“Print on Demand”….Part 1

The phrase “Print on Demand” can be a little intimidating (maybe demanding) to printers. Think about it, Print on Demand means people are demanding printing right now! Well, like it or not, thats what the way printing is today. And when you look a little closer it’s more than just producing quick printing, it’s a lot of things that have to happen just right to get a print job transferred, produced, delivered, and everything be right.

“Print on Demand” can be applied to various applications, from inventory reduction and remote ordering to just uploading files and getting them produced and finished very quickly. We’ll start by looking at the latter and move into other applications in future posts.

The nature of printing today is going through a big shift. Shorter print runs, higher print quality, quicker turnaround times and the introduction of variable data coupled with the ability to move electronic files over the internet, provide remote proofing and the need to get specific messages in front of specific people is reshaping the print world faster than most shops can keep up with. At Oregon, we’ve been pretty lucky for a few reasons. We’ve been doing small jobs (and small jobs usually need to be done quickly) for a long time, so we’re pretty good to it. We’ve also been lucky to have some great customers who have stuck with us and allowed us to keep moving (investing) into the Print on Demand arena.

So what have we been doing to strengthen our “Print on Demand” position? Well first, I think its got to be easy to get your files to the printer. An FTP (File Transfer Protocol) site has to be easy to use. No downloading software onto your computer, hard to use interfaces and passwords, or anything esle thats a hassle, you need to be able to pick out the file on your computer and upload it, that easy.

Now that you have the files to your printer, you need to be able to communicate with them what you want (and they need to understand). Part of the “Print on Demand” model means your print files will print on our system. We are all lucky that we live in the world of PDF’s today, so that in most cases if the customer can make a high quality PDF, we’ll make it print. That also means we need to be available to talk you through problems getting there. Fortunately though, through email, voice mail and cell phones we seem to always be able to get the help people need.

Now comes the fun part, getting it printed. I wish I could say that there was one workflow that could handle everything, but every small job has its own personality and needs.One of the first questions is are we going to print digitally or on an offset press. Each has its merits, but the bottom line is we have to have the right equipment in place and ready to run. We’ve worked hard and invested a lot of money in what’s turned out to be a great mix for the work we do. 2 and 5 color presses, Cannon and Xerox digital, and I still am just amazed with what we put out every day. We love to give tours and show people our shop, plus it helps puts us and our customers be on the same page when it comes to how we are going to get stuff done. The bottom line is that we’ll get it printed quickly.

The final part of the equation is getting the final job where it needs to be. For years we depended on UPS, FedX and couriers alone, but late last year we purchased a delivery van. It had just gotten to be such a big job, and its really nice now with our own driver (Jim), as he gets to know our customers and their preferences. Another part of getting the delivery part right is to get the shipping information as early in the process as possible and getting it into the system. That allows Shannon (our logistics guy) to really plan out what’s being delivered and get it done as efficiently as possible. We still use couriers and UPS a lot, but I think that the whole logistics part of “Print on Demand” is more important than it’s ever been before;  because if you can’t get it where it’s supposed to be, its not “On Demand”.

So that’s where we’re at with “On Demand” printing. The more we talk to our customers, the more we learn what they need to accomplish in these new times, and the more ideas it gives us to keep doing it better. In one of the next posts, we’ll look at how Print on Demand has helped our reduce the amount of inventoryreduce the amount of inventory they need to carry.

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