July and August are supposed to be fairly slow months for printers and related industries…at least that seems to be the “old” normal. People are on vacation, kids are out of school and since I remember, there was just a little more relaxation associated with those summer months. So as I read an article in WhatTheyThink, (premiere Print industry news and analysis) by Dr. Joe Webb, he talked about the changing climate in the industry, and that the summer of 2011 would be a great year to keep our nose to the grindstone and figure out our future strategy. As a matter of fact, he predicted that we will all remember the summer of 2011 in 5 years for either doing something or not doing something when we look back and measure our success in 2016. I’ll come back to this point later, but the reason I’m writing this is to demonstrate how we are learning to integrate new tools into big projects.
So, we do a lot of work for a good sized retirement community in Ohio, and I’ve known for a while that they were going to go through a major re-branding. Well, it finally started to happen this summer. Actually, it was a very subtle re-branding, but they did put all of their divisions under the same name, so the look and feel was consistent throughout the whole company, using just color variations to differentiate the different divisions. At first I didn’t think it was to big a deal, but as I developed a spreadsheet on all the different communities, facilities and so on, I realized this was a big project. There were over 15 different places (versions as we call them), each with an average of 12 to 15 products, ranging from over 200 different Business Cards (we did all the typesetting) to all sized envelopes to marketing sheets & letterheads. And to make things interesting, they were all printed in 3 or 4 very specific PMS colors.
I don’t want to be boring with technical details, but (just for a saecond) lets look a little deeper at a single product……9 x 12 envelopes, 15 different versions, some 3 colors, some 4 colors, and the colors change throughout. In all, there were a total of 5 different PMS colors used; to keep the colors consistant, we had a 5lb can of each color pre-made. Then we dicided to run everything on the 5 color press. Being on a 5 color, we were able to ink up 5 towers and just use the towers we needed for that specific product, then switch to a different mix when required.
As stated earlier, we made a spread sheet of all the products and shared it with everybody involved in the sales, production and delivery on Google Docs. Between the spread sheet and our own order system (Printsmith), that allowed everybody involved to look at the project as a whole, or dig down to any specific detail, especially the guys who had to package and deliver everything…it went to so many different people and locations. And the UPS on-line system, along with our own systems delivery function was ultra cool in being able to send out delivery notices prior to the customer receiving them with a tracking number.
Our next step is to build all of these products into an on-line catalog designed specifically for this customer. We will orginize it by division and then by product. If they pickout a 6 x 9 envelope, there will be a drop down menu to pick out the facility that will automatically populate all the fields with the correct information for that facility. They can then look at a proof and place the order and pick out their preference of delivery and payment. These systems do a lot and will become more and more common, especially for features like reviewing order history for diffrent products or replacing a closet full of inventory with just-in-time ordering.
So really, this job was not uncommon at all. But going back to the point at the begining of the story, 2011 is the time to view jobs like this a little differently. The point is not the technical details (boring!), but the point is that we have to understand our customers needs like never before: eliminate as many un-nessesary customers touchs as possible, understand that everybody is doing more with less, so getting printed or marketing material correctly and at a fair price is Key. This is the new reality, and you know what…it’s not going away, its just coming at us stronger and faster every day.