finish: uncoated or cartridge sometimes called bond, matt, silk, which has a slightly smooth finish and gloss, which is well, glossy. You can also get high gloss. It will depend on your print run and printing techniques as to how that will affect the price. But remember paper can be 50% of your final print cost, so taking advice from someone who knows can make a big difference to the final cost.

Environmental: Most papers these days are FSC accredited, which doesn't make them particularly environmentally sound, but does go a step towards it. A true re-cycled stock is a little more expensive than most sheets at the moment. They can also present challenges with reproduction. Images may go dark and the dot gain, or swell of the ink, is higher.

Specialist papers: Anything that has a special finish, texture, colour will be costly and is usually reserved for high-end work or stationery. G F Smith and Fedrigoni are the big players in the UK market. If your project has a print run in the thousands, be prepared for the bill.

Press pass and quality check
On occasion a print job requires special attention. The kind of attention where we will visit the press and check sheets or sections as they are printed. We travel all over the country, sometimes all over the world. Many a time have I been to China to press pass work. The responsibility is firmly on our shoulders to make sure our client's vision and the final reproduction is perfect. On many occasion we have spotted potentially disastrous results and fixed them there and then. As well as having to eat fried eggs with chopsticks!  A day out on a press pass...

Look outside local. Look national. Look international
It may seem safe and comfy to buy print locally. After all you can pop down if you need too, right? Maybe. We buy print across the globe, and in Wales. We are based in central London. It isn't always about cost. Chinese printers are perhaps the best in the world. And if you need hand finishing, the costs in Europe are prohibitive.

It all depends on the job and in particular the print run and timeframe. A job printed in China will take a month to be delivered. This is loosely how we buy:

Digital: London, or within the M25.
Litho: Anywhere in the country, but as a rule Yorkshire, Wales and Lancashire
Litho: Short run; UK and Germany
Catalogues:  Anywhere in the UK, China and Spain
Long run: China and the UK
Exhibition and display: UK

The values of print management and print buying for a client
Print management services should either offer no additional cost to a client or one that will offset their own costs and time. What you get is peace of mind, a better job and a competitive price.

Because we have buying power, we cover the credit issues, within reason.

We manage print for:
Government bodies

If you have any questions on print or concerns about a print job, just give us a call on 020 7813 0373, we'd be happy to help.


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